Coffee Log, Day 255

Hi.

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

There’s a YouTube channel I’ve gotten into the habit of plastering the background of my days with. I read an article about it a couple months ago: a live stream, lo-fi electronic music, animated loop of a girl writing notes with her cat beside her. There’s somewhere in the ballpark of 5,000 people tuned in at any given time. A chat runs on the side. People ask each other’s ages, nationalities. Because it’s the internet, people sometimes tear at each other for their ages, nationalities. Old men try talking to young girls. But mostly I don’t see that sort of stuff here. A second ago, someone posted: “Type ‘c’ in chat if you wish you were this girl’s cat.” Now the log is full of ‘c’s’.

ChilledCow is the channel, if anyone’s interested.

I grew up in the ’90’s. Like everyone else of the era, I got fed this line that the internet would be this grand replacement of our public spaces. The clued-in kids were living lives on message boards. Fresh out the cold war, you could have casual conversation with a Russian and feel like maybe we aren’t so different after all.

For the most part, it didn’t go that way.

There are all sorts of communities on the net but they’re far from open. Subreddits on subreddits, you can get a group of like-minded mouths to build your echo-chamber. Step outside those boxes into something more public? Everything’s an ad or an assault. Meanwhile, brick and mortar America is dismantled, and the public spaces – the parks, the malls, the old downtowns – are stripped for expensive condos or parking decks.

I’m a part of this, or course. I go from work to home and back again. I don’t often have the thick skin for getting lost in the desolate unknown. But I wonder how we’ll know each other in fifty years? Gummy lips gone to atrophy.

So anyway, that’s why I think tiny public places like ChilledCow’s channel are precious.

Novel Count: 4,096 words

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

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“Places matter. Their rules, their scale, their design include or exclude civil society, pedestrianism, equality, diversity (economic and otherwise), understanding of where water comes from and garbage goes, consumption or conservation. They map our lives.” – Rebecca Solnit, Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics

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Coffee Log, Day 186

Hi.

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

The last day of five days vacation. I spent it – mostly – walking.

I took a hike in Hemlock Bluffs. It was a hot day, sticky enough to fix every little this-or-that to you. Sun, sweat, text-message chains. The trails were steep and set with wooden overlooks. There was red creek water, gray mayflies, blurry green. Cicadas held the woods like a defending army. I passed a lot of people on the trails but still felt alone.

I took a hike around the neighborhood. Familiar trails, still morning. Shade cut currents on the concrete and it was good to be swimming, even metaphorically. Mulch got in my shoes. Sticky steps. Life is full of reminders of the sun, sweat, text-message chains.

A kid on a back porch practices trumpet. School starts next week. I remember old days playing cello for parent-proud auditoriums. I’d practice in the bedroom, my floor was linoleum, paintings and bookbacks held their ears. For a few years I’d record myself on a black cassette player. I’d count flaws on the playbacks. On stage, I’d hide flaws in my cummerbund. Sticks in your tummy, reminders of everything waiting after the music: sun, sweat, text-message chains.

In 2018, you do a lot of living through fiber wire; the park might be all around you but you’re still dug in the airwaves, conversing electrically.

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

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“No sound, once made, is ever truly lost. In electric clouds, all are safely trapped, and with a touch, if we find them, we can recapture those echoes of sad, forgotten wars, long summers, and sweet autumns.” – Ray Bradbury, Now and Forever
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Coffee Log, Day 152

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema; today the taste was ‘woodchips from your grandpa’s studio’ and a hint of ‘college dorm’

St. Lawrence Market in Toronto looks just like you: gray skies, string lights, cooking fire.

I’ve been to Canada once – ninth grade, an orchestra trip; we played at a high school, then listened to the Canadians play. These days, they’d probably do a Drake arrangement. Back then it was Beethoven.

On an off day, we toured the city. The Market was a morning stop, breakfast for many, though I don’t remember eating anything. I walked around with a few friends. We warmed up by the food stalls. It was late winter and mostly freezing. For those who haven’t seen it, St. Lawrence is in an old brick shipping warehouse. There’s a ground floor and a basement. Eventually, we got tired with the main floor so we went to the basement. There are more and more stalls down there. I looked at fish drying. I spied the pretty girls with fourteen-year-old eyes, careless.

Back against a pillar, tucked off the main drags, a man in blue jean-rags played guitar with the case open. He had a wild beard. His music was better than the Canadian orchestra’s, better than ours. I’d bought currency at customs and had already broken most of the bills. Pockets full of one and two-dollar coins, I emptied all the foreign money in his case. It was thirty-something. He nodded my way but didn’t miss a beat.

Last night, a gun, bullets, and fire-blooded man shot 15 and killed 2 people on a restaurant-packed street in Toronto. He was crazy, they say, but they always say that. I wonder what songs St. Lawrence’s guitarist is playing right now?

Gray skies, string lights, cooking fire – you can’t find what you’re looking for in the restless brick walls and crowded market, so you take it from someone else, irreversibly.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“It seemed to me that everybody ended up in Toronto at least for a little while.” – Alice Munro, Dear Life

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Coffee Log, Day 146

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema

My hands hurt. I’ve been typing too much. Every time my hands hurt, I remember a big part of my life that’s not so big anymore: from 4th to 12th grade I played cello.

Music was something I wished I was better at from the minute I picked it up. That’s not to say I was bad. I took private lessons. In High School, I placed in All-State Orchestra twice, was first chair once. But the things I was good at didn’t excite me. I was technically sound. I could play what you put in front of me. More than that, I had a decent ear so I found good ways of expressing the songs. But every time I tried to come up with something original, I fell apart.

It’s something stuck in history, I guess. My mother was a musician. She’d never admit it, but she was good. I saw my hands in her hands. I saw the good parts, the way they could bring out a song, but also the bad: tension, stress, the need to be perfect; no wonder I gave myself tendonitis. I feel a similar drive when I’m writing, but there’s no performance with words: you cut, cut, cut the diamond, set it, give it away; you don’t have to deal with the wide-eyes in the concert hall.

The happiest thing I got from almost a decade playing cello was the people it brought me to. I met friends in middle school that saved me; I had a good teacher who truly believed in me; I found my first love, one-sided as it was, in a black-haired violinist at All-State. Music takes so much of you that it’s impossible not to stumble into what other people are spilling out. That part of the art is different than writing; these days, my happiest moments are home alone with Jack and a word doc.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“May night continue to fall upon the orchestra.” – Andre Breton

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