Coffee Log, Day 351

Hi.

Coffee: Locomotive Blend, PennyCup Coffee

I drove to Durham just to eat a late lunch at Elmo’s Diner. I had the old avenues in my head. I wanted to see how they matched up.

They’re building a new condo complex on West Main. That’s the least surprising line I’ve written. New condos are popping up every month in the triangle. And there’s nothing wrong with that in theory – the population’s growing, you’ve got to put the people somewhere – only I wish they didn’t come connected to words like ‘luxury’ so often.

Lunch was what I expected. They put me at a table for two. Maybe they could see the baggage I was bringing. Not all bad baggage, just a lot of time lived in the place.

I ordered a spinach omelette. I ate it with ketchup. Some kid in Japan is telling me I’m doing it right – omurice! When I was teaching there, it was a all the rage with grade schoolers. After lunch, I drove around the city looking for a good stationery store but couldn’t decide on one. Then I wanted to go to a bar but couldn’t decide on one. The sun was out. It was a hot day for February.

When it’s hot you can’t settle. There’s no such thing as ‘good enough.’ On the other hand, cold days push you through the nearest open door. We’ve all got a bit of goldilocks, I guess.

I drank Canadian whiskey at home on the phone with an old friend. Okay, February, you got me – it was an average night.

Novel Count: 20,589

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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And I been really tryna be mo’ tolerant, mo’ positive
Prolly need to switch up countries (But you know why I’m here)

Smino, Anita


Coffee Log, Day 331

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee; back in the office after a week of off-site training; just as brown as stale wheat bread; just as oily as a nervous kid in gym class.

The dishes are piling up on my table again. I keep telling myself I’ll do something about them, but the excuses are easier than effort. I’ll get rid of them eventually. I always do.

I was talking to a guy who moved here from halfway across the country. I found myself suggesting places to go. I told him to check out Durham, to find something to eat in Raleigh, and to sleep tight in Cary. It was good advice, I thought. But it got me thinking about where I fit in to the central NC picture.

When I went to Duke, we were all afraid of Durham. There was this rumor that you’d lose a lot more than your wallet if you stepped too far off campus. And before that, when I was growing up, everywhere between Winston and Wilson seemed like a place to get away from. Turns out, it takes a lot of effort to get away from anything. And usually, those times you manage it, you end up somewhere pretty much the same as you left.

I got dinner with R at the Taco Bell. We picked it up, took it home. The guy at the drive-thru was so busy he walked away before taking R’s card. You could feel the sweet winter air hacking through our window. I was in a jacket. I almost took it off to feel the wind a little better.

As of writing this, all the dishes are still there.

Novel Count: 15,761

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Each neighborhood of the city appeared to be made of a different substance, each seemed to have a different air pressure, a different psychic weight: the bright lights and shuttered shops, the housing projects and luxury hotels, the fire escapes and city parks.

Teju Cole, Open City


Coffee Log, Day 325

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

How to say the same thing you’ve said five hundred times…

I was at the Durham Co-Op on the way to a bookstore. E came along. We had lunch and did some shopping. It was a light grey day that the checkout lady said looked like snow. I told her I could see it but didn’t think we’d be that lucky.

So I ate the un-chiken salad sandwich watching cars park through the window. Everyone came out bundled. This is a nice corner of Durham, next to Duke, both poor and not poor, full of problems, but nice to be around, at least for someone marginally wealthy like me. I admit all the sin in me saying that, but I can’t take away that I have a longing to be there.

The last time I was in this Co-Op, it was dark and close to closing. We bought bread and lettuce and everything you need to make fake bacon out of coconut chips. We went back to M’s place and cooked it up. The coconut chips shiver when you bake them and I always thought they seemed confused. Two toast bread, slip on the mayo, the heirloom tomatoes, and eat until it’s all gone.

We’d watch the traffic together on gray mornings. There wasn’t much parking where she lived and one time this guy knocks on her door and chews her out, telling her that her ‘man‘ took his space. She said sorry, I moved the car, then she said sorry to me about the whole thing. But deep down I regret not talking to him and giving him my own apologies, because it was his neighborhood and I was just visiting, even if I tried to make it stick, make it dance like coconut in the oven. In the end, you never get to choose where you’re welcome.

After lunch, E and I packed into the car and turned the heat up. We went to the bookstore, gave money to a guy who asked for it, walked around, and stopped at another grocery on the way home (cheaper produce). All in all an okay day. But there’s some part of me still stuck walking the aisles, looking for coconut flakes and soy sauce, waiting for you to take me home.

Novel Count: 14,080

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Everything was fine, would continue to be fine, would eventually get even better as long as the supermarket did not slip.

Don DeLillo

Coffee Log, Day 233

Hi.

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

I went to a showing of Friday the 13th: Part 3 at the Carolina Theater in Durham. It was packed. The movie was in 3D. We had polarized glasses. Mine didn’t work, or maybe my eyes didn’t work. I ended up watching the entire movie without the glasses. The scenes were blurry, gags and goofs were screwy, the murders looked like you were watching them in a puddle forming during heavy rain. It was a strange show. It gave me a headache. I had a lot of fun.

The event was put on by Splatterfix. It’s a weekend long convention. They had booths set in the theater. Posters, blu-rays, coasters painted with movie scenes. Every booth had a group stuck around it talking; the line for popcorn was almost out the door. It felt like stepping back to something. Before the movie, everyone clapped. They all laughed at the goofy 3-D. There were a lot of black jeans and chain wallets. Every other woman had dark-dyed hair.

