Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 84

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; I thought about going inside the shop but when I drove by the parking lot was filled; so I got my coffee from the drive-through; even treated myself to a slice of lemon cake; the woman at the window had deep green lacquer on her fingernails; it reminded me of mountainsides in the early morning; I told her I liked the color, she said ‘thanks’; later, drinking the coffee, I thought I could taste a bit of wood-bark, pine-sap, morning dew

A hot day. Now that we’ve passed mid-may, summer’s taken it’s gloves off, spit out the tobacco, and is squatting wide-legged in the fields ready to take on all comers. I went out around five to pick up a few things from the pharmacy and got socked in the face. One hit of that humidity and I was walking like I had the weight of the world on me. All the thermostats were reading 90. Like I said, a hot day.

Nevertheless, I spent a lot of the day outside.

I’ve been re-reading After Dark by Murakami. I finished my re-read today. The last time I let my eyes on the book, I was 17 and wading through another hot summer. I was away at an academic camp and within the first week had torn my ACL (a particularly vigorous game of ping-pong was what did me in). So there I was, young and dumb and largely alone, limping around a college campus on crutches, trying to keep up with the world as it whipped by. Because of that, coming back to After Dark has been like finding all those boxes in your parents’ basement full of family photos – you squint at the pictures and try to make them look familiar without getting too embarrassed. Then, in the end, you stare so long so you forget they’re even photos of you.

I was reading on the porch with a cup of peppermint tea beside me. The hot day matched the tea so that you couldn’t tell which was making all that steam. I sweated out my journey into old, semi-blank memory albums, and when the tea was gone and the book was almost over, I had a beer. Finally, soaked to the bone, I finished what I’d come there to do. I closed the book. I put down the bottle. About to go inside, I heard a clapping sound off the balcony. I looked over and saw a family of geese. They were huddled together, pecking through the clover, hunting for bugs. Some of them were so young their adult feathers hadn’t come in. I didn’t know what to make of them – these beautiful, surprising, cuddly creatures walking by – and I still don’t. But I think they’ll be one of those memories I’ll open up fifteen years from now and hardly recognize, no matter how much I might want to.

Currently Reading: NOTHING! Couldn’t get back into Bourdain, no matter how much I tried; will pick a new book soon

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A giant motherboard of geese,
unruffled by the state
police, swarmed in unison

Kristen Henderson, Of My Maiden Smoking

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 44

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; Gray skies and wet roads, I always feel like driving after a rain; so I drove to Caribou and got coffee; their intercom was broken so they had a big handwritten sign that said “Say HELLO! and we’ll hear you;” I said ‘hey’ and they took my order; waiting for the drink, I caught three baristas laughing; one of them caught me spying through the drive-thru; she buttoned right up and said “Here you go, have a good one,”; I could hear that laughter like blue birds as I drove away; But what am I saying: the coffee was good, mellow, like a dark chocolate bar that’s still got a bit of sugar in it, enough to sweeten out the rough notes, the roots, the tang that comes with anything that grows out of soil.

I went to Chapel Hill. A was in town, I haven’t seen him in years. He’d grown his hair out and had it slicked back like someone who’s seen some things. It was a good look but I kept forgetting to tell him that.

We spent a few hours re-getting to know each other. A’s still in school, though he’ll be finished soon, and we were with J who’s damn close to a full fledged doctor (well, he’s already a doctor, but not quite in the working world). Meanwhile I’m cracking jokes. I don’t know how to react when someone asks me what I’m doing. I say something witty and cynical about working for a bank. I talk about the starving artist that I am, though I exaggerate the starving part and maybe the artist too. Whatever honest question they might have I’ve got a comeback. I’m quick today. I’m snappy. Everyone’s laughing. I’m doing well. I’m not saying a single thing without color.

Isn’t it strange how much we lie to our friends?

After walking them back to their Air BnB, I stroll through the luscious houses around UNC’s campus. The trees are green and the flowers are in bloom. I’m caught in seven years ago when I used to live near here. I remember walking late nights from our apartment into town. It misses me – my old life bundled in some other train, heading a different direction, gone without stopping – I got off track. And that’s a good thing, I think, so I keep going, trying to stay present, but I’m in and out of different years the whole way home. There’s the spot where A and I used to talk about society. There’s where we’d meet R for dinner. There’s the auditorium that H would sing at, where I’d feel uncomfortable trying to get whatever woman I was with to love me, and there’s the art museum that can’t contain those nice memories of when I met my cousins, or any early days I used to visit, because it’s full up with one simple afternoon spent walking around with you. That’s the freshest memory of all of them. I walk right past it too.

