Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 38


Coffee: Breakfast Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

When all is said and done, a man’s life becomes R.I.P. posts and coroner reports, all the more so if he’s famous. Yesterday afternoon, Nipsey Hussle was murdered.

I remember when Mailbox Money blew up. I was just getting into hip-hop. Nipsey had a way of saying things with just a few words. I’d been listening to Kendrick Lamar and Lil Wayne. Nipsey condensed their sort of gymnastic paragraphs into single lines: “Blood, sweat and tears, just squeezin my fruits.” He inspired me. He made me a better writer.

I was going to start this differently. I was going to say: “There are very few male role models in 2019. Good men doing good things, maybe, but few who interrogate deeply what it means to be a man. Nipsey Hussle did that interrogation.” And that’s all true – he was uncompromisingly masculine, rapping about how to define manhood in modern America – but when I sat down to write it, it felt too safe. Tame, even. That’s not all he was. “Hold me down through these troubled times, be another victim to my stubborn pride.”

As an artist, he beat the system. A hard thing for anyone to do, even harder for a black man in deeply prejudiced America. He briefly held a record deal with Atlantic way back in the day but dropped the deal as soon as it was clear they’d own the rights to his masters. He spent the next decade releasing mixtapes, developing his own label, and only last year did he sign with Atlantic again for the release of his debut album – only it was just a distribution deal. Nipsey was his own master until the end. He even bragged about the legal language: ‘Atlantic’, this massive corporate monster, had signed itself as a ‘partner.’

He kept things local. He reinvested in his community. I won’t get too deep into that because it’s not my community, I can’t know the pain or pride they feel right now. Nipsey Hussle was unequivocably a proud black man. His words had power. They opened my eyes as this white guy bobbing his head to hip-hop. They helped me understand the trauma of black Americans in a way I hadn’t before. They made me hold myself accountable to my role in that trauma. “One Shot got life, Zimmerman got acquitted; Talkin’ ’bout a carjackin’, we talkin’ ’bout a killin’; Wonder why we never have faith in the system; Look at young [black men] like a waste of existence.”

I feel like there’s beer on my breath. I feel like I’m drunk on something. Weak, thin stuff, no glamour. A missed train. A march I didn’t go on. Important dates I didn’t keep.

Victory Lap – that was the name of Nipsey’s debut album, released just over a year ago. The Marathon has been his brand for years. Life is a Marathon. You can sit on the sidelines or you can run it. That’s a beautiful thing, but it’s hard. It comes with a responsibility – you’re committed to the race, you’ve got to finish. Nipsey Hussle made me a better artist. Nipsey Hussle made me a better citizen. Nipsey Hussle made me a better man. He earned his Victory Lap. I’ll keep running in the wind he left us in, bruised weary at a world that knows violence, strong enough to love the ones caught up in it, committed to live honestly and play my part to fix it.

If he’d lived, he was scheduled to host a conference today with the L.A. mayor on ending gang violence through youth outreach and empowerment. A few hours before he died, he posted this to Twitter: “Having strong enemies is a blessing.”

Novel Count: 35,930

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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But I’m knowin’ that this game to be changed
I should be afraid of afraid
I’m just tryna live up to the meanin’ of my name
I’m just tryna live up to them [people] in my gang
I’m just tryna live up to my moment on the stage
I’m just tryna live up to the truth in my pain
And the power that it gave me on the youth of today

Nipsey Hussle, I Do This

Coffee Log, Day 260


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

We took a family trip to Williamsburg, VA when I was about 9yrs old. They’ve got this preserved, colonial town, a sort of streetcorner museum. I loved it. Back then (and lets be honest, even now) I was enamored with fantasy. I wanted to get lost in other people from other times.

My favorite part of the trip was the militia trainer. He was this big guy in boots and stockings with a long, messy beard. He got us kids in two lines. He gave us wooden toy muskets. We were led on drills to fill the powder, stuff the barrel, aim, fire. I hadn’t known that kind of power before. I took the toy gun home and played with it religiously.

