Coffee Log, Day 68


Coffee: Large Americano from Caribou Coffee; paid for by a tip from Meg. Thanks Meg! The espresso was dusty like an old book but pleasant. Meg and I have been talking about Starbucks. Last week, a store manager called cops on black customers for being black. Loud-mouths argue it’s because they weren’t ‘paying,’ or were ‘threatening,’ but those are just code words for sharing yourself with the wrong color lips. Meg showed me an article from Slate. The commentators described Starbucks’ business model as ‘commoditizing diversity’ and selling it to a white middle class in easy-to-digest doses. I went to Caribou and saw white men and white women with smiling faces served by smiling white baristas. There were people of color there too, but I couldn’t help thinking that the article was spot-on because here was a space designed to make you comfortable and comfort is a privilege given in America on a sliding scale of class and skin-tone.

April’s almost over. I’ve spent the Spring mostly jobless and now I’m ending it well-employed. I like my work so far. I’m making more money than I had been. Still, when I look at the crowning trees and listen to kids playing with the good weather, I’m restless. Spring and Fall are anxious seasons. The more beautiful – the more comfortable – something is, the less you can trust it. Sometimes I think a nice day is just a reminder of how deep the gully is between people. If I can enjoy this weather, there’s a good chance that enjoyment is predicated on someone else’s subjugation.

It’s easy to say a Spring day is free, but freedom is distributed unequally.

Currently Reading:
The Pardoner’s Tale, by John Wain

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“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”- Nelson Mandela


Coffee Log, Day 44


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

This morning I talked to Z. I’m calling him Z for privacy. Z works the grounds of my apartment complex doing maintenance. He started a few months after I moved in. He’s worked eight years in the industry at other properties. He’s the only black man on staff. Yesterday, management gave him the fall for the negligence of his old, white supervisor.

I don’t want to get into the details of the write-up because it isn’t my affair and I couldn’t speak on it accurately. Instead, I’m going to list facts about Z – some that he has told me, some that I’ve observed – in no particular order:

1) Z has three kids; the third was born last week.

2) Z has solved every problem we’ve had in the apartment.

3) In February, during the biggest snow, Z drove the buggy and laid ice on the paths. We talked about the cold and sleet and snow.

4) On Z’s second day at the complex a white resident referred to him with a racial slur. He told management. Management said he must have misheard.

5) Z was accepted to NC State but declined to go in order to take care of his family. It was a hard decision but he doesn’t regret it.

6) Z is the only member of staff that remembers my name.

7) Pride runs like a wildfire when Z talks about his son.

Here’s a final fact. It’s not about Z, but I think it’s relevant:

8) Whenever they see me, the other staff are all smiles, all laughs, all jokes, always talking pleasant and small, trying to squeeze something out of me because they look at my brown hair and brown eyes and peach flesh and see worth and value, opportunity. They don’t know a thing about me and they don’t need to because of my skin. Meanwhile, they ignore the only man on their staff of any value because of his.

Currently Reading:
Tar Baby, Toni Morrison

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“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” – Toni Morrison


Coffee Log, Day 41


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

I knew a girl in elementary who took her shirt off at an outdoor assembly. The fire department had brought a truck and the whole second grade was out there watching it. She took her shirt off on the way back and I remember her blond skin and bare chest and I remember thinking it was something I wasn’t supposed to see. A teacher took her from the line and yelled.

Years later, this same girl got pregnant in high school. We weren’t close, but people knew I knew her and talked to me in small voices that said “What the hell is her problem?” There was a pit in my gut like old dead snakes but sometimes I said “Yeah, crazy.” These days, I only know her through social media where she posts smiling pictures of herself with two kids and I think about the red fire truck and her pink-yellow skin and I wonder if the teacher would have yelled if she were a boy, if the jeers would have been closer to “What a stud,” in high school, and I don’t wonder long because it’s obvious.

Everyone alive has an intimate and evolving relationship with their bodies. The difference is that men get to have that relationship more privately. What’s wrong with wanting to let your shoulders feel the cold, Spring wind?

Currently Reading:
Tar Baby, Toni Morrison

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“As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.” – Virginia Woolf, Orlando