Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 154

Hi.

Coffee: Pike Place, Apartment Lounge Blend

I met a kid in a park outside The Parlour in Durham. Some friends were getting ice cream but ice cream doesn’t sit with me. So I was sitting down on a deck-chair listening to the lone saxophone player, and watching the courting couples, enjoying a breeze, when this kid walks past me and we look at each other. I nod, he nods, that sort of thing. He’s 18. He says: ‘What’s your name?’ so I tell him. Putting my name in his pocket, he tells me he’s got a magic trick.

Nighttime brings different colors to a city. The trick wasn’t anything special, but he did it with flair. He’s been practicing magic since he was 14. He comes to the park every Saturday for an audience. He does stand-up, too, impressions, and went off loudly on a Spongebob. It was bravely awkward and I congratted him for it.

Before leaving, he took one more trick from me. A number game, adding and subtracting, guessing what I’ve got. For the final flourish, he waved his hand in front of me. “I’m just taking something from you,” he says. “It’s just one thing, though, so you won’t miss it.” A minute later, he guesses the number. We shake hands and go our separate ways. Now, though, I’m wondering what I gave to him, and where he’ll go with it. It was just one thing, I doubt I’ll miss it; but I hope it was something good.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.

J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Coffee Log, Day 186

Hi.

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

The last day of five days vacation. I spent it – mostly – walking.

I took a hike in Hemlock Bluffs. It was a hot day, sticky enough to fix every little this-or-that to you. Sun, sweat, text-message chains. The trails were steep and set with wooden overlooks. There was red creek water, gray mayflies, blurry green. Cicadas held the woods like a defending army. I passed a lot of people on the trails but still felt alone.

I took a hike around the neighborhood. Familiar trails, still morning. Shade cut currents on the concrete and it was good to be swimming, even metaphorically. Mulch got in my shoes. Sticky steps. Life is full of reminders of the sun, sweat, text-message chains.

A kid on a back porch practices trumpet. School starts next week. I remember old days playing cello for parent-proud auditoriums. I’d practice in the bedroom, my floor was linoleum, paintings and bookbacks held their ears. For a few years I’d record myself on a black cassette player. I’d count flaws on the playbacks. On stage, I’d hide flaws in my cummerbund. Sticks in your tummy, reminders of everything waiting after the music: sun, sweat, text-message chains.

In 2018, you do a lot of living through fiber wire; the park might be all around you but you’re still dug in the airwaves, conversing electrically.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich; FINISHED!! Will have a review soon

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“No sound, once made, is ever truly lost. In electric clouds, all are safely trapped, and with a touch, if we find them, we can recapture those echoes of sad, forgotten wars, long summers, and sweet autumns.” – Ray Bradbury, Now and Forever
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Coffee Log, Day 158

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema

I went to see the Wirligigs in Wilson. For those that don’t know, Vollis Simpson – a Wilson County native – spent his retirement creating massive metal whippets and doodads, colorful, wind-catching, made to sparkle and spin. He was a farmer by birth, soldier by necessity, and mechanic by trade. Before his death, people were buying his whirligigs and sticking them in art museums.

The park was flat ground with an amphitheater, not all that big. The Whirligigs sat around like old dogs surviving summer. Though it was cloudy, there wasn’t much wind and not much was spinning. I walked one full circle of the park, passing three old couples and two women holding hands. It was ghost-quiet. Around us, old brick buildings squatted in differing states of disrepair.

I left the park. I drove through the city, I wanted to see the place that inspired Simpson’s work. I saw a lot of dilapidated houses and chipped paint. There was a big bright BB&T building, but even it looked worn. A wooden train station was packed with people who didn’t have the time to think about appearances, slumped on old benches, struggling to find shade in the holey awning. Across the tracks, police courted a black neighborhood.

Wilson is the unspoken truth of America. She’s put the prom dress down, wiped the make-up away, closed the door on media suitors. She’s not the pastoral daisy of the Right or the verdant commune of the Left. She’s not a hard-working town, a bustling city, the techy suburbs. She’s a place that had it’s prime fifty years ago, one perfect dance under the starlight. Now it’s morning.

There was art everywhere in the City. Black murals on black churches; a series of photographs that caught glints of Civil Rights. According to the census, Wilson is an almost even split white and black. Driving around, all the white faces popped up around the suburbs, the city-center was all black. There were newer buildings in the suburbs, better roads, but it’s one claim to culture was the catch-all of a bloated Wal-Mart. In that way, Wilson is also America: white men and women cling to money whispering into it a faded, fifty-year dream; meanwhile, minorities wrestle with the deck stacked against them after all this time. We voted well in the 60’s, but no-one’s ever learned how to talk to each other. A fractured past, two trauma’s separated by train-tracks, forgotten in a world that sold it’s shipping overseas.

Simpson’s sculptures didn’t do much for me when I was standing under them, but they made more sense after my drive through the city. They were brilliant, vibrant, but sterile. Some moved limply, others simply wanted to move. As a young man, Simpson fought in WWII; he came home to watch the world change. In all substantial ways, America looks better – even in 2018 – than she had in the prime-time years of the 50’s. But the reckoning took a toll. Some of us – those lucky by birth, money, skin, whatever – live on the cutting edge future. The rest of America is Wilson – a beautiful post-depression, grappling with the grief of knowing what precious looks like but never knowing how to open her hands wide enough to hold it.

Tall wild metal, spinning and spinning.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“I guess it’ll just rust and fall down when I’m gone.” – Vollis Simpson, interview in the New York Times from 2010

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