I start thinking: who else had I been lying to? Ten years of train stations locked and boarding in this one small college town and somehow I was always saying goodbye to the wrong things. I’d tell you I’d be happier in Michigan. I’d tell you I’d drink through my liver. I’d tell you all these stories of distant people and places – some happy, some sad – and hop in the car to carry me off wherever. But when the dust had settled and none of the trees or highways remembered me, I’d come back to the same place and do it all over again. An endless cycle of witty one-liners, mis-directed promises. Vibrant and cyclical like a southern Spring.

Novel Count: 36,889

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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Again and again, the cicada’s untiring cry pierced the sultry summer air like a needle at work on thick cotton cloth.

Yukio Mishima, Runaway Horses

Coffee Log, Day 359

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House, Office drip

I woke up remembering the one time I knew this girl to have short hair. That was a while ago – 2009. Since then, she’s grown it out to wear with gowns shown off on Miss America. Before then, I knew her to have the perky ponytail every white girl in high school has.

What a heady time.

In 2009 I was a college Freshman. I had a single dorm with a window that looked down on the gym. It was always fuzzy behind a mosquito net. Years away from knowing how to read, write, do my taxes, or much at all about who I am, that perforated magic; missing thoughts; open questions; swiss cheese.

That night was cold if I remember. Hell, it might have been February. She’d been staying at UNC so we took the bus back to Duke. That might have been the problem, turning everything a darker shade of blue. We snuck through the weekend and upstairs to my tiny room. We closed the blinds so the gym rats couldn’t see us. And we sat down. I only had one chair, we took the floor. She was in the drabbest gray sweatshirt. She had a boyfriend back in Maryland. Halfway through the movie though, our hands couldn’t stop each other.

Next morning, winter was broken. Sun came down like mimosas. ‘Oh well,’ I thought, ‘Some good things are also bad.’

But the thing that stuck with me – after we got past the guilt of something surreptitious and on with our separate lives – was that her hair was short. She had this light brown hair. She’d play with it the summer I met her. And in current pictures it’s long and highlighted. That night, though, it was cut in a rough bob just below her ears. Almost like she’d hacked it off herself.

What was she missing? And did she find it in me?

Novel Count: 23,904

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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And I’m feelin’ like we should d-d-duck away
Netflix and Dusse

Smino, Neflix & Dusse


Coffee Log, Day 322

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee

My mother’s mother had a thing for erasable pens. She liked the blue ones. She’d buy whole packs of them and use the ink on crosswords. They were BiC brand and never erased as well as advertised.

I’ve always been terrible at crosswords.

It’s funny the things you remember about a person. I remember her watching NASCAR. I remember the way she’d powder her face with a compact. She was one of those old ladies, the kind that try to put themselves together every day. A long time ago, when my grandfather was living too, and they had a house in Colombia, SC, I’d know to expect a batch of brownies when we visited. And she was the only person in the world that could get me to eat a steak rare.

You’re a list of quirks and contrivances when you’re gone. That’s all you are anyway, only when you’re living you can string those quirks together into neater packaging.

In college, I’d buy cheap ring binders and black see-through BiC’s. Not the erasables, just the regular. I still buy the BiC’s because I like the way they write. I like how insignificant it feels to hold them. Maybe I got some of that from her.

Novel Count: 12,764

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Pens: Communication Essentials.

Tagline on BiC’s Stationary splash page


Coffee Log, Day 272

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I was one of those kids who wouldn’t tell his parents a lick about the schoolday.

“How was it?”

“Fine.”

I was similarly stonefaced with friends.

“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?”

“Nothing.”

It was two things: a bit of adolescent embarrassment and a deeper fear that if I let on about the things that moved me, they’d lose their magic somehow. Oh how the times have changed.

As an aspiring author and daily blogger, my life’s cut open like a cleaned fish. There aren’t enough things happening outside of me to have the option of sequestering myself. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I needed to be open. But that’s a topic for a therapist.

I started to notice the effects of this a couple years ago as I was writing a book. The book was about Japan, about Yamakasa – a Fukuoka festival I’d attended in 2014. The scenes and settings are yanked out of my memory and tinkered until they fit the story. I’ve never had the knack of a fantasy author – the spark of creation, so to speak – so all my writing pulls heavy from places I’ve been and breathed.

