Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 77

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro, Trader Joe’s Brand; today was the first time in two weeks that I ground my own coffee for the morning; I put four scoops in the grinder and sat in my desk chair turning the handle; the beans went ‘swoosh!’ like they always do; beach sand; things taste better when you put a little work in them; the coffee was like old daydreams, the kind you can still get lost in from time to time.

Today I got caught in traffic coming and going from Burlington. I was driving down for mother’s day. We ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant that puts chicken broth in their rice and lard in their beans. Hard times for a vegetarian, but it was nice seeing my parents nonetheless.

Back to the traffic jams – today was rainy. Fits and starts of the stuff, never a full-on storm. I guess that’s why there were so many accidents. People weren’t prepared for the wet flashes. There was no telling what would happen next.

On the way down, I spend half and hour at a full stop listening to old mixtapes. Coming back, I called a friend. Both ways, the wet grey day brought bright colors out of the parked cars. The rear-lights were bulging zits over the back bumpers. The paint could be anything from candy to a pocket full of change.

One thing I like about driving is how it forces you to slow down. You’re at the mercy of something outside of yourself – the traffic won’t move no matter how much you yell at it. Most days, I’m wrestling with the things I can control. It’s nice taking a break sometimes.

Currently Reading: Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

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I am stuck in traffic in a taxicab
which is typical
and not just of modern life

Frank O’Hara

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 54

Hi.

Coffee: Breakfast Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand; I’ve been putting off cleaning my coffee pot for a couple weeks but I finally bought white vinegar; I ran the vinegar for two cycles, dumped it, rinsed it, ran the machine with water; the coffee still tastes the same, but it’s got more confidence than before; cleaner; self-assured; that kid in middle school who made all A’s and didn’t even know people were poking fun at her about it; blank paper.

Yesterday’s Coffee Log was live. I read a few selections from the past year at Fig Raleigh. I answered a few questions. “Do you ever worry about alienating the friends and family that you write about?” Yes, but I don’t stop writing about them. I wouldn’t know how to stop. Etc, etc. After the questions, I listened to twelve colleagues read. They read fiction and poetry. I like being an audience for people who’ve got something to say.

I’m driving to Richmond today. I’m excited for the trip. I’m nervous for the trip. I feel like one of those puppies you see in commercials – eyes wide, half-wanting to be adopted, half-scared of everything outside the pen. It’s been five years since I’ve traveled on my own. I used to make a point of traveling – taking off to wherever. Then I thought ‘hey, I need to get to know a place, I need to responsible to the people that feed me with their taxes.’ I’ve been getting to know NC like an old-new friend, someone you lost contact with long enough to forget about them. Now that I kind of know her I’ve forgotten important parts of myself.

Back to the reading: I love listening to people’s voices. The way you say something on stage is different from how you and I are talking. And it’s different from person to person. Z came to watch me. Then we stood in the audience together and listened to the other performers. He said everyone had a different style. They did have different styles. I don’t think there’s anything more honest than putting yourself in a spotlight. It’s not the you that comes naturally, it’s everything you’re aspiring to be.

Tomorrow, I’ll write this blog from a hostel bar. Or a Richmond cafe. Or a bench outside an art museum. Or a street corner. Or the backseat of my car. Who knows? I’m two blades of grass pressed together, stuck between your teeth, anticipating whatever kind of sound is about to blow.

Novel Count: 38,047 (I’ve been so stuck on preparing for the open mic feature, the trip, business at work, that the novel’s gotten stagnant. And now that it’s stagnant I don’t know what to do. I’ll push through, but that might mean surgery. I might cut out some things, change some others. Marriage – hard work to fall in love all over again.)

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.

T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets


Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 52

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: 2
Come out and support the Coffee Log!

The thunder woke me up twice last night. When I woke up it sounded more like a long checklist of things to do.

Sometimes when I’m bored or lonely I’ll take a long shower. I tilt the nozzle so it’s close to the drain and lie down. I’m not too tall (five-foot-seven) so I fit going lengthwise in the tub. It feels like one of those rides at the water park: a dark, gushing tunnel, no room to move.

In the spring, I like to sit outside and think about smoking. I don’t smoke. Not at all now, not much ever, but nice days are conducive to watching thick burnt embers trail out of your mouth and no matter what I do I can’t seem to shake that image. Burnt lungs in a fine garden. It’s the contrast, maybe.

Later this week I’m going to Richmond. I don’t know what to expect from that trip. A coworker gave me suggestions. I spoke to a hostel worker about parking options over the phone. Secretly, I’m exhausted, and when I think ‘vacation’ I see a dark blanket wrapping me up at home, but I have to go, because if I don’t it means something I’m not ready to admit: that I’m not someone with the energy to get out and move.

I saw a scared cat. She was hiding around the corner from a rough brown dog. I came down the stairs and scared her a little more, then she recognized me and we got along. I’m a scared cat some days, and others I’m coming down the stairs. No telling which I’ll be tomorrow. No choice but to find out.

Novel Count: 38,047

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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regret is mostly caused by not having
done anything.

Charles Bukowski


Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 18

Hi.

Coffee: Breakfast Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand; over-eager like a new puppy, it jumps in your mouth and wags around, restless, happy, wholesome, until a few minutes later it pees on the floor. The blend was good at first but I brewed it too strong. Spent the rest of the day anxious.

I tried to write. I had writer’s block. Lately, I’ve been alternating between ‘off’ and ‘on.’ Either I’ll write five hundred words in fifteen minutes or nothing in a day. I can’t tell if that’s a good thing. It isn’t an easy thing. I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m not writing. Maybe that’s a part of a larger problem.

I’ve been planning a vacation. I was picking locations, settled on Richmond. I’ll go there in late April. It’s only three hours away. I picked the city because it’s got a good hostel. The last hostel I stayed at was in DC. Four years ago, touring American University before I applied for their MFA. I got accepted to that one and with a half-ride scholarship. Still couldn’t afford it. Still couldn’t go. Anyway, what I remember most about that trip was two things: the creeky bunk beds; having a quick coffee with M. We hadn’t seen each other in years. We caught up at a cafe and talked about her fear of mannequins. I kind of fell in love with her. Later, I’d tell her that, and later still, I’d really mean it. But that afternoon was just coffee and mannequins.

That’s it – the first day of daylight’s savings. Maybe that’s why I feel hungover. Maybe that’s what opened up a thin hole. Memories. Bugs. Afternoon static. A cool day, then a hot day, now a cool one again. Things come back to you. Or at least, we often hope they do.

Novel Count: 30,349

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami; FINISHED! 

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I went to the Hotel of the Violet Hippopotamus and drank five glasses of good wine.

Anton Chekhov


Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 9

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I got your letter at 9:00 a.m. on a blustery Saturday. It was the fourth thing in the mailbox, buried under ads. I took the blue envelope upstairs to the dining room and set it on the table. Then I went about making coffee – grinding beans, pouring water, loading the machine.

I tried to be careful peeling it open. There’s a certain sound an envelope makes. It’s sort of like a rack of ribs that you’ve been slow cooking. Pull, pull, pull, feel it give, a bit sticks to the bone.

When I got the letter out, I read it two times and put it aside. I set myself to reading Murakami and working on my novel. I ate a bowl cereal. I got full on black coffee. A casual morning. My favorite kind of morning.

At 11:00, I read your letter again. This time I paid close attention to the paper and the ink and the spots you wrote over. It’s funny how a thing feels so much different when it’s said in black ink. It’s funny how transient a conversation can be.

There was this French artist named Sophie Calle who found a man’s address book on the streets of Paris. After returning it anonymously (and making a copy), she went around interviewing all the different contacts to get a picture of the owner’s life. Sometimes it feels like that with you. I know you from pictures and old memories. I know you by the occasional letter, little bright fires that show off bits of us. But we’re constantly changing, as is everyone, so each little fire has a different viewpoint. Lit windows in a midnight building. Every night, a different pattern of lights is on.

