Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 155

Hi.

Coffee: Pike Place, Apartment Lounge Blend

I caught myself longing for better days. Days when temperatures were cooler, nights lasted longer, I could hold my liquor like a wet tongue. You know, those times when it was easier to ignore everything outside the front door.

But ‘better’s’ only better in a selfish sense.

There was this night in Munakata. I thought I could fly. Some Japanese men were drinking whiskey on the back porch of the campground lounge. We all passed the bottle, loosening our tongues up until we tried speaking each other’s language. It was just me and J at first, then other Americans joined. I downed half a bottle of Suntory. Everything seemed simple. Then one of the men asked this Blonde to take her shirt off.

The easiest high is at someone else’s expense.

Last night, at the same park I watched a kid work magic at, there was this older guy, Latino, hair in braids. He started out singing the best sounds to the saxophone music. His voice was that extra shot in the cocktail, just enough to breeze past the bitters. I watched him dance around in the background until he caught eyes on a girl in a white jumper. He walks up like he knows her. He shouts something that could have been her name. But it wasn’t her name so when he put his hand on her shoulder she jumps backward. Her eyes were shucked, she clammed up, ran to join her friends.

Life is only nice on one side of the coin. If you get it while it’s heads, someone else will grab tails. And more often than not, that someone has a bit less socially prescribed luck than you.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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The fish is my friend too…I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars. Imagine if each day a man must try to kill the moon, he thought. The moon runs away. But imagine if a man each day should have to try to kill the sun? We were born lucky; he thought

Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Coffee Log, Day 299

Hi.

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

Prada makes a keychain that’s a monkey in blackface throwing its hands up. They charge $500 for it. When called out, their defense is: ‘these aren’t the real world; they’re imaginary.’ Eventually, they capitulate and make great claims about donations to black charities.

Remember: when your white grandmother told you to be polite to the black kids because they needed your help – when your 21yrold white boyfriend comes back from a semester abroad teaching math in Guinea and shows you all those pictures of him and the kids but when you ask him he just calls it ‘Africa’ and can’t remember the country’s name – that’s still racism.

I had this dream that I was talking to a demon that looked like me except he had a catfish for a head. We were on an overpass counting cars. What a lovely drunk thing to be above it all. But Your mouth is still something that feeds on the riverbed, bloated, filthy.

Novel Count: 6,268 (writing post early today, still writing on novel later)

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

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And chase hard and good and with no mistakes and do not overrun them. – Ernest Hemingway, Islands in the Stream

Coffee Log, Day 272

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I was one of those kids who wouldn’t tell his parents a lick about the schoolday.

“How was it?”

“Fine.”

I was similarly stonefaced with friends.

“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?”

“Nothing.”

It was two things: a bit of adolescent embarrassment and a deeper fear that if I let on about the things that moved me, they’d lose their magic somehow. Oh how the times have changed.

As an aspiring author and daily blogger, my life’s cut open like a cleaned fish. There aren’t enough things happening outside of me to have the option of sequestering myself. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I needed to be open. But that’s a topic for a therapist.

I started to notice the effects of this a couple years ago as I was writing a book. The book was about Japan, about Yamakasa – a Fukuoka festival I’d attended in 2014. The scenes and settings are yanked out of my memory and tinkered until they fit the story. I’ve never had the knack of a fantasy author – the spark of creation, so to speak – so all my writing pulls heavy from places I’ve been and breathed.

Anyway, as I was writing this book, a funny thing happened: when I’d daydream about my time in Fukuoka, I started to see myself in the novel’s version of the city. If I’d changed the name of this or that restaurant, or maybe moved a cafe across town, the memory of me walking her August streets took me through the story; I had trouble digging back to where I’d really been. It was startling. I felt I’d lost something. Well, I had. I had replaced that ‘something’ with words.

I figure that’s why so many writers drink (or otherwise touch oblivion): you cut apart what’s most precious to feed your work.

I wouldn’t give it up. I really couldn’t at this point. In a way, I’m still yelling “Fine!” and “Nothing!” Only now those words ring true to everything outside the book.

Novel Count: 11,198 words

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

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All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.

Ernest Hemingway


Coffee Log, Day 266

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

Another rainy morning.

Most of my life I’ve been a morning person. You couldn’t get me to sleep as a kid. I’d wake up early and want the whole world served to me like toast and butter. I’ve got vivid memories of naptime – no sleeping, just a rouge room colored by the not-quite-thick-enough curtains, rolling around restless in a crib, reading pictures books over and over with photos of old ladies or elephants and little bumps or dawdles to scratch your fingers on.

I’m still an early riser, though it doesn’t come as easy.

But there was one year when everything changed. I was 20/21. She was 21/22. She was going to school in Charlotte and I didn’t have a car so I took trains to see her. I’d stay down most weekends, even longer in the summer, and I don’t know if it was the travel, the air pollution, something in the water but I stopped falling asleep or getting up early. I’d be up until 3am. We’d get out of bed past noon. Most nights, she’d be out before me so I’d stay up watching things – half my attention to the miasma of whatever-was-on-the-TV, half to her closed-off face. She had this look like she was perpetually going away from something.

That’s when I learned that you can let people change you. And sometimes, afterward, you can change yourself back.

