Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 111

Hi.

Coffee: Light Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I thought about walking to the grocery store. I didn’t, but at least I thought about it. It’s perfect weather. I cleaned some of the cobwebs off the porch.

Today was Z’s last day in town. He was supposed to be working, we both were, but instead I brewed a pot of coffee and we sat in the kitchen talking about group theory. It was the old days, the burning incense from someone else’s dorm room, the right kind of light to think about things that don’t matter. He taught me about computers. A bit of machine code. I wondered what it would be like to live electrically.

There’s a lot of different ways to understand the world.

Now it’s seven and L is over. We’re going out for a bite to eat. The sun’s still up, cutting through the first layer of your skin but not the second, feeling less like summer than fall. I don’t know where we’re going or what we’ll be eating. I can’t imagine it even, because you can never quite imagine the things that actually happen. Wherever I am, though, I’ll be in good company.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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…it may be that some of the ‘highbrow’ applied mathematics will become ‘useful’ in as unexpected a way; but the evidence so far points to the conclusion that, in one subject as in the other, it is what is commonplace and dull that counts for practical life.

G.H. Hardy, A Mathematician’s Apology

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 109

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

College is mostly an ink blotch to me. To be honest, most of my life looks like that when I try to remember it, but college in particular. I know I attended. I know I spent four years at Duke University studying – what was it again? I’ll be damned if I could pin down too many of the memories, though.

Today I talked to a Freshman at UNC. Our conversation was brief. He’s going to school for business. He was wearing a purple polo, the slick kind, for golf. He had his hair done like every college Freshman. He was asking me questions but kept interrupting the answers.

I get nervous around people like that. I start to wonder how many of the same boxes I used to tick. It puts me in a nostalgic mood. I start thinking about school and try picking apart what it meant to me. I see a neon streak of faces. Some friends, some acquaintances, no-one I still know. There’s one crisp memory of standing in line at a coffee shop that doesn’t exist anymore. The barista’s speaking Spanish, even though he’s a white American guy, and it’s the first time I realize that people are complicated.

I had some bad dreams last night. I’ll spare you the details, but in each of them was a bright room I couldn’t get out of. Nothing like being trapped with yourself. I worry sometimes that I’m two people. Or three, or… In all these inky dark spots, who’s hiding? I think about the me that comes out sometimes – needy, scared, possessive. I think about the dreams I didn’t follow, and wonder how long it’ll be until they cannibalize me.

You know, the old myth, twins in a stomach, twisting the cord.

I used to think I knew everything. Yeah, I know what that sounds like, and yes, I was that much of a prick. In particular, though, I thought I knew everything about ‘me.’ I had a memory that stretched back two dozen years, all of it annotated. I could pin-point what I was doing most days from elementary to my first job after school. Now, though, I’ve lost that memory. It’s been gone for a few years. What I once took as ‘fixed’ looks ‘wavy,’ ‘certain’ became ‘confused,’ cats and dogs, etc. Giving it all up, I got a lot more humble.

Tonight had me thinking about college. I like to see myself in the Bryan Center, a student commons, eating food, thinking about you. Only I never know who the ‘you’ is and when I look down, there’s nothing on my plate.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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You’re sure your new roommate won’t be like the last one who wore tinfoil socks and had a tendency to occasionally urinate in the refrigerator. You’re sure you’ll pass Math 106 this time around. You’re determined to actually join some clubs this year and not just sit around in your dorm eating spray cheese from a can and watching youtube videos about cats.

Patrick Rothfuss

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 104

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

Playing new Doom .wads and watching old commercials, Z and I tried to approximate 1993. The only thing missing was a bit of optimism.

It rained off and on today. Sometimes, I feel like I’m turning the Coffee Log into a weather report. But that’s okay because I love talking about the weather.

I talked to a middle-aged man for two hours today about logging into things online. He couldn’t remember his password. I helped him type a new one, he couldn’t remember that either. He had a snake tattoo on his bicep and one glass eye. He couldn’t be more than twenty years older than me, but twenty years makes a difference.

I have a cousin who used to chew tobacco. He might still chew tobacco but I haven’t seen him in twenty years. He came down to visit when I was in elementary and offered to buy me a videogame or a pair of sunglasses. I picked the game over the glasses and we took turns playing before my mother had finished cooking dinner. After he handed off the controller, he’d spit the chew. Gunk in a clear water bottle. It looked like late autumn leaves.

Even though the climate’s changed, we talked about weather just the same in 1993.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Look at that moon. Potato weather for sure.

Thornton Wilder, Our Town

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 99

Hi.

Coffee: House Blend, Ithaca Coffee; tasted like sugar on the first sip; tasted like old, worn yearbooks on the last

I went to Durham. No matter how much time passes or what changes, I always end up back in Durham.

The trip was nostalgic. There were some things I needed to see. Z was headed there also so we met up. We had lunch at a taco shop off Chapel Hill road. I told him to get the tamales but they were out of tamales. So it goes.

After eating, we drove downtown to park in a deck and walk under the burning summer sun to 21c. 21c is a hotel but also an art museum. A modern sort of patronage, the wealthy spending a weekend in the city, their money going partly to the arts.

The hotel used to be a bank building. I’m not sure which bank. We walked through all the upper galleries and ended up downstairs. They had the vault open. In the vault was an exhibit by William Paul Thomas, an artist I’ve met a few times. Compared to the other galleries, his wasn’t getting much traffic, probably because it was downstairs and in a vault, but his work stood out anyway. To me, the pictures said something. They were faces. Colorful. Lit on bold backgrounds. Half drowned in a washed-out blue.

When we left the museum, there was one last thing I needed to see. A couple months ago, a gas line caught fire in downtown Durham. It blew out a building right off main street. When I was a Duke student, and later when I lived and worked in the city, and even after that when I visited from time to time, I’d walk that block regularly. I’d pass the old brick buildings and ask them for shade. Or I’d check my reflection in the windows. I haven’t been back to Durham since the explosion, which took two lives. I needed to see how the block had changed.

A handfull of cutlery dropped on the way to the table – the buildings were broken apart.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller; Suzanne is a friend; she graciously lent me a copy of her work; I’m only two chapters in; each chapter has followed a different character; reading the book, so far, is like watching a movie from different camera angles; I like the first character, an aggressive cop, because I’ve known people like him; there was one line that I saved because I liked it so much and I’ll quote it here

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Never ceases to amaze me how people assume by lookin’ at you that you’re the incarnation a’ all your hopes an’ dreams.

Suzanne Crain Miller, Queen

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 49

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: 5
Come out and support the Coffee Log!

I was talking to a friend about old TV shows. Very old, cartoons. She made a joke that turned into a reference that turned into twenty minutes of wiki searches. We shared our nostalgia and felt that nice tingle you get from calling up old names. Evey generation says this – ‘Back in my day’ – but the repetition doesn’t make the feelings any less real.

There was a kid in the bank today. She was two years old, barely walking. She had a big blue pacifier and followed her mom to the teller line. When she looked at me, I waved. No reaction. She was busy with secret somethings – all those events happening a couple feet off the ground – that only a two-year-old can know.

Nine years ago, I had a flash-fire feeling I could become a father. It was early on in a love affair and our protection fell through. I remember falling asleep beside her with blurry amber fantasies. I was in and out of sleep that night. The next morning, we rushed to the CVS and got a morning-after. I was giddy when she took the pill. We went to ihop and I bought us both endless rounds of pancakes. I wasn’t thinking about what had happened, or what kind of racking the pill might have on her body. I didn’t ask. I was only thinking about myself, my own future – bright, sunny, hopelessly clear.

I think all of us are hardwired to push and pull against passing ourselves on to another generation. Everyone ends up on a different side of the tug-o-war. There’s no right, no wrong, just a frightening sense of ‘life isn’t just about me.’ You can give yourself wholly over or be in various stages of walking away. No matter what, though, you’re afraid to lose something special – slick nostalgia, saturday morning cartoons. ‘Back in my day’ only lasts until tomorrow.

