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 169

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

Blue Raspberry lollipop – it turned your whole mouth blue. Nephew of my coworker, the women show you off. Your mom was a drinker but you changed that. Your aunt talks tense phone-calls to laughter. Your friend – another coworker – has a strong southern accent.

How will you talk in 2035? You’ve got good parents, blond hair, blue eyes, but if you’re lucky – if we’re all lucky – those marks won’t have the same cache’ they do today. Will you spend fourth grade watching that one girl from the back of class, only to grab her hand in the lunch-line and kiss it, only to tell her that means you’re married, only to tell your parents and hear them laugh it off like ‘That’s what young men do.’ Will they teach you abstinence or responsible love?

In history books, white western men sin in the 100’s, fight in the 1000’s, conquer through the 21st century; they fight, kick, scream, spill blood until their hands are sticky enough to never drop the reigns. They don’t love, except voraciously; they don’t cry, except pathetically.

You walked behind the counter to get another lolly. I was there. I said: “High Five!” You were static smiles, so much innocent joy it got stuck on me. We smacked palms then you went running. I hope I gave you something. I spent twenty years making love to ill-gotten power, the next ten making up for that. I’m still making up for that. I hope you felt: brave; storied; vulnerable; open; powerless. I was born in the twilight of western white manhood. I’m fighting daily to make sure it dies. I hope you’ll never have to look at your naked limp body in the mirror and pick it down to honest sinews, take scalding showers to wash your grandfather’s sins. I hope you get to choose a good man, an honest man, an equitable man from the beginning.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“It is strange,’ he said at last. ‘I had longed to enter the world of men. Now I see it filled with sorrow, with cruelty and treachery, with those who would destroy all around them.’
‘Yet, enter it you must,’ Gwydion answered, ‘for it is a destiny laid on each of us. True, you have seen these things. But there are equal parts of love and joy.” – Lloyd Alexander, The Black Cauldron
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Coffee Log, Day 166

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

If you couldn’t tell, the title of this blog is a nod to Star Trek. “Captains Log, Stardate Such-and-Such…” Some of my earliest memories are the opening credits to The Next Generation. My parents were fans. They let me watch while the series aired its last few seasons. I got to stay up past my bedtime. I was young – three or four – but I remember the spaceship glow, the music notes, the stars flying by as the Enterprise jerks into hyperspace. Confetti. The future seemed inevitable.

This week, Patrick Stewart announced he’ll be revising his role as Picard in a new series. I’m not much for sequels, not much for TV these days, but I think we need another Next Generation.

We should aspire to the Federation. Gene Roddenberry was on to something. A fiction born in the long summers of the 60’s, anticipating the power of love and change, Star Trek sees the world that’s embraced the beautiful but rarely realized American Dream – freedom and equality born of cooperation. Star Trek’s heart is Kirk and Uhara’s kiss; it’s Worf – a refugee and immigrant – given as much esteem as the white men he works with.

The troubles on Earth in 2018 are so visceral that space looks far away, but because of that ‘space’ becomes even more important – a distant but achievable future; something built on trust and love and humanity; a turning point, wo/mankind’s next generation.

I’ll grab the popcorn, Patrick, and strap in for star travel.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Things are only impossible until they are not.” – Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation

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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

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“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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Coffee Log, Day 95

Hi.

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

I spent the morning watching one of my favorite things: videos of porcupines playing in wildlife conserves.

What a life – a big fluffy buck-toothed burrower; unhugable; ignorant of your own best features.

It’s easy to see the Human capacity for violence these days. When big-wigs trade devastating egos like baseball cards; when fat men take everything they can claw from young women; there’s blood on your shoulders and blood on mine, every brick of every city has someone’s suffering pushed in it.

But that’s not what makes us special.

Snickers the porcupine climbed up his keeper’s leg, arm, and onto his head. He nibbled the guy’s hair and dug claws. The guy’s white skin got pink by the end of it. He was very gentle with Snickers. Eventually, he let Snickers down.

Porcupines can love, but only blithely: they look for bark, trees, affection, warmth, good-positive-things, but don’t know how to give. They’ll eat what they can and make do to survive. Most of the life on Earth works this way. Lovely and powerful as it might be, it’s self or family-centered, eyes on the prize of survival.

In our Human hearts, we’ve got the same impulses, and all of us – at one time or another – acts on them; but unlike porcupines we don’t have to treat the world as a checklist of uses. We can choose to Love even when nothing’s coming back to us.

Violence reminds me of the animal blood in me. Snickers the porcupine tells me I have the subtly divine power to choose to be better.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

“I am going to the USA to catch sight of a wild porcupine and to give some lectures.” – Sigmund Freud

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