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

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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, Day 192

Hi.

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

An afternoon thunderstorm chased summer away. It was cool for a second, porch weather. I sat on the outside. The water went sideways, some got on me. Trees looked like port authority waving in ships; the gutters spewed like ballast water.

I tried to read a book, Ali Smith’s Autumn. Couldn’t get into it. It’s cheeky. It’s playful. The writing is impressive but in a self-aware way that turns me off. I put the book down and tried writing. I had a yellow legal pad and cheap pen. My father would scrawl notes on endless reams of yellow paper at his law practice. They’d take on their own lives. Late afternoons, playing in office corners while my parents finished work, I’d fence with envelope openers and follow the legal pad fairies into this or that crevice. I tried writing, but nothing came to me today.

Neighbors threw a party in the rain. I heard their umbrellas: ‘pat-pat-pat!’ They brought their kids and camped the gazebo. Kids played in puddles, pink and blue bathing suits. It was nice and busy. Their sounds went well with the storm.

It’s late now. The storm’s gone. I’m full of good food. I’ve had a few beers. Night sticks to me like a messy spiderweb.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“A little self-knowledge is a dangerous thing.” – Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano

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Coffee Log, Day 123

Hi.

Coffee: Venti Americano, Barnes and Noble Cafe; I’ve been avoiding two things: Starbucks (because they’re ethically stagnant); Barnes and Noble (because they laid me off). But a friend was in town and didn’t have much time; he suggested the joint, I agreed. It was remarkably unremarkable. The cafe manager tried to sell me a membership.

I’m a few drinks into the afternoon. In no order, some thoughts:

It’s hard to be an artist in 2018. Well, it’s hard to be a good one. I’ve looked at life as two parts for a long time, the living and the the writing, mutually dependent. You’ve got to live to write and (at least for me) you’ve got to write to live. But 2018 is ten-miles a minute. 2018 is being able to forget about North Korea because kids are in concentration camps a few miles south. There’s a lot of living going on; for me, there’s not a lot of writing.

It’s been too hot. There’s an intersection in transition outside one of the Cary bank branches – they’re widening lanes. I watched men and women work the block last week. The had bright yellow vests. Milk-jugs of sunscreen. On Thursday, a truck ran red and got t-boned. Nobody asked the workers to help, they helped anyway, pushed the cars to the side, called the cops, swept the glass. Their pink skin was grapefruit. I was impressed.

Impressions of being broke in every whisky-topped wine glass; I spilled wine on a white lady yesterday. She wasn’t bothered. I managed not to make eye contact the rest of the night. I talked to two Methodists. A fifty-year marriage, twenty-years in Garner. They drank white wine and offered to pour me more. I took them up on it.

Currently Reading:

History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund (2017 Man Booker Prize Shortlist)

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“But who could agree with someone who was so certain you were going to be sober the day after tomorrow?” – Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano
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Coffee Log, Day 98

Hi.

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

I went to Durham. The city’s like a cicada to me – a bunch of husks. Beautiful, vibrant husks that keep growing, year after year. Let me list a few:

1) 5 years old; my parents took me to the Natural Science Museum. We went in the maze, played with tornadoes and took the Dinosaur Walk. The statues were chipped back then, I think they’ve replaced them. I liked the chipped statues. They were real and magical with their plaster spots and busted noses.

2) My first four years of adulthood were spent at Duke; Durham was a big smooshy bubble. I’d touch it and bounce back. Duke was my city for a long time. Eventually, I dated a girl who lived in Charlotte and took trains every week to see her. I walked to the station. The city came alive for five minutes each way. Passing bars in Brightleaf, it felt like everyone was looking at me.

3) I loved you for a year, Durham, a feverish awful love; I lived in a one-bedroom by Southpoint and knew your manicured side – PF Changs; fancy retail. I asked you to settle me then and you said no. I hated you for a while then I realized you were right to deny me. I’m glad you made me go away, Durham.

4) Commuting from a different city, I taught your children; well, I tried to. They taught me more: patience, honesty. The kids in North Durham knew life like a kaleidescope and occasionally they’d let me look through with them. If any of them remember me, I hope they see me as someone who tried.

5) August 18th, 2017 – we stood together in blood-hot sun. We thought the KKK were coming. They weren’t happy that your bravest hearts killed their statue. In the end, the KKK didn’t show, but Durham sure as hell did. Women and men organized, made a movement. I gave my body to be counted but mostly I just listened. Since that day, I’ve tried to hold myself accountable to my own power – the freedom it gives me, the fear to use it. Durham, I’m trying to be better for you.

6) Last night you showed me wet streets and wet plants and full crisp pints at Fullsteam and you gave me a place to live honestly, breathe openly, and look for loose ends in life I haven’t pulled yet.

Thanks.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

“I have no house only a shadow. But whenever you are in need of a shadow, my shadow is yours.” – Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano

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Coffee Log, Day 65

Hi.

Coffee: Organic Bolivian Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

I woke up at 6am. The sky was deep gray-blue. It reminded me of the Atlantic on particularly stormy nights. I’ve seen a couple oceans and a few seas and only the Atlantic has that hard-edged steel.

When I was little, I had a few recurring dreams and the most prominent took me and my parents to a big dock on the Atlantic coast. The dock was an amalgam of a few places I’d been. It had Wet N’ Wild water park’s showers and Wilmington’s boardwalk. In the dream, there was a big elevator from the lockers to the deck-dock. My parents were waiting on deck while I waited at the lockers. It was nighttime. I was running late.

And I always missed the ship. I remember watching it sail away without me, a hulk of a hull that rivaled the Titanic. Whenever I’d wake up from one of those dreams I had the sense that something important had passed me by. For awhile I obsessed over it, that awful feeling, until I got older and realized that most of life is important things passing you by. The trick is knowing how to keep your eyes open and thumb out for the next barge.

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

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“To know the earth under one’s foot and go, in wild delight, ways where there is water.” – Malcolm Lowry, Ultramarine

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