America plays with her guns religiously.

The news is plastered with the shooting at the Thousand Oaks nightclub. Not so many details yet, but the guy comes in with a .45 pistol and picks targets. It’s awful, a tragedy, to be sure. Middle class white pundits wail and scream.

But the sad or sobering reality is: this shit happens everyday, it just doesn’t dress itself up for a captive audience.

There were 11,004 gun homicides in America in 2016. Most of those you’ve never heard of because they’re small, one-on-one, domestic. More importantly, they tend to happen to people in the margins: Jon and Chuck who hustle opioids in the podunk town the mills foreclosed on; all those black or brown kids in the urban south whose schools you keep defunding. What makes some lives matter more than others? Is it prejudice, greed?

America wants to watch the show. We want to see rich white purity cast in red horror so we can find someone to rail against. Freddy and Jason, a slasher flick. We want a cause, a commotion, an anxiety bigger than ourselves. But when the answer is right beside us – as simple as putting more dollars to the most marginalized of our neighbors, funding food security and infrastructure instead of a flailing gun debate that only acknowledges dramatic victims – we get bored and turn the TV off.

Novel Count: 6,839 words

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

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“I flashback on that shootout at the beach, twenty deep
You tried to squeeze, your gun jammed and they released
Blood on your tee, how many stains? I see three
The bitch started to panic so I made her switch seats
Drivin’ now, police chopper ahead flyin’ now
Really not too spooked, calmly asked me, “Am I dyin’ now?”
All I know is keep you calm and collected.” – Nipsey Hussle, Blue Laces 2


Coffee Log, Day 161


Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

I can hardly keep up anymore. Each day is a different story, different spin. Last week’s crises are Alexander crossing the Euphrates; this morning was the Civil War. Part of it’s attention, part of it’s the internet – things go a lot quicker when it takes two seconds to send a message around the world.

The powers that be are clued in: Giuliani tells Mueller to ‘hurry up.’ Obama won’t mention Ocasio-Cortez in his endorsements. Old men of power want you to forget that change can happen, that real change takes time; instead, they want popcorn press conferences and Chinese-made American flags.

Language is power, but language is also dangerous. In Rome, they’d nail your hands to a cross and cut you open for preaching a single book; that went on for hundreds of years. Now, it’s tweet tweet post post caption this that picture, narrate the video where your black lover’s murdered by a white cop, hashtag twenty-seven years of men’s hands on your ass. It’s vital, succulent, burst open like ripe tomatoes, easily washed down the drain like so much juice.

It’s hard to pay attention when everyone’s got an important story. It’s easy for power to change a word, a phrase, delete this and that and make us miss the important parts. We need our holy book. We need a thick bound compendium worth being crucified for. Each page a sex, creed, color, representation. All our spit-blood memoirs wave-wave on the internet and pass us by. We need something stable and shared.

But what’s permanent look like in 2018?

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“Hold down through these troubled times, be another victim to my stubborn pride

Stuck in the grind, Stuck in the grind, I’m stuck in the grind” – Nipsey Hussle, Stucc in the Grind


Coffee Log, Day 34


Coffee: Honduras, Cooperativa Raos

It’s getting warmer, at least. We’ve had two snows in one week of Spring. Winter won’t let go. Its hard to let go. I feel kinship with the Winter.

This week, I anticipate goodbyes. A dear friend’s moving. Jobs are looking up. I’d gotten used to the in-between, the long days of going anywhere I wanted while the money ran down, over-thinking, being a fly on the margins of the employed-man’s world. It wasn’t all easy. I knew this would end. Grains have to grow.

The trees haven’t budded yet. It’s sunny, but Winter’s still got it’s foot in the door. I’m happy to have it around.

Currently Reading:
Tar Baby, Toni Morrison

“Look me in my eyes, call me on my lies. Lock the city down til’ the summertime.” – Nipsey Hussle, Stucc in the Grind

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