Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 42

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

Here’s the question: if Lucy Flores had been a man, would Biden have put his hands on her? Would he have kissed her from behind? Listen to your gut: the answer’s ‘no.’

When I was in Japan, I learned there’s a quick way to make a Japanese person uncomfortable: shake their hand when you meet them. You’d see the kids get confused and the adults blush. Pretty soon, I knew well enough to stop grabbing hands.

There’s a sanctity to a person’s skin. Literally and metaphorically it’s the barrier between yourself and the rest of the world. Different cultures have different norms about when a touch is acceptable. In America we shake hands. In much of Europe you kiss the cheek. What’s intimate in one place might be acceptable in another but regardless of where you are a touch has meaning. You’re pressing your identities together. Mixing paints.

I’ve heard a lot of arguments that Biden’s just being ‘old-school.’ I take that to mean this type of touch used to be socially acceptable. And I buy that argument, to a degree – I’m sure it was socially acceptable. But there’s a wrinkle here. Remember the question: would he have done the same thing if Flores were a man? No. There’s a gender dynamic. It’s mono-directional – you can touch the woman, but she doesn’t have the same access to you. It’s couched in power and privilege. So sure, Biden didn’t realize what he was doing, but now he’s making jokes at the fact someone pointed out his wrongs. If he didn’t get it back then, he certainly should now.

Another thing that’s going round is: but Trump! And of course Trump is worse. There are many worse men being held lest accountable than Biden. But is that a good argument to be complacent? Is that a good reason to let him off the hook?

When a demon dances at midnight it puts on a robe of flayed skin. It revels in it’s sin. But when the devil dances, it does so in the finest suit.

Basically, you should keep your eye on all the monsters, but especially the ones that hide their wickedness. You and I aren’t ever going to revel in sexual assault. But if we see that beautiful man dancing in a flawless suit, we might be tempted to try wearing it ourselves.

Novel Count: 36,338

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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So I try to be mindful, at all times, of what a difference a small human gesture can make to people in need. What does it really cost to take a moment to look someone in the eye, to give him a hug, to let her know, I get it. You’re not alone?

Joe Biden, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 31

Hi.

Coffee: Breakfast Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

There was a thunderstorm today. While it was on, I opened the windows and read a book. Isn’t that exactly what you’re supposed to do in such a situation?

I’m working my way through ‘The Sense of an Ending.’ I like it better than I had to begin with but still find it overly wrought and pretentious. Maybe it’s supposed to be. That said, being true to yourself doesn’t fix everything.

Anyway, the narrator is constantly caught up in philosophies. He and his friends pick apart life for the logical core – a tootsie pop, but with no humor. And less owls.

That all got me thinking about different intelligences. For the bulk of my life, I considered myself rational. Hell, I got a degree in Philosophy, for God’s(s) sake. To a younger me, it seemed being rational – and rationally intelligent – was key to living a good life. More than that, it was the only key. You were either someone who thought critically or you were making deep mistakes about yourself. What I was missing – and what all of western patriarchy so carefully misses – is that reason is only one small way to understand the world.

I remember having this conversation with an ex about feminism. She said one of the ways women are discounted is by being labeled emotional. Well, I knew that much, and I was on board. But she went on to say that there are these broader ways of looking at a situation – through emotional, psychological, social, etc lenses – that get completely ignored by the competitive mainstream. And by ignoring them, you exclude people who may not have been given the keys to the Castle on the Hill, but who have very real, valid, meaningful experience to bring to the table.

Anyway, the Narrator of “The Sense of an Ending” goes on and on about this girl who broke his heart. And he’s constantly trying to pick apart his memories of her to figure out who she really was and why she did some things she did. But what I think he’s missing – and maybe so is Barnes – is that a lot of action, by both men and women, is not taken like a fruit from some tree of logically consistent causality, but from any other sort of vibrant garden, whose bushes grow great branches without every caring about a things like reason or intelligibility.

Novel Count: 34,291

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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This was another of our fears: that Life wouldn’t turn out to be like Literature.

Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

Coffee Log, Day 357

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House, Office drip; the stronger you brew it the less it tastes like grass but the more it tastes like construction paper. What do you want to remember: soccer practice or kindergarten crafts?

Grammar: good, bad, or ugly? Ugly-bad, I’d say.

