Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 34

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

When I lay awake in bed past bedtime in the mid-nineties – or lay down in my parents’ shower to think while the water washed over me – I found pictures of the future. Like opening a time capsule in reverse: there I was, walking to work at a non-descript high-rise, eating white-bun hotdogs on a city streetcorner, polishing my black mustache (I never saw myself with a full beard), coming home to a house full of cats. Not a damn one of those dreams came true. The time capsule – it turns out – was a fraud.

Well, I guess I could grow the mustache if I wanted, but we all know that’s a bad look.

What I’m trying to say is: everyone imagines a future that’s never real. My idea of what 2019 would look like was informed by the art and entertainment of the late 90’s. Business would be oppressive, cities would be weary, tech would be neon green. I imagined the congested cityscapes from Cowboy Bebop and the after-work chatter of Friends or Becker. There was an acceptance that the world as a whole would be functioning well enough so that your only real effort – your real despairs – would be personal. Instead, we live in a remarkably easy environment where anything you’d ever want can be ordered to your door. The streets are open and clean. Meanwhile, the whole globe burns down.

I remember getting into avant-garde rock in the mid 2000’s. Me and my friend Z would spend whole summers in high school driving back and forth to record stores in Chapel Hill. It felt like I was on the verge of something – a secret from tomorrow, the next big thing. Flash forward fifteen years and the college radios are playing these old sounds, old chords, crooning vocals, a real nostalgic anguish for sounds you used to hear in the late 50’s. ‘Tomorrow’ turned out to be fond feelings for yesterday. But maybe that’s just how it’s always been.

Novel Count: 34,368

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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Disappear like I come in your world
Five is a number that I dream about
It looks like it could’ve been time
But that is a word that I dream about

Broken Social Scene, Hotel

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 33

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

Three weeks from now – Wednesday, April 17th – I’ll be the featured author at the Third Wednesday Open Mic hosted at Fig Raleigh in Raleigh, NC. I’ll be reading at 6:30pm and afterwards there will be a series of open mic readers. I’ll be reading selections from – duh dah dah dah – the Coffee Log! If any of you are in the Raleigh area (or feel like mozeying over this way), I’d love to see you there. We’ll be getting dinner and drinks afterward and I’ll be hanging around all night. Come tell me your stories!

It was another average day. Except the Spring got into the bank occasionally and shook us all up.

I had a dream that I was on an airplane. Maybe because there have been so many planes crashing in the news. But my dream-plane didn’t crash. We were flying over an ocean. They kept bringing me colas. I’d finish a fizzy glass, they’d crack me another can. By the end of the dream I was dizzy with bubbles. Out the window, you could see seafoam frothing up.

But anyway, about the planes crashing: isn’t life just something? A hundred-fifty people board a plane to bravely engage with their lives – leaving or coming home, flying across the world – and thwoop! A haywire AI points the nose smack into the ground. More and more of life is being put in the hands of AI. I’m not one to throw up my arms and run afraid from progress, but I have to admit it’s a little scary.

I heard an NPR report on the Raleigh Wake Med Hospital. Starting soon, all the blood and tissue samples will be transported via drones. They didn’t get into details of how this would work, but I imagine tiny black copters skidding through the halls, sacks of hot human blood hanging off them. It’s supposed to cut down on delay for delicate procedures. The company that they’re contracting already has the system functional at a hospital in Switzerland. So again, progress is a good thing, but damn if these little machines don’t creep me out – especially when they’re carrying my blood.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. I guess to say: we’re living in the future. A lot will change in the next few years. Automation is dissolving the great edifices of the 20th century like sugar in coffee. Sometimes sugar tastes good in coffee. A lot of times, though, it’s too much.

Novel Count: 34,291

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced [robots] wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.

Stephen Hawking

Coffee Log, Day 169

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

Blue Raspberry lollipop – it turned your whole mouth blue. Nephew of my coworker, the women show you off. Your mom was a drinker but you changed that. Your aunt talks tense phone-calls to laughter. Your friend – another coworker – has a strong southern accent.

How will you talk in 2035? You’ve got good parents, blond hair, blue eyes, but if you’re lucky – if we’re all lucky – those marks won’t have the same cache’ they do today. Will you spend fourth grade watching that one girl from the back of class, only to grab her hand in the lunch-line and kiss it, only to tell her that means you’re married, only to tell your parents and hear them laugh it off like ‘That’s what young men do.’ Will they teach you abstinence or responsible love?

In history books, white western men sin in the 100’s, fight in the 1000’s, conquer through the 21st century; they fight, kick, scream, spill blood until their hands are sticky enough to never drop the reigns. They don’t love, except voraciously; they don’t cry, except pathetically.

You walked behind the counter to get another lolly. I was there. I said: “High Five!” You were static smiles, so much innocent joy it got stuck on me. We smacked palms then you went running. I hope I gave you something. I spent twenty years making love to ill-gotten power, the next ten making up for that. I’m still making up for that. I hope you felt: brave; storied; vulnerable; open; powerless. I was born in the twilight of western white manhood. I’m fighting daily to make sure it dies. I hope you’ll never have to look at your naked limp body in the mirror and pick it down to honest sinews, take scalding showers to wash your grandfather’s sins. I hope you get to choose a good man, an honest man, an equitable man from the beginning.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“It is strange,’ he said at last. ‘I had longed to enter the world of men. Now I see it filled with sorrow, with cruelty and treachery, with those who would destroy all around them.’
‘Yet, enter it you must,’ Gwydion answered, ‘for it is a destiny laid on each of us. True, you have seen these things. But there are equal parts of love and joy.” – Lloyd Alexander, The Black Cauldron
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Coffee Log, Day 166

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

If you couldn’t tell, the title of this blog is a nod to Star Trek. “Captains Log, Stardate Such-and-Such…” Some of my earliest memories are the opening credits to The Next Generation. My parents were fans. They let me watch while the series aired its last few seasons. I got to stay up past my bedtime. I was young – three or four – but I remember the spaceship glow, the music notes, the stars flying by as the Enterprise jerks into hyperspace. Confetti. The future seemed inevitable.

This week, Patrick Stewart announced he’ll be revising his role as Picard in a new series. I’m not much for sequels, not much for TV these days, but I think we need another Next Generation.

We should aspire to the Federation. Gene Roddenberry was on to something. A fiction born in the long summers of the 60’s, anticipating the power of love and change, Star Trek sees the world that’s embraced the beautiful but rarely realized American Dream – freedom and equality born of cooperation. Star Trek’s heart is Kirk and Uhara’s kiss; it’s Worf – a refugee and immigrant – given as much esteem as the white men he works with.

The troubles on Earth in 2018 are so visceral that space looks far away, but because of that ‘space’ becomes even more important – a distant but achievable future; something built on trust and love and humanity; a turning point, wo/mankind’s next generation.

I’ll grab the popcorn, Patrick, and strap in for star travel.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Things are only impossible until they are not.” – Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation

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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 135

Hi.

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

The rain took the heat away, then the rain went away too; packed-up houses. I took my daily walk in the space it left.

Tonight, I saw: a new family. The mother and father were both taller than me; their son was twig-high. He was toddling, dressed in a red tee. They held both his hands when he needed it. The three walked the parking lot searching for sticks and acorns. He picked one; he wasn’t satisfied.

“They’re better by the playground,” Dad says.

“Yeah,” says the toddler.

There’s a bend in the neighborhood that obscures oncoming traffic. The rain washed the tires of an SUV loud enough for me to dodge. My downstairs neighbor drove by. She waved. In her wake, I saw a mother and daughter slogging toward recycling. Mom was stern. She had handfuls of wood and cardboard. Her daughter was sterner. She pulled a pink wagon full of broken boxes.

Trees look best in a storm; your first love coming out the shower. I snapped a few pictures, even the sewers looked nice.

At the dog park, wet fluffs were yapping. They had death in their lungs but cuddles everywhere else. Their owners chatted across the fence. The dogs weren’t happy. Both were fat, still hungry.

The last stretch goes by the office, the pool, there’s a deck that’s always open and a guy in a dark armchair who’s always watching TV. We see each other often but look away when our eyes catch.

I took the new bridge across the stream. I saw the family again, only the Dad and son this time. I waved. Dad waved. The kid ran circles, he was scared of me; I’m no stick, no acorn. I said “Hi Hi!” to red shirt, folding my best paper-plane smile.

“Say hello,” said Dad.

“No!” said his son.

He ran away to find more fairies. I wasn’t hurt; summer storms are enticing company.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“I’m tryna get high as I can.” – Future, Hate the Real Me

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