Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 252

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I was standing outside the Chinese shop while I talked on the phone. Crisp night, autumn-darker, a few different engines running at low volume. A couple doors down is the ABC store so people were parking while their partners picked out liquor. I don’t know why people do this – hang like fish in the open ocean, suspended, ready to bolt with the tide – but they do, especially when alcohol’s involved. For the people purchasing, it must be nice to know there’s so much anticipation buzzing for them outside.

I was talking about work. My work, her work. We’d both had busy weeks, and the weeks weren’t always easy. She told me about a coworker who was having a rough time, how he was being tossed around by institutional pressures. And she wanted to help him if she could, or let him know that someone had an engine running for him outside, but she wasn’t sure where the line was between a person’s public and private life, what was okay to ask, and I wasn’t sure either. Along the boardwalk, as we talked, people went back and forth with brown bags, an old man in a green polo was shutting down a store advertising vacuum cleaners.

At home, after dinner, I was thinking about all the people I’ve worked with. Here, there, and elsewhere, some who seemed happy and some who didn’t. A friend from an old office is struggling with her identity and she talks about it online. I had a manager at a clothing store who chain-smoked outside the stockroom door. There’s a woman who moved to Iowa for her family and another who collects old metal keys to hang on her office door. I never asked any of them to elaborate. I never asked if their happy days were really happy, or what was rooted in the days that weren’t.

And I end up feeling thankful for the people who keep the gas running for me.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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We each have a special something we can get only at a special time of our life. like a small flame. A careful, fortunate few cherish that flame, nurture it, hold it as a torch to light their way.

Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 217

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

It helps to remember the moments you can’t live without – that afternoon in Hiroshima where we dropped stones off the bridge and watched the riverside come alive with a thousand crabs. I need to believe that if I shake things enough, something will happen.

I had dinner at Bocci. The last time I ate there was eight years ago. Compared to then, a lot has changed, but the restaurant looked just like it did back then. It’s an Italian place tucked in the back of a small shopping center off Lochmere, one of the wealthier neighborhoods in Cary. The bricks are red and the bar is full of old men watching.

We were there to give our goodbyes and congratulations – a coworker got a job in the back office, she won’t be around as often. There were eight of us in all so the staff put together two tables. There were only two people working the floor. Our waiter was older. He had lanky legs and an Italian accent. Anytime he said ‘please’ it sounded like an interrogation. N, who worked for two years teaching for the Peace Corps, whispered this: “Everyone else thinks he’s being mean but I love it. The last thing you learn in a language is inflection.” After that, I saw the guy in a different light.

After dinner, I drove home with the window down. I thought about eight years ago, the way we count our time. I was at the back of Bocci by a window, an ex on my right and her father across from us. He was buying. I never knew how to talk to him. I didn’t like taking favors. I ordered chicken and it was bitter. My arm was on fire – back then, I had a nine-to-five doing data entry and it had gotten me over with carpal tunnel. By the bathrooms, my ex asked me to try harder. I told her that pissed me off. Years passed, now I understand what she was saying.

Tonight smelled like hot dogs, chicory, and parked cars.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Thinking about spaghetti that boils eternally but is never done is a sad, sad thing.

Haruki Murakami, The Year of Spaghetti

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 153

Hi.

Coffee: Pike Place, Apartment Lounge Blend

I had a friend who launched rockets. He does other things now, but he used to put satellites in orbit, or point ships at the space station. I thought that was cool. It seemed like something to be a bridge-maker toward the final frontier.

But space isn’t how we all imagine it, really.

I’ve been seeing lots of news about the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Interviews with astronauts, articles about the rigorous (and delicate) science, even some conspiracy theories. Not since Trump’s ill-advised ‘Space Force’ have the outer bounds beyond our tiny planet seen so much coverage. I haven’t read many of the articles, only stolen glances at the pictures, but it feels hopeful to think about people who broke the boundaries of human experience, and those who are doing so right now again and again.

And it’s romantic, but it shouldn’t be, because space isn’t what we want it to be.

We come to the notion of outer space seeking the best parts of ourselves. Technological marvels, the vast and glittering worlds of 70’s sci-fi. A limitless place to paint ourselves over and over, the hope of human renewal on a galactic scale.

When we look up, though, into the blackest night skies, and when we step out into the stars, there’s more emptiness than anything. There’s a crisp, barren beauty to Mars and an awful violence to Venus. But they never know each other, never touching, never holding hands, separated by blank space, whispering nothing. The scary thing is that this is a better reflection of us – multiple minds divided by the unbreachable expanse; galaxies you’ll never see.

I think it’s beautiful we made it to the moon. I think we should keep trying to go farther. But I think the lessons aren’t all bright ones, and the human heart is as much the empty parts and barren planets as it is a flickering sun.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Not just beautiful, though–the stars are like the trees in the forest, alive and breathing. And they’re watching me.

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 141

Hi.

Coffee: Pike Place, Apartment Lounge Blend

I sat all day in a stupor like a brown cat curled up, or a cooked shrimp, head and legs missing, a pink glaze, dreamy.

I know why I’m tired:

Last night, L was over, and he’d been having a rough week at work so we stayed out until midnight, eyes pried off the covers, pretending to be real people doing real things, but other people than the ones we usually are. By the time he’d gone and I’d gotten my head fitted to the pillow, it was closing on 1 am. I’m almost 30 – my body doesn’t do well with late nights anymore.

But there’s also the Lexapro – I’ve been taking it in the evenings because it makes me drowsy, but the drowsy hangs over in the morning. I wear it. The drug doesn’t have me in hot sweats like the bupropion but I can’t tell yet if the fatigue is worth it. Everyday becomes a Monday, sludgy, a heavy backpack, the ominous dinging of a new work-week. Maybe I’ll get used to it. Always optimistic.

