Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 246


Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I was out to dinner and had a glass of tequila but I would have rather been drinking mezcal. Something with a story to it. Caught up in the lime lights of my glass, all my friends talking, and I didn’t want to hear any of it.

I’ve been trying to reset my schedule. I’ve been waking up earlier, pushing back the hours. Bedtime, though, isn’t budging. I get under the covers at 9:30 and I’m restless, or something comes up. Last night I dreamed about college. Old as I am now and back in it, taking chemistry classes, skipping all the lectures, worried I’ll fail the tests. A classic dream. Driving back from the restaurant, my friend said he’d also had it. We were in the same classroom, I guess. We’d had the same pressures. Closer in those dream-time labs than reality.

It’s a cold night. Maybe I’ll feel better once I find the covers.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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

And in the town too were innumerable white cantinhas, where one could drink forever on credit, with the door open and the wind blowing.

Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 90


Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

I only know one language. Sometimes, I wish I knew more.

In elementary there was this Spanish teacher. She came around to classes once a week. I liked her because she was pretty and paid attention to me. My parents liked her because I was doing well in class. I don’t know the mechanics of it, but they worked something out where she’d tutor me after school twice a week. I might be getting the numbers wrong, but that’s what it felt like.

Anyway, I didn’t learn any Spanish. I knew some words, but that’s it. I don’t remember what we studied, or any of the extra lessons I did. Instead, I remember this one time she and I helped set up a buffet for some kind of open house. I stole a couple pigs-in-a-blanket. I’d never had them. She thought that was funny, or at least my nine-year-old mine thought she did. I remember feeling good about the stealing, and about being alone in this big school with my teacher, like I’d gotten one over, like I was an important part of the world.

She taught me how to say pig in Spanish. I remember her teaching it to me, but don’t remember the word.

Currently Reading: NOTHING! will pick a new book soon

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

They had chains which they fastened about the leg of the nearest hog, and the other end of the chain they hooked into one of the rings upon the wheel. So, as the wheel turned, a hog was suddenly jerked off his feet and borne aloft.

Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

Coffee Log, Day 180


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

The light-switch by my bedroom door is crooked. Tilted left. Hadn’t noticed it, now I can’t un-notice it. It’s the little things, man…

Lots of kids coming in for textbook money. Big deposits, the college arcade game nickel and dimes you. Some of them have parent’s cash. I see the white SUV’s idling outside, a father in pink polo, mother in aviators, alone long enough to consider if those thousands will go anywhere past a frat’s doubledoors. When I ask the kids, most say they’re going into liberal arts.

Then there’s the workers: leaner than the well-to-do, coming in bright red suspenders, flour-stained shoes. They’ve been saving three months of tips while living off Ramen. When I ask, most of them say they’re going into business.

I see a few high-school seniors. School starts next week, they’re wide-eyed. They do their best to sound almost-eighteen, almost ready to stamp a ballot, smoke tobacco, shoot or die for our endless occupations in the Middle East – but they never look you in the eye. We cut checks for fast food or baby care. Sometimes, we talk college. Most of them say they’re hoping to be doctors.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“Some people get an education without going to college. The rest get it after they get out.” – Mark Twain


Coffee Log, Day 162


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

I talked about education today. My coworker has three kids, all in school. Two take band and the third just got signed on the cheerleading team. There were a few facts that caught me:

Band dues are $400 yearly; compared to other Wake County schools, that’s considered cheap.

According to their pediatrician, cheerleaders have about as many concussions as football players; they get teeth knocked out; they miss weeks of school. However, there’s no protective gear for cheerleaders. There also aren’t many cheerleading scholarships.

What these facts tell – as plainly as a Hemingway short – is that music isn’t for the poor and safety and respect are subsidiary to beauty.

My coworker’s single. She doesn’t make that much more than me. She works four Saturdays a month, extra shifts. She showed me a powerpoint her son made arguing his case for a cell phone. It was perfect – not persuasive, just innocent. He doesn’t see the long bills his mother sweat-pays.

At 10:00, my coworker tells me she’ll be taking lunch late, mid-afternoon. I say “Won’t you be hungry?” She says “Well, I’ve got to get my daughter to practice.”

Remind me what the ‘public’ is supposed mean when we stick it next to ‘education?’

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“But I weather the storm, I’m a lightning streak.” – Lil Wayne, That’s All I Have


Coffee Log, Day 160


Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand; advertised strong, rich and dark; visions of the high-powered machos from Sex and the City; in reality, it came out rough and mellow like a rained-on kitten.

I went to Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve in Cary, NC. It’s a Tuesday, so I was expecting it to be vacant. There was a packed driveway. Kids were led around by girls in green polos, a summer camp. Lots of stay-at-home mothers. I was one of two men on the trail, adult men, and that saddened me. How many of those mothers would rather be working? How many dads would rather spend a cloudy Tuesday with their kids?

The trail snakes down a terrace of plank paths and risers. It’s well marked, educational. The bluffs were covered in ferns. It’s easy to trick yourself into thinking you’re a few hundred miles west in the Appalachians. The drops are steep, valley’s unknowable. I’ve been to Hemlock Bluffs two times before, once with friends and once with a lover. In my memory, it’s always cloudy. The trail goes fast on the way down. It burns your calves on the way up.

Last day of vacation, last day of July, the dog-hot days of summer. My neck and arms are pricked by tiny bug-bites. Cicadas are singing in the pines. Twenty years ago, my mom would yank me to Roses right about now, shopping for pencils, paper, big stashes of things a kid only ever uses half of through the school year. The scared sweat of meeting rooms full of people, of stacking black letters beside your name. I miss it sometimes, playing the academic game. You’re a specific kind of ‘free’ when teachers and parents tell you what to do.

On the way out the park, I walked by an open door. The conservancy was buzzing; big plastic tables; a full class of just-past-toddlers sorting sticks and leaves. I hope their mothers are happy working, hope their fathers pick them up. To the kids, it won’t matter for another couple decades – right now, all they need to know is which leaf is from the birch tree, which stick fell off the tallest pine.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“There’s always a bit of suspense about the particular way in which a given school year will get off to a bad start.” – Frank Portman, King Dork


Coffee Log, Day 132


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

Kid comes in about 3:00pm, high school, blonde as tangerines, online banker looking this-that-way at the old branch walls. She stops at the slips. She picks up a pen and puts it back down.

“What can I do for you?”

It’s existential, really; her forehead creases; I try smiling more.


She’s got a form, she shows her license, she’ll be a senior in August. The form’s so faded I’m guessing her printer used its last ink on fifth grade science projects. I squint. She squints.

“So – what can I do for you?”

“Notary?” she says, and that doesn’t help a whole lot because I’m looking at a crumpled, oily, palm-sweat slip of paper that’s talking about off-campus lunches.

We dig in a bit. I’ve got my elbows on the table, she’s got her fingers tapping our envelopes. Slow and calm, her story peels like skin-bark after too many days in the pool: turns out, her high school demands all off-campus lunch permission forms be notarized. Not okay’ed with your Homeroom. Not signed by parents. Notarized, officially. My supervisor leans over and says all the Wake schools do that. I’m blown away.

We get her taken care of then I’m laughing and crying for minutes. If you were locked in the vault you could still hear me.

I asked the girl one more question before she left for the stifling summer day: “What do you think about all the new security in schools?”

She said: “It doesn’t matter. If they want to shoot us, there’s lots of ways to get inside.”

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.” – Tacitus, Ancient Roman Historian


Coffee Log, Day 69


Coffee: Organic Bolivian Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

First off, some housekeeping: I didn’t promote the April contest very well; life got busy, it’s my bad. Because of that, I’m extending the deadline through May. So if you haven’t heard of it, go here and send a quick email for a chance to win a book curated by yours truly!!

Now that I’ve covered the logistical stuff…

Boy, the last few days have been daydreamy, huh? I wonder what it is – the weather? the time of year? For the bulk of my life, May meant school was almost over. I’d think about summer as one big block of activity. I’d spend school-days dreaming of games I’d play and books I’d read.

Nowadays, May’s just another tick on the calendar. It’s remarkable to me that our society’s idea of preparation is conditioning kids to a schedule that doesn’t resemble any corner of the working world. School is leisure for those that fit the right specifications – wealthy, privileged, booksmart – and a tall wall to those who don’t, but the leisure’s not the same leisure as adulthood and the wall’s a different climb than mature discrimination.

I was a teacher for a year and felt like a failure every time I quizzed a kid on the water cycle. It’s something none of them needed to know. A hundred faces waiting for ephemeral summer.

Currently Reading:
The Pardoner’s Tale, by John Wain

Fund the Coffee Log 🙂 –

Summer’s lease hath all too short a date. – William Shakespeare