Coffee Log, Day 203

Hi.

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

The bank closed early. It was cloudy for the drive home. For now, we still have power. The storm hasn’t hit us yet. Likely, it won’t do much here. It’ll veer south and uproot peach trees in South Carolina. It’ll water-log the mountains. On the maps, we’re just outside the zone.

I’ve got my fan going and the lights off, I want to keep the room cool in case we lose AC. I’m watching fusses of rain start-stopping outside. Before I’d ever traveled, North Carolina seemed like an incredibly normal place. Having been a few other places now, I see the cracks in that old understanding. So much of the world is wracked with natural disasters: drought, wildfires, tropical storms. So much of the world has crumbling infrastructure, rampant conflict. But central NC is placid. There’s hardship, sure, but it keeps itself below the overpasses, beside the train-tracks, miles off the highway – out of sight and in the margins. For many people – myself included – the place is safe and and dull.

Everyone has a different idea of paradise. I can still taste the ripeness of a Kyushu morning. But in the end, your home is undoubtedly someone else’s paradise, and if you were ever to venture one of those dreamed-up hotspots as your own home, the cream would slowly melt like room temperature butter.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“The true paradises are the paradises that we have lost.” – Marcel Proust

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Coffee Log, Day 193

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast from Sheetz; the taste was a nice mix of cardboard and acetone.

I drove to Pilot Mountain. I started to climb it. The trail was tough. I was wearing jeans, it was hot and humid. I didn’t have much water. I was alone. I walked back down and drove to the peak. It was busy on the peak, lots of families. There’s a short climb from the summit to a rocky overlook. I took it. No-one was on the overlook with me. North Carolina was more green than I’d ever seen her. I searched the tobacco farms and treestands, highways like shriveled veins. I didn’t find anything. In the end, I drove down Pilot Mountain without knowing why I’d come.

Why do we travel? I’m sure everyone has their own answers, or at least you might stumble into one if you searched hard enough. In the past, I thought I traveled for stories. In a sense I still do – I’m writing about my day-trip, telling you all about it. But stories are everywhere and I’ve always had the sense there’s something else going on, a nagging drive, a persistent bug-bite.

The drive home was bright. The drive over was cloudy. Both trips I kept the windows down and music turned loud. I had my old iPod – a relic from 11th grade – set to shuffle; I was partying with ten years worth of memories. I’ve moved since 2007. I’m not a Burlington-bound straggler, though I’m still Burlington born. I’ve done three stints in Durham, one in Chapel Hill, I’ve settled on Cary like old geese, too fed up with flying to join the flock again. Each place I’ve lived has had a different sound, from early aughts indie to vibrant 2010 punk bands. What I’m saying is: all of those homes are stable, codified.

But not travel.

I saw a big spider before I turned around on the ascent. It was making webs between two dead trees, both bleached like surfer girls. It had white spots on its legs and a ruddy body. It was horrible, innocent, and interesting, and most of all it was something I’d never have to see again. We can be anything when we travel. When you’re in company, that anything is a perfect pocket world where it’s easier to understand each other. When you travel alone, you’re free even from that. There’s no fixed point to look at and say: ‘Ah! This is something that understands me!’ You can crawl up the cracked-rock road and peel every spider from its branches; you can crush leaves and topple sprouting flowers; in bleak nature, you begin to see your features like staring too long in the campfire, eyes dry, head hurting, but arms and legs capable of dancing great, horrible shadows across the forest floor. Or, you are free to turn back and walk to your comfortable car with it’s predictable clutch, take a short drive up a mountain, and stare a little lonely at the valley you sometimes call your home.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger.” – Simone de Beauvoir

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Coffee Log, Day 185

Hi.

Coffee: Americano from The Blend, Burlington NC; honey covered pecans, a pie too early in the year, warmly unexpected.

I went home. Capital ‘H,’ Burlington, NC, where I was born. I sat downtown with my phone off. Guys in tank tops crossed the road; the amphitheater was setting up for a wedding.

I ran into two old faces: H, a high school classmate I barely remember, stops me on his way out of the cafe. Tells me where he’s  working, he’s got more beard than ten years ago, cleaner eyes.

I saw L. Once, a different summer, years ago, bent into old-day memory like kneading dough, we went to an open mic in Hillsborough and I wrote a travel blog about it. Tumblr – it was a hot site back then – I kept the blog for three posts then forgot about it. Now I’m here.

Thanks for the belated inspiration, L.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich; FINISHED!! Will have a review soon

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“I remember awakening one morning and finding everything smeared with the color of forgotten love.” – Charles Bukowski

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Coffee Log, Day 137

Hi.

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

I wanted to fry some tofu so I went to the Korean Grocery. I bought Chiankiang Vinegar and Shaoxing Cooking Wine. Both came in glass bottles with complicated labels. Medicine bottles, the kind you see in old-timey photos.

The grocery was busy. It’s always busy, even more so on a Sunday. I didn’t see any kids. Instead, I saw old faces, middle-aged faces, a couple young couples cuddling by racks of dried cuttlefish. It took a while to find the wine. I shared the aisle with an older Indian pair.

Leaving, the sun got hot but not too hot and I packed the bags in the car. I drove and got lost. I crossed one run of train tracks three separate times. There was a big field and half was fallow. At the head of the other half was a bright red gazebo with bright white signs hawking raspberries. Three cars pulled alongside. I considered buying some but my roommate was with me and she had places to be. We drove home.

And that was the day: moving, moving, moving, gradually. The creek outside’s risen after thunderstorms. It looks good when it’s full. The water is thick brown-green. Everything good and simple survives in the thick brown-green.

Goodnight, Summer.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“I love grocery shopping when I’m home. That’s what makes me feel totally normal. I love both the idea of home as in being with my family and friends, and also the idea of exploration. I think those two are probably my great interests.” – Yo-Yo Ma
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Coffee Log, Day 87

Hi.

Coffee: Organic Honduran, Trader Joe’s brand

I had lunch at Nice Bowls Asian Cuisine. The lady assured me there was no meat in the egg drop; I tried to object but she was lovely; I had a bowl of egg drop soup with my Thai Tofu. It was good. It’s taste was spot on for chicken broth. Sorry chicken.

Most of my life, I’ve felt most comfortable in enclaves: Chinese restaurants, Greek diners. I realize now how complicated this is – that my ID gives me different rules than America’s immigrant communities – but I think parts of that comfort have value. America shows her best side when she’s stitched of other nationalities. Our open borders have never been quite open, and prejudice has always waited at the docks, but the semi-reached dream of open arms and cultural co-mingling is beautiful.

I finished lunch and waved at the pre-schooler doing his letter learners below a big yellow wall clock. The restaurant smelled like basil. Classical music daydreamed into cool jazz. It didn’t fit the picture of congested Cary streets. I’m happy that the lady welcomed me today; the chicken’s blood was worth a bit of human warmth.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson; I haven’t read fantasy since middle-school. That’s a result of equal parts preference and literary elitism. I’ve been hacking away at the elitism for years, and The Way of Kings came highly recommended by a highly respected friend. I want to understand what makes fantasy works. People want to read Sanderson, they don’t want to read me yet. I have a lot to learn.

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“No fiction, no myths, no lies, no tangled webs – this is how Irie imagined her homeland. Because homeland is one of the magical fantasy words like unicorn and soul and infinity that have now passed into language.”- Zadie Smith, White Teeth

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Coffee Log, Day 67

Hi.

Coffee: House Drip from Cracker Barrel in Burlington, NC; better than it had any excuse to be and a little disappointing because of it – sometimes you drink coffee wanting it to be bad. Hair of the dog and all that.

I ate breakfast in a Cracker Barrel. Three people touched me: my dad when we hugged and shook hands; an old pink yam of a guy at the table beside me when he tapped my shoulder and said “That omelette looks mighty delicious”; and our waitress after the third refill of black coffee.

The night before, I saw friends and slept in a strange bed and listened to a big dog bark occasionally. I’d been drinking champagne and had elaborate dreams of house-sitting.

Now I’m home in Cary. Every spot I’ve been the past couple days has felt like a separate home.

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

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“I’ll drink your champagne. I’ll drink every drop of it, I don’t care if it kills me.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Coffee Log, Day 50

Hi.

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

I drove home at 11:00 am. Not ‘current home,’ but ‘grew-up home.’ Burlington, NC – a squashed sort of town taking space between Chapel Hill and Greensboro. It’s everything American – diverse, suburban, stratified. The building’s are concrete, even the nice ones. The weather looks good from the west end and frightening on the east. Train tracks divide it like the sign outside the country club: “Proper attire, no loitering.”

I had to take my car to the shop. Nothing but family or necessity brings me back here. I have a lot of love for what the place made me and a lot of fear for the chippings left behind. I went to the old bookstore I worked at and some of the faces were the same. I drove Huffman Mill like it was 2008 and wished the country had grown up with me. Or maybe it has grown up – the way the snot-nosed kid on the playground grows, knowing better ways to hit you, more vocabulary for his prejudice.

It’s not all bad. I ate lunch at La Fiesta – a Burlington institution – and the salsa was good as I remember.

Currently Reading:
Tar Baby, Toni Morrison

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“I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and the dragons of home under one’s skin, at the extreme corners of one’s eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.” – Maya Angelou

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