Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 158

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

A lady flicked me off in my office. Well, she wasn’t flicking me off, exactly, but it still sort of felt like it. We were trying to get her accounts straight. Unexpected expenses, overdraws, that sort of thing. So I try to get to know her and she’s in some kind of uniform so I ask about her job. She tells me she’s doing hotel work. She tells me that the work never stops.

“They’ve gone through three general managers in the last year.”

There’s a rough patch of skin on her neck. It looks like a series of cigarette burns. My eyes keep going for it, but I try to pull them back.

As we’re getting down to business, I go through her information – confirming correct phone numbers, addresses, that sort of thing. We come back around to talking about her job, and about her salary, and she tells me it should be five thousand higher, but her bosses keep denying her a raise. That’s when she gets angry.

“So I tell them, ‘I know what I’m doing, I don’t deserve this,’ I’m looking for another job. But I need the money so I don’t let them fire me. I just need them to get off my nut-sack.”

What I WANT to tell her is: “I’m on your side, you deserve something better, fuck a world that treats people this way,” but instead I say “Sounds real awful. Hope you find something better soon.”

Devil’s in the details, and she knows it too, because that sets her off.

“Yeah, yeah,” she says, “we’ll see.” She pulls out her fingers. She’s flicking off her third GM, the hotel, this whole horrible system that pays people less and less for their labor, doubly so if they’re a woman, and of course – rightfully – she’s flicking off the part I play in all that. Because to her, I’m just the banker who left her with ‘better wishes,’ not the soldier standing beside her on the frontlines of social change.

I hope I gave her useful advice, at least. Some help with her finances, a better outlook down the road. I want and need to believe in that possiblity, to let the belief that I can be something positive set my pillow to it’s cooler side at night. But in the end, I’m not the one to judge that.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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

Butter was plastered on to the roll with no regard for the hard labor of the cow.

Kate Atkinson, Life After Life

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 134

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee

I knew an old guy whose daughter died to a heroin addiction. The addiction didn’t kill her directly – a 9mm bullet did – but it was the heroin that bought the guns in the first place.

This old guy lived beside my parents. He wore denim jeans and plaid shirts. He couldn’t afford the electric bill after his daughter died and he couldn’t see shit anyway so he sat in the dark. Or, on nice days, he sat outside.

The old guy had a moped. He’d lost his license and his truck didn’t have tags anyway. One night, some guys broke in – friends of his daughters’ – and stole parts off the moped. One of them gun-stocked him hard enough to break skin. Needless to say, the moped stopped working, so sometimes he’d ask my dad for a ride. And since this was years ago and I was living at home, sometimes he’d ask me too.

The old guy’s favorite place to go was the homeless shelter. Not because he got half his food there (which he did) but because there was this lady two decades younger he called his girlfriend. She was playing him – I saw it, my dad saw it, hell, the old guy probably did too. On two separate occasions she stole his flip-phone. But he said he loved her and he went so far as to help her get a job at Wal-Mart (which she promptly lost). This was after they’d broken up. That shortcake-with-the-strawberries kind of love.

Eventually, the landlord managing the old guy’s house wanted him out. He was late on the rent and bad news for the neighborhood. In the middle of the night, the landlord drove out and stapled a sign on the front door that said the building had been condemned. It was pink paper, light ink, not a lot of dollars spent for the notice.

Well, the old guy moved. He wasn’t quite evicted but when a building gets condemned there’s not much more to do but go. He had no relatives and had made enemies with his girlfriend’s folk at the homeless shelter. One day, he hopped in a taxi and that was it.

A month or so after he was gone, the condemnation notice mysteriously disappeared.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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

And when they slowed down, the fallen leaves in the forest seemed to make even the ground glow and burn with light.

Malcolm Lowry, October Ferry to Gabriola

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 105

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

I bought a book from a local bookstore and realized I’ve been shopping more at local stores now. That made me think about my capital, disposable income, and what it means to live in a community when you have means versus when you don’t.

A few years back, I was hovering paycheck to paycheck on part-time jobs trying to write the next great American novel. I wrote the novel, no telling how great it is, but that’s a different story. I remember paying careful attention to how I spent my money back then. I remember when Wendy’s was eating out and how all my necessities came from big-box chains with sweat-shop prices. And to be fair, even then, I was living somewhat luxuriously. There were some days when my dollars didn’t have to stretch.

Here’s a fact: most local shopping is more expensive. Buy a burger at your corner store and it’s more than McDonald’s. Buy beaded dresses in town and it’s more than Wal-Mart. What does that say to the community? You can’t know your neighbors’ best work if you aren’t wealthy. You’re allowed to exist, but only in the neutral space of retail chains.

I’ll say it again: the economics of mass commerce mean the blood and soul of a place is only offered to those with the means to leave it. You earn enough not to be tied to your hometown and suddenly you can access its best features. Meanwhile, the woman across the street working two jobs at less pay than her male co-workers can’t go anywhere other than here, and yet she has no access to the fabric of the place she lives.

I bought the book and later, at a local take-out place, I tipped well, even though a tip wasn’t required. And then I drove home knowing I could just as easily drive to anywhere else.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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

Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.

James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

Coffee Log, Day 68

Hi.

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

Fund the Coffee Log 🙂 – https://ko-fi.com/livesaywriting

“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

IMG_0938

Coffee Log, Day 44

Hi.

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

Fund the Coffee Log 🙂https://ko-fi.com/livesaywriting  

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

IMG_0689

Coffee Log, Day 41

Hi.

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

Fund the Coffee Log 🙂https://ko-fi.com/livesaywriting  

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

IMG_0668