Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 249

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

Two Greeks walked into my office. Old, retired, they used to live in Thessaloniki. They needed some help setting up ownership, planning for probate, one was the daughter, one was her father, her mother had died. She sounded like peanut butter when she said it, ‘Mom’s gone.’ On their way out, I dug up an old travel memory and said ‘thank you,’ efharisto.

An older woman sat down across from me and raised her hands. “I’m bringing you trouble,” she said, drawing out the ‘t.’ Jewish. She was having issues operating her online banking. I talked to the woman for half an hour and thought we had the problem solved then she came back. We called the hotline and tried different things. She said she’s bad with technology. She said she’s bad with computers. She said she doesn’t understand why something so simple gets complicated, and I remembered all the times I ever said ‘this is easy,’ and felt bad. Later, when the day was done, packing up, she calls, I answer, and she says its working, and that she was so excited she had to tell me. She said I must be happy to be through with her and I tell her I’d be happy helping anytime. I meant it.

I talked to an Indian doctor who tells dry jokes. I ask him how he’s doing, he says awful, as always. He tells me about all the relatives coming down. Then we get to business and I help him send a wire. It’s international. It goes out, It comes back. Our bank needs clarification on the address. So I call him, the doctor, and try to get the address. He talks so soft and fast it’s hard to understand. I have to ask him to repeat it and by the end we’re both laughing. I don’t know why I’m laughing, I don’t know if he knows. Everything works out in the end.

America sounds best in many accents.

I have never lived anywhere but New York or New England, but there are times when I’m talking to you and I hit a Southern vowel, or a word gets caught in a Southern truncation, and I know it’s because I’m swimming in your cadences, that you permeate my very language.

David Levithan, The Lover’s Dictionary

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 214

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I was reading an article about how spiders learned to fly. It starts with a note about the boat Darwin rode on, and how he woke up one morning 60 miles off the coast of Argentina to see that all the sails and rigging were covered in spider string. Thousands of red spiders had boarded, new passengers. They must have come from the mainland.

The rest of the article got into how spiders use electric currents to propel them, how they sense currents in their fingers, but it was the first bit about Darwin that stuck with me.

I used to get dreams about spiders. I’d waked up covered in them. Or rather, I’d be waking up like that in my dream. Sometimes it was bad enough I’d turn the lights on for a bit before going back to sleep. Recently, though, those dreams have gone, and I generally like spiders, because they’re strange and foreign even though they’re everywhere, guests in the broom closet, owners of no house. An American dream.

Back to Darwin’s boat: picture it. Come on, try a little – these spiders were too small to bite. See the sun setting up as you cross the top deck, blue skies, green Argentina. There are a couple clouds but it’s breezeless. You’re rocking back and forth.

It’s gradual, at first, the way you notice. You stare too long at the main mast, the way you scrutinize your coworker when you’re not quite sure he’s cut his hair. Then there’s the sails; the netting; the pink barrels that got pink being blasted by the sea. Everything’s alive and moving, a subtle crimson, and when you move there’s a thickness to the air.

The spiders could have drifted into open oceans, electric seas, but they found Darwin’s boat. A home, unexpected, strange bedfellows, new looks to everything, starting over. Again, the American dream.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“But how can you walk away from something and still come back to it?”

“Easy,” said the cat. “Think of somebody walking around the world. You start out walking away from something and end up coming back to it.”

“Small world,” said Coraline.

“It’s big enough for her,” said the cat. “Spider’s webs only have to be large enough to catch flies.”

Neil Gaiman, Coraline

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 173

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I read a short story that took place beside a pool. It made me wish I’d gone to the pool more this summer.

I’ve got this memory of 8 or 9: I’m at the YMCA taking swim classes. My instructor is a college kid who looks like I imagine myself in ten years. At nights, I dream about him tagging me along on adventures.

