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

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 1

You didn’t think I was done, did you?

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee; The only way to start the second year of the coffee log – with the quintessential cup of joe; that stuff they mass market to middle managers around the USA; that black, thin, pen-ink blend that hits your tongue like a dump truck; the bread and butter of a 9to5 workforce that’s too tired to butter any bread in the mornings; plain, simple coffee, born in factory farms in South America, cut and roasted by underpaid labor, getting in the veins of every wannabe capitalist, giving half-dead men and women enough big daydreams to make it through another day.

Welcome back. Today, like yesterday, and the day before it, I had a cup of coffee. Now I’m here to tell you about it.

But I’ve got a slightly more important cause on my first day back in the Coffee Log saddle.

Josh Shaffer wrote a piece on the 20th for the Durham Herald Sun newspaper. The piece was about a woman named Kanautica Zayre-Brown. Ms. Zayre-Brown did some bad things – insurance fraud, etc – and went to prison. However, the State of North Carolina has decided to detain her for her 9 year sentence in a men’s prison. Why? Because it thinks she’s a man.

Ms. Zayre-Brown made the full surgical and hormonal transition to being bodily a woman a few years ago. Prior to that, from what she and her husband say in the article, she had been mentally a woman for some time. Her name was legally changed to Kanautica Zayre-Brown, but the State of North Carolina still calls her by her birthname. At the prison, she showers in a group with men. Most importantly, Ms. Zayre-Brown says she lives in constant fear of sexual assault. The 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution demands all persons are protected from cruel and unusual punishment. Ms. Zayre-Brown is the only inmate in the Harnett County Correctional Facility to be singled out like this. That is unusual. She’s terrified in a way no-one else in that facility can be. That is cruel.

If you live in a country that gives you voting rights, make sure you hold your politicians accountable for their views on criminal justice reform. If you live in America, make sure you funnel some of the energy in 2020’s elections to your local tickets as well as the Presidential. And if you’re brave and able or in a position with a platform, march against injustice, protest how you can, call your representatives, or at the very least tell your family and friends when something awful is going on.

If you don’t fight for everyone then you fight for no-one. No matter what you might think of Ms. Zayre-Brown if you met her, she deserves basic human dignity. She deserves better than this.

Novel Count: 25,512

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Zayre-Brown said that if she had such housing, she could work and begin paying restitution, serving her sentence constructively rather than in fear.
“I would feel the way I’m supposed to feel when I wake up every day: a beautiful girl,” she said. “Being here will make you an angry transgender woman.”

Josh Shaffer and Kanautica Zayre-Brown, “Transgender woman inmate…“, The Herald Sun Newspaper


Coffee Log, Day 356

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I read an article in the News & Observer about an art exhibit at the Cary Senior’s Center. Not exactly the Guggenheim, but no less important.

Anyway, here’s the short of it: Bing Weng is an artist from China. She comes to Cary last October to visit her daughter. While here, she gets a gig to show 38 paintings at the Senior Center. A couple weeks before the show, the center pulls three of the paintings. They display Xi Jinping with a dark hand over Asia. They are political, overtly. The rest of her work is mostly floral. It’s apolitical, overtly. The director says the works weren’t ‘consistent’ with her other pieces. And of course there were two public complaints.

America, right? Land of Freedom. You can say anything as long as it doesn’t say anything. But life’s not all roses. It’s the sun, the soil, the bugs that eat the roses, too. And why would you want to think about that?

It’s a popular line to say we’re too politically correct in 2019. And the opposite’s got some traction too, that our rhetoric is vile. I think those sentiments come from the same place: fear. We’ve been sitting comfortably for some time (those on the fortunate fringes, anyway). No need to worry about crushing poverty or oppression or global war. Those things happen where you can’t see them. And our culture wants to keep them there, because the minute you’re made to see the wretched green animals stalking around your garden, you’re damned with cowardice or apathy if you don’t stand up to do something about them.

But what do I know? I’m just another flower-painter.

Novel Count: 23,930

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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“When I am in China, I have no freedom of speech, so I couldn’t paint political work,” she said.

Bing Weng, quoted by Joe Johnson, ‘Chinese artist’s exhibit in Cary is missing 3 paintings. The town says they’re too political.’

Coffee Log, Day 351

Hi.

Coffee: Locomotive Blend, PennyCup Coffee

I drove to Durham just to eat a late lunch at Elmo’s Diner. I had the old avenues in my head. I wanted to see how they matched up.

