Coffee Log, Day 272

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I was one of those kids who wouldn’t tell his parents a lick about the schoolday.

“How was it?”

“Fine.”

I was similarly stonefaced with friends.

“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?”

“Nothing.”

It was two things: a bit of adolescent embarrassment and a deeper fear that if I let on about the things that moved me, they’d lose their magic somehow. Oh how the times have changed.

As an aspiring author and daily blogger, my life’s cut open like a cleaned fish. There aren’t enough things happening outside of me to have the option of sequestering myself. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I needed to be open. But that’s a topic for a therapist.

I started to notice the effects of this a couple years ago as I was writing a book. The book was about Japan, about Yamakasa – a Fukuoka festival I’d attended in 2014. The scenes and settings are yanked out of my memory and tinkered until they fit the story. I’ve never had the knack of a fantasy author – the spark of creation, so to speak – so all my writing pulls heavy from places I’ve been and breathed.

Anyway, as I was writing this book, a funny thing happened: when I’d daydream about my time in Fukuoka, I started to see myself in the novel’s version of the city. If I’d changed the name of this or that restaurant, or maybe moved a cafe across town, the memory of me walking her August streets took me through the story; I had trouble digging back to where I’d really been. It was startling. I felt I’d lost something. Well, I had. I had replaced that ‘something’ with words.

I figure that’s why so many writers drink (or otherwise touch oblivion): you cut apart what’s most precious to feed your work.

I wouldn’t give it up. I really couldn’t at this point. In a way, I’m still yelling “Fine!” and “Nothing!” Only now those words ring true to everything outside the book.

Novel Count: 11,198 words

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

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All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.

Ernest Hemingway


Coffee Log, Day 266

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

Another rainy morning.

Most of my life I’ve been a morning person. You couldn’t get me to sleep as a kid. I’d wake up early and want the whole world served to me like toast and butter. I’ve got vivid memories of naptime – no sleeping, just a rouge room colored by the not-quite-thick-enough curtains, rolling around restless in a crib, reading pictures books over and over with photos of old ladies or elephants and little bumps or dawdles to scratch your fingers on.

I’m still an early riser, though it doesn’t come as easy.

But there was one year when everything changed. I was 20/21. She was 21/22. She was going to school in Charlotte and I didn’t have a car so I took trains to see her. I’d stay down most weekends, even longer in the summer, and I don’t know if it was the travel, the air pollution, something in the water but I stopped falling asleep or getting up early. I’d be up until 3am. We’d get out of bed past noon. Most nights, she’d be out before me so I’d stay up watching things – half my attention to the miasma of whatever-was-on-the-TV, half to her closed-off face. She had this look like she was perpetually going away from something.

That’s when I learned that you can let people change you. And sometimes, afterward, you can change yourself back.

Novel Count: 8,980 words

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

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” – Ernest Hemingway


Coffee Log, Day 172

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; it’s become a tradition to buy Caribou when I run out of beans at home. There’s not much to it – five minutes in the drive-through – but I’ve done it a half-dozen times, guess it’s stuck. The Caribou is two blocks farther than I usually drive. There’s no easy way into the parking lot. I figure it’s a bum gig because I haven’t had the same barista twice. Today, it was a lean guy. Last time, it was a lean girl. Every barista I’ve known has ambitious eyes. Sometimes I miss making coffee for customers.

This time last year, I’d just come to Cary and settled into a job I don’t have anymore. I worked a bookstore, a head cashier, internally prestigious position but I got embarrassed giving myself away with that description. I’m glad I lost that job.

Now I’m a banker. A teller, really, though the title’s dressed up, one of those dogs you see in sweaters. America likes money, so I feel less shame saying I’m a banker than a bookseller, but retail’s retail, and my white collars still come no-suit-required.

Sometimes, if I wake up cocky, I’ll introduce myself as a ‘writer,’ pointing to my few publications and this blog as proof. Then there’s always the questions: “What books you got out?” “What genre do you write?” I’ve got answers, but like lice in your daughter’s kindergarten bowl-cut, the questions keep coming. Friendship and love are well-meant interrogations; justify yourself.

But I’ve got it good. I’ve got a job that sounds mostly respectable, a passion that (though far-fetched) is somewhat relatable; I’m no fast-food chef going home to gorgeous cases of pinned insects, hotel cleaners finding time for life in the margins. No wonder Caribou keeps rotating baristas – bad hours, bad pay, social scorn.

My coffee was good. Simple, but good. The lean guy said ‘bye’ brightly and got ready for the next customer. I want to live in such a way that no-one feels the need to justify themselves to me. To keep breathing – whatever letters are beside your name – is beautiful, full stop.