Right now, the sky’s chicken-vein blue. There’s a full moon, or close to it. A good time to go to sleep.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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The sky grew darker, painted blue on blue, one stroke at a time, into deeper and deeper shades of night.

Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 129

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I spent the evening putting together a plastic model. I cut the pieces with a pair of wireclippers. I filed the nubs down with my fingernails. There’s red and yellow dust on the dining room table. There’s sore spots on my hands from holding small pieces in place.

When I was younger I thought I’d see outer-space. Really, I thought I’d live forever. I figured the one thing worth doing with your life was to keep living it so I set on scheming ways to extend myself. At first, these fled to sci-fi fantasies – I’ll live on in a computer, a mechanical body, a sentient satellite on its way to Mars. Then, when I was old enough to feel less dreams and more of my immediate mortality, I figured I’d go into science – biology – and cure cancer, or end aging, or….

But I didn’t have the heart for cold white labs and bits of liquids caught in glass. I didn’t have the mind for it either.

My favorite things are things I can put together. A plastic model, a pot of pasta, the Coffee Log. I’ve got no chance of outliving myself. Most likely, I’ll never see the stars from outside our atmosphere. Instead, I turn to things I can set the boundaries on, tiny things, things I can control.

The model turned out well. A giant robot, it’s sitting on the top of my bookshelf, right above the Histories of Herodotus, which seems to fit.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Everything about me may have been crammed in there, but it was only plastic. Indecipherable except to some machine.

Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 84

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; I thought about going inside the shop but when I drove by the parking lot was filled; so I got my coffee from the drive-through; even treated myself to a slice of lemon cake; the woman at the window had deep green lacquer on her fingernails; it reminded me of mountainsides in the early morning; I told her I liked the color, she said ‘thanks’; later, drinking the coffee, I thought I could taste a bit of wood-bark, pine-sap, morning dew

A hot day. Now that we’ve passed mid-may, summer’s taken it’s gloves off, spit out the tobacco, and is squatting wide-legged in the fields ready to take on all comers. I went out around five to pick up a few things from the pharmacy and got socked in the face. One hit of that humidity and I was walking like I had the weight of the world on me. All the thermostats were reading 90. Like I said, a hot day.

Nevertheless, I spent a lot of the day outside.

I’ve been re-reading After Dark by Murakami. I finished my re-read today. The last time I let my eyes on the book, I was 17 and wading through another hot summer. I was away at an academic camp and within the first week had torn my ACL (a particularly vigorous game of ping-pong was what did me in). So there I was, young and dumb and largely alone, limping around a college campus on crutches, trying to keep up with the world as it whipped by. Because of that, coming back to After Dark has been like finding all those boxes in your parents’ basement full of family photos – you squint at the pictures and try to make them look familiar without getting too embarrassed. Then, in the end, you stare so long so you forget they’re even photos of you.

I was reading on the porch with a cup of peppermint tea beside me. The hot day matched the tea so that you couldn’t tell which was making all that steam. I sweated out my journey into old, semi-blank memory albums, and when the tea was gone and the book was almost over, I had a beer. Finally, soaked to the bone, I finished what I’d come there to do. I closed the book. I put down the bottle. About to go inside, I heard a clapping sound off the balcony. I looked over and saw a family of geese. They were huddled together, pecking through the clover, hunting for bugs. Some of them were so young their adult feathers hadn’t come in. I didn’t know what to make of them – these beautiful, surprising, cuddly creatures walking by – and I still don’t. But I think they’ll be one of those memories I’ll open up fifteen years from now and hardly recognize, no matter how much I might want to.

Currently Reading: NOTHING! Couldn’t get back into Bourdain, no matter how much I tried; will pick a new book soon

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A giant motherboard of geese,
unruffled by the state
police, swarmed in unison

Kristen Henderson, Of My Maiden Smoking

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 78

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro, Trader Joe’s Brand

All day, the house has smelled like chicken. There’s a pot of skin and bones bubbling on the stove. My roommate put it on late last night and has been tending it since then. The water’s yellow. The bones have gone from gray to deep brown. Heat sucked out the marrow. At 2pm, I poured a glass of fizzy water and even that tasted like chicken. Potent, ‘fowl’ stuff.

I was re-reading a Murakami novel – ‘After Dark.’ It takes place between midnight and 6am in Tokyo. I took the book to the porch where the sky had gone gray but couldn’t find it’s tear ducts to rain. I sipped my chicken-flavored seltzer and read for three hours. The wind came and went. Some birds made a nest above me, in that spot where the third floor lips over ours. Kids were running around but I didn’t look for them. Four white guys played basketball across the creek and had a portable speaker blasting Drake.

Now it’s dinnertime and I’m finding it hard to have an appetite. It feels like I’ve been licking chicken skin since morning. I remember what it was like to eat meat. Bone-in, such a puzzle: you study a dead animal’s geography, engineer it to simpler shapes with your fingers and teeth. Just bones, you toss them, or at least I would, but sometimes we’re not satisfied. Sometimes you have to squeeze the bird of it’s blood and juices, milk it like a California almond, and drink that too. Is that better? Less wasteful? Absolutely. Snip the chicken like a magazine clipping, removing it completely from the green earth.

At 7pm, it still hasn’t rained. No use waiting, so I guess I’ll get on with my day.

Currently Reading: Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

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I did not become a vegetarian for my health, I did it for the health of the chickens.


Isaac Bashevis Singer