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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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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