Novel Count: 8,980 words

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

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“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” – Ernest Hemingway


Coffee Log, Day 172

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; it’s become a tradition to buy Caribou when I run out of beans at home. There’s not much to it – five minutes in the drive-through – but I’ve done it a half-dozen times, guess it’s stuck. The Caribou is two blocks farther than I usually drive. There’s no easy way into the parking lot. I figure it’s a bum gig because I haven’t had the same barista twice. Today, it was a lean guy. Last time, it was a lean girl. Every barista I’ve known has ambitious eyes. Sometimes I miss making coffee for customers.

This time last year, I’d just come to Cary and settled into a job I don’t have anymore. I worked a bookstore, a head cashier, internally prestigious position but I got embarrassed giving myself away with that description. I’m glad I lost that job.

Now I’m a banker. A teller, really, though the title’s dressed up, one of those dogs you see in sweaters. America likes money, so I feel less shame saying I’m a banker than a bookseller, but retail’s retail, and my white collars still come no-suit-required.

Sometimes, if I wake up cocky, I’ll introduce myself as a ‘writer,’ pointing to my few publications and this blog as proof. Then there’s always the questions: “What books you got out?” “What genre do you write?” I’ve got answers, but like lice in your daughter’s kindergarten bowl-cut, the questions keep coming. Friendship and love are well-meant interrogations; justify yourself.

But I’ve got it good. I’ve got a job that sounds mostly respectable, a passion that (though far-fetched) is somewhat relatable; I’m no fast-food chef going home to gorgeous cases of pinned insects, hotel cleaners finding time for life in the margins. No wonder Caribou keeps rotating baristas – bad hours, bad pay, social scorn.

My coffee was good. Simple, but good. The lean guy said ‘bye’ brightly and got ready for the next customer. I want to live in such a way that no-one feels the need to justify themselves to me. To keep breathing – whatever letters are beside your name – is beautiful, full stop.

Well, except for the CEO’s. I wouldn’t mind making millionaires prove they’ve earned the puppet strings.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“The people that I liked and had not met went to the big cafes because they were lost in them and no one noticed them and they could be alone in them and be together.” – Ernest Hemingway

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Coffee Log, Day 148

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema

I talked to a soldier, an officer. He was career, 35 yrs, started in ’80, a combat medic, now he teaches other combat medics. He was a friendly guy with a sailor’s tongue (though he was Army) and told stories about drills. He described a practice kill room.

“They’ve got to get the body, check ’em out, and sometimes I’d put grenades under them so if you don’t check you’re fucked. And then I make the partner go in and now he’s got to deal with your shit too.”

He’d dropped out of college when a snooty professor told him what to do. He walked right up to the Prof and said “Repeat that and you’ll lose your left eye.”

The officer had his fourteen-year-old daughter with him. The whole conversation, she kept making fun of his wrinkles, his gray hair, how much he sweats when he does the rucks after turning 50. He took the beating. They left with their arms around each other.

Real love is someone that lets you let go of all the hard, strong things you spend your life holding on to; real love is someone that gives you a reason to keep carrying all the hard, strong things to the end.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve.” – Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
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Coffee Log, Day 64

Hi.

Coffee: Organic Bolivian Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand; Oh it’s great! It’s sunny, but not in that obnoxious way, more like the best sun in Winter, where you wake up expecting to shiver out of your pajamas but then you pull the curtains and feel your skin prick for the first time since early December. Highly recommend.

July 2013 had me in Petoskey, MI. About a century before that, Hemingway had it instead, and so I took the town at first not knowing the heritage, falling in love with the quaint downtown and brick community college (dreams of teaching there that are still just dreams) and a pretty girl who was working part time in a pie-shop with white flour in her hair and then a stormy pier on Lake Michigan with cold, cold water that talked to the weakest parts in me and asked me to jump. I didn’t jump – and if I had, it wouldn’t have hurt me. It was a ten foot drop – but I’d be lying if I said the thought of dying didn’t stalk the back of my mind. Only after the pier did I read up on the town and when I saw it was still haunted by Hemingway my fatal thoughts made sense.

There’s a parasitic force in Art that tells you to suffer. Too many idols took the easy end of a double-barrel like Hemingway. I believed for a while that happiness meant bad writing and I have dear friends who’ve bought the same cheap story. I don’t know where the source is, if it’s something about the personality prone to artists or something in a culture that likes to vicariously suffer, but it’s a real phenomenon. Thankfully, I’ve been enough of a failure at committing myself to the downward spiral that I’ve aged and grown and worked and matured and now I’ve come to realize that the real ingredients to good art are consistency, composure, a little cynicism, and – yes – happiness. To any fellow artist reading this, I encourage you to spit out the line the world’s been trying to feed you and find something grittier, harder, more long-lasting to chew.

July 2013 had me in Petoskey. I was brokenhearted and desperate. From beyond a coward’s grave, Hemingway bobbed in the cold Michigan water. I don’t know why I turned around but I’m glad I did. He can have the hell that waits for him. I’m happy to live longer and find the more elusive path to health and good art.

Currently Reading:
The Pardoner’s Tale, by John Wain

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“You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” – Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

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