Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 166

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I watched a video of an 11-yr-old crying while she told the camera her dad’s not a criminal. This was hours after her father was arrested by ICE (along with almost 700 other brown-skinned men and women in Mississippi). She was wearing pink.

Late last week there two shootings, one in El Paso, the other in Dayton. In Texas, at least, the shooter said he was aiming for immigrants. He called them an invasion. He shot a lot of people, mostly Latinos. He was white, they weren’t.

I read a review of memoir called ‘When I Was White.” The book’s by Sarah Valentine, an author raised white in a white family, but who had a black father, and was taught from day one by her white mother to detest blackness. The review goes into this idea that since the original sin of slavery, whiteness has defined itself by ‘purity,’ the one-drop rule, etc. Valentine finds herself discovering her blackness and losing her former identity in the process.

I met a man who tiles pools. He’s black, and said he has a partner who handles the marketing.

“Why?” I asked. He struck me as a grade-A businessman.

“Because I’m a big guy. And, you know. Around here, people get worried seeing someone like me knock at their door.”

I did know.

When Cortes crossed the ocean and met the Aztecs, he fancied himself a divine visitor. And over the next three years, he cut up all the brown bodies until there was no-one left to contradict him.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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A 7-year old body becomes
A monument to our excess aggression
On Sunday morning she became
An effigy to our excessive aggression
And our lack of suppression
And access to automatic weapons.

We didn’t pull the trigger
But we pulled the blinds down.

The Fucking Cops, Aiyana

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 158

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

A lady flicked me off in my office. Well, she wasn’t flicking me off, exactly, but it still sort of felt like it. We were trying to get her accounts straight. Unexpected expenses, overdraws, that sort of thing. So I try to get to know her and she’s in some kind of uniform so I ask about her job. She tells me she’s doing hotel work. She tells me that the work never stops.

“They’ve gone through three general managers in the last year.”

There’s a rough patch of skin on her neck. It looks like a series of cigarette burns. My eyes keep going for it, but I try to pull them back.

As we’re getting down to business, I go through her information – confirming correct phone numbers, addresses, that sort of thing. We come back around to talking about her job, and about her salary, and she tells me it should be five thousand higher, but her bosses keep denying her a raise. That’s when she gets angry.

“So I tell them, ‘I know what I’m doing, I don’t deserve this,’ I’m looking for another job. But I need the money so I don’t let them fire me. I just need them to get off my nut-sack.”

What I WANT to tell her is: “I’m on your side, you deserve something better, fuck a world that treats people this way,” but instead I say “Sounds real awful. Hope you find something better soon.”

Devil’s in the details, and she knows it too, because that sets her off.

“Yeah, yeah,” she says, “we’ll see.” She pulls out her fingers. She’s flicking off her third GM, the hotel, this whole horrible system that pays people less and less for their labor, doubly so if they’re a woman, and of course – rightfully – she’s flicking off the part I play in all that. Because to her, I’m just the banker who left her with ‘better wishes,’ not the soldier standing beside her on the frontlines of social change.

I hope I gave her useful advice, at least. Some help with her finances, a better outlook down the road. I want and need to believe in that possiblity, to let the belief that I can be something positive set my pillow to it’s cooler side at night. But in the end, I’m not the one to judge that.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Butter was plastered on to the roll with no regard for the hard labor of the cow.

Kate Atkinson, Life After Life

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 103

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

A dog got out downstairs and ran havoc on the other dogs at the park. It did what it was born to do – run, struggle, pick apart stiff muscle with whale-white teeth. In the end, no other pup was hurt enough for anything serious, like talk of vet violence, putting it down. But the dog was caught and brought back home. It sits on beige carpet. I know the color because all the apartments have beige carpet. At best, it can fit its front paws on the window, it’s eyes through the glass, it’s breath wet, fogging. Summer day.

I listened to a podcast about masculinity. It said ‘you don’t have to be isolated to be strong,’ and that ‘you don’t have to be tough to be a man.’ It talked about emotion and how everybody has it, a full range, every color. One of the guys says: “men in my father’s generation proved they were men by selling themselves to hard labor, something you can express only with a strong body,” and then “now those jobs are gone.”

Later today, I caught a bit of a radio show about Latina soccer players in the early 1900’s. They were considered crude and rebellious for showing strength with their bodies. Women were supposed to play games and exercise in ways that made them docile, motherly, easy to protect. Accentuate the feminine body – no muscle, all curves. Soccer was too rough for that.

Sitting at a table for a garden party together, we’re all mixed up: socialized men needing places to put their emotions out of view, tuck them under the arms of their women; socialized women, given so few outlets for their strength or independence, are coerced to oblige. Tangled. No-one notices the fisherman’s knot, catching us all, reeling in.

Right now, the dog’s probably sleeping off his busy day. He’s dreaming of damp grass and matted fur. Meanwhile, we gather ourselves around him, staring, like he’s the only animal we’ve ever seen.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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The water is a dark flower and a fisherman is a bee in the heart of her.

Annie Proulx, The Shipping News

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 61

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

Last night, I bought a bean burrito and took it home. I ate the chips first so it was twenty minutes in that I found out they’d given me steak. Black as black beans, but sour like flesh. It tasted good. I let the steak sit on my tongue a bit before spitting it out. An opportunity to remember what it’s like to live off another critter’s life.

We all make mistakes. I’ve learned to let them roll off me (well, other peoples’ anyway). The lady at the taco shop was apologizing profusely, saying how frustrating it must have been since I don’t eat meat. I told it her it was fine, it happens. It does happen.

At the end of work today, we had an irate customer. I won’t get into the details, but he left spewing profanity. I think his biggest hiccup was that my boss is a woman. He kept asking to speak with me and I kept telling him to talk to her. She kept her cool. Eventually he left and we all laughed about it. It’s sad to see the world as two separate parts, disconnected, dangerously clean.

Our temporary dog goes home tomorrow. Her owner’s here, staying the night. I was petting the dog with my door open and she ran into my room. Her owner says ‘Just let her know she needs to leave.’ I didn’t mind her in my room, didn’t mind her leaving either. Her owner called her. She sulked out then started wagging her tail again. Water rolling off your back. We all make mistakes.

Currently Reading: Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

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Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?

L.M. Montgomery

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