Well, except for the CEO’s. I wouldn’t mind making millionaires prove they’ve earned the puppet strings.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“The people that I liked and had not met went to the big cafes because they were lost in them and no one noticed them and they could be alone in them and be together.” – Ernest Hemingway

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Coffee Log, Day 148

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema

I talked to a soldier, an officer. He was career, 35 yrs, started in ’80, a combat medic, now he teaches other combat medics. He was a friendly guy with a sailor’s tongue (though he was Army) and told stories about drills. He described a practice kill room.

“They’ve got to get the body, check ’em out, and sometimes I’d put grenades under them so if you don’t check you’re fucked. And then I make the partner go in and now he’s got to deal with your shit too.”

He’d dropped out of college when a snooty professor told him what to do. He walked right up to the Prof and said “Repeat that and you’ll lose your left eye.”

The officer had his fourteen-year-old daughter with him. The whole conversation, she kept making fun of his wrinkles, his gray hair, how much he sweats when he does the rucks after turning 50. He took the beating. They left with their arms around each other.

Real love is someone that lets you let go of all the hard, strong things you spend your life holding on to; real love is someone that gives you a reason to keep carrying all the hard, strong things to the end.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve.” – Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
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Coffee Log, Day 73

Hi.

Coffee: Organic Bolivian Blend, Trader Joe’s brand

They canceled the Nobel Prize for Literature this year. It’s the first time since WWII that they’ve done so. Reason being is a good one: mass scandals of bigotry, fraud, and sex abuse by the committee members. Female voices were silenced or worse. I’m glad the prize is canceled. I’m also heartbroken.

I grew up hearing the word ‘Nobel’ as one hears the train coming from a mile away. It was ripe, exciting, and I saw myself boarding imminently. I know that’s a big goal but I’ve always dreamed big. At first, I wanted the Nobel Peace Prize. Some kind of white savior complex, mixed with a bit of mishandled chivalry, but as I’ve grown and grounded I’ve looked at my name in the lights of the Nobel Prize for Literature. No significant expectations of achieving that place but the goal’s kept me pushing. Hearing the news of its 2018 cancellation flips a dirty page of reality.

I worry often that the things I love should have no place in the world; or more darkly, that the things I love contribute to the world’s wrongs. I admire Hemingway and eat up Bukowski and there’s no arguing that both of them participate in a culture that dominates women, even if both do so with honesty and reflection. In my personal life, I’ve sought love and family that’s structured and possessive and I struggle daily with how to evolve that love into something more just.

I don’t blame myself for being cultured but I do take blame for every time I participate in that culture knowingly. I still want to be a writer. I still want prizes, though maybe not the Nobel. It’s tough to see a future without knowing what it’ll give you, but that’s been the lot of oppressed communities forever and it’s about damn time I catch up.

Currently Reading:
The Pardoner’s Tale, by John Wain

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

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.” – Ernest Hemingway

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Coffee Log, Day 64

Hi.

Coffee: Organic Bolivian Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand; Oh it’s great! It’s sunny, but not in that obnoxious way, more like the best sun in Winter, where you wake up expecting to shiver out of your pajamas but then you pull the curtains and feel your skin prick for the first time since early December. Highly recommend.

July 2013 had me in Petoskey, MI. About a century before that, Hemingway had it instead, and so I took the town at first not knowing the heritage, falling in love with the quaint downtown and brick community college (dreams of teaching there that are still just dreams) and a pretty girl who was working part time in a pie-shop with white flour in her hair and then a stormy pier on Lake Michigan with cold, cold water that talked to the weakest parts in me and asked me to jump. I didn’t jump – and if I had, it wouldn’t have hurt me. It was a ten foot drop – but I’d be lying if I said the thought of dying didn’t stalk the back of my mind. Only after the pier did I read up on the town and when I saw it was still haunted by Hemingway my fatal thoughts made sense.

There’s a parasitic force in Art that tells you to suffer. Too many idols took the easy end of a double-barrel like Hemingway. I believed for a while that happiness meant bad writing and I have dear friends who’ve bought the same cheap story. I don’t know where the source is, if it’s something about the personality prone to artists or something in a culture that likes to vicariously suffer, but it’s a real phenomenon. Thankfully, I’ve been enough of a failure at committing myself to the downward spiral that I’ve aged and grown and worked and matured and now I’ve come to realize that the real ingredients to good art are consistency, composure, a little cynicism, and – yes – happiness. To any fellow artist reading this, I encourage you to spit out the line the world’s been trying to feed you and find something grittier, harder, more long-lasting to chew.

July 2013 had me in Petoskey. I was brokenhearted and desperate. From beyond a coward’s grave, Hemingway bobbed in the cold Michigan water. I don’t know why I turned around but I’m glad I did. He can have the hell that waits for him. I’m happy to live longer and find the more elusive path to health and good art.

Currently Reading:
The Pardoner’s Tale, by John Wain

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

“You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” – Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

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