Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 288

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I was thinking about this place along the coast in Fukuoka. A paved pier next to a shipping consortium, with tennis courts running up its middle. I don’t know if was was remembering it right. I wrote about the pier ten or twelve times trying to put together my novel and none of the attempts made it to the final cut. Even so, when you write about something often enough it gets stripped of its original colors, paint thinner-like, and you can’t tell if the things you call up are real objects or your own ghosts.

Anyway, I was thinking about this place for no reason other than that it got cloudy, and the clouds often remind me of what it feels like to travel. I saw that pier on the night of Yamakasa. It was past midnight, a few kids were still playing on the tennis courts, and people jogged, back and forth, like waves, or the boats out there past the buoys in the deeper water. You could see a long way across the water. You could spot the Fukuoka Tower and a couple islands, some lit up, some just blotches where the stars got caught. There were lots of sounds, despite it being so late at night, but they were cautious and filled with anxiety, like looking in on your older brother while he’s putting on eyeliner before a date. Thump, thwack, and long, beating waves.

I sat in the memory a long time. It wasn’t real, wasn’t not real, and I liked it, somewhere only I could go on the untidy, cast-over, too warm December day.

Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

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Advantage, service, fault, break, love, the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence, because every match is a life in miniature.

Andre Agassi, Open

Coffee Log, Day 157

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema

We were promised thunderstorms. I checked the weather all week. At work, I heard from customers about their houses getting water-logged. I was excited, but I never saw a drop.

In my novel, I write about the Anpanman museum in Fukuoka. I hadn’t been there so I looked up lots of pictures. There’s a big glass ceiling over the stage where they do costume shows. I thought: I wish I had seen it rain from below the glass. There were lots of storms in Japan but never one while I was in Fukuoka. Now, since the novel, my memory of that city is changed: raining, static, wet and overwhelming.

It’s made me doubt myself more broadly. If I can rewrite a place for a novel, couldn’t I be doing that with the rest of my life? My four years of philosophy come out like spring spiders and start eating this and that certainty; I sit with Descartes at a candlelit desk and contemplate. I’ve known for a while that I don’t know much of anything, but to think that maybe I’m less in touch with things I thought I did? Spooky – where’s the Halloween candy?

But when the doubt fades I sort of love it. My life, your life, we’re narratives. That’s romantic. Telling you my story until it changes, until the me between your two ears is one that I don’t even know.

Outside, clouds are coming. We were promised thunderstorms. A little out of sight, the sky bled like a new mother, birth-marking peat and loam.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“I act with complete certainty. But this certainty is my own.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty

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Coffee Log, Day 102

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s brand; It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even taste it; well, you don’t taste air either…

A disproportionate amount of my richest memories involve walking. I say ‘disproportionate’ because only a sliver of my life has had much to do with the act. To be clear, I don’t mean the dotted-line walking we all participate in on occasion – the zigs and zags from our car doors – but rather the intentional sort of walk where your body’s motion is the goal.

Tonight, I walked around our apartment after the rain. The stream has gotten gorged and you can see the fishes swimming. It was bright enough but twilight cast everything bronze. The streetlights had nice reflections on the puddles.

I took two important walks in Japan, the combination of which became my first novel. One was intentional and the other less so. The first walk led me through Fukuoka at bleak midnight as we waited for Yamakasa. I was led by the hand of a quiet, clever, fierce Japanese woman who got headaches when she spoke English for too long. The night passed through me like electric coils. I came out the other end, but I hardly recognized myself.

The second walk found me after an impromptu doctor’s appointment. I’d taken the train from Munakata to Fukuoka to visit an international clinic. There were strange white spots on my arm where the hair had lost it’s color. I was terrified, particularly as I was about as far as one could get from the comforts of home. It was a quick visit; the doctor billed me eighty dollars for one word: ‘vitiligo.’ Harmless but defacing, I realized I would only be getting whiter, and suddenly I saw myself a caricature of my white, southern heritage. When the train got me back in Munakata it was too late and the buses had stopped running. I walked three miles on vacant highways as the night hid me from myself. I was met by one runner, a few trucks, and civilizations of crickets.

Every summer, around this time, I dream about Japan. The place left it’s mark in me, though I hardly dented it. I miss the heat, the forests, the mountains, the people – a few people in particular, though they’ve left the country for their own horizons. But the walks came with me. You can take off your shoes but the skin’s still there.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

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“Walking . . . is how the body measures itself against the earth.” – Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

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