Anyway, as I was writing this book, a funny thing happened: when I’d daydream about my time in Fukuoka, I started to see myself in the novel’s version of the city. If I’d changed the name of this or that restaurant, or maybe moved a cafe across town, the memory of me walking her August streets took me through the story; I had trouble digging back to where I’d really been. It was startling. I felt I’d lost something. Well, I had. I had replaced that ‘something’ with words.

I figure that’s why so many writers drink (or otherwise touch oblivion): you cut apart what’s most precious to feed your work.

I wouldn’t give it up. I really couldn’t at this point. In a way, I’m still yelling “Fine!” and “Nothing!” Only now those words ring true to everything outside the book.

Novel Count: 11,198 words

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

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All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.

Ernest Hemingway


Coffee Log, Day 257

Hi.

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

I want to talk about coffee today.

That feels almost blasphemous, doesn’t it? I’ve spent the better part of a year writing this ‘coffee blog’ with the adamant intent to trim, confine and marginalize any talk about the titular subject. Instead, I rant at the world, soliloquy theories, absorb myself to this or that melancholia, and I’m happy about that, but today I want to talk about coffee.

There was this guy I knew. He lived beside my parents and was the uncle to two kids about my age. Those kids were my first friends. They’d stay at his house in the summers when their mother was working so we’d hang out a lot. We got up to all kinds of somethings: mud fights, sword fights, 8-bit videogaming. Our houses were joined by a giant backyard mulberry tree. We’d eat the mulberries and rub them on plastic swords for battle damage. It was great fun.

Very rarely, I’d be invited over for breakfast. Their uncle would be cooking something for himself while we three ate milk and cereal. Here’s a morning I remember:

He’s got his shirt off and the music going. Something low and simple, maybe Elvis. There’s bright exuberances of light trying to get through the kitchen curtains and some of it makes it in. My friends are at the table talking to each other but I’m watching their uncle work the coffee pot. He pulls water from the sink. He fills the old percolator. There’s all this static and steam when the heat coils go crimson-hot, and then the room’s a bit of drip-drip percussion backing Elvis.

When it’s done, their uncle pours a tall, green mug and dips a donut in it. I’m thinking it’s the most outrageous act of gall, ruining a good cake donut like that, so I tell him. He looks at me with a wiry black mustache full of crumbs. He says: “You’ll understand it when you’re older.”

I’m not a big fan of donuts dipped in coffee, even now. Still, I feel like I get what he was talking about.

….shit, this wasn’t really about coffee after all, was it?

Novel Count: 5,709 words

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

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“Whether you take the doughnut hole as a blank space or as an entity unto itself is a purely metaphysical question and does not affect the taste of the doughnut one bit.” – Haruki Murakami, A Wild Sheep Chase

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Coffee Log, Day 220

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

Cosmic Cantina still smells like they’ve been cooking since yesterday. It’s on a small street off 9th, Durham, Bull City, up a staircase, beside a dance studio. You can see the Breuggers from the window. You can see the old Duke dorms from the window. I used to eat here with people I don’t know anymore.

I haven’t had much to say lately. Small talk with customers and co-workers. Line rehearsals with friends. We went to Durham to do an Escape Room. We got out under an hour. They took our picture. We walked 9th after, no-one else knew where we were going, no-one else had lived here. At Cosmic, I had a margarita. It tasted like Cozumel. The room was hot, slant-sunned. The walls were brick, slick looking, coated in something. The bar was tracked in turquoise tile. You remember small things. You remember some big things too. Neither stick around. The mind’s a graveyard.

What’s your name? Why’d we come here? Were you drunk? All of us were drunk – often – in college. Did you like me? Why’d you cut your bangs? Did I used to know you back in High School? Had we danced that summer? Were there ever nights we wished were longer? Did you order? Oh, sure, I did, for both of us. Did I order right? Why’d I do that? What’s that yellow, that blue, that orange on your cheek – is it the neon sign slung off the side of the building, are you sick, are you okay, are you happy? I can’t remember. Hell, I’ve got your name and the taste of pico de gallo, but the rest is being picked by birds and trash rats.

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

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“I think it is all a matter of love; the more you love a memory the stronger and stranger it becomes” – Vladimir Nabokov

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