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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Coffee Log, Day 131

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand; back to basics; grinding beans like a kid’s eraser tip

Drake’s got me thinking about kids. It’s the most relevant thing he raps about on ‘Scorpion.’ For those who don’t know, Pusha T called him out on hiding the fact he has a son. He did hide it, but he tries to give some excuses on the album. They’re maybe good, maybe bad. They’re well-written if nothing else.

As a kid, I was pretty convinced I’d never want children. I saw my gangly arms and bowl-cut hair as profound signals: the world doesn’t need another one of these. That notion stuck around until 2012.

That autumn, I helped my partner on some nanny gigs. I remember a walk in the woods. Three boys, me and them, twenty-two, five, and three years old. I was scared of snakes so she led the way. I’m still scared of snakes, a little less so. As we were leaving the park, the littlest kid cried. He was tired. In the way that only makes sense when you’re that young, he didn’t want to leave the cold fall park for a warm suburban bed. My partner started to carry him. He kicked.

That’s when I kicked in: I told stories. I started with the trees: “Did you know it’s fairies that take the leaves and hide them so they don’t get too cold in winter?”

He liked it, wanted to hear more; I needed something better. You could see all the big stones in the foliage. I picked the biggest, roundest, and said: “Did you know that’s actually a sleeping witch?”

He screamed. Not scared, the kid loved Halloween. Half the time he wouldn’t leave the house unless you let him dress like Woody from Toy Story. He just knew that horror was a gate to courage and the kid was ready to be brave.

“She’s a big, gnarly witch. Her nose is this big. Her toes have caterpillars living under the nails. When she breathes it smells like Brussels Sprouts, when she catches you she’ll turn you upside down and tickle you and then give you a cold bath. Run!” I said.

We ran. S didn’t drop him. We got in the car and the kid fell fast asleep. His brother had us play “Moves Like Jagger” on repeat.

That day made me think: how lovely to give stories to a small someone. I still don’t know if I’ll ever have kids. I believe in being responsible and my life is far from bountiful. If nothing else, though, I think I get it.

And yet there are a few thousand families still separated at our border; a few thousand kids in steel cages. America spins a different sort of horror story.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” – Albert Einstein

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Coffee Log, Day 127

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Ethiopian Medium Dark, Harris Teeter Brand

I thought a lot about peeling potatoes today. The same old recipes just aren’t cutting it…

There was a customer who only spoke Spanish. We danced, tried to help, not understanding. When he smiled, he had great white teeth. Chomp! Finally, they got the Nicaraguan to translate. I never knew what they said.

A couple weeks ago, a woman passed me her license. Black hair, a teacher barrette, thick Spanish accent. We had a lovely conversation. She wanted to do a lot of things I couldn’t do and then she left like summer’s first storm. I sat in a too-cold bank for two more hours when her cousin showed. She said she’d bring the woman back and work something out. I said we’d do our best.

The day got longer, sun fell down, our drive-through buzzed at every passing bird; the cousins never came back.

Currently Reading:

History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund (2017 Man Booker Prize Shortlist) (FINISHED!!! Unforgettable; will post a review this weekend)

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“There is no fire like passion, there is no shark like hatred, there is no snare like folly, there is no torrent like greed.” – Gautama Buddha

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Coffee Log, Day 120

Hi.

Coffee: Percolate from a Big Boxy Machine sitting in a Shell Station; it went through three cycles doing *something* before the coffee came out; I was late to work.

What’s a border, anyway?

Trump signed a premium-pulped bleached paper and now Family Separation’s supposedly over. There’s no concrete plan to reunite the kids though…

A couple months ago, when Duke’s VP of Student Affairs (Larry) got a couple kids fired for playing hip-hop in the campus Joe van Gogh (basically, fired for being and/or celebrating blackness), the school sent a letter out to us alumni talking about ‘big changes’ and ‘accountability.’ Two months later, if you go to Larry’s splash page there’s no mention of the incident; the school trundles forward; Joe van Gogh left the campus; their emails now read “get yourself ready for September’s Homecoming!”

Point is, words are only hot breath, paper’s just diminished trees, and without actions adding up to prove change you should never believe a man (or woman) with power.

What’s a border, anyway? I can drive to Virginia and no-one bats an eye. Flash my NC license at a bar and maybe I’ll get some stares. Try to vote without a residence – slap my wrists and send me packing! But if I were Brown-skinned, starved, holding my family to my chest like flowers on a wedding day, Brown-skinned, running from gun-barrels and empty cabinets, desert scabs on my feet, Brown-skinned – and I try to step from this bleak rock to that one on the Texas border?

Well, we all know how that ends.

Don’t be jaded – the signed order is proof of our voice, our power, we’re making them listen. But don’t stop shouting just because a fat blond man can use a pen.

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“To exchange one orthodoxy for another is not necessarily an advance. The enemy is the gramophone mind, whether or not one agrees with the record that is being played at the moment.” – George Orwell

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Coffee Log, Day 119

Hi.

Coffee: Organic Sumatra Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

I haven’t really known what to say about it. I’ve watched the videos, read the articles, listened to the rhetoric. A part of me wants to pack up and drive to the border to do something. As a kid, I always wondered why the Germans didn’t fight the Nazi’s more.

I’ve got a vivid picture of myself at four-years-old: we were in a Roses; there was this action figure, a Power Ranger probably, I was fixed to it like flies in the summer. I turned around to share the treasure but my parents weren’t there. They’d wandered into the racks and racks of clothes, my dad needed new jeans. To me, they were gone.

I screamed. The whole store heard me. First there was the old lady with the side-longs, then the young mother who said ‘It’ll be fine sweetie.’ A clerk found me. She was big and wearing blue. She knelt beside me, gave a hand to my shoulder. It was kind, but my world was still ending. Where are my parents? For the first time in my life, absence, loss, terror felt manifest. I could cup my fears and breathe on them. I could watch them grow.

My parents came back in less than five minutes and everything was fine. I’m White. I’m American. My country used to keep it’s darkness at the edges.

For two months now, thousands of children are feeling that same terror. Only they don’t know if their parents are coming back; only they don’t have any kind hands on their shoulders; only they’re locked in cages with inch-thin mats and thermal blankets; only their suffering is driven by the collective will of my country.

Guns aren’t as loud in 2018 than they were in the ’40’s. Every puncture in injustice has a few dollars behind it now. Some very active, educated friends recommend this charity – RAICES – as a meaningful initiative to provide relief for family separations at the border. I’m replacing my coffee tip button with a link until the crisis is over. To the extent I’m financially able, I’ll match any donations made via my site.

Don’t let human – American – darkness take our brothers and sisters. Fight with your wallets now and with your votes in November.

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

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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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