We left after the show. Our car was in a parking deck. The light above it had been blinking since we got there but it took on new meaning in the spooky evening. I drove slow behind a line of other cars. Some people exited the elevator: two men, one woman. One guy walks away from the others and turns to wave. He only half waves then he sticks his hands in his pockets and keeps going. The woman walks a few steps after. Her hair’s blood red and she’s got a lot of mascara. We finish the line and I see her leaving arm-in-arm with the other man. It was a crisp night, everyone’s got an October story. In the movies, we’d all be strung up on a meat hook before we got home.

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

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“[Horror fiction] shows us that the control we believe we have is purely illusory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and oblivion.” – Clive Barker

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Coffee Log, Day 139

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

In July, I start to wonder what winter will look like. In January, I think the same about July. I guess that means I’m restless. Ready to move or settle down – well, that changes by the day.

I got called to work a Durham Branch. I left in the morning feeling like I was going backwards. Durham’s got so many of my ghosts you’d think I was already buried there. I took 40 to 147 to 12B, one exit before the one I used to take when I went to see you, slicked on 12% romance; a habit of strong beers. Well, 12B put me in the same places – Downtown, Parker and Otis, the Bulls Stadium – until it ran me past them.

The branch was in a Northern corner of the city I hadn’t seen before. We passed the wealth. We passed the haunts where hipsters with fat wallets pretend their money’s thin. Trees gave up to grass lots, curved roads, places where you only cook with butter. Then all that vanished and there was a stretch that looked a lot like Cary. Two medical centers, neither associated with Duke. It was strange – blasphemous – and if I were a praying man I would have crossed myself.

I parked beside a Chipotle, a Chik Fil’A, everything vibrantly counted down into nickel rolls. I met two good people at the bank, then I met a few more. Our clients reminded me of my year teaching in the city – I could see PTA in all their eyes. With my new tie and banker’s credit, I felt like I was hiding something. I checked the old men and old women for hidden colleagues; I checked the young men and young women for former students.

October 31st, best mask, best mask. In the end I’m still free like public water; can’t stop flowing, but there’s a price paid in the bushes somewhere, tucked away.

“Hi, I’m Mr. Livesay, how can I help?”

At lunch, I walked around the lot. I found a nice strong tree. I stayed in its shade a while. When you look at me, Durham, tell me I’m not transparent – take me, love me, hold me, validate those years – but be honest with what you see.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“In one aspect, yes, I believe in ghosts, but we create them. We haunt ourselves.” – Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls

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Coffee Log, Day 103

Hi.

Coffee: Two cups drip from Cocoa Cinnamon; One cup Iced from Joe Van Gogh; the first two were better.

It was a long day. Distracting, like one of those stinkbugs that climbs your wall and looks like the paintjob until you really focus.

It wasn’t easy and I don’t have much energy.

When I was seventeen, my dog Becky was taken to the vet in the morning for pains that ultimately killed her. The same day, I stopped at a gas station on the way to work. There was a woman on the ground. She was crying. Bleeding from her face where she’d hit the curb. The couple passers-by told me that a man had run up, hit her hard, and run off. They didn’t know why he did it. She didn’t either.

I got the gas and drove to school.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

Fund the Coffee Log 🙂 – https://ko-fi.com/livesaywriting

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” – Mark Twain

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Coffee Log, Day 98

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s brand

I went to Durham. The city’s like a cicada to me – a bunch of husks. Beautiful, vibrant husks that keep growing, year after year. Let me list a few:

1) 5 years old; my parents took me to the Natural Science Museum. We went in the maze, played with tornadoes and took the Dinosaur Walk. The statues were chipped back then, I think they’ve replaced them. I liked the chipped statues. They were real and magical with their plaster spots and busted noses.

2) My first four years of adulthood were spent at Duke; Durham was a big smooshy bubble. I’d touch it and bounce back. Duke was my city for a long time. Eventually, I dated a girl who lived in Charlotte and took trains every week to see her. I walked to the station. The city came alive for five minutes each way. Passing bars in Brightleaf, it felt like everyone was looking at me.

3) I loved you for a year, Durham, a feverish awful love; I lived in a one-bedroom by Southpoint and knew your manicured side – PF Changs; fancy retail. I asked you to settle me then and you said no. I hated you for a while then I realized you were right to deny me. I’m glad you made me go away, Durham.

4) Commuting from a different city, I taught your children; well, I tried to. They taught me more: patience, honesty. The kids in North Durham knew life like a kaleidescope and occasionally they’d let me look through with them. If any of them remember me, I hope they see me as someone who tried.

5) August 18th, 2017 – we stood together in blood-hot sun. We thought the KKK were coming. They weren’t happy that your bravest hearts killed their statue. In the end, the KKK didn’t show, but Durham sure as hell did. Women and men organized, made a movement. I gave my body to be counted but mostly I just listened. Since that day, I’ve tried to hold myself accountable to my own power – the freedom it gives me, the fear to use it. Durham, I’m trying to be better for you.

6) Last night you showed me wet streets and wet plants and full crisp pints at Fullsteam and you gave me a place to live honestly, breathe openly, and look for loose ends in life I haven’t pulled yet.

Thanks.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

“I have no house only a shadow. But whenever you are in need of a shadow, my shadow is yours.” – Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano

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