Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 154

Hi.

Coffee: Pike Place, Apartment Lounge Blend

I met a kid in a park outside The Parlour in Durham. Some friends were getting ice cream but ice cream doesn’t sit with me. So I was sitting down on a deck-chair listening to the lone saxophone player, and watching the courting couples, enjoying a breeze, when this kid walks past me and we look at each other. I nod, he nods, that sort of thing. He’s 18. He says: ‘What’s your name?’ so I tell him. Putting my name in his pocket, he tells me he’s got a magic trick.

Nighttime brings different colors to a city. The trick wasn’t anything special, but he did it with flair. He’s been practicing magic since he was 14. He comes to the park every Saturday for an audience. He does stand-up, too, impressions, and went off loudly on a Spongebob. It was bravely awkward and I congratted him for it.

Before leaving, he took one more trick from me. A number game, adding and subtracting, guessing what I’ve got. For the final flourish, he waved his hand in front of me. “I’m just taking something from you,” he says. “It’s just one thing, though, so you won’t miss it.” A minute later, he guesses the number. We shake hands and go our separate ways. Now, though, I’m wondering what I gave to him, and where he’ll go with it. It was just one thing, I doubt I’ll miss it; but I hope it was something good.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.

J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 99

Hi.

Coffee: House Blend, Ithaca Coffee; tasted like sugar on the first sip; tasted like old, worn yearbooks on the last

I went to Durham. No matter how much time passes or what changes, I always end up back in Durham.

The trip was nostalgic. There were some things I needed to see. Z was headed there also so we met up. We had lunch at a taco shop off Chapel Hill road. I told him to get the tamales but they were out of tamales. So it goes.

After eating, we drove downtown to park in a deck and walk under the burning summer sun to 21c. 21c is a hotel but also an art museum. A modern sort of patronage, the wealthy spending a weekend in the city, their money going partly to the arts.

The hotel used to be a bank building. I’m not sure which bank. We walked through all the upper galleries and ended up downstairs. They had the vault open. In the vault was an exhibit by William Paul Thomas, an artist I’ve met a few times. Compared to the other galleries, his wasn’t getting much traffic, probably because it was downstairs and in a vault, but his work stood out anyway. To me, the pictures said something. They were faces. Colorful. Lit on bold backgrounds. Half drowned in a washed-out blue.

When we left the museum, there was one last thing I needed to see. A couple months ago, a gas line caught fire in downtown Durham. It blew out a building right off main street. When I was a Duke student, and later when I lived and worked in the city, and even after that when I visited from time to time, I’d walk that block regularly. I’d pass the old brick buildings and ask them for shade. Or I’d check my reflection in the windows. I haven’t been back to Durham since the explosion, which took two lives. I needed to see how the block had changed.

A handfull of cutlery dropped on the way to the table – the buildings were broken apart.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller; Suzanne is a friend; she graciously lent me a copy of her work; I’m only two chapters in; each chapter has followed a different character; reading the book, so far, is like watching a movie from different camera angles; I like the first character, an aggressive cop, because I’ve known people like him; there was one line that I saved because I liked it so much and I’ll quote it here

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

Never ceases to amaze me how people assume by lookin’ at you that you’re the incarnation a’ all your hopes an’ dreams.

Suzanne Crain Miller, Queen

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 47

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

Does it make any sense to grieve for a building? Or a city? I don’t know.

A little past 10:00am today there was a gas explosion in downtown Durham. A worker nicked a line while drilling holes for new internet cables. At least that’s the current story.

Honestly, it’s a mess. The mayor says they don’t really know all the details. The fire chief is still fighting the fire. The explosion was sudden and violent and it ripped a whole row of old buildings. One person died. 17 more are in the hospital.

Like any disaster, I’m concerned for the people. Human lives are worth more than a bunch of bricks. If I’m being honest, though, it’s the overhead pictures of downtown Durham smoldering that really get to me.

Cities are special. They take on a soul, the old buildings especially. A thousand people passing the same facade for fifty years imprints a bit of their emotions on the structure. Homes for our old ghosts.

The building that shattered was around the corner from a tex-mex place where I’d meet my parents when they came to visit me at college. More recently, I drove down that road on the way to meet a date at Fullsteam. I remember looking at the building – which had offices on top and a coffee shop on the bottom – and thinking ‘who would ever go here?’ It had that dangerous combination of being both too close and too far from everything else.

Gone now.

Of course, they’ll build it back up. They’ll check the lines this time to make sure none are too exposed. They’ll build a new building like they’re already doing all over the city. They’ll make something flashy, fresh, maybe even nice. But the memories that had taken residence in the old bricks are truly gone – melted glaciers.

Again, the most important thing is the human tragedy. I feel for the loss, wish them quick recoveries. But I don’t know those people. I did know the building.

Novel Count: 37,208

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

I think one of the primary goals of a feminist landscape architecture would be to work toward a public landscape in which we can roam the streets at midnight, in which every square is available for Virginia Woolf to make up her novels.

Rebecca Solnit


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

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

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

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

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

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

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

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“[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

IMG_1723