Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 28

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee; we got a new coffeemaker at the office. It’s a big red 12-cup Mr. Coffee. It brews 3x as fast as our old machine and the cups come out without the skunk of brewing pots for years with minimal cleaning. It’s got less character, more quality. I like it well enough. My favorite part is it’s got a function to brew ‘stronger’. It puts the same amount of water in the cup, so I can only assume it’s upping the pressure to get more out of the grounds. The cheap Maxwell stuff tastes a bit better this way. However, my colleagues have had the jitters.

A long, productive day. So long and so productive I don’t have much energy to talk about it. Instead, I’ll talk about English classes:

I read an article about how small colleges are cutting their English Major. There’s competing thoughts on this: some people moan, others cheer. Regardless, the courses are getting cut primarily due to lack of enrollment. The students themselves don’t want to bother with Brit Lit. And who can blame them? In an economy where it costs you more than a mortgage to get a degree – and where there’s no guarantee of a good job just for having one anymore – who but the inherited wealthy can afford to spend four years studying something with no economic value?

Thankfully, you don’t need an English Major to appreciate good English.

Here’s a secret – people read more now than at any other point in human history. By many magnitudes, even. Where once reading and writing were prized skills of an upper class concerned only with the luxuries of power, now everyone can read, more or less, and not thanks to school (which doesn’t teach you anything, take it from a former teacher) but to the preponderance of lives lived predominantly through social media. We read each other’s identities on the daily. We consume news, art and entertainment in 250 word bites.

Some might scream: where’s the grammar? where’s the spelling? Woe to the death of cursive! But whether they realize it or not, all those things – the normalized trappings of the English language – belong in a museum. A deeply complicated, darkly revealing museum about human oppression. Why do black Americans have a different dialect than the mainstream? Because their white oppressors wouldn’t let them read or speak ‘proper.’ And so on and so on, ad infnitem.

So what I’m saying is: there may still be some value in an English Major, but if there is one, it’s primarily as a historical study of insidious oppression.

God bless twitter. I ❤ u all

Novel Count: 31,808

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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After three years of English at Cambridge, being force-fed literary theory, I was almost convinced that literature was all coded messages about Marxism and the death of the self. I crawled out of the post-structuralist desert thirsty for heroines I could cry and laugh with. I was jaded. I craved trash.

Samantha Ellis, How to Be a Heroine


Coffee Log, Day 305

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; simple, classic stuff. I had a talk with the barista about holiday travel. She’s headed three hours in heavy traffic after the sun goes down. But when she talked about getting home, her eyes lit up like high-beams. It was the warmest cup of coffee I’ve had in a while.

I got up and shaved and took a shower even though it’s a Sunday. I wanted to get ready for something, though I hadn’t worked out exactly what.

I drove to the Caribou for coffee and lemon bread for breakfast, took it home, and instead of setting up my spoils in the single room that’s mine in this shared apartment, I took the food to the dining room where we’ve got two picture windows that let whatever light in. It was still early, not quite nine, I was the only one awake. I ate the pastry and sipped the Americano. I read a book a friend had given me. Slowly, the sun crept up in the window and got hot on my neck. It was a simple, lovely morning. For once, I didn’t check the time.

And so Sunday rolled out like an old carpet. Christmas is coming, I’m starting a new position at work tomorrow, but that’s all just birds on the horizon diving for the ocean – I was comfortably on shore today.

I finished the book and started another. I pulled out an old laptop that my mother gave me (mine died a while ago) and got some writing done. Like things you’re pinning to a clothesline, my roommates came in and out. L came over. We talked and played a couple rounds of Mario Party. When the sun was setting, I had dinner with R at this Mexican joint before he headed home.

Holidays are buzz and bustle. But they’re also time to take the batteries out of the clock. I’ve been running a lot lately – sometimes in the most literal sense – and it was nice to have a day to settle down.

Novel Count: 7,442

Currently Reading: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, Kabi Nagata; A short manga, a gift from a friend; direct and emotional; a catalogue of depressive tendencies; endearing; pink and white art, overly cute, intentionally so; so specific it became universal. I recommend it.

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Now this relaxation of the mind from work consists on playful words or deeds. Therefore it becomes a wise and virtuous man to have recourse to such things at times.

Thomas Aquinas


Coffee Log, Day 205

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s

I don’t write particularly well when I’m drunk. I don’t do much of anything particularly well when I’m drunk. That said, I’m drunk.

I sat on the porch and re-read ‘Hear the Wind Sing,’ Haruki Murakami’s first novel. The storm was raging, my neighbors were chatting on the deck below me, and for a short while a latina in a gray tee bounced happily up-and-down on the third floor across from my apartment. She was pretty. She waved at someone else. All of us watched the creek surging like a well-fed boar.

In such circumstances it felt unconscionable not to have a drink. I drove to the nearest gas station. Far as I could tell, no trees were down, but the road was messy with leaves. It was warm, I listened to a collection of leaked Young Thug b-sides. What traffic there was was moving fast and with a purpose.

At the gas station, I bought a six-pack of Negra Modelo and the guy recognized me so I wasn’t carded. A few weeks ago, I told a Tinder date that the first beer I drank was Negra Modelo.

“Wow, pretty extreme for a first beer,” she said.

She was a pretty girl, sociologist, almost-professor, who spent the date talking over me and looking at a point somewhere on my forehead, never in the eye. There was no chemistry but I asked her out again anyway. “There was no chemistry,” she said. Hard to argue.

In all honesty, I gagged on Negra Modelo the first time I tried it. I was a Junior in college. I’d just turned 21. I went to the Armadillo Grill on campus – the only place with a bar – and ordered the drink with dinner. They gave me an open bottle. You weren’t supposed to take alcohol out of the bar but I was so nervous – so wrapped up in dreams of what the beer might do to me – that I tore foil off my chicken tacos and capped the drink. I stuffed it in a hoodie pocket and walked out, sweating the whole way home. Afterward, I played Call of Duty and drank half the beer. I called my girlfriend at the time – a short social worker who’d go on to get drunk one December years after we’d broken up and invite me over – and said I hated it. She was disappointed. S liked to drink.

‘Hear the Wind Sing’ holds up on a second pass, just as I’m sure it holds up on a third. It reminds me of The Tatami Galaxy – light, short, funny, heartbroken – it’s no surprise I’m in love.

When the latina waved I almost waved back. I would have liked to have invited her over, given her some of this six-pack to help me finish it. In a storm, anything’s possible. When the rain stopped, though, she disappeared.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“The Rat’s novel had two good things about it. First, there were no sex scenes; second, no one died. Guys don’t need any encouragement – left to themselves, they still die and sleep with girls. That’s just the way it is.” – Haruki Murakami, Hear the Wind Sing

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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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