Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 95

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

There was a highway beside the neighborhood where I grew up. It didn’t look like a highway and everyone called it Church St. It was two lanes most places. There were many spots you couldn’t go faster than 35. But take it far enough East and you’d hit the Atlantic, far enough West and you’d be in California. It’s strange to think of that packed asphalt having the power to take you to a different time zone.

The NC DOT is currently trying to extend Interstate 540 through the southern half of the Triangle. They want it to be a beltline, something to take the edge off the traffic and accelerate peripheral growth. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it isn’t. Either way, the project involves tearing down 1800 acres of forests and buying out 209 homes with eminent domain. That’s a lot of change for a road that won’t even take you to California.

Tonight, two kids were playing on the swings at my apartment complex. The sun had gone down enough to take the edge off another hot day. The kids ran, jumped, and twisted up the swings like two steel hangs of DNA. Neither of them’s thinking of a highway, or property laws, or the Atlantic, but I wonder what this town will look like when they’re my age? What will be the ratio of neighborhoods to highways?

Currently Reading: Have picked a new book but not had the chance to start it yet; more info to come

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The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation, through experience and familiarity, of movement to place; it obeys the natural contours; such obstacles as it meets it goes around.

Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 60

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, 42 & Lawrence; I got this from a cafe on the corner of Martin and Blount streets in Raleigh, NC, not 42 & Lawrence like the name might lead you to believe; it was a small shop with a crowded bar; the barista was pretty and had yellow paint on her fingernails; after she handed me the drink, I fumbled with the lids and had to have her help me find the right one; she said “That’s what I’m here for,” which was both sad and inspiring; the coffee was fantastic – cracking open a pecan and sucking out the meat on the first day of the season.

I went downtown to swear my oath to be a notary. It was a nice trip, a bit different than the average work day.

I’ve been avoiding Raleigh for a while now. The city’s gotten slung over with techies and start-ups and there’s new stores and it’s gentrified. You see poorer people on the street corners or (at best) hustling via ubers or cabs. Everyone else is in Italian leathers.

And today Raleigh was all of that – I walked out of the courthouse passing a bride and groom getting marriage licenses, his shirt immaculate and her dress in the thousands – but it was also a bunch of heavy-set men in loose JC Penny suits, determined women wading toward a difficult future, and some young baristas finding a niche in the corporate economy to help them get by.

I liked the tall old buildings. I almost took pictures, but I was too busy looking up at them to take my phone out. Raleigh is a mess of architecture, every block a different decade, but that mess still sticks together with a sweaty southern glue. It all comes back to brick – tobacco warehouses. There’s still a vision here of hard, sad, old, labor above the first floor cafes.

It felt good being outside today. I could still taste that old panic from the weekend – decades of social anxiety bubbling up – but Raleigh is my city, my home, so it was a little easier to shove it down. There’s a contemporary art museum downtown I’ve been wanting to go to but haven’t gotten the nerve. Today was a small step toward it’s front door.

Novel Update: I’m still writing, still working almost every day, but a lot of it is reworking and tweaking directions. I’ll post a new word count once I’ve gotten back in a groove.

Currently Reading: Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

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Coffee: A beverage made by extracting the soluble solids from the seed of a tropical shrub through the use of hot water.

Menu, 42 & Lawrence website


Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 53

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

Countdown to my reading as featured author at the Third Wednesday Open Mic:
WHERE: Fig Raleigh, Raleigh NC
WHEN: 04/17/19; 6:30p.m. (open mic sign-ups start at 6:00p.m.)
DAYS REMAINING: 1
Come out and support the Coffee Log!

Tomorrow’s always a day away. This particular tomorrow, though, is a big one.

I’ll be reading as a featured author at the Third Wednesday Open mic in Raleigh, NC tomorrow (see above for details). Though I’ve been reading at open mics for over a year, this will be my first time in the spotlight. I’m excited and nervous. If you can make it, I’d love to have you in the audience.

Sometime around my third job after college, I had a theory: most of life is a performance.

I was shelving clothes back then. I was fresh back from Japan, working at a Saks Off 5th, trying to write a book. I’d get up at four in the morning and start work just before six. I’d spend seven hours stripping designer clothes out of excessive packaging.

I realized something: all these eyes were on me – customers when I was on the floor, coworkers whenever else. They looked on with entire lifetimes of expectations and would wait for me to meet them. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. I wasn’t trying to put on a show but they filmed me anyway. Prime-time TV.

These days, I lean into it. I like to act. However I act becomes a part of me. There’s this line in our society about being ‘authentic,’ but I don’t buy it. A person isn’t something you dig deep and find buried inside yourself, it’s the clothes you wear, the comb of your hair, what words you pick to say ‘I love you.’ We’re all active expressions of being. ‘Dasein,’ if I’m flirting with turn of the century Germans. What’s so surprising that those expressions might change day to day?

All of that is to say: I’m looking forward to performing for you tomorrow night. I’ll be reading some selections from the Coffee Log. Also, I’m damn terrified, so just know that if I make an utter fool of myself it was only an act – something avant garde – a kind of self-expression, intentional or not. You’ll see a different side of me the next go-round.

Novel Count: 38,047

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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But remember that in order to symbolize everything to everyone, you will be both loved and hated.

Bonnie Huie, Four Essays


Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 40

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

Two weeks from now, I’ll be reading selections from the Coffee Log at Fig Raleigh in Raleigh, NC at the Third Wednesday Open Mic as the night’s featured author. The reading starts at 6:30 and there will be an open mic afterward. It’ll be a fun time. I’ll be slightly nervous. If you’re in the area, come out and make me slightly more nervous. I promise I don’t bite.

It’s been a strange week. The weather’s been up and down, rainy and cold or hot and sunny, and I’ve been up and down with it. A see-saw with four or five raccoons on the other end, periodically getting on or off.

I’ve been waking up late. 7:30, almost time to go to work. I’ve tried setting an earlier alarm but my body doesn’t listen. It’s like my muscles are that stringy stuff you find inside a pumpkin, not tough enough to do anything, and I spend at least an hour each morning carving it out. I’d gotten on a good schedule of reading and writing in the mornings but that’s been thrown off. Maybe this is just me getting older.

‘Alabama’ was on the news today. The Justice Department is suing the state for keeping unsafe conditions in it’s prisons. I didn’t catch the details, but the lawsuit seems like good progress. All day I’ve been thinking about the word ‘Alabama.’ It sounds like old trees hanging over dirt roads.

I met this kid today at the bank. He was five, his father was opening an account. The kid wouldn’t stop talking while we were going over the opening. He found a hole in my office desk that cords come through and I told him that’s where we keep all the bank secrets. He spent the next half hour peeking inside the hole and describing the shapes of strange objects. By the end of it, I figured he must have found something even I don’t know about.

And that was my day.

Novel Count: 36,238

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.

George Orwell, 1984


Coffee Log, Day 354

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

The clouds looked like down caught in the lint trap. A little dirty, but you know they’ll be soft. A cold, remorseful sky. The trees have already started blooming flowers.

I went to The Remedy diner in Raleigh as a belated Christmas present to my mother. She’s been vegetarian my whole life and I wanted to buy her an impossible burger. The restaurant is one of those places that’s right on the verge of trying too hard to impress you with it’s apathy. The art’s all edgy and every third waitress has a bull-ring. But the food was good and everyone was nice enough. It was a fine afternoon.

And now it’s nighttime. I’ve been getting into this routine where I’m afraid to go to sleep. Once or twice a week, I’ll wake up after a couple hours in a hot panic – heart racing, head throbbing, a pudding of sweat – and then I’ll sit in that directionless terror for a while before finally falling back to sleep. I’m not sure what’s causing it. I’ve tried monitoring my diet, sticking to an exercise routine, but I can’t find a connection. And so the midnight terror has sprinkled outward like a lawn hose and I’m strung out for a few hours before bed.

But it’s not all bad. I listen to music. I talk to friends. I might wake up wasted but I’m getting extra time in the evenings. The great trick to life is to realize that nothing bad is so bad as to damn you, or if it that you probably won’t last long enough to realize it.

I’ve got a youtube channel playing calming rain sounds. I might make some tea. See you on the other side.

Novel Count: 23,209

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.

Werner Herzog


Coffee Log, Day 331

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee; back in the office after a week of off-site training; just as brown as stale wheat bread; just as oily as a nervous kid in gym class.

The dishes are piling up on my table again. I keep telling myself I’ll do something about them, but the excuses are easier than effort. I’ll get rid of them eventually. I always do.

I was talking to a guy who moved here from halfway across the country. I found myself suggesting places to go. I told him to check out Durham, to find something to eat in Raleigh, and to sleep tight in Cary. It was good advice, I thought. But it got me thinking about where I fit in to the central NC picture.

When I went to Duke, we were all afraid of Durham. There was this rumor that you’d lose a lot more than your wallet if you stepped too far off campus. And before that, when I was growing up, everywhere between Winston and Wilson seemed like a place to get away from. Turns out, it takes a lot of effort to get away from anything. And usually, those times you manage it, you end up somewhere pretty much the same as you left.

I got dinner with R at the Taco Bell. We picked it up, took it home. The guy at the drive-thru was so busy he walked away before taking R’s card. You could feel the sweet winter air hacking through our window. I was in a jacket. I almost took it off to feel the wind a little better.

As of writing this, all the dishes are still there.

Novel Count: 15,761

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

Each neighborhood of the city appeared to be made of a different substance, each seemed to have a different air pressure, a different psychic weight: the bright lights and shuttered shops, the housing projects and luxury hotels, the fire escapes and city parks.

Teju Cole, Open City