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


Coffee Log, Day 331

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee; back in the office after a week of off-site training; just as brown as stale wheat bread; just as oily as a nervous kid in gym class.

The dishes are piling up on my table again. I keep telling myself I’ll do something about them, but the excuses are easier than effort. I’ll get rid of them eventually. I always do.

I was talking to a guy who moved here from halfway across the country. I found myself suggesting places to go. I told him to check out Durham, to find something to eat in Raleigh, and to sleep tight in Cary. It was good advice, I thought. But it got me thinking about where I fit in to the central NC picture.

When I went to Duke, we were all afraid of Durham. There was this rumor that you’d lose a lot more than your wallet if you stepped too far off campus. And before that, when I was growing up, everywhere between Winston and Wilson seemed like a place to get away from. Turns out, it takes a lot of effort to get away from anything. And usually, those times you manage it, you end up somewhere pretty much the same as you left.

I got dinner with R at the Taco Bell. We picked it up, took it home. The guy at the drive-thru was so busy he walked away before taking R’s card. You could feel the sweet winter air hacking through our window. I was in a jacket. I almost took it off to feel the wind a little better.

As of writing this, all the dishes are still there.

Novel Count: 15,761

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Each neighborhood of the city appeared to be made of a different substance, each seemed to have a different air pressure, a different psychic weight: the bright lights and shuttered shops, the housing projects and luxury hotels, the fire escapes and city parks.

Teju Cole, Open City


Coffee Log, Day 325

Hi.

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

How to say the same thing you’ve said five hundred times…

I was at the Durham Co-Op on the way to a bookstore. E came along. We had lunch and did some shopping. It was a light grey day that the checkout lady said looked like snow. I told her I could see it but didn’t think we’d be that lucky.

So I ate the un-chiken salad sandwich watching cars park through the window. Everyone came out bundled. This is a nice corner of Durham, next to Duke, both poor and not poor, full of problems, but nice to be around, at least for someone marginally wealthy like me. I admit all the sin in me saying that, but I can’t take away that I have a longing to be there.

The last time I was in this Co-Op, it was dark and close to closing. We bought bread and lettuce and everything you need to make fake bacon out of coconut chips. We went back to M’s place and cooked it up. The coconut chips shiver when you bake them and I always thought they seemed confused. Two toast bread, slip on the mayo, the heirloom tomatoes, and eat until it’s all gone.

We’d watch the traffic together on gray mornings. There wasn’t much parking where she lived and one time this guy knocks on her door and chews her out, telling her that her ‘man‘ took his space. She said sorry, I moved the car, then she said sorry to me about the whole thing. But deep down I regret not talking to him and giving him my own apologies, because it was his neighborhood and I was just visiting, even if I tried to make it stick, make it dance like coconut in the oven. In the end, you never get to choose where you’re welcome.

After lunch, E and I packed into the car and turned the heat up. We went to the bookstore, gave money to a guy who asked for it, walked around, and stopped at another grocery on the way home (cheaper produce). All in all an okay day. But there’s some part of me still stuck walking the aisles, looking for coconut flakes and soy sauce, waiting for you to take me home.

Novel Count: 14,080

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Everything was fine, would continue to be fine, would eventually get even better as long as the supermarket did not slip.

Don DeLillo

Coffee Log, Day 312

Hi.

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

There’s an animal conservatory in Caswell County, not too far from where I used to live. It takes in animals that are abandoned or rescued and not safe to keep anywhere else. It has lions. Today, one of those lions got loose while it’s cage was being cleaned. It killed a young woman who’d been interning there for two weeks before being shot and killed itself. A tragedy, but an all-around innocent one.

When I was 15, I got invited to play with lion cubs. The then-wife of a friend of my father’s worked in conservation. She’d take the wild animals to her home to nurse them until they were fit to ship to wherever. Fifteen years ago, she was nursing two cubs.

I sat on the floor and let the lions walk over me. They made little growls that sounded like a frustrated raccoon. You were supposed to pet them rough – if you were gentle, you were prey. So I slapped the cubs on the tops of their heads. Their fur was wiry. Their bodies were muscle. It felt like cheating – like I’d been let in on some secret the world saves for its gentler species, something off-limits for all-consuming humanity.

Tonight, I cooked a feast. My parents gave me a wok for Christmas. It was a thoughtful gift. I spent an hour seasoning the wok with oil and green onions and ginger. I cleaned it over and over to get the factory oil off. Then, when it was ready, I tossed together vegetables, onions, more aromatics – fresh basil – and tried flash-frying tofu. I finished the dish with chili paste.

The dinner was good. Bloodless. There’s no sin in a wild animal picking it’s game. There’s no real sin in a human embracing her wild tendencies. But I’d like to think I’m a little better than the lions because – when given the choice – I’ll choose not to eat them. It’s a lonely world, artificially pure, privileged, but that’s also what makes it kind of divine.

Novel Count: 8,178

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami; Four chapters in and it’s consciously meandering. Jury’s out if it ends up anywhere interesting.

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Did you think the lion was sleeping because he didn’t roar?

Frederich Schiller