Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 145

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

Last night, I went to the Third Wednesday Open Mic hosted at Fig. A colleague read from her new novel. It was pointed – as in, her words were written to have a point. A few months ago, I had my own featured reading with the group.

It’s no good time for small business. Despite the economy on an uptick, the gains are going to deeper pockets. Yes, there’s greater purchasing power, and yes, wages have gone (a little bit) up, but the blood and sweat of Americana – that store on the corner that knits your community together – is bottom-up.

Two years ago I was in Roanoke Rapids. It’s a tiny town on the Virginia border. I was taken on tour by my partner at the time, who’d grown up there. We drove around the town. There were bright old buildings with small front lawns. There was a factory that had shut down. In the epicenter, all the downtown storefronts were at best boarded over, some worsened with broken glass, a few lit windows poking through. At night, we picked up dinner at a still-thriving Chinese take-out. For lunch, we ate an an old diner that reminded me of a few places in my own home.

I read an economic outlook that says the next few years will likely avoid a recession. Rates will taper but we won’t bottom out. Good news, and from a trustworthy source. But it misses the picture of all the lives that aren’t off I-40, the towns you take a local road to get to, or the city bars stuck in a unlucky corner, destined to drown not in alcohol but in weeds.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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That night, after the movie, driving my father’s car along the country roads, I began to wonder how real the landscape truly was, and how much of a dream is a dream.

Don DeLillo, Americana

Coffee Log, Day 274

Hi.

Coffee Tea: Earl Grey, Bigelow; still having filter issues. Working on it!

The night got so cold there’s condensation on my window. Never been able to resist drawing finger-faces in it.

I guess we’re headed for another winter. There’s that come-down after Thanksgiving, the year-end doldrums, where everyone’s out and frantic for the holidays but also frantic because they know another year’s about to end. It’s an even mix of optimistic and rattled. I like the energy.

One thing I didn’t mention about my trip home yesterday was how dilapidated East Burlington looks to me know. It’s always been run down, but the modern economy has further stripped its stores. There were plans to turn the old rail junction into a supermarket. Those plans were scrapped so now the lot is not only big and empty but full of dirt mounds and deep holes, all of it grown over with nosehairs of green grass.

It’s been going this way for a while: suck all the money out of your physical footprint, keep a presence in the affluent areas, throw the rest of your resources online. Retail’s not what it used to be. Yes, the economy might be doing great in aggregate, but it’s leaving more and more holes in its pockets. What’s a community when it’s stripped of communal spaces?

They closed the Wendy’s I’d been going to since 5 years old. In its place is a local burger joint. I didn’t visit, but I imagine the burners going, the smell of dead beef flicking up in gas fire. There’s an old man by the window. There’s a family of three, two kids and a single father. There’s a woman on her lunchbreak from the Wal-Mart. Real and local. Still thriving. I can only hope it lasts.

Novel Count: 11,888 words

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

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What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.

Kurt Vonnegut, ‘Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage’