Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 276

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

It was a busy week. And it ended a little early, an hour off for a hard-work reward, those sorts of incentives you see for the fishhooks reeling you into a place, but that you appreciate anyway. I walked out with enough light still around to see myself. There were slate-blue clouds, a little rain, congested traffic. So I thought ‘This is perfect,’ even though I never imagined perfect to look like this. And I appreciated the rain for all the stiffness it shook out of me.

I met an old man who looks twenty years younger than his age. He’s 87. “It’s getting to be ridiculous, you know, how the doctors, and my boss, they all pull each other over and say ‘can you believe it? this guy’s really that old!'” He’s proud, and you can see it.

The 87 year old was twice-retired, once from the auto-industry, again from his own business trucking. he got divorced at 80 and lives alone, though is visited often by his family. A few years ago, he started on at a logistics place and met this parapalegic, the owner, who had a bad smoking habit. Now he and the owner are friends. They take lunches together, and are the kind of folks who pose for Christmas pictures.

They’re building two buildings on either side of my office. One is attached to the hospital, another is a five-story doctor’s office. The crews have been working for months now, we all remember watching them sweat out the summer, but now they’re cold, and when I see them standing on the tops of concrete skeletons they’re in puffy orange coats. Sometimes, the crews work around the clock. For the heavy lifting, they use big orange cranes.

You can’t escape it. You’ll find a meaning in working, and if you’re lucky, it’s a meaning you can own.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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I don’t like work–no man does–but I like what is in the work–the chance to find yourself. Your own reality–for yourself not for others–what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 258

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I wrote a story about a witch, liked it, let a few people read, and nothing’s come out of me since then, some fits and starts, first chapters, I’ve been traveling, there was the promotion, and I’m training D at work, like a winter squirrel, dumping and digging and everywhere searching for that acorn, but there’s no acorn, and instead next Spring are unintended trees. One month out from thirty I’ve got a beautiful life, but can’t find that spark to sink my teeth.

This isn’t a sob story. I’m bleeding proud. I’m being honest. There’s beauty in the accidents. There’s meaning in this too.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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some moments are nice, some are
nicer, some are even worth
writing
about.

Charles Bukowski, War All The Time

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 226

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I had a bit of good whiskey. I was buying a bottle for a co-worker who’s getting promoted to a different branch, but when I picked up the first bottle it seemed unconscionable to leave it lonely so I bought another for myself. Knob Creek Bourbon, not the best I’ve had, but easily some of the better. It paired just perfect with my homemade thrown-together sandwich and cheap tortilla chips.

There was a long time of my life where drinking scared me. Maybe it still does, and I’m just more attracted to being scared. Up until 21 I hadn’t had a drop of liquor. You could say I was a stick in the mud. Really, I was trying to be perfect. I figured life was less about being free and happy than about a kind of measured asceticism. I guided my ideas on the hard hand of law.

I take my bourbon over ice. I like the way it changes as the melt goes down. The first sips are pungent, going to your head like a steam-cleaner. In the middle it starts to mellow. And in the end you’re drinking easy, palm trees, or Savannah moss. It’s a depressive experience, bringing you down, down, until your fingers and toes touch, until you see the soil under you, and know who’s dead and buried, which bones are family, and which bones your family put there. Melancholy like home movies. Antiquated, a VHS.

I saw someone break down today. I don’t know what caused it, I didn’t ask. ‘What’s wrong’ is a question for later. Instead, when we met eyes, while she was half-crying and hurrying to get her things together, rushing away from something intangible, I did my best to smile at her. Hell if I know if she noticed, or if she appreciated it. But it was the best thing I could think to do at the time.

There’s only air the glass now. I’ve gone and done it, drunk the whole shot.

Here’s what I’d say to my younger self: sometimes people cry and you’ll have no clue what they’re crying about. Other times, you’ll see the circuitry pumping out societal problems at an alarming pace. I wish life had a beautiful order, but it doesn’t. The beauty hides in the creases.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.

Frank Herbert, Dune

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 225

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I got a spam comment on a Coffee Log from a couple days ago inviting me to click a link for an online gambling site. The fact that this algorithm caught me from the sea of thousands upon thousands of wordpress blogs is a little flattering. I’ve got the eyes of internet scammers. I’m worth being fished.

Does this mean I’ve made it?

In all seriousness, though, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to define my own success. When I was a kid, I used to say I’d only be satisfied if I won a Nobel Prize. Okay, let’s be honest, I was saying that as late as a few years ago. But things have changed. I had a lot of setbacks on the path I’d set for myself as a writer. And, even more damning, I’ve had a lot of successes in things that have nothing to do with writing.

