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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Coffee Log, Day 183

Hi.

Coffee: Americano from Crema Cafe, Cary, NC; I drank it by the cafe window; the roast was bright for an espresso; girls and boys happened by, old women talked about their grandsons’ first days at school; the environment overpowered the taste.

For the first time in a season, I took a walk around the neighborhood. Farther than the apartments, I crossed the dead Thursday afternoon, cut through beating sun, and found shade on a Cary trail. It was calm. It was good. It brought back memories of talking on the phone to him or her, walking this way last year when I was still a bookstore worker with lots of weekdays off. Dandruff autumn, coming back around to you.

I’ve been doing this blog for six months now, only missed one day. To those of you who’ve read one, two, however many posts: thanks. I’ve grown a lot. Maybe you have too. I started this thing on a whim, no real goal, and I still don’t have a goal, but the whim feels a bit firmer, bread rising.

Here’s something I believe: the everyday is magic. A boring, stinky, uneventful magic, but magic all the same. I finished reading LaRose. It paints real characters in larger-than-life situations. I liked it a lot in the end, but it’s pretty contrary to my vision for the world and my work in it. I think real life is made up of larger-than-life people stuck in toothpaste tubes, two-piece suits, pin-stripe dresses; the gooey caramel core of the mundane. I hope my Coffee Log catches a bit of that – licks the stiff surface, dalliances toward the weird magic inside.

There was a fuzzy bug on the trail. It walked sporadically, caught on concrete. In the bleeding sun, the bug looked melted, wispy, a ghost. I realized it must be the Guardian God of every old phonecall I’d taken on the path. Heartbreaks that crunched like new winter ice, thawed now. I almost touched him. The bug saw me coming and shimmied to a patch of shade. Out of the light, it was just a caterpillar.

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

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“But nowadays I really miss my fucking idols, so that’s the title.” – Trippie Redd, Missing My Idols

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Coffee Log, Day 157

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema

We were promised thunderstorms. I checked the weather all week. At work, I heard from customers about their houses getting water-logged. I was excited, but I never saw a drop.

In my novel, I write about the Anpanman museum in Fukuoka. I hadn’t been there so I looked up lots of pictures. There’s a big glass ceiling over the stage where they do costume shows. I thought: I wish I had seen it rain from below the glass. There were lots of storms in Japan but never one while I was in Fukuoka. Now, since the novel, my memory of that city is changed: raining, static, wet and overwhelming.

It’s made me doubt myself more broadly. If I can rewrite a place for a novel, couldn’t I be doing that with the rest of my life? My four years of philosophy come out like spring spiders and start eating this and that certainty; I sit with Descartes at a candlelit desk and contemplate. I’ve known for a while that I don’t know much of anything, but to think that maybe I’m less in touch with things I thought I did? Spooky – where’s the Halloween candy?

But when the doubt fades I sort of love it. My life, your life, we’re narratives. That’s romantic. Telling you my story until it changes, until the me between your two ears is one that I don’t even know.

Outside, clouds are coming. We were promised thunderstorms. A little out of sight, the sky bled like a new mother, birth-marking peat and loam.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“I act with complete certainty. But this certainty is my own.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty

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Coffee Log, Day 156

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema

The back-up camera on my car caught a nice glare. It was so pretty I took a picture. I was driving to pick up dinner at the Chinese joint I used to go to after work at the bookstore. I took the same summer roads I’d taken a year ago. It’s been one year (almost exactly) since I moved to Cary.

And you’re already splattered with buckets of experiences, tails intact, fins flapping, with the heads cut off and left on the calendar squares…

Today was the first day I felt proficient at the bank. It was busy, complicated, I worked the line with a colleague who started a month before me. Our manager was tied up so it was just us. We encountered problems: equipment broke; customers cussed; it was a messy day but I kept a smile. More than that, I flipped the manual and made a day-long string of calls to this and that department sorting out customer concerns. When my colleague needed it, I helped him. It’s a big, free feeling to answer a question confidently.

I was confident at the bookstore. I didn’t like the job, but I’d held it so long I was in control. Because of that, it hit me even harder when they laid me off. Today, I drove past the driveway to the old employee lot on the way to the Chinese joint. My knuckles always go white or red or both, my eyes are heavy, I feel like I’m passing something important but unapproachable, a high school yearbook. Cary’s already got a few things I’ve lost dirtying up its fingernails.

So no matter how confident I get at the bank, I’ll try to remember that life is mostly driving in a car on a series of semi-familiar roads, listening to music, thinking about winter, licking for dinner, remembering the people you wish would love you; the place you leave and the place you end up are less important.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Check surroundings for your safety.” – the back-up camera in my Hyundai Accent

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Coffee Log, Day 139

Hi.

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

In July, I start to wonder what winter will look like. In January, I think the same about July. I guess that means I’m restless. Ready to move or settle down – well, that changes by the day.

I got called to work a Durham Branch. I left in the morning feeling like I was going backwards. Durham’s got so many of my ghosts you’d think I was already buried there. I took 40 to 147 to 12B, one exit before the one I used to take when I went to see you, slicked on 12% romance; a habit of strong beers. Well, 12B put me in the same places – Downtown, Parker and Otis, the Bulls Stadium – until it ran me past them.

The branch was in a Northern corner of the city I hadn’t seen before. We passed the wealth. We passed the haunts where hipsters with fat wallets pretend their money’s thin. Trees gave up to grass lots, curved roads, places where you only cook with butter. Then all that vanished and there was a stretch that looked a lot like Cary. Two medical centers, neither associated with Duke. It was strange – blasphemous – and if I were a praying man I would have crossed myself.

I parked beside a Chipotle, a Chik Fil’A, everything vibrantly counted down into nickel rolls. I met two good people at the bank, then I met a few more. Our clients reminded me of my year teaching in the city – I could see PTA in all their eyes. With my new tie and banker’s credit, I felt like I was hiding something. I checked the old men and old women for hidden colleagues; I checked the young men and young women for former students.

October 31st, best mask, best mask. In the end I’m still free like public water; can’t stop flowing, but there’s a price paid in the bushes somewhere, tucked away.

“Hi, I’m Mr. Livesay, how can I help?”

At lunch, I walked around the lot. I found a nice strong tree. I stayed in its shade a while. When you look at me, Durham, tell me I’m not transparent – take me, love me, hold me, validate those years – but be honest with what you see.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“In one aspect, yes, I believe in ghosts, but we create them. We haunt ourselves.” – Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls

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Coffee Log, Day 124

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Ethiopian Medium Dark, Harris Teeter Brand

I saw graves in Pittsboro. The sun had gotten behind a cloud. NPR was running a story about an NFL player turned activist. Lunch was over. It had ended a while ago for the grave-dwellers.

What gets preserved…

In the late nineties, my parents built an annex. My mother’s father was dead; my grandmother needed somewhere less familiar to live. I watched the construction. The blond wood, the wet foundation. I practiced taekwondo routines when the workers weren’t around. The skeleton boards were Hong Kong.

Eventually, the annex was a home; then it was a grave when cancer got her; then it was storage. It was storage for a long time. Fifteen years – spiders replaced by other spiders – in 2013 life went south for me, I moved back home. I remember clearing the boxes. I made a new space in the annex and lived there two years in my early twenties.

In the end, though, when the centuries strip America, her blond particle boards will decay. In the luckier places, the foundation might stick.

Maybe you’ll see my footprints punching ghosts.

Currently Reading:

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

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“We’re going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we’re doing, you can say, We’re remembering. That’s where we’ll win out in the long run. And someday we’ll remember so much that we’ll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in it and cover it up.” – Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451
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