Coffee Log, Day 341

Hi.

Coffee: Locomotive Blend, PennyCup Coffee

I’m thinking about getting another lamp. One for the kitchen, so that when I take my coffee in the mornings I can be lit up by something other than the bright-as-venus florescent.

The older I get, the more I come to appreciate a certain kind of atmosphere. I want space and windows and the right sort of light to let my mind relax. When I was younger, I cared about those same things, but I was content to let them come to me. Now there’s a desperation. A need for control. You’ve only got so much time so you want to fill it with the right things.

About half of Killing Commendatore is dreamy descriptions of fancy houses in a Japanese mountain range. Murakami spends whole chapters talking about the couches. It’s a little boring but it’s supposed to be. It’s an old man’s book. It’s written for people that understand how important it is to look at a piece of furniture and know it’s not going anywhere; to be in a place that won’t slip out from under you.

I’ve lived in relatively few places, but I’ve lived in each of them furiously. I’ve never hung a picture. If the walls weren’t the right color, I wouldn’t paint them. Always in the act of leaving. But eventually you realize that there’s never going to be a destination. You’ll never get off the train. All you can do is tinker with your cabin so that it suits you – if not perfectly, then a little better than it did before.

Novel Count: 19,974

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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When people photograph an object, they often put a pack of cigarettes next to it to give the viewer a sense of the object’s actual size, but the pack of cigarettes next to the images in my memory expanded and contracted, depending on my mood at the time. Like the objects and events in constant flux, or perhaps in opposition to them, what should have been a fixed yardstick inside the framework of my memory seemed instead to be in perpetual motion.

Haruki Murakami, Killing Commendatore


Coffee Log, Day 335

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; quicker to grind than the Locomotive Blend that A gifted me; I was running late this morning; I’d been caught in a looping dream about running errands for 2Chainz; I enjoyed the coffee, though it made me wistful for celebrity friendships that could have been.

The first day back to work is always an adjustment. Long weekend, short weekend, extended vacation, it doesn’t matter, that day back is like the bathroom lightswitch: the first bright thing you see in the morning, abrasively glamouring as you’re still trying to rub open your eyes.

I don’t have much else to talk about today, so I’ll talk about my progress into ‘Killing Commendatore.’ I’m about 200 pages in out of a 700 total. So far, I’d say it’s one of Murakami’s better later-day novels. You can tell it was written by an aging man. You can also tell it was written by a professional writer. It likes to luxuriate in long passages about putting on a certain opera record, or fixing a cup of coffee. That is, it sits you down in daily doldrums and tells you to like it. I do like it. But I have to say I miss the vitality of some of his earlier works. I wonder if any artist catches fire after his/her first or second time? If you’ve spent all your life waiting to produce something, how can anything beyond that first creation have the same drive behind it?

Who knows. Though I’ve written many short stories and one novel, I’ve only had minor publications, and more importantly I still don’t feel like I’ve captured that initial glow. Each new work gets me closer, and I’m sure its the kind of thing that you know when you have it. Depending on how the current book pans out, maybe that’ll be it.

But this is supposed to be about Murakami. Go read ‘Killing Commendatore.’ It makes uninteresting things interesting. And if you do read it, tell me what you think.

Novel Count: 18,170

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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From a distance, most things look beautiful.

Haruki Murakami, Killing Commendator

Coffee Log, Day 313

Hi.

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

It’s New Years Eve. I guess my clock was a day off because I couldn’t sleep at all last night. I’m exhausted. I might miss the ball drop. Years ago, that’s something that might have bothered me, but I’ve grown comfortable missing out.

There’s this myth that life is the big moments. That’s why there’s an entire industry around weddings. But after the wedding, after you’re back from the honeymoon, what then? I’m as much a fan of pomp and circumstance as anyone, but I worry about those people that live life expecting it. What’s left when the ball drops and the bars close? Just a bunch of guys and gals in jumpers cleaning up the mess.

