Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 125

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

A city is only as good as its midnight skyline. Low or high, skyscrapers or endless avenues of two-story stores, the lights at night are proof of something: that it’s worth more to the people here to risk all the dangers of darkness for a few extra seconds of knowing than to sleep soundly on the ground as they were born to do. Whether by fire, wax, or LCD silver, human is the only animal that won’t settle for the setting sun.

I was up at 3am for half an hour. My head was fuzzed with dreams. I walked to the kitchen to pour a glass of water. While I was there, I looked the window. Three streetlights had an angle on the glass. The bridge across the creek was lit, and our sister building had that glow of walkway illumination, crisp and militant. It was no surprise to see so many lights on but it took me by one anyway.

I like the idea of beating back darkness. I like the idea of getting lost in it, too. There’s a surreptitiousness to pulling your curtains on a well-lit city. The world goes on without you in it. Grocery store clerks at the 24hr; midnight highway technicians; someone’s making love in the alley behind your favorite coffee shop; old men die like great trees falling, with or without anyone to watch.

Having peeked out at the ongoing bristling of 3am, I closed the bedroom door and drew the curtains, pulled a comforter up to my nose, and tried to hide from the long city fingers for the bleak back end of night.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Night falls – like a fat man tripping over his shoelaces.

Anthony Bourdain, The Layover – Atlanta

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 43

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee; I worked today; It’s Saturday; I still had to work; the coffee was watered down like the morning; if I was being pretentious about it, I’d say it had notes of #2 pencils and conference rooms.

I get a letter in the mail that says the dealership wants to buy my car. Only they’re not talking about my new car, just the old one I lost to alternator problems last year.

One week later, I get a phone call. It’s a Burlington number. I don’t know it so I don’t answer. After work, I see a new voicemail from this number. Intrigued, I press play. It’s the dealership – a young woman who’s having trouble sticking to script – telling me that they’d really love to buy my car.

I’ve been in sales for four years now. Or is it five? I know a thing or two about how to make a sales call. And I know a thing or two about how hard it is. I considered calling the woman back, if only to give her closure. When her boss says “you’re not selling enough,” she can say “I tried.” And she’ll pull the call log and tap the recording and they’ll hear me tell her how the car died, how it was shot in the alternator. ‘Would I like to trade in my 2018?’ No ma’am. Suddenly, I’m the one to blame. The fault’s all mine and this dealership lady gets to go home a little happier to her kids.

Of course, I didn’t call her.

I like one thing about sales and nothing else: it’s the purest sort of work outside of making something new. Why? Because it’s just people being people. You set yourself up, put yourself out, and crash into your customers. You bend and twist to try and fit the little holes they’re looking for. You can’t do sales without knowing how to listen, and you can’t know how to listen if you’re not open to really hear what a person has to say. Half the time (maybe over fifty), they’ll tell you something awful. They’ll cut you up and serve you on a tray – dinnertime dialogues, ‘this fucking guy that called me…’ But hell, all least you let them show you something.

Novel Count: 36,338

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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The thing about rabbits, sir, is that everybody has one, I’d like to see you step up to the goat-class where I feel you belong. Frankly you look more like a goat man to me.

Phillip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep


Coffee Log, Day 320

Hi.

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

My roommate was cooking eg-vocados for dinner and she had two extra so I had eg-vocados for dinner. To those not in the know, an ‘eg-vocado’ is just an egg baked in half an avocado. They were quite good.

Later on, we’re listening to music, a song she likes, and she tells me it sounds like the way you look at Christmas lights. And I think that’s perfect and I tell her. Which gets me thinking about what I love best about humanity, and what makes want to be an artist: simple metaphors.

I think there’s a good chance no-one else will listen to that song and spontaneously imagine it to be like looking at Christmas lights. There’s nothing about the song or about the lights that necessarily imply a connection. And even if you stared at both a long time, both under microscope and from as far away as outer space, you wouldn’t find any bit of the two contained in each other.

So E created a new connection. A tiny word bridge between two previously unrelated things. And it was a beautiful bridge, and now that I’ve been down it I can’t imagine the world without it.