Novel Count: 37,459

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.

Dr. Seuss

Coffee Log, Day 223

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; I bought the first tin of this blend when I moved to Cary a year and two months ago. Our empty apartment – I brewed you quick and hot in the morning; I had the place to myself; nothing to keep me away from simplicity.

If September wears the vintage polka-dot dress to the party, October’s got the fitted romper. She’s less rambunctious but somehow less reserved. Of all the drinks she picks a Malbec and she sits in the corner where the lit geeks congregate (and conjugate, and…) but doesn’t talk to them. She’s there for the atmosphere – or at least that’s what you’re guessing. You’ve been watching her since 8:30, everyone has, and you’re pretty sure she hasn’t left the seat.

Finally, at last call, you get the courage to start a conversation, but there’s just a hat, gloves, chapstick where she’d been sitting. She left it. She didn’t really need these things. The host is piss-drunk and his partner’s taking care of him. You let yourself out. Outside, on the curb, you look up at the building’s still-lit windows and think about October’s wire-frames. You wish you could have gone home with her, but that leaves you feeling guilty of something deep and dark. It’s a long walk to the car. For the first time since graduation, you smoke a cigarette.

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

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“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” – L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

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Coffee Log, Day 208

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; the barista said ‘Welcome to the ‘bou!’ and I said ‘Can I get a Venti?’ We were stuck in different places, trying too hard to cross each others’ wires; she had nice glasses; I never know how long you’re supposed to look someone in the eye when they’re wearing glasses.

In a Sentimental Mood – Duke Ellington; each of the few letters I’ve written in my life, I’ve written while listening to that track. I’m not writing a letter right now, the song’s on anyway. I guess you could say it’s been that kind of day.

I worked with some storytellers. Well, I worked with the same crew I often do, only today I got them telling stories. One woman’s on and on about the cold coffee she didn’t drink yesterday, still in the break-room. She’s scared it might have spoiled. I tell her coffee doesn’t go bad. She tells me her son lives in Boone, they’re getting Hurricane rain, she’s worried about landslides. I look up the coffee – “Was it black?”

“Yes,” she says, and I like her better.

“Then – like I said – it can’t go bad.” She drinks the stuff and stops bringing up her son.

Another lady does color-by-numbers on her phone, says it’s relaxing. I ask her to show me. Instead of showing me, she talks about ‘Three Kings’ Day.’

“In Puerto Rico, we don’t do Christmas, well we do Christmas, but really it’s the ‘Three Kings’ Day’ that we celebrate.” She talks a lot about what her mother cooked, the hay and water they leave under the beds to feed the Wise Mens’ camels. Then a customer comes, and afterward she shows me the app. She never makes the connection between coloring and the holiday; I don’t press her. It’s enough to know about the bright, simple things that matter.

I spent my lunch break gnawing down my Hurricane supplies, my only opened jar of peanut butter on bread. I don’t like the stuff, but it’s no good throwing it away. In between bites ‘1’ and ‘25,000,’ I was caught thinking about you. You have your hair down. You’re in the whitest January morning. There’s everything in the kitchen but you toast the oldest bread, scramble for yesterday’s butter. Our loaf has mold on the front but you shave it off. Somewhere in the house, a few generations of your blood are still sleeping. The jam is so molten it looks like you’ve cut your finger.

We eat in the temporary: an in-between home, you’re staying at your parents, I’ll be driving back to my own hometown in less than an hour. Mild southern winter; mismatched chairs.

Before I’m gone, I tell you that my breakfasts usually come pre-packed with nutrition labels, fortified bars; you say “Gross!” and kiss me goodbye. For the next few weeks, I’m buying whole breadloafs and sticks of butter. These days, it’s back to granola.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“In A Sentimental Mood, I can see the stars come thru my room.” – Ella Fitzgerald & Duke Ellington, In a Sentimental Mood

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