Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 244


Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s

It’s a different feeling finishing a book when someone you know wrote it. Warm, pedestrian, jealous. You think less about the specifics of what was written and more about the person; you’re on the front row of an opera watching people put on their outfits through a crack in the curtains.

‘Queen’ was written by my friend and colleague Suzanne Crain Miller. I met Suzanne at the now-defunct Third Wednesdays, an open-mic for authors. Suzanne was running the show. When I met her, she had these big wide eyes that seemed to fix on the outsides of you, figuring out your lines, drawing you up. I could tell she was someone who spends a lot of time trying to write the world down.

‘Queen’ is about the South. The small South, the almost-rural, the mostly-poor. It’s a place big enough for no-one to know each other except from watching out the windows, small enough that if you watch a long time you’ll catch sight of someone’s private side. I know a lot of places like this. Snow Camp, Alamance, Mebane. I used to drive through them. They threaten you with yourself, you push the gas.

The book follows three narrators, all of whom are picked apart by their private sides. It’s a book about keeping secrets. Building coal fires in your den, waiting for the house to burn down, naked. Violent cop, sheltered teenager, the identities you try to escape eventually find you. Even in the novel’s climax, when the heroes are victorious and the bad men are laid down, there’s an unsettling sense that no-one’s good actions are really good, that a privileged birth was always going to lead to happiness, and there’s only so much room for happiness on the small town streets that you can’t spread it around to everyone.

When I finished reading, I thought about quiet crowds and microphones. I had a beer.

I’m happy to have read this book, and flattered that my friend let me read it. It’s not nothing to write something, not nothing to read it, and pretty damn cool to know the writer. Support the author and buy her book here.

Currently Reading: Another Country, James Baldwin

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No matter what you do, someone always knew you would.

Ami McKay, The Birth House

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 99


Coffee: House Blend, Ithaca Coffee; tasted like sugar on the first sip; tasted like old, worn yearbooks on the last

I went to Durham. No matter how much time passes or what changes, I always end up back in Durham.

The trip was nostalgic. There were some things I needed to see. Z was headed there also so we met up. We had lunch at a taco shop off Chapel Hill road. I told him to get the tamales but they were out of tamales. So it goes.

After eating, we drove downtown to park in a deck and walk under the burning summer sun to 21c. 21c is a hotel but also an art museum. A modern sort of patronage, the wealthy spending a weekend in the city, their money going partly to the arts.

The hotel used to be a bank building. I’m not sure which bank. We walked through all the upper galleries and ended up downstairs. They had the vault open. In the vault was an exhibit by William Paul Thomas, an artist I’ve met a few times. Compared to the other galleries, his wasn’t getting much traffic, probably because it was downstairs and in a vault, but his work stood out anyway. To me, the pictures said something. They were faces. Colorful. Lit on bold backgrounds. Half drowned in a washed-out blue.

When we left the museum, there was one last thing I needed to see. A couple months ago, a gas line caught fire in downtown Durham. It blew out a building right off main street. When I was a Duke student, and later when I lived and worked in the city, and even after that when I visited from time to time, I’d walk that block regularly. I’d pass the old brick buildings and ask them for shade. Or I’d check my reflection in the windows. I haven’t been back to Durham since the explosion, which took two lives. I needed to see how the block had changed.

A handfull of cutlery dropped on the way to the table – the buildings were broken apart.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller; Suzanne is a friend; she graciously lent me a copy of her work; I’m only two chapters in; each chapter has followed a different character; reading the book, so far, is like watching a movie from different camera angles; I like the first character, an aggressive cop, because I’ve known people like him; there was one line that I saved because I liked it so much and I’ll quote it here

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

Never ceases to amaze me how people assume by lookin’ at you that you’re the incarnation a’ all your hopes an’ dreams.

Suzanne Crain Miller, Queen