Coffee Log, Day 179

Hi.

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

1:00pm, before all last night’s clouds are gone, I sit outside. I’m reading LaRose. The book’s worked me over. I know Snow and Josette; I’m afraid of Landreaux; Romeo reminds me of the old man who got evicted down the street from my parents, though a few decades younger.

I made a batch of E’s barley tea and let it take the edge off summer. She’d swept the deck but left the spiders. They baby their eggsacs, welcome the corners. A crane fly sits on the glass door behind me. Can’t figure out how to get inside, or maybe can’t accept it’s never going to.

Twenty, thirty pages… kids are carefully rambunctious by the creek, school starts next week, fall takes the bark out of the dog days of summer. Occasionally, I look across our building at other decks, stacked like cardboard. Our third-story neighbor has made a mess. Shelves collapsing under boxes. Six potted cactus. A menagerie of dreamcatchers that probably smell like last night’s rain. Put too many things together and you can’t tell what’s what.

Sometimes, I wish I could have obsessions. I’ve tried collecting: beer bottles; plastic models; foreign currency. Lost a lot of it, packed the rest. Instead, my apartment’s got bare white walls and a bursting schedule – if I’m not working, I’m thinking about the next best way to work.

Accomplishment – the trick, I’ve learned, is that you never get there. That perfect soft hand you fell in love with in first grade, running track, two to three steps and always behind. When they bury my neighbors, some son or daughter will take detailed notes on graph paper about this and that cactus, vibrant wall-hangs, store-bought stories.

What sorts of things will be left to make sense of me?

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“I would like to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I would like to be that unnoticed and that necessary.” – Margaret Atwood

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Coffee Log, Day 163

Hi.

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

She says she’s running the Libertarian ticket for county treasurer; says the Repub incumbent has been embezzling. She says she believes in Capitalism when it works, Socialism when it works, but it never works so she wants small government. Tomorrow, she’ll canvass for a different Libertarian. I tell her I knew a guy at Duke who repped the party, she didn’t recognize the name. Things change. Politics changes. She grew up in Apex and ran the list of all the small businesses she’s watched close.

I’m working a corner of Cary I didn’t know existed. It’s way West, way North, close to Morrisville. There’s a McDonald’s, a dry cleaner’s, a local Mexican chain. It rained all day. New roads – and these were new – look pewter in a storm. I got caught in it taking lunch at the Mexican. A white guy went by on bicycle. He was making laps. He was five years my junior. He looked like someone who was promised a whole lot and given a little less.

I talk to a biker who’s going to Ireland. Says it rains here, rains there, who gives a… His son’s getting married. Expensive wedding. I talked to another father who’s going to Paris. His son plays soccer international, has a game against a world-class club. Son’s 19, dropped out of college for this. Dad says he turns his friends down for parties, hasn’t had a drop of alcohol. Dad says he started a dream at 7 and now he kicks the ball. “That dedication is what I’m proud of, not the sport.”

She says she’s engaged, says her fiance’ works retail, says they’re worried but not too worried. A pretty couple, lip-locked under tip-cupped summer thunderstorms. Free like the runoff; small government.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Here beyond men’s judgments all covenants were brittle.” – Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

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Coffee Log, Day 135

Hi.

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

The rain took the heat away, then the rain went away too; packed-up houses. I took my daily walk in the space it left.

Tonight, I saw: a new family. The mother and father were both taller than me; their son was twig-high. He was toddling, dressed in a red tee. They held both his hands when he needed it. The three walked the parking lot searching for sticks and acorns. He picked one; he wasn’t satisfied.

“They’re better by the playground,” Dad says.

“Yeah,” says the toddler.

There’s a bend in the neighborhood that obscures oncoming traffic. The rain washed the tires of an SUV loud enough for me to dodge. My downstairs neighbor drove by. She waved. In her wake, I saw a mother and daughter slogging toward recycling. Mom was stern. She had handfuls of wood and cardboard. Her daughter was sterner. She pulled a pink wagon full of broken boxes.

Trees look best in a storm; your first love coming out the shower. I snapped a few pictures, even the sewers looked nice.

At the dog park, wet fluffs were yapping. They had death in their lungs but cuddles everywhere else. Their owners chatted across the fence. The dogs weren’t happy. Both were fat, still hungry.

The last stretch goes by the office, the pool, there’s a deck that’s always open and a guy in a dark armchair who’s always watching TV. We see each other often but look away when our eyes catch.

I took the new bridge across the stream. I saw the family again, only the Dad and son this time. I waved. Dad waved. The kid ran circles, he was scared of me; I’m no stick, no acorn. I said “Hi Hi!” to red shirt, folding my best paper-plane smile.

“Say hello,” said Dad.

“No!” said his son.

He ran away to find more fairies. I wasn’t hurt; summer storms are enticing company.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“I’m tryna get high as I can.” – Future, Hate the Real Me

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Coffee Log, Day 125

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Ethiopian Medium Dark, Harris Teeter Brand

There’s nothing quite like a summer rain. Big bank of clouds – hold me, have me, swallow me.

I almost touched a gorilla once. I was at the zoo. The gorilla was an alpha, a silverback. He was at the glass and who knows what he was thinking. There were loud families. I was three. I breathed on the glass and fogged it up. I put my hands out and then he put his hands out and we palmed together, just the glass to separate. A couple years ago, they shot a gorilla for doing a little bit more.

I imagine the silverback would have done more if he had the option. Mammal blood is violent. Millions of years ago – when the earth was upending, dinosaurs dying – our rat ancestors got by on snatched eggs and caught bugs. White teeth, bristles, snarling. We’re not too far from that. So I’ve got no illusions that the magic was held in place by a few inches of stiff glass. When my mother tells the story, lovingly, she sees the perfect days of the ’90’s, hot blessed summers, Berlin’s wall fallen and a bunch of plexiglass put in its place.

A few decades on, the walls have gone up again. The Supreme court has voted for prejudiced immigration policies; the HHS is stalling on family reunification. We see each others’ thin whiskers and starved eyes; scarce water in a desert we’re all too eager to spill blood over.

But there’s nothing quite like a summer rain. Big bank of clouds – hold me, have me, swallow me; drive sixty by Jordan lake; windows down, peat odor; the sun’s silver back has the water and there’s only the car, the road, the small bank between us. Magic is made in men and women’s hands, but you have to trick yourself to hold it.

Currently Reading:

History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund (2017 Man Booker Prize Shortlist)

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“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” – The Walt Disney Corporation

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Coffee Log, Day 98

Hi.

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

I went to Durham. The city’s like a cicada to me – a bunch of husks. Beautiful, vibrant husks that keep growing, year after year. Let me list a few:

1) 5 years old; my parents took me to the Natural Science Museum. We went in the maze, played with tornadoes and took the Dinosaur Walk. The statues were chipped back then, I think they’ve replaced them. I liked the chipped statues. They were real and magical with their plaster spots and busted noses.

2) My first four years of adulthood were spent at Duke; Durham was a big smooshy bubble. I’d touch it and bounce back. Duke was my city for a long time. Eventually, I dated a girl who lived in Charlotte and took trains every week to see her. I walked to the station. The city came alive for five minutes each way. Passing bars in Brightleaf, it felt like everyone was looking at me.

3) I loved you for a year, Durham, a feverish awful love; I lived in a one-bedroom by Southpoint and knew your manicured side – PF Changs; fancy retail. I asked you to settle me then and you said no. I hated you for a while then I realized you were right to deny me. I’m glad you made me go away, Durham.

4) Commuting from a different city, I taught your children; well, I tried to. They taught me more: patience, honesty. The kids in North Durham knew life like a kaleidescope and occasionally they’d let me look through with them. If any of them remember me, I hope they see me as someone who tried.

5) August 18th, 2017 – we stood together in blood-hot sun. We thought the KKK were coming. They weren’t happy that your bravest hearts killed their statue. In the end, the KKK didn’t show, but Durham sure as hell did. Women and men organized, made a movement. I gave my body to be counted but mostly I just listened. Since that day, I’ve tried to hold myself accountable to my own power – the freedom it gives me, the fear to use it. Durham, I’m trying to be better for you.

6) Last night you showed me wet streets and wet plants and full crisp pints at Fullsteam and you gave me a place to live honestly, breathe openly, and look for loose ends in life I haven’t pulled yet.

Thanks.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

“I have no house only a shadow. But whenever you are in need of a shadow, my shadow is yours.” – Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano

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Coffee Log, Day 28

Hi.

Coffee: Guatemalan Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I watched the rain hit the tin roof of the gazebo. I woke up thinking about my uncle. He had a heart attack a few months ago and just had another. They put a defibrillator in his chest. I haven’t talked to him. I don’t really know him.

It’s easier to survive independently than at any other point in human history, at least if you can snag a chunk of the first world. There’s so much infrastructure built up over centuries of struggling. You can sit in a room – alone – and comfortably control your climate. You can ship groceries to your door. More and more people work from home. Solutions to age-old problems.

When I look at the tin roof, I feel out-of-step. That rain looks cold. A lot colder than it is inside.

Currently Reading:
Tar Baby, Toni Morrison

““I think that the world should be full of cats and full of rain, that’s all, just cats and
rain, rain and cats, very nice, good night.” – Charles Bukowski

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