Coffee Log, Day 169

Hi.

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

Blue Raspberry lollipop – it turned your whole mouth blue. Nephew of my coworker, the women show you off. Your mom was a drinker but you changed that. Your aunt talks tense phone-calls to laughter. Your friend – another coworker – has a strong southern accent.

How will you talk in 2035? You’ve got good parents, blond hair, blue eyes, but if you’re lucky – if we’re all lucky – those marks won’t have the same cache’ they do today. Will you spend fourth grade watching that one girl from the back of class, only to grab her hand in the lunch-line and kiss it, only to tell her that means you’re married, only to tell your parents and hear them laugh it off like ‘That’s what young men do.’ Will they teach you abstinence or responsible love?

In history books, white western men sin in the 100’s, fight in the 1000’s, conquer through the 21st century; they fight, kick, scream, spill blood until their hands are sticky enough to never drop the reigns. They don’t love, except voraciously; they don’t cry, except pathetically.

You walked behind the counter to get another lolly. I was there. I said: “High Five!” You were static smiles, so much innocent joy it got stuck on me. We smacked palms then you went running. I hope I gave you something. I spent twenty years making love to ill-gotten power, the next ten making up for that. I’m still making up for that. I hope you felt: brave; storied; vulnerable; open; powerless. I was born in the twilight of western white manhood. I’m fighting daily to make sure it dies. I hope you’ll never have to look at your naked limp body in the mirror and pick it down to honest sinews, take scalding showers to wash your grandfather’s sins. I hope you get to choose a good man, an honest man, an equitable man from the beginning.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“It is strange,’ he said at last. ‘I had longed to enter the world of men. Now I see it filled with sorrow, with cruelty and treachery, with those who would destroy all around them.’
‘Yet, enter it you must,’ Gwydion answered, ‘for it is a destiny laid on each of us. True, you have seen these things. But there are equal parts of love and joy.” – Lloyd Alexander, The Black Cauldron
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Coffee Log, Day 164

Hi.

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

America taught you I’m a threat. It taught me the same thing.

I was at the Japanese Festival at the NC State Fair grounds. L invited me. Go back a couple generations and his blood’s risen-sun red. We got there early, walked the stalls. There were many American faces, all cultures, all colors. I watched the snap-crack kendo demo. I watched a cadre of kids running with a tiny paper float on their backs, memories of Yamakasa.

On the way out, we wanted treats. I got some matcha mochi with red-bean paste, shared it with L. It was wrapped in bamboo leaves and AC cold. I liked it – earthy, like the year’s first mowed lawn. L wasn’t a fan so we had extra.

Anyway, standing with L and his wife, watching a Japanese woman pound piano on stage, a girl – maybe 17, 18 – walks by and asks “Where’d you get that?” I pointed her to the dessert stand. Then she tells me her grandmother used to make mochi. She was dressed western but had Japanese ravens in her eyes.

I said: “We’ve got extra if you want it.”

She stopped. Lips open; hands closed. Eyes went so wide all the ravens flew out; she shook her head, slightly. I could see the sweat.

“Ok, cool,” I said. She walked quick and the crowd swallowed her.

I was stunned. The bright warm Saturday had changed: eyes on me, a thousand; I hadn’t planned to wear my fangs to the festival, but here they were.

Girls grow up in America surrounded by long fingers, long stares, machinations to dislodge them from themselves. “Men are predators; men are a threat.” It’s too true not to learn the lesson. Her fear is far more suffering than I’ll know, but the bedtime story warps me too. If every girl is red riding hood, every man is the wolf. I feel you stitch the claws on me; that stiff ragged tail; I don’t want these teeth, but now I have them. A few thousand years of pack-hunting womanhood like African ivory and I’m born an animal. I’m a threat, however little I want to be.

I can’t change those stories, but I’ll keep trying to write new ones.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Beauty provokes harassment, the law says, but it looks through men’s eyes when deciding what provokes it.” – Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

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Coffee Log, Day 160

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand; advertised strong, rich and dark; visions of the high-powered machos from Sex and the City; in reality, it came out rough and mellow like a rained-on kitten.