They’re building a new condo complex on West Main. That’s the least surprising line I’ve written. New condos are popping up every month in the triangle. And there’s nothing wrong with that in theory – the population’s growing, you’ve got to put the people somewhere – only I wish they didn’t come connected to words like ‘luxury’ so often.

Lunch was what I expected. They put me at a table for two. Maybe they could see the baggage I was bringing. Not all bad baggage, just a lot of time lived in the place.

I ordered a spinach omelette. I ate it with ketchup. Some kid in Japan is telling me I’m doing it right – omurice! When I was teaching there, it was a all the rage with grade schoolers. After lunch, I drove around the city looking for a good stationery store but couldn’t decide on one. Then I wanted to go to a bar but couldn’t decide on one. The sun was out. It was a hot day for February.

When it’s hot you can’t settle. There’s no such thing as ‘good enough.’ On the other hand, cold days push you through the nearest open door. We’ve all got a bit of goldilocks, I guess.

I drank Canadian whiskey at home on the phone with an old friend. Okay, February, you got me – it was an average night.

Novel Count: 20,589

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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And I been really tryna be mo’ tolerant, mo’ positive
Prolly need to switch up countries (But you know why I’m here)

Smino, Anita


Coffee Log, Day 333

Hi.

Coffee: Locomotive Blend, PennyCup Coffee

It was a long day with a bit of travel. I’m beat.

A friend from LA was in town for a wedding. I don’t know the people getting married, but he told me he was coming, and we made plans to get together in Burlington, our home town. So I drove sixty some miles with R in the car and spent the afternoon wading in old spaces I used to visit daily. Around six, we drove to La Fiesta for dinner. A funny thing happened then:

I forgot how to get to the restaurant.

This is a place fixed in my memories. I more or less grew up eating out at La Fiesta and I think I’ve even blogged about it a couple times. From the highway, I could get there with my eyes closed, but M’ was staying on a different corner of town out by Elon.

I missed my first turn then couldn’t figure out the next one. It was dark, cold, R was in the car and he helped me navigate. Houses sprung out of the ground where they didn’t used to be and the streetlights seemed to blink like the beads on an airplane, far away. It was a strange feeling. Spend twenty years of childhood in one place consecutively and then one day you don’t even know how to get around.

I’ll be turning thirty this year. I’m neither stressed nor looking forward to it. But tonight that number felt a little more real to me, like I’m about to close the cover on a long, dusty book.

Novel Count: 16,427

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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I still feel at home in Baltimore in a way I will never feel anywhere else – part of the definition of home being a place you don’t belong anymore.

Tim Kreider


Coffee Log, Day 332

Hi.

Coffee: Locomotive Blend, PennyCup Coffee; This blend was sent to me generously by a friend in Asheville. Because of that, I’m going to spend this post talking about it. A coffee log that’s actually about coffee. I know – I’m just as surprised as you are.

The last time I was in Asheville, I was at an Escape Room that A runs. It was my first time doing anything like that and it was a fun experience. Collectively getting lost in a daytime fantasy by locking yourself up. There’s maybe some deeper metaphors about human nature in that.

So anyway, I’m not that up on Asheville – this was a couple years ago – and PennyCup is new to me. Boy, was it a pleasant surprise.

I’m used to drinking mass-packaged store roasts. I spend a little more for fair trade, and a tiny bit on quality, and I’m mostly satisfied with that, but drinking the Locomotive was like having a homemade meal after a year at sea. It had a couple decks to it’s flavor. The first thing you get is this strong tang – something of a lighter roast quality – but after that all the flavors are pulling out stops to richly seduce you, which totally caught me off guard. Lighter roasts don’t usually have that depth.

Halfway through the first cup I was tasting chocolate. Then it was something closer to barley. I was reading Murakami. Then I was working on my novel. The coffee kept up with my changing moods.

I remember this time A and I walked to an old, abandoned house in the woods. There were beer cans in overturned tires and ravens making nests in the rafters. Someone had been living there – you could see matches and bedstuffs – and I was terrified. I kept up with her as best I could, but we turned around before exploring too far inside. I was embarrassed. A could have kept going, I felt like a coward. When I told her all that she said it was okay, made me feel fine for having that limit.

The Locomotive blend was much like that: taking you by the hand to unexpected places, dropping you off somewhere comfortable along the way.

Novel Count: 15,954

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Coffee is a way of stealing time that should by rights belong to your older self.

Terry Pratchett