I’ve been swiping pictures like a fiend on Tinder. Internet dating never goes much of anywhere, but it’s an interesting addiction, like peeking in the metro windows during morning commute. Everyone’s dolled up and trying to impress each other. Or actively NOT trying, but that’s just another type of effort. I’m doing it too. We’re all peacocks. Anyway…

A lot of people put ‘good grammar = important’ on their profiles. They’re looking for people that can ‘talk,’ ‘spell,’ or ‘write’ right. I find that a little fascinating, that how you put your words together can be a metric for your desirability and worth. The same people usually use words like ‘looking for someone stable, who has their shit together.’ Ok, at least you know what you want.

I used to be someone who cared about Grammar. I’d be the kid in elementary who corrected your sentences if you said them wrong. Not a lot of people liked me, that’s for sure. I didn’t realize at the time that I was a product of something sinister: hundreds of years of history written by a ruling class.

What is ‘good’ language? In the textbooks, it’s well defined: it’s and its mean two different things, ‘good’ ain’t ‘well,’ etc. But when we’re talking under the blue February sky and you say ‘he did real good on his spelling test,’ I know exactly what you mean. So why should I care what word you used?

If you want to oppress someone, keep them away from books. Take out their tools to match an expectation of society. Don’t talk southern. Don’t talk mountain. Don’t talk black, or latin, or anything but rich white. If you say ‘y’all’ you’re ignorant. It’s selective understanding – we tell you it’s not good enough to get your point across, you’ve got to do it the right way. It’s bred in you to love yourself if you know how to comma and hate yourself if you don’t.

What a crummy view of language.

A thin black box to cram the whole world inside – no room, no air, no breath for different colors.

So anyway, I don’t judge those guys and gals that say they’re looking for a good grammared partner. I get the force of history clenching it’s fist around them. But I do swipe left.

Novel Count: 23,930

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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All my [people] talk like yo cotton picking ancestors
That don’t make us stupid, we just deeply rooted

Doctur Dot, Earthgang, Momma Said

Coffee Log, Day 299

Hi.

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

Prada makes a keychain that’s a monkey in blackface throwing its hands up. They charge $500 for it. When called out, their defense is: ‘these aren’t the real world; they’re imaginary.’ Eventually, they capitulate and make great claims about donations to black charities.

Remember: when your white grandmother told you to be polite to the black kids because they needed your help – when your 21yrold white boyfriend comes back from a semester abroad teaching math in Guinea and shows you all those pictures of him and the kids but when you ask him he just calls it ‘Africa’ and can’t remember the country’s name – that’s still racism.

I had this dream that I was talking to a demon that looked like me except he had a catfish for a head. We were on an overpass counting cars. What a lovely drunk thing to be above it all. But Your mouth is still something that feeds on the riverbed, bloated, filthy.

Novel Count: 6,268 (writing post early today, still writing on novel later)

Currently Reading: Nothing! Done with Cherry, still deciding on the next book.

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And chase hard and good and with no mistakes and do not overrun them. – Ernest Hemingway, Islands in the Stream

Coffee Log, Day 269

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

There’s a certain kind of ‘growing up’ that involves realizing your own rebellion was a major perpetrator of the social ills it was railing against. This is a story about Rock & Roll.

I grew up listening to whatever. I was that normal kid, a sponge. Then I got bullied and then I got sad and then I found a few bands that a lot of kids find like Linkin Park and Tool. Later, I found modern punk at a Bomb the Music Industry! concert. Predictable shit.

Watch any interview with Kurt Cobain and then one of Nirvana’s videos back-to-back and you’ll start to see the problem. There was this dream that rock could change the world. Some myth of Woodstock where it sort of maybe did. By the nineties, smidges of social awareness produced bands who realized that promise had been bought out by greedy record execs and they made grungey, sour songs to complain about it. I came in a little later but that culture seemed like me: grungey, sour, complaining; elevated on a white horse above the world yet somehow still an underdog; perfectly removed.

But what’s the real story? Like any kind of power, no matter how self-marginalized and contrary, it’s about suppressing the minorities. A bunch of semi-affluent white boys wield guitars and wear their microphone crowns. You’ll talk about capitalism but won’t play shows in the black or brown towns. You’ll create a groupie culture that encourages young girls – often literal kids – to drink a lot and drug a lot until they’re too unconscious to protest the ‘privilege’ of backstage assaults. There was a credible article about Tool’s frontman luring 17 yr-olds a few months ago, but that got stuffed under the rug because hey, us white boys need our heroes, right?

This all seems obvious in 2018. Rocky and divided as it is, the world woke up two years ago. Battle lines are drawn. It’s a lot harder for monsters to hide. One of the necessary casualties of progress is a war against vestige emblems of the old, bad culture. So, Rock dies. Well, it was dying already – a new wave of commoditization that makes all the big bands more a voice for club drugs and t-shirt sales than any kind of supposed protest. But now the sword hits the hypocritical core – that Rock was a movement – progressive, inclusive, a force for change – and not just the more rebellious face of patriarchy.

In his last interview before he shot himself, Kurt Cobain talks about how he tried to write a song calling out the fucked-up culture of rape in rock-and-roll – ‘Polly’ – but no-one seemed to get it and everyone seemed to love it so he wrote another song called ‘Rape Me’ to try to get it through our thick skulls. The sequel didn’t sell too well.

Novel Count: 10,152 words

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

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Polly wants a cracker
I think I should get off her first.

‘Polly’ – Nirvana


Coffee Log, Day 225

Hi.

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

Friday pushes hard brakes. The week smashes the median and things fly out: stress, joy, muddles, that clean feeling of starting something new. Now there’s just the curb and the smoking engine. It’s a busy road but no-one’s stopping. All the other cars have their own wrecks to meet.

I’m working tomorrow. I’m also driving home. I’m also, surely, going to be glued to the news, both at work and at home, to see the country put on it’s best dress as it swears in 30-40 more years of patriarchy. People will gnash teeth. Protesters will be arrested. By all indications, Kavanaugh still takes the post. Here’s a guy who spent his precious hours allotted to advocating for his competency and composure by mocking alcoholics and ranting about beer. If you cut the Capitol out of the image you could imagine him in a blue or red jersey, laughing at the tail-gate, waiting for the opposing team to leave the stands so he could smash a bottle in someone’s face. And yet we treat him like a victim, like someone owed the most prestigious legal position in the nation.

And of course he is owed. It’s his birthright: rich, straight, white man, the bleak dragon that devours us all.

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

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“After luncheon the sun, conscious that it was Saturday, would blaze an hour longer in the zenith,…” – Marcel Proust

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Coffee Log, Day 224

Hi.

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

I read a New York Times Magazine article about contemporary art. It started at a dinner table, two friends arguing about the show ‘Insecure.’ One friend liked it, the other didn’t. They both were black men.

The friend who liked it said there were no grounds to question ‘Insecure.’ It’s a TV series by and about black women in America – it’s too important as a social symbol to critique. They other guy – the author of the article – was wary. He described a world of bland dinner parties: no strife, no conflict, everyone agreeing to progressive standards, consuming media that was morally homogeneous. He said that wasn’t art.

But of course it’s complicated. Of course representation matters. There are studies coming out every day showing that kids who are given positive role models from their own race, culture, background, grow into healthier self-esteems. And there are still tremendous thumping gears churning night and day to keep the dark dream of white patriarchy vibrant, all the while actively draining color from whatever minority garden in which art or ideas might grow. Desperate times call for desperate measures. It is, in fact, ‘important’ that shows like ‘Insecure’ exist.

I met a guy in Japan who still lives there. He talked about America, about Wisconsin, about how everything was bleaker back home. He spoke fluent Japanese and knew how to party. He’d buy the seasonal chocolates at the corner store and ring the bell and clap three times at Buddhist shrines. He wasn’t Japanese but he wanted to be. I think something similar is going on with progressive art. You play an educated left-leaning American of whatever color one song by Kendrick Lamar, then one song by Young Dolph and nine times out of ten they’re picking Kendrick. Why? Because he’s able to sanitize a struggle so it’s palatable. Like Martin Luther King, Jr, he’s a great man with great words and zero blemishes, an idol, a god, in-human, unattainable, safe to aspire to because implicit in his image is the fact that you – 35, two jobs, disenfranchised by voter registration laws, behind on credit cards and paying half your income to rent, probably black but maybe even poor and white – will never get to life that life of freedom. Implicit in a blanket admiration for non-white art is the fact that these aren’t complicated, messy, people – these are fancy macaws and peacocks locked in carefully hidden cages, putting on a show for the upper class.

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

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“This version of the culture wars casts Beyoncé as the goddess of empowerment who shan’t be blasphemed. She offers herself as both deity and politician, someone here to embody and correct.” – Wesley Morris, The Morality Wars, linked here

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