Coffee Log, Day 314

Hi.

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

There was this woman I dated a while ago who I used to go to malls with. This was back when malls were still a foundational part of American culture, though even then you could see the signs that they were moving on.

But that didn’t matter to us. For me and her, malls were a personal thing. They were spaces we could be comfortable around each other. There were lots of spaces – including the apartment we shared – where that wasn’t true. Some people click with you when you’re alone and some people click with you when you’re in public. Me and her were public people. And for those few hours walking around, talking about this or that, living in a world of window-shopping and picked-up objects, I think we had a special love.

I went to Southpoint Mall in Durham, NC for the first time in forever. I’d been writing in the morning but my laptop cut itself off to update so I needed a place to be. It was a strange day, a patchy sky, sometimes cloudy and sometimes bursting with a New Year’s sun. There was ample parking. I found a space across from a couple church buses.

Inside, the place was reasonably busy. It still smelled like Christmas – pine trees and peppermint. I walked in and out of stores not really looking at anything, paying more attention to the people, and I saw a lot of store-workers looking drained at the end of a long season. But even that was lovely – fake, hard, unfair, but perfectly predictable, a call-out to a time when walking along a covered boulevard overspending all your credit cards was the pinnacle of living. In the end, I left without buying anything. I’d gotten what I came for.

I remember this one particular time at Southpoint towards the end of that relationship. It was night, we’d gone to dinner, we were walking about an hour before the stores were closing. I think it was summer. There’s a big ceiling light that spans the whole inside of the place. It’s covered in floodlights that change for the season. That night, the lights were undulating shades of blue. It looked like the ocean. Staring up at those lights, I felt like we were a part of something old, fluid, indecipherable. I held her hand and imagined we were on a beach somewhere. A far away place you couldn’t pinpoint. We stayed until close.

Today’s her birthday. Wherever you are, shopping or at home, I hope you have a full heart and restless, excited dreams.

Novel Count: 9,255

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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The breach between the mind and body can’t be healed by more knowledge.

Barry Webster, The Lava in my Bones

Coffee Log, Day 301

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I’m convinced you can only love someone in the rain. Rain condenses your world. You have to think about where you’re stepping, whose hand you’re holding. There’s too much pressure to pick a direction in the sun.

A guy in a neon rain slick works phone cables in the parking lot. He’s whistling.

Dead meat steam meets him. A Mexican restaurant, lamps on, lunch tables.

I’m smelling cooked skin and car oil.

The radio tells me what it’s like being dry. NPR stories. But I’ve just got this space, this space, this space…

Lovely shadows of winter trees in every puddle; I’m over there, running to find you.

Novel Count: 6,563 

Currently Reading: Nothing! Done with Cherry, still deciding on the next book.

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Look at the rain long enough, with no thoughts in your head, and you gradually feel your body falling loose, shaking free of the world of reality. Rain has the power to hypnotize. – Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun

Coffee Log, Day 273

Hi.

Coffee: Some kind of sweet stuff they served at the Koury Center Thanksgiving Buffet; they told me it was coffee, but all I could do was take their word.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Things I’m thankful for: ….

Don’t you hate being put on the spot like that? Of course, in all honesty, I’m thankful for lots of people, places and things. But with the finger-guns to your head and a ‘ready-set-go!’ to tally up what matters in life, nothing seems to cut.

I drove to Burlington. I picked up my parents and we drove to Greensboro. It’s been years since we’ve cooked anything. Everyone’s busy, no-one can coordinate the labor, and none of us have a stomach for some kind of patriarchal pushing of the hard work on one person. I don’t miss it. I can cook any day of the year; only a few excuses for long drives with my family.

The convention center is done up like usual: two big Christmas tress in the lobby, a long aisle past the 1970’s indoor pool, a row of chairs around steel canisters pumping hot apple cider, reservation takers by the bar. You’re led to a table and slapped on the back like a new baby: ‘onward to feasting!’ My favorites this year were the sage stuffing and bundles of cherry peppers.

It’s nice seeing the faces people wear for the holidays. Painted and perked, you strain to smile at Uncle John’s bad humor or Aunt Tameka’s weird work stories. You don’t know these people. Hell, you don’t much like them. But today they’re family and you can’t deny that family matters. You’re trying to dip this moment in amber. You’re making a carefully staged photograph where all of you look better than on a Monday, or Tuesday, or…

A woman with a service dog tapped my shoulder as I was sitting down with a second plate.

“You really put it away for such a little guy! I’m impressed!”

I was caught off guard and didn’t say much, just a smile. She ate some ice cream with her partner and left. I’m glad the lady tapped me. I’m thankful to have been a part of her Thanksgiving.

Novel Count: 11,651 words

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

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After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.

Oscar Wilde, ‘A Woman of No Importance”


Coffee Log, Day 248

Hi.

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

I was in line for an hour behind a short, pretty, blue-haired girl and a family of three. The family was a dad and two girls. The girls were reading books and blowing bubbles. The sun was out. Everyone looked comfortable. We were all waiting to vote.

For sixty minutes, it’s like I knew America again: the friend who moved, your favorite lunch in Elementary, the windows in the old office where you could watch crowds going down to the Subway, everything plain and normal but lovely, unabashed composure, five cents until the dollar that buys bread, hope, grit, confidence, respect. Whoever saw me saw a dumb big grin and eyes that were going everywhere. The kids peeked between their father’s arms. Blue-hair was talking priceless on her cell trying to pawn off an old car.

I’m in love with America, that thirsty love that sees water in a desert. It isn’t healthy, isn’t often returned, but unlike with the complexities of another person – a man or woman you’re pushing too hard to fit your dreams to – America belongs to me as much as I belong to it. It’s a self-love, a vanity, desiring the world to look like me on my best days instead of lost or hungover, wanting to pick up and dust his shoulders when he’s gotten down, wanting to reckon him to all the mistakes he’s made. Like nights on a bender, America gets away from me. But every now and then I catch up.

Early voting’s drawn record crowds in NC. People speak when you push them hard enough.

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

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“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Coffee Log, Day 231

Hi.

Coffee: Colombian, Starbucks Brand (grocery store bought); I’ve been boycotting Starbucks since their bad showing discriminating against black businessmen earlier this year, but one of the bank managers gave me a bag of Starbucks ground coffee as an employee appreciation gift. No use fighting fights to the point of fanaticism, I appreciated the gesture and brewed a pot. It stank like sweat; tasted like dry leaves; I’ll drink it all.

I talked to a guy who’s had two divorces. He just moved. He had a home with his second wife in Fuquay. It was a big house, a ‘waste of money’ (his words). Every week, his ex would have a project. She’d build additions, fix the floors. He was fed up but also heartbroken.

He said he was dating. He said most of the women were dating at least five other guys at the same time. “I’m just sitting there, checking the watch, then she’s an hour late and says ‘Oh, well Fred needed me a bit longer.'” He’d been in the rain, the hurricane. His face was red. He wore work clothes. He lives in an apartment now.

I read something later that said the only certain thing about love was that it predicted a loss. I couldn’t help but wonder what the losses looked like from his ex-wife’s side.

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

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“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” – John Steinbeck, The Winter of our Discontent

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Coffee Log, Day 196

Hi.

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

Met a man who said he used to cook but doesn’t anymore. I asked why.

“Well, my ex-wife moved in.”

Pause.

“It was my idea,” he said.

I told him that sounded like a story.

“Yeah, well. At least I get good food every night.”

We went separate ways after that.

The whole incident made me think about love: it’s a mess. I’ve known a few couples that stuck it out traditionally – met, got together, got married, bought a house. I’ve known others that look nothing close to normal. Growing up, there was this friend of the family with a dry wit, older guy, perpetually single. Now he keeps bees. I never knew the story – still don’t – but always pegged him for a man who’d really known how to love, despite his committed bachelordom. It was a thing in his eyes, a pin-prick, a honey-buzzing.

Anyway, my erstwhile ex-cook comrade living his latter years with his ex-wife seems the perfect picture of love to me. Let a person break you (or maybe break them) then invite them over to do it again. I should have told him it would be more equitable to cook for her sometimes. But maybe that bit of fairness and progress isn’t what anyone’s really looking for.

Popping in and out the honeycomb, frantically shoving stingers in each other.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“and you invented me
and I invented you
and that’s why we don’t
get along” – Charles Bukowski

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Coffee Log, Day 188

Hi.

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

Slush life, you wake up too early, your bed’s not made, your breakfast sits on the counter long enough to make lunch; twigs in the window punctured by streetlights; toothpaste grin.

The hot water says ‘shower’ but you don’t want to. There are dirty knives in the sink. You turn up the radio. Your roommates are sleeping. You turn it back down. Bone-carved pyramid – your elbows, arms, head on the table next to speakers. ‘Passion Pit’ – Charlotte loves you, you only used to hear them in the city. ‘Sleepyhead’, a song… you planned it but feel lucky. You’re old enough to know all the work that goes into magic.

Strings like a spider’s web, the bad old times try to snare you. Every night, you wake up for the bathroom, only to settle in the arms of a different dream.

Currently Reading: Nothing! Still poking through some books, will settle soon.

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“Wake up when you want to/
’Cause no one’s really watching.” – Passion Pit, Carried Away

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