That’s powerful.

When you’re a little kid, you only know your home. Then you get older and your horizons expand. That’s easy. That’s natural. Each new place is another notch of understanding, more knowledge of this large but finite planet. And when you’re good and grown, there’s a lack of magic – for me and I imagine for most people. You’ve already answered the big questions. You know what’s coming around the corner. Nothing in the world can surprise you.

But take two things and push them together and there’s something new. A book, a song, that’s art in a nutshell. It keeps you living long after you’ve burned life out. And it might just be divine – generating completely new, authentic content in a world that once existed without it. Spontaneous creation. A self-caused cause, of sorts.

But anyway, the night was good food and good company. I’m happy and full.

Novel Count: 12,143

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Everything you can imagine is real.

Pablo Picasso


Coffee Log, Day 218

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I woke up early to listen to ‘Tha Carter V,’ the five-year delayed album by Lil Wayne that finally released today. I was excited. I’ve been listening to Wayne for 7 years, he opened my mind to Hip-Hop, to racial and social inequities in America, to a lot of things. His work’s made me a better writer.

By track three something struck me: ‘Tha Carter V’ is an album about failed suicide attempts. That caught me off guard.

In June, Anthony Bourdain hung himself in a French hotel. A few decades ago, Kurt Cobain shot himself. Before that, Hemingway shot himself, Malcolm Lowry shot himself, Virginia Woolf drowned herself with pockets full of stones. Wayne’s a part of a long tradition of self-harming artists. On my worst days, I’m a part of that tradition, too.

There was a Pep Rally sophomore year, High School. It was midday and mandatory. In between third and fourth periods they lined us up and shot us down the hall like pinballs. We took seats. I sat with friends. The Football team rushed out. The band played. The gym smelled like scented candles and puberty. I remember watching the crowd around me. When the quarterback talked, they jumped. When the cheerleaders flipped, they hollered. It was a hot day. Fall would hit us late that year. You could see steel streetlights through the windows. I stopped watching anything but the steel. I can’t explain the feeling – why it hit me, why it crawled up the streetpoles to perch like a vulture, why I noticed it at all – but as the band stumbled our fight song, and the teams flew their colors, and the girls twirled in a whirlwind of pom-poms, I knew – knew – I’d never find a way say the things I wanted. I’d never find words to match the horror of the steel streetpoles.

So I took out my house keys and dug one in my wrist.

All in all, it was a weak attempt. One thing I’m happy to call myself weak about. I didn’t bleed too much – got a little light-headed, felt a buzz in my left hand for a few weeks after – but it wasn’t lost on me that I’d tried. That afternoon comes back to me now and then, sometimes briefly, sometimes in the sixth glass of wine.

On the last track of Carter V, Wayne relates a time he took his mom’s gun from the closet and shot himself in the chest. He was 12. He survived. Later that year, he started rapping with Birdman.

Being strong is asking for help. Being strong is loving yourself anyway. Nothing’s more human than wanting to run away from yourself. Nothing human – nothing great – happens if you do.

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

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“I shot it, and I woke up with blood all around me
It’s mine, I didn’t die, but as I was dying
God came to my side and we talked about it
He sold me another life and he made a profit/(prophet).” – Lil Wayne, Let it All Work Out

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Coffee Log, Day 153

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema

A few Japanese 7-yr-olds told me you only put soy sauce on rice when you’re trying to get the dogs to eat it. I liked that: maybe I’m a dog.

Since I stopped eating animals I’ve wondered more about being ‘human.’ Unlike the wealthy white kids who wear Salvation Army and dumpster dive because they know they’ll never depend on anything, I see the difference between us and animals clearly. We’ve got a spark, they’ve got something simpler. No wildcat would choose not to eat me. The beautiful, structured violence of a predator.

The voice is exhausting. I think maybe that’s being human: a constant, boring fatigue. Not the tired you get swinging muscles, but the exhaustion of constant thought. We buy our free choice by chaining our mind up to moral dilemma. Humanity is dull like paint drying. Stick with it, though, and you build the best blue house.

But today I’ll take a break. Woof.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx

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