Coffee Log, Day 264

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand; tastes like the pine needles you used to watch your mother bunch around the trunk of every tree in the yard.

There’s a ridiculous corner of the apartment building just outside my window. It’s a hodgepodge of laminate vinyl siding, wooden bracing and brick. A few kids with Legos might come up with it. I’m pretty enamored with the corner.

2018 has felt fragile. People and places you loved have had .45 barrels lowered at them or have been consumed by political flames. In some cases, the flames are more visceral. How many times have the California fires trumped themselves for ‘most deadly’ this year?

I think it’s important to keep your eyes open to the tragedy. Even more important to keep focused on the tragedies you could prevent. However, sometimes it’s also necessary to step back and find yourself amazed at the vast, human complexity that we’ve built up and are scared to lose.

Take my apartment corner: how many hands had held her before she was born? There were architects, designers. There were the workers who shaped the bricks. Someone chopped tall trees in the Amazon for this corner. A woman in a labcoat theorized the perfect vinyl. All those pieces ticked away independently until they came together, only to realize everyone had set their clocks the same. Now I live inside it, the product of so many simple, honest, hard, human labors.

When you’re brushing your teeth or straightening your tie in the mirror, realize that you’re looking at one small, essential part of a triumph.

Novel Count: 8,314 words

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

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“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” – Winston S. Churchill

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Coffee Log, Day 194

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s

I sat in a lot of chairs today. R was buying another – his desk chair broke – and I went along with him. We started at Staples, meandered to Target, ended in an Office Max that was once an Office Depot. There were bright yellow clearance bins in the Office Max. It was crowded, mostly kids, back to school shopping. We were there one hour before close.

R sits in a chair and a staffer shows up: “How do you like it?” she asks. She’s got spaghetti blond hair, basset hound wrinkles, she’s over 50. R says “It’s alright, seems like a good deal.” The chair was half off. She’s happy he noticed. Then R says “Yeah, these things can get pretty pricey,” and the woman dead faces him with one last line before walking off: “Well, most people have jobs.” He and I couldn’t stop laughing when she was gone.

We left the store with a different chair and got cheap Chinese for dinner. I kept thinking about the lady. I felt a little bad for laughing. He and I are both employed, but how would she know? And even if we weren’t, it’s bitter and lonely to mock someone who can’t work. But then I got to thinking: it’s Labor Day; a beautiful, stormy September; this lady is stuck doing shift work at an office store. When she looked down on us layabouts testing her chairs and wasting her time, maybe she was actually trying to say: “Don’t look at me. Don’t laugh at me. Don’t see me as less than you. I am working. I have a place that needs my blood, my bones, the sweat of my later years. It might be a corporation that doesn’t respect me – I might get paid pennies to another man’s dime – but here I am working when the rest of the world rests in big, comfy chairs; this is my pride, and if you won’t take it then I’ll shove it down your throat.”

Similar thoughts got Trump elected. And a similar fit of laughter when those thoughts turn the corner tanked any hope for Hillary. I’ll try to accept what the world is handing me: elitism. In spite of that, I’ll try to keep the bitter fire I used to know and bury that elitism below a head capable of hearing what old white women working two jobs on bad knees are trying to say, rather than the words that come out.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“No man needs sympathy because he has to work, because he has a burden to carry. Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” – Theodore Roosevelt

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Coffee Log, Day 184

Hi.

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

There goes August: running fast enough to trip itself.

I read an article about the ‘A-Team’ on NPR. Not the TV series, but rather the short-lived 1970’s experiment dreamed up to answer widespread migrant worker protests. It happened in California, mostly, and involved granting crop-picking jobs to white high schoolers for the summer. The act passed Congress on the heels of ‘They’re taking our jobs!’ It singled out the best and brightest, the most active white boys for the honor. Within three days of the first year, 200 kids had quit. Those who stuck out the six-day weeks at minimum wage talked about it like an earthbound Hell.

The privilege to walk away.

Not much has changed. Farm labor is still largely migrant labor; or, if you’re in Eastern NC tobacco farms, it’s seven or eight year-olds who pick all day and sometimes miss school. Regardless, it’s hard, unloved work given to people who are most desperate. Five centimeters past slavery, in other words. No wonder our country can’t stomach loading it on well-to-do white boys.

I sit in the shade. Cold tea, new book. September mentions herself in a nice breeze, we exchange calendars and contacts. Autumn ease, there’s not a cloud in sight. Somewhere west of here, another 28-yr-old man bakes until his skin comes off, blood on knuckles, only knowing the sadistic love of burrs and melon seed.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich; FINISHED!! Will have a review soon

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“The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.” – Cesar Chavez
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