Coffee Log, Day 255

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

There’s a YouTube channel I’ve gotten into the habit of plastering the background of my days with. I read an article about it a couple months ago: a live stream, lo-fi electronic music, animated loop of a girl writing notes with her cat beside her. There’s somewhere in the ballpark of 5,000 people tuned in at any given time. A chat runs on the side. People ask each other’s ages, nationalities. Because it’s the internet, people sometimes tear at each other for their ages, nationalities. Old men try talking to young girls. But mostly I don’t see that sort of stuff here. A second ago, someone posted: “Type ‘c’ in chat if you wish you were this girl’s cat.” Now the log is full of ‘c’s’.

ChilledCow is the channel, if anyone’s interested.

I grew up in the ’90’s. Like everyone else of the era, I got fed this line that the internet would be this grand replacement of our public spaces. The clued-in kids were living lives on message boards. Fresh out the cold war, you could have casual conversation with a Russian and feel like maybe we aren’t so different after all.

For the most part, it didn’t go that way.

There are all sorts of communities on the net but they’re far from open. Subreddits on subreddits, you can get a group of like-minded mouths to build your echo-chamber. Step outside those boxes into something more public? Everything’s an ad or an assault. Meanwhile, brick and mortar America is dismantled, and the public spaces – the parks, the malls, the old downtowns – are stripped for expensive condos or parking decks.

I’m a part of this, or course. I go from work to home and back again. I don’t often have the thick skin for getting lost in the desolate unknown. But I wonder how we’ll know each other in fifty years? Gummy lips gone to atrophy.

So anyway, that’s why I think tiny public places like ChilledCow’s channel are precious.

Novel Count: 4,096 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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“Places matter. Their rules, their scale, their design include or exclude civil society, pedestrianism, equality, diversity (economic and otherwise), understanding of where water comes from and garbage goes, consumption or conservation. They map our lives.” – Rebecca Solnit, Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics

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Coffee Log, Day 102

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s brand; It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even taste it; well, you don’t taste air either…

A disproportionate amount of my richest memories involve walking. I say ‘disproportionate’ because only a sliver of my life has had much to do with the act. To be clear, I don’t mean the dotted-line walking we all participate in on occasion – the zigs and zags from our car doors – but rather the intentional sort of walk where your body’s motion is the goal.

Tonight, I walked around our apartment after the rain. The stream has gotten gorged and you can see the fishes swimming. It was bright enough but twilight cast everything bronze. The streetlights had nice reflections on the puddles.

I took two important walks in Japan, the combination of which became my first novel. One was intentional and the other less so. The first walk led me through Fukuoka at bleak midnight as we waited for Yamakasa. I was led by the hand of a quiet, clever, fierce Japanese woman who got headaches when she spoke English for too long. The night passed through me like electric coils. I came out the other end, but I hardly recognized myself.

The second walk found me after an impromptu doctor’s appointment. I’d taken the train from Munakata to Fukuoka to visit an international clinic. There were strange white spots on my arm where the hair had lost it’s color. I was terrified, particularly as I was about as far as one could get from the comforts of home. It was a quick visit; the doctor billed me eighty dollars for one word: ‘vitiligo.’ Harmless but defacing, I realized I would only be getting whiter, and suddenly I saw myself a caricature of my white, southern heritage. When the train got me back in Munakata it was too late and the buses had stopped running. I walked three miles on vacant highways as the night hid me from myself. I was met by one runner, a few trucks, and civilizations of crickets.

Every summer, around this time, I dream about Japan. The place left it’s mark in me, though I hardly dented it. I miss the heat, the forests, the mountains, the people – a few people in particular, though they’ve left the country for their own horizons. But the walks came with me. You can take off your shoes but the skin’s still there.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

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“Walking . . . is how the body measures itself against the earth.” – Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

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