Coffee Log, Day 247

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; a blue cup, a burnt roast, a cloudy day.

It was J’s birthday. Well, the celebration anyway, the actual date’s tomorrow. We got together at the Cracker Barrell. There were seven of us. They gave us the round table past the fireplace. It was busy at restaurant, brisk like night air, they had the ceiling fans turning so it mixed up all the smells. I played checkers. I made excuses to keep passing by the fire. J looked happy, I think we all were. It felt like home.

I’m two cups of black coffee, a white plastic plate, the fork with a dish-soap stain, feet under the table knocking wet socks until they’re warm.

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

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“I drink to the general joy o’ the whole table.” – William Shakespeare, Macbeth

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Coffee Log, Day 214

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I talked to a friend who said if he had more money the only change he’d make is that he’d travel more. I talked to a retired divorcee who’s selling Triangle property to move to an aluminum cabin he built for himself in Alaska. I talked to my mother who said she’d like to see Vienna someday and my father who said if he ever got to go to Korea the first thing he’d visit is the DMZ. In college, I paid two grand to study dead cultures in Greece; in 2014, I paid about the same to teach in Japan.

Why do we try so hard to get some place where we aren’t recognized? Is it privilege? Restlessness? The wide-eyed pastures of American culture? When you look in the mirror and see pajamas, a button down, no bags packed in the periphery, where does the stress come from, the shame, the disappointment?

So many posted pictures of places you barely recognize, showing off other peoples’ lives like they’re your own. Spend one more minute alone in your own bedroom and you’ll have to reckon with what you’ve made of yourself. You only stick around when the money’s gone, only pay attention to the street of premium parking lots where there used to be someone’s backyard if you can’t afford the next ticket out of town.

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

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“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom…is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.” – Anthony Bourdain

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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.

Fund the Coffee Log 🙂 – https://ko-fi.com/livesaywriting

“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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