No-one really knows what they’re looking for. The prize lacks luster when you find it. And one trip’s end just begins another. Etc, etc. I’m on the brink of 30. That’s not old in the whole of human population, but it looks like a milestone to me. One clear feeling has crept out of the space between the big ‘3’ and ‘0’, and that’s a sense of dis-belonging – or, to put it another way, that life isn’t so much about being recognized as about recognizing yourself. With or without a Nobel, 99% of your time is spent with yourself.

So I’m trying to write for me. Turns out, that’s more challenging than imagining my best-selling audience right around the corner. Sitting down to type something is no different than being alone, and being alone can be both brutally honest and miserly un-forthcoming. You’re not a question. There’s no answer to yourself. You’ll get up tomorrow and things will change or they won’t. Maybe you’ll be the one to change them. But none of that comes home with you. You only go to sleep with dreams of wildflowers, mixed magic, spidersilk.

Frankly, I’m exhausted. I hardly ever do anything, but I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about how to do it. If I hadn’t given my word to a faceless health insurer to lay off smoking for $30 a month, I’d light something right now. But your word’s important, and you’ve got to stick to it, even when you’d rather be burning up.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Yes, I know what you mean about writing and writers. We seem to have lost the target. Writers seem to write to be known as writers. They don’t write because something is driving them toward the edge.

Charles Bukowski, On Writing

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 179

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

Tonight was the last night of the Third Wednesday Open Mic. It had bounced around to different venues and traded hands with hosts long before I started going a year ago. I saw one host and two venues. We’d been reading for a few months at Fig then Fig closed. It was a sign that none of us wanted to see but we all recognized: like a divorce, you can’t force it.

No-one read tonight. Instead, we sat around a table telling stories. I was between a poet from near Fayeteville and a teacher from all over, most recently Chapel Hill. We talked about the way the South has changed. There’s a lot of new construction in the triangle. They’re tearing down malls and selling off property. Every street in Chapel Hill is becoming a canyon with the sky-rises. Meanwhile, down in Dunn, retired guys still go to the Bojangles on their tractors.

We were back at Lucky Tree. I was a drinking a hard cider. They didn’t use to serve these. The ethanol got mixing with my blood and brought me back to February, 2018. It was a Wednesday. I’d been laid off from my job in a bookstore. I was petrified and flailing. I wanted money, I wanted time. I’d been spending twenty-four hours in the house eating instant ramen and scouring classifieds. I needed something to give me back some meaning.

That first night, I brought my roommate E with me to the Open Mic. I was too scared to go alone. We walked around and got dinner before it started, then grabbed some seats at the long table outside the cafe. S was up at the podium setting everything up. I walked up and asked her where to put my name to do a reading and she showed me. She said ‘Is this your first time with us?” and I told her it was. Eight months later, I’d spend an evening in her backyard carving pumpkins and watching horror movies before Halloween.

What I’m trying to say is that the nerves wore off. Before long, Third Wednesday was a part of me. The women and men who read each evening were my kin. Whether they were regulars or one time readers, we were a part of something together.

Everything ends. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t have a reason to make it matter. I’m a better writer and more full of friendship thanks to my 18 months at Third Wednesday. In the bitter winter cold I was looking for meaning, and, sure enough, I found it.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.

Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 119

Hi.

Coffee: Light Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand; I woke up feeling stiff and sore from the night before; I could barely brew the coffee, so it was good Z left the pre-ground bag, no telling what my hands would have done with the grinder; I spent the morning sipping this stuff on our brown couch and staring wide-eyed at morning clouds; when you’re tired, you’re dissolving; the coffee tasted like burnt sugar

How can you make an impact on people? I’ve been thinking it over a lot, lately. I’ve got a handful of opportunities staring me down. Like all opportunities, they’re incompatible with one another. There’s goods and bads, pros and cons, so the only spectrum I’ve found to judge them on equally is: what will allow me to make the most impact? I’m still not sure.

I talked with an old woman who’s thinking about buying a beach house. She has a bad knee and no plans to see the ocean. Instead, she’s buying the house to be closer to her sister, who is even older, and having health issues.

I talked to a kid in college who’s reading The Wealth of Nations. Not for classes, but for personal interest. He’s young enough to think the world will open up for him like an oyster, and maybe it will. He’s passionate enough to think he’ll have an answer for all the constant questions, and maybe he will.

I talked with a man who smells like mildew. He has one bright yellow shirt that he wears while he’s working. Landscaping, a hard job for the hot summer. He speaks mostly Spanish and I speak mostly English but we manage. He’s taken to waving at me whenever he comes around and I’ve taken to shaking his hand.

All the people you come in contact with put an imprint in you. There’s no such thing as not having an impact. My heart’s a thousand pieces, a box of marbles, eager eyes in a murder of crows. But in the end, no matter which eye eats up all the others, I’ll look back and see the trail my body’s dragged through mud and grass. Hopefully, it’ll be a path made easier for whoever’s traveling behind.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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The real price of everything, what everything really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it.

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations