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