I went to Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary, NC. It’s a Tuesday, so I was expecting it to be vacant. There was a packed driveway. Kids were led around by girls in green polos, a summer camp. Lots of stay-at-home mothers. I was one of two men on the trail, adult men, and that saddened me. How many of those mothers would rather be working? How many dads would rather spend a cloudy Tuesday with their kids?

The trail snakes down a terrace of plank paths and risers. It’s well marked, educational. The bluffs were covered in ferns. It’s easy to trick yourself into thinking you’re a few hundred miles west in the Appalachians. The drops are steep, valley’s unknowable. I’ve been to Hemlock Bluffs two times before, once with friends and once with a lover. In my memory, it’s always cloudy. The trail goes fast on the way down. It burns your calves on the way up.

Last day of vacation, last day of July, the dog-hot days of summer. My neck and arms are pricked by tiny bug-bites. Cicadas are singing in the pines. Twenty years ago, my mom would yank me to Roses right about now, shopping for pencils, paper, big stashes of things a kid only ever uses half of through the school year. The scared sweat of meeting rooms full of people, of stacking black letters beside your name. I miss it sometimes, playing the academic game. You’re a specific kind of ‘free’ when teachers and parents tell you what to do.

On the way out the park, I walked by an open door. The conservancy was buzzing; big plastic tables; a full class of just-past-toddlers sorting sticks and leaves. I hope their mothers are happy working, hope their fathers pick them up. To the kids, it won’t matter for another couple decades – right now, all they need to know is which leaf is from the birch tree, which stick fell off the tallest pine.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“There’s always a bit of suspense about the particular way in which a given school year will get off to a bad start.” – Frank Portman, King Dork

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Coffee Log, Day 140

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand; I know I’m getting boring. I’ve been busy, my checkbook’s been busy. I’ll try something new this weekend!

Two black women come into the branch. Mother and daughter, the girl’s in high school. We talk about the heat, AC. Mom needs to open a business account. She goes to our manager’s office. Daughter sits on one of our froofy chairs and checks her phone.

Afterwards, three fat white men come in. They’re regulars. “Hey!” my colleagues say, brightly. First guy’s got a deposit. He’s pink as insulation. His head’s bald. He talks about the shave. He shaves his head often, sometimes his girlfriend does it. Last time she shaved for him, she rubbed raw and left some scabs. He waves his hands big. He doesn’t smile. “Almost hit her with the pine switch,” he says.

I’d been listening. I’d been smiling. And I didn’t say a damn thing to him.

Given my position, I don’t know whether or not I should have – customers, etc. I did glare at him. He caught that, we both looked away. I felt bad for the girl. I looked at her too. We were both too confused to sit our eyes together long. I kept to myself after that. When the men left, I didn’t know what to say. When the women left, “Have a good one,” was the best I could come up with.

Anyway, that’s growing up a girl in America: come to the bank with your mother to celebrate her success, hear strange men laughing about gender violence.

We’ve all got to do better.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“Yes, we love the good men in our lives and sometimes, oftentimes, the bad ones too- but that we’re not in full revolution against the lot of them is pretty amazing when you consider this truth: men get to rape and kill women and still come home to a dinner cooked by one.” – Jessica Valenti, Sex Object: A Memoir

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Coffee Log, Day 75

Hi.

Coffee: Organic Bolivian Blend, Trader Joe’s brand

I put down a book and decided not to pick it up again. ‘The Pardoner’s Tale’ wasn’t doing it for me. The writing’s fine but the story is too familiar. A divorced man takes vacation in a Welsh town by the sea. He sets himself canoeing. One afternoon, he happens on a damsel in distress by the shore – standing by a red car as it’s about to be swept out with the tide – and picks her up. They head back to his home and he sleeps with her. There’s all sorts of overtures about how she’s the one who comes on to him but she still cries and then she leaves the next morning and he still follows. The notion that sexual assault is simple as ‘direct force’ is dangerously antiquated. Men are given power by society. There’s a necessary responsibility in how to use it.

Long story short, I’m sick – with emphasis – and tired of books about men chasing women.

Don’t take this the wrong way – I’m all for fiction to hit grimy subjects. But ‘The Pardoner’s Tale’ seemed to be a blind advocate of creepiness. On to the next one.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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“Thank God I found the GOOD in goodbye” – Beyonce

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