Coffee Log, Day 239


Coffee: Colombian, Starbucks Brand (grocery store bought, a gift)

Whenever I remember taking nighttime walks around Duke’s campus it’s always cold, even if I took the walk in August. Here are a few examples:

  1. A breezy Spring Semester romp through the Engineering campus. I’m bored, lonely, talking on the phone. It’s a weekend, maybe, because there aren’t any students. I see cars come and go from the Divinity school. This part of campus is steep; clean; new. The cafes are closed and I’m disappointed because I’d like to visit. Everything is new to me. I’m a Philosophy major, nobody needs me over here.
  2. The week before my Sophomore or Junior year, I’m passing back and forth over a ditch cut between two dorm buildings. I’m waiting on a woman I’ll often wait for, even many years later and well after she’s no longer waiting for me. We haven’t seen each other since last year and there’s a whole summer’s worth of conversation. We circle Old Chem, pass Perkins library, and spend time admiring the statuary on the Chapel. It’s hot and balmy, but the memory’s like freezer frost. I like to transport myself to that time before some of my most important questions had answers.
  3. This time it’s actually winter. We’ve had a snow. I’m walking late in good company. Couples throwing snowballs, kids taking pictures on second-gen iphones. I’m talking to a friend who’s going to school in Charlotte. We’re both intoxicated on a mutual distaste for parties and alcohol. Underneath me, snow melts like modern glaciers. My hot body, raging at all the wrong parts of the world, but breathing that cold air brilliantly.

I took a walk tonight and before I did I put on a sweater. The first sweater since March. The apartments had gotten dark and I made my usual circuit. Bewitched by the lights of the clubhouse, I took a detour. Our community espresso machine can make a hot chocolate; I hadn’t had one, now I have. It seemed right to baptize the night in unnecessary sweetness. The first Fall evening only happens once a year.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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“Some days you get up and you already know that things aren’t going to go well. They’re the type of days when you should just give in, put your pajamas back on, make some hot chocolate and read comic books in bed with the covers up until the world looks more encouraging. Of course, they never let you do that.” – Bill Watterson


Coffee Log, Day 78


Coffee: Organic Honduran, Trader Joe’s brand

A black woman and a white man were fired from Joe Van Gogh on Duke’s campus. The story varies on who cut the cord but there’s no question it all started with Larry Moneta. Larry is Duke’s VP. He’s a regular at Joe’s. According to the Indy article, he buys a lot of vegan muffins. Three days ago, he went in for another. The black shift leader – Ms. Britni Brown – was in charge of the cafe’s playlist. ‘Get Paid’ by Young Dolph was playing. It thumps. It’s trap. Dolph uses profanity. It talks about sex. Mature song, mature themes, no better or worse than a passage of Shakespeare. Larry didn’t like the music. He told Ms. Brown to shut it off and she did. She tried to comp him the muffin but he payed anyway. Then he called Joe Van Gogh and (this is where the stories differ) implied Ms. Brown and her coworker should be let go.

I think the crux of this story – what shows you it’s a dog-whistle – is that Larry wouldn’t let Ms. Brown comp the muffin. You see, I’ve worked customer service for many years. There’s a fundamental principal in customer service: please the customer, close the sale, keep them coming back. There were times at the bookstore where we’d knock the price off a pristine copy because it would make the customer happy. That’s business. That’s the game. Ms. Brown is a businesswoman acting as she should. If Larry had taken the muffin, accepted her (unnecessary but business savvy) apologies, and gone about his day feeling like the transaction had been successful – or, if he had simply decided Joe Van Gogh wasn’t for him and left without the muffin – things would have worked out. But instead, Larry paid for the muffin.

Why? Because to him, Ms. Brown’s role is not that of a young, professional woman doing her job and acting in that capacity – it is of a black girl born to be lesser. He saw Ms. Brown’s suggestions of a cordial, business-like resolution and refused her terms. More than that, he demanded his own terms over hers – get this, over her authority as representative of the business – and after she acquiesced to that indignity – had dirty, powerful money forced onto her – Larry decided to get her fired anyway.

That is white power in America: the ability to disregard any policy or institution; the inability to acknowledge the authority of any black man or woman.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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“Get paid…, Get paid, whatever you do, just make sure you get paid.” – Young Dolph, Get Paid