I read another chapter of Killing Commendatore at 9:30 last night. It might be what kept me up. I wouldn’t call it great. I would call it mesmerizing. The chapter went to great lengths to describe a painting that doesn’t exist. Very Murakami. And there I was in the margins watching a fake man dissect a fake painting. The fan was on. The lights were off. When I tried to sleep, the room was a bit too hot, too bright. But there I was.

On the other side is that modern yuppie zen shit. Culturally appropriated excuses for privileged white adults to work themselves at the bare minimum, thereby buying into a status quo that fully supports them at the expense of other people’s labor. Lazy. A bad look.

So as the year turns 19, old enough to die for her country, too young to get drunk doing it, who are we supposed to be?

I fell in love with Murakami when I read A Wild Sheep Chase in 10th grade. I liked his writing, liked his world, liked the direct and vital sex (I was full of teenage hormones), but most of all I liked this one passage where the narrator is spending days in a hotel room watching an office across the street from his window. There’s guys typing, filing, printing, copying. There’s an office romance that never gets to the surface. It’s all terribly boring. It’s the realest thing in the world.

So even if you miss the ball drop it’s okay as long as you’re missing it because you’re stuck to a complicated, hard, breathing life. There will always be another New Year. There’s only one you.

Novel Count: 8,688

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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festive hearts wane
and sink like tides of joy.

Ben Ditmars, Night Poems

Coffee Log, Day 301

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I’m convinced you can only love someone in the rain. Rain condenses your world. You have to think about where you’re stepping, whose hand you’re holding. There’s too much pressure to pick a direction in the sun.

A guy in a neon rain slick works phone cables in the parking lot. He’s whistling.

Dead meat steam meets him. A Mexican restaurant, lamps on, lunch tables.

I’m smelling cooked skin and car oil.

The radio tells me what it’s like being dry. NPR stories. But I’ve just got this space, this space, this space…

Lovely shadows of winter trees in every puddle; I’m over there, running to find you.

Novel Count: 6,563 

Currently Reading: Nothing! Done with Cherry, still deciding on the next book.

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Look at the rain long enough, with no thoughts in your head, and you gradually feel your body falling loose, shaking free of the world of reality. Rain has the power to hypnotize. – Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun

Coffee Log, Day 289

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; I’ve been feeling strung out lately so I added less beans to the grinder to cut the caffeine. It helped a little, though like any solution, it wasn’t perfect. Water me down.

I’m sitting in my room with the curtains drawn but the windows open. They’ve got a fire going in the pit. It smells like someone’s burning off old journals. If only a match took care of all the things you put down.

I’m drinking barley tea. It isn’t summer so I’m doing so out of season. In Japan, they’d brew big pots of barley tea for the kids I taught. We’d line them up in their sweat scarves and the Japanese teachers would dole out glasses like medicine. I always thought it seemed remarkable and magic and I wanted to try it but I didn’t ask because I figured that would break the spell. Now I just make it for myself out of my roommate’s stash and it’s refreshing but not very magical.

It’s supposed to snow tomorrow. I’ve been feeling like there’s a warm ball of lint in my skull. If it does snow, if it’s good and cold and bleached, I think I’ll walk around in hopes of working the lint out. I’ve been trying to decide what to do with myself. I’ve been thinking about money, about houses, about careers. I’m happy with my job but I’m not in love with it. Lots of old couples sleep in separate beds, but I’d like to hold something under the covers. And yeah, yeah, I’m writing, but art’s just your mistress, always taking you away from the rest of your life, a little abused, never there when you need her. Deliberating seems like it might be easier in the snow.

I hear them occasionally – voices from the fire, two guys, a woman, and every now and then this little boy or girl that’s young enough to find rapture in something like a pit-fire, like the winter, like a deep, welcoming snow-day.

Novel Count: 14,999 words (here’s the reality of an early-stage novel: it’s messy. I’ve heard stories about writers that can sit down and hammer a draft start to end and only then do the bloody knifework. I imagine them as boring people who wear turtlenecks and drink white wine. No, for me it’s endless tinder-dates, the waking up without your clothes on, the vomit in the toilet, the realization that you’re a realist now and you never really wanted to be. So anyway, I might rip out half of what I’ve written. Or not. We’ll see. It’s early.)

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith (I’ve tried and tried and tried to finish this book; in the end, I sort of hate it; I don’t think I’ll be finishing it anytime soon); Cherry, Nico Walker

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With luck, it might even snow for us.

Haruki Murakami, After Dark


Coffee Log, Day 286

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

When I drove home the sky had cracked open. That peach-blood sunset, firing up winter one day at a time.

I presented to a middle-school writing club. There were eight of them, mostly girls. I was glad for that because the world’s already heard a lot stories written by men.

They were a sharp group, wrapped up in coats and jackets and pencils and papers, that odd time in December when you’re halfway between break and school. We practiced some things, I read a story, they asked questions. Afterward, I gave them all print-outs of lit journals that accept work by kids or pre-teens because the one thing I always wish I’d had as a young writer was some sort of guidance for where to put my work.

But I’ll say again, the kids were sharp.

It’s a cheesy line, but there’s hope in kids. It’s not that they see the world any brighter – from the time I’ve spent teaching, it’s clear that kids are often facing the darkest corners of the world’s closet – but that they haven’t narrowed their options for how to deal with the dark. It’s just as real to bite the apple as it is to throw it; no one use, no one route to peace and love and success and joy; and that to me is all hope amounts to, a not giving in to simple despairs.

It was good to work with the kids. I hope I gave them something. I know they imparted a bit on me.

Novel Count: 15,580 words

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

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Adults constantly raise the bar on smart children, precisely because they’re able to handle it. The children get overwhelmed by the tasks in front of them and gradually lose the sort of openness and sense of accomplishment they innately have. When they’re treated like that, children start to crawl inside a shell and keep everything inside. It takes a lot of time and effort to get them to open up again. Kids’ hearts are malleable, but once they gel it’s hard to get them back the way they were.

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore


Coffee Log, Day 257

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I want to talk about coffee today.

That feels almost blasphemous, doesn’t it? I’ve spent the better part of a year writing this ‘coffee blog’ with the adamant intent to trim, confine and marginalize any talk about the titular subject. Instead, I rant at the world, soliloquy theories, absorb myself to this or that melancholia, and I’m happy about that, but today I want to talk about coffee.

There was this guy I knew. He lived beside my parents and was the uncle to two kids about my age. Those kids were my first friends. They’d stay at his house in the summers when their mother was working so we’d hang out a lot. We got up to all kinds of somethings: mud fights, sword fights, 8-bit videogaming. Our houses were joined by a giant backyard mulberry tree. We’d eat the mulberries and rub them on plastic swords for battle damage. It was great fun.

Very rarely, I’d be invited over for breakfast. Their uncle would be cooking something for himself while we three ate milk and cereal. Here’s a morning I remember:

He’s got his shirt off and the music going. Something low and simple, maybe Elvis. There’s bright exuberances of light trying to get through the kitchen curtains and some of it makes it in. My friends are at the table talking to each other but I’m watching their uncle work the coffee pot. He pulls water from the sink. He fills the old percolator. There’s all this static and steam when the heat coils go crimson-hot, and then the room’s a bit of drip-drip percussion backing Elvis.

When it’s done, their uncle pours a tall, green mug and dips a donut in it. I’m thinking it’s the most outrageous act of gall, ruining a good cake donut like that, so I tell him. He looks at me with a wiry black mustache full of crumbs. He says: “You’ll understand it when you’re older.”

I’m not a big fan of donuts dipped in coffee, even now. Still, I feel like I get what he was talking about.

….shit, this wasn’t really about coffee after all, was it?

Novel Count: 5,709 words

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

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“Whether you take the doughnut hole as a blank space or as an entity unto itself is a purely metaphysical question and does not affect the taste of the doughnut one bit.” – Haruki Murakami, A Wild Sheep Chase

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