The class is mostly floating. Bobbing up and down, learning not to drown. There are breaststrokes in all our eyes but that’s for next year. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is stay your age and keep coasting.

We had a bad thunderstorm one afternoon. My mother came to get me. I dried off in the locker room and went with her to the downstairs concession hall. They had events there sometimes, Kiwanis club or birthday parties. That afternoon, though, it was just us refugees.

My mom bought me a gatorade from the vending machine. It tasted like cut lemons. For fifteen minutes, all of us milled around while the rain died down, then we packed in separate cars and went home. I don’t remember much about the other people, or the event space, or the storm. I mostly remember the sour gatorade. But the point I’m trying to make is, I got to go home. There are kids kept by the American government in similar facilities right now, only they’re packed in tighter than your grandfather’s toolbox. Their doors are locked and armed guards chase away anyone trying to donate food or drinks. This is happening right now. The kids can’t go home. This is legal.

Most days I take a walk around the apartments and pass our pool. It’s often crowded. Girls and guys with salt-greased scalps and summer tans. Jumping in the water like new fishes, just born, and opening themselves to the entire ocean, infinitely free.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

At Dachau. We had a wonderful pool for the garrison children. It was even heated.

William Styron, Sophie’s Choice

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 166

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I watched a video of an 11-yr-old crying while she told the camera her dad’s not a criminal. This was hours after her father was arrested by ICE (along with almost 700 other brown-skinned men and women in Mississippi). She was wearing pink.

Late last week there two shootings, one in El Paso, the other in Dayton. In Texas, at least, the shooter said he was aiming for immigrants. He called them an invasion. He shot a lot of people, mostly Latinos. He was white, they weren’t.

I read a review of memoir called ‘When I Was White.” The book’s by Sarah Valentine, an author raised white in a white family, but who had a black father, and was taught from day one by her white mother to detest blackness. The review goes into this idea that since the original sin of slavery, whiteness has defined itself by ‘purity,’ the one-drop rule, etc. Valentine finds herself discovering her blackness and losing her former identity in the process.

I met a man who tiles pools. He’s black, and said he has a partner who handles the marketing.

“Why?” I asked. He struck me as a grade-A businessman.

“Because I’m a big guy. And, you know. Around here, people get worried seeing someone like me knock at their door.”

I did know.

When Cortes crossed the ocean and met the Aztecs, he fancied himself a divine visitor. And over the next three years, he cut up all the brown bodies until there was no-one left to contradict him.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

A 7-year old body becomes
A monument to our excess aggression
On Sunday morning she became
An effigy to our excessive aggression
And our lack of suppression
And access to automatic weapons.

We didn’t pull the trigger
But we pulled the blinds down.

The Fucking Cops, Aiyana

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 149

Hi.

Coffee: Pike Place, Apartment Lounge Blend

When I was a kid, it was hard to imagine violence happening overseas. There were buzzwords like ‘Nepal’ and ‘North Korea,’ but they didn’t mean anything. They were unseen threats. They were happening to someone else. The worst vipers in the deepest sea.

Then, after Iraq, it got a little easier. I didn’t know anyone who was a soldier but I knew people who knew them. American men and women were cutting up other people with automatic guns (and getting cut up themselves). It was closer to home, and the news even showed you pictures: that GI standing on the naked Iraqi men they’d taken prisoner. Horror knew my name now, and was occasionally sending postcards.

I read a piece about the Nazi’s. It was a series of photos of Auschwitz workers on their off days. Men and women eating ice-cream, posing for pictures. All smiles. It said: “These people don’t think they’re evil.” And it went on to catalogue the many years it took them to get there, to where you could be smiling after a day working gas chambers.

These days, the horror’s my closest neighbor. It lives beside me, two floors down. We walk across the lawn and wave at each other most mornings. Sometimes, we run into each other at the pool.

I don’t know how long it takes to go from taking children from their families or forcing men to share such crowded spaces they have to stand on toilets, to removing their humanity with a more literal force. On our Southern border, all of us condone an organized violence on migrants trying hard to be free. We tell ourselves we don’t like it. We still cringe when we look at the pictures. But how long does that last? How long before the horror moves in?

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

We must be listened to: above and beyond our personal experience, we have collectively witnessed a fundamental unexpected event, fundamental precisely because unexpected, not foreseen by anyone. It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.

Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 135

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I was talking to the manager of the subway about problem customers.

“There was this lady an hour ago,” he says. “She sees me making four subs. I am the only one working. When I am on the second sub, she asks me what’s taking so long.” The guy pauses like he’s told a story before. “I think she’s joking, of course. But she’s not joking. I see it in her face. She says very loudly I’m making her late.”

“And? Does she get a sub?”

“No, she leaves first.”

We move down the conveyor belt. My sub’s done toasting and I tell him to add all the veggies. This guy’s from Ethiopia, gave me the name of a good vegetarian restaurant I haven’t had the chance to try. What I’m saying is, we know each other, but we’re on a last-name basis.

At the sauce, he says: “The worst customer I ever had was two years ago. He was an old man. He was taking a long time. There were other customers. I asked him to move if he needed to decide, he wouldn’t move. Then he asks me if there is anyone else working and I tell him it is only me. And he says: “Well then I’m leaving because I don’t want my food being made by a foreigner.””

It’s the kind of moment you wish you had a stress ball to demolish but you don’t so you’re standing there, locking eyes with this guy, still smiling. I couldn’t stop smiling, like my muscles were in shock.

“That’s awful,” I told him. “And pretty damn un-American.”

But there’s a happy ending, or at least a silver lining: the customers in line behind the old man cussed him out. And the next day they brought the Subway manager home-baked cookies; and the day after that they brought him a giant cardboard card signed by a 150 people who work in the shopping center saying how happy they are he’s a part of the community.

“That card is still hanging in my home,” he said.

I paid for the sub and shook his hand. His fingers were strong enough to slice a hundred loaves of bread.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

The need of the immaterial is the most deeply rooted of all needs. One must have bread; but before bread, one must have the ideal.

Victor Hugo, The Memoirs of Victor Hugo

Coffee Log, Day 221

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I made dinner tonight. I haven’t cooked in a while. I’ve been down. I’ve had some ups, but mostly I’ve been down. I almost didn’t do it. I got home, changed, stared at the bathroom floor. It was sallow, pig fat. Not appetizing. Then I went to the kitchen and started getting everything ready – pots and pans and cutlery. I felt like I was packing for a long flight. Except every time I’ve actually packed for a long flight, I’ve thrown a few sets of clothes and other essential together last minute. A mental malaise, the sticky summer downs won’t let me go.

But I did cook. I marinated tofu and fried it. I stir-fried vegetables, cooked them hotter and quicker to keep them crispy. It turned out well. I served it all over steamed rice. The sauce was black vinegar, soy, a little sugar. I thought about my mother. She’d cook for me every night. She also cooked for herself, also cooked for my father. There are prison bars in domesticity. That said, it’s easy to forget how to use your hands when the doors open, when you run wild, when you’re free.

I read an update about the migrant children we’re keeping in captivity. Over the past week, our government – on behalf of you, and me, and your baby sister, and your best friend, and your cousin who just got a service award, and the preacher, and your lover, and everyone you wrap your arms around thinking ‘this is someone good’ – has been waking the kids between 12 and 6 am from foster care houses all over the country to bus them to a tent compound in Tornillo, Texas. They were going to school, now they’re not. They had access to lawyers, now they rarely do. They spend most days scrubbing toilets. They sleep 12 to a tent. Meanwhile, I complain about a pleasant hour cooking dinner.

Donate to RAICES. The organization is based in Texas, advocates for immigrant families. If you donate, message me on this site and I’ll match your donation to the extent I’m able.

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

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
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