Thank you for the letter, and for being a part of me and my life, however many miles and hours and identities you are away.

Novel Count: 28,637

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGNFrom the land of red clay, and lottery worship

“The last time I saw him, I found he had aged prematurely. He had white hair…” What image does [Paul] have of him? “The image of a child forgotten in an airport.”

Sophie Calle, The Address Book


Coffee Log, Day 363

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; I haven’t had espresso in a few weeks. It hits you different than straight coffee. It’s smoother, thicker, has a bite. That bite’s different than strong coffee. Think of it like this: you’re walking on a beach. The tide’s gone down. You could walk up top where it’s dry and naked and the sand will burn your feet, or you can walk on the sea shells – cool, but they’ll cut you sometimes. Espresso’s the part with the seashells.

Sometimes I think I’ll always be stuck in an airport. Before you get the wrong idea, I haven’t been flying anywhere recently. It’s just this feeling that the only times that ever mattered happened in cold, bright, crowded airports.

Coming back from Japan I got caught in flight delays and layovers. I ended up in Newark around 3:00 a.m. Because it was my port of entry, I had to go through customs, but because it was so early the security checks weren’t open for me to make my way back in. I waited for three hours in a pre-dawn terminal. The only place open was a Dunkin Donuts. I hadn’t slept for 24 hours and had been up all night drinking with my Japanese friends before that. I remember the too-sweet smell of the plastic-backed chairs that I pulled together into a makeshift bed, and I remember the sound of a West African man talking to his daughter on his cell.

Landing in Heraklion, Crete, I had no money. No cash of any currency. It was my first time out of the country (well, I’d been to Canada, but that hardly counts) and my plan was to withdraw from an airport ATM. Problem was, the ATM didn’t take my debit card. I didn’t know what to do. The airport was about ten miles from the city where my school group was staying. I couldn’t afford taxi fare or buses. Eventually, a nice Greek guy gave me a couple Euros and I hopped the bus. But I’ll always have the yellow-brown walls and dumbfounded white eyes of the flight attendants locked in memory. I was alone and lost in a world of constant transit. It made me realize that I am always a little bit alone and a little bit in transit.

So find me at an airport bar getting tipsy on double-priced Modelo. Anywhere else and there’s a good chance I’m barely there.

Novel Count: 25,064

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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Air travel reminds us who we are. It’s the means by which we recognize ourselves as modern. The process removes us from the world and sets us apart from each other. We wander in the ambient noise, checking one more time for the flight coupon, the boarding pass, the visa. The process convinces us that at any moment we may have to submit to the force that is implied in all this, the unknown authority behind it, behind the categories, the languages we don’t understand. This vast terminal has been erected to examine souls.

Don DeLillo, The Names


Coffee Log, Day 347

Hi.

Coffee: Locomotive Blend, PennyCup Coffee

A friend came over. The doorbell rang, there he was. He hadn’t told us he was coming. That’s okay – surprises are nice sometimes.

We watched half the superbowl. There were rumors of a Spongebob song being played at halftime, our friend wanted to see that. They didn’t play the song so we turned the game off and hung around. Everyone was eating Taco Bell. I had some cinnamon somethings that made my mouth sore.

Days like today you want to go somewhere. A little warm, still not spring. You want to pack up and drive a thousand miles to where no-one knows you. You want to start over. But of course you can’t. Of course you’re stuck, and even if you’re stuck in something nice, where friends drop by and you eat awful food, you’re still stuck.

I drove to Raleigh to see the CAM museum. It has contemporary art. Only when I got there, there was no parking, and there were people out, and every voice inside me said I couldn’t make it, I couldn’t step outside the comfortable confines of this car, so I turned around and drove back home. I sat on the couch. I drank a beer.

The biggest wall in front of you is built – brick by brick – with your own hands.

Novel Count: 20,073

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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…So please, be tolerant of those who describe a sporting moment as their best ever. We do not lack imagination, nor have we had sad and barren lives; it is just that real life is paler, duller, and contains less potential for unexpected delirium.

Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch