Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 128

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

There’s a market in Asheville that sells arts and crafts. It’s on a streetcorner beside a big old building that houses an indoor mall. The stalls are bright-colored and both times I visited they smelled like incense. Now that the city’s burning up it’s oil for weekend go-getters, I’m sure the stalls are selling more; vacationers are the kind of people who need to bring things home with them. But the way I remember, it, the market was lonely.

I once watched a movie about a Japanese woman who’d gone to give humanitarian aid to Afghanistan during the early years of the American war. When she came home, she was shunned by her family, scoffed at by the townsmen, and had trouble finding a job. I had to read the liner to figure out why they were so harsh with her. The notes said it had something to do with a prejudice against external involvement, particularly related to war. I don’t know if this is true. But I liked my first viewing a bit better, where a woman comes home to bleak streets the color of squid ink, and where anyone who passes pulls their baseball cap down around the eyes.

I like drifting back to the lonely spaces; the frost-choked feeling of somewhere too forgotten to grow, too proud to putter out completely.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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…so too, her glazed ceramics and her macramé are interchangeable with those executed by her women friends in the area, who take courses at the Mill Brook Valley Arts Co-op and whose houses are gradually filling with their creations, like ships gradually sinking beneath the weight of ever-more cargo.

Joyce Carol Oates, Jack of Spades

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 124

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

You never know the moments that’ll stick with you while you’re living them. Well, okay, sometimes you do – your first taste of ice cream, sweet things that don’t go away. But for all the rest, it’s like filling up a slow-cooker, so only years on do you know what your life truly tasted like.

There was a koi pond at Salem College, about six feet long, three feet wide. I say ‘was’ but I assume it’s still there. The pond was next to the student affairs office. It was in the middle of the small campus. There were two benches beside it and a bluster of greenery poking over one end. On hot days, the greenery attracted hornets and flies. On cooler days, it drew in the mosquitoes.

I remember that pond vividly, even though it’s been years since I’ve seen it. I went to a summer camp on Salem’s Campus when I was 17, but I first met the pond a year before. This was 2006. I was visiting a friend a grade ahead of me. She was at Governor’s School for orchestra, she played the violin. I was young and dumb and had brought roses for her performance but I left them in the car. That’s what you do when you’re 16 – you leave behind what’s most important.

After the concert, we hung around for half an hour getting to know each other again. It had been a year since I’d seen her and everything changes. We walked along the campus walks and ended up by the koi pond. Some of her friends had gathered there to celebrate the concert. They were orchestra kids so everyone was in tuxes except for me. I felt out of touch. I was a Christian in Tibet, holding hard to my own foreign faith.

I couldn’t tell you what any of us talked about. I couldn’t tell you what I did or didn’t say to the girl. But I remember the pond – cut to triangles by the amber lampposts, water running back and forth like aired blankets – it looked like where I wanted to be, and the great gulf of all the oceans that kept me from it.

The next year, at the camp myself, I spend much more time around the koi pond, and most notably I recall running away from yellow-jackets. Things change. But nothing digs so deep that it scoops out your most important memories.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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An old silent pond…

A frog jumps into the pond,

splash! Silence again.

Matsuo Basho

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 95

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

There was a highway beside the neighborhood where I grew up. It didn’t look like a highway and everyone called it Church St. It was two lanes most places. There were many spots you couldn’t go faster than 35. But take it far enough East and you’d hit the Atlantic, far enough West and you’d be in California. It’s strange to think of that packed asphalt having the power to take you to a different time zone.

The NC DOT is currently trying to extend Interstate 540 through the southern half of the Triangle. They want it to be a beltline, something to take the edge off the traffic and accelerate peripheral growth. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it isn’t. Either way, the project involves tearing down 1800 acres of forests and buying out 209 homes with eminent domain. That’s a lot of change for a road that won’t even take you to California.

Tonight, two kids were playing on the swings at my apartment complex. The sun had gone down enough to take the edge off another hot day. The kids ran, jumped, and twisted up the swings like two steel hangs of DNA. Neither of them’s thinking of a highway, or property laws, or the Atlantic, but I wonder what this town will look like when they’re my age? What will be the ratio of neighborhoods to highways?

Currently Reading: Have picked a new book but not had the chance to start it yet; more info to come

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The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation, through experience and familiarity, of movement to place; it obeys the natural contours; such obstacles as it meets it goes around.

Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 92

Hi.

Coffee: Black Drip, Waffle House; I had three cups and half of a fourth; I asked the waitress when she was going to get some rest; she said she’d gotten up at four when her twelve year old wanted to talk; she said she was working until 2pm but would be too wired to sleep when she got home; instead, she asked me to take a nap for her, and that that would be enough; I haven’t taken that nap yet; the coffee was woody like a whiskey that’s spent a long time on a dark, warm, dusty shelf.

I got lunch with an old friend at an old restaurant. She said it felt weird to meet again. I agreed. She ordered chicken soup with avocado slices and I got a veggie taco concoction with spinach and cheese. At first, I felt like I was floating on a body of deep water. I had my arms out, legs spread, focusing on every inch of my body to try and stay buoyant. Then an hour passed. And another. And I felt my limbs slip and my head pass under deep water, remembering why we were friends.

It’s nice to talk with a person that’s easy to talk with.

Currently Reading: NOTHING! will pick a new book soon

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Reunions are the first day of school all over again. Time casts away familiarity and replaces it with warm confusion.

Stewart Stafford

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 50

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

Countdown to my reading as featured author at the Third Wednesday Open Mic:
WHERE: Fig Raleigh, Raleigh NC
WHEN: 04/17/19; 6:30p.m. (open mic sign-ups start at 6:00p.m.)
DAYS REMAINING: 4
Come out and support the Coffee Log!

The AC froze in our apartment. You’d think that’s a good thing – icy cool – but it’s not as good as it sounds. The coils froze over and the ice warped the filter. We called maintenance. A tech came over. He did what he could. A nice thing to have someone help you on a Saturday.

Anyway, the problem’s not fixed so now it’s just set to fan. Thankfully we’re still early enough in the year to have cool nights. I thought about cracking the windows but there’s too much pollen. I’m noticing the lack of sound in the apartment now that the AC’s not blowing. Sometimes it’s nice to miss something.

I stayed in Oita for one week when I was working in Japan. We had some camps at a rec center there. Oita’s in the mountains and surrounded by verdant fields. Picturesque, except for the hot sun and endless bugs.

Like most of the places we stayed, the rec center had no AC. We slept on the floor with five of us to a room. All night long, our sheets crawled with tiny critters. Working those summer camps, everyone was so dead tired that they usually fell asleep right away after the long days. But in Oita we’d stay up telling stories by flashlight. It was something to do, something to take your mind off the heat. We’d drop off gradually, talking quieter and quieter, until everyone was asleep.

Summer will be here soon. NC’s no joke when it gets going. Here’s crossing fingers our AC gets fixed soon.

Novel Count: 37,459

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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I guess I’m supposed to sit here in this oven like it’s 1950, hoping I don’t go to hell for stealing a church fan.

K. Martin Beckner, Chips of Red Paint


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