Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 18


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


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

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“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


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


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

Coffee Log, Day 309


Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; I’ve said this before, but this roast is like coming home: rich, complicated, delicious with nostalgia, but by the third cup you’ve forgotten how to drink it; the sour comes out.

I’ll let you in on a secret: there were two prior iterations of this website. The first was a brief blog on tumblr. It had some flash fiction and a travel blog. It started at an open mic in Hillsborough, at a cafe/bar that doesn’t exist anymore. I’d been invited by a friend I was kind of in love with. Before the show, we walked around a dilapidated lot next door. There was a toilet in tall weeds, broken in a hundred pieces. We looked at that toilet for a long time. I told some stories about it, its owners. So did she. L was creative like that. Later, the concert seemed like chicory in coffee, completely alert, and I knew I had something to write about. Six months go by and life takes over; I forgot that ceramic magic.

Then there was website #2: a real winner, mostly stories (that are too old and unpolished to post here), designed immaculately by a friend who’s an artist, a musician, a bit of a wanderer, and a web designer. We worked together on it for a few months and when it was up it sort of saved me. Except I didn’t know what to do with the site. I hadn’t found the right voice for my stories, and since the site was hand-crafted, I couldn’t ever figure how to manage the content. So that’s gone too.

I’m coming up on a year of keeping my Coffee Log. I haven’t added much fiction to the site, but that’s only because I’m still trying to publish what I’ve written. It’s been a busy year. And it feels a little different this time, like even if I don’t know where it’s all going, I’ve given enough gas to the tank and oil to the gears that it’s bound to end up somewhere.

Third time’s the charm. Thanks for hopping on the ride.

Novel Count: 6,712

Currently Reading: Nothing! Will pick a new book after the holidays.

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The windows of my Corolla are all rolled up and the radio is off.  Earlier in the week, or maybe the week before, I spent a while moving fast food cups and odds and ends off the seats and out of the car so now it’s mostly empty.  I think about this for a second while L stretches her legs in the passenger seat.

Gareth Livesay, The Depot, Hillsborough NC Sometime in June 2013

Coffee Log, Day 303


Coffee: Barrie’s Blend Drip, office coffee; I was out of beans so I brewed at the bank. The color was like flat cola. The taste wasn’t far from that.

Every kid’s out early on Christmas vacation. They’re stalking the parking lot in posses, preening colorful sweaters, eyeing this free time like it’s the last two weeks to live.

I talked to a woman today who just got back from the Amazon. A cruise, twenty-two days on the river. Her favorite words were ‘luxury’ and ‘they.’ An example: “We were in such luxury on the ship, and we got to see how they lived in the little villages when we stopped.” At one point, she mentioned fishing for piranhas. And I thought that must be awful to fish for little nibbling hunters biting up the river just like her.

It’s a manic Friday, at least with the weather. Wind whips up, then it’s calm and warm and sunny, and then there’s clouds and rain. Temper tantrums.

I had a Subway sandwich again because I wanted to be part of something in aggregate: part of the small, hurried communities of shopping-center interlopers who live and breath and work to be the kind of people that hunt pirhanas, but that will never get there, and so have kept their soul.

Novel Count: 6,879

Currently Reading: Nothing! Done with Cherry, still deciding on the next book.

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May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children. – Rainer Maria Rilke

Coffee Log, Day 214


Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I talked to a friend who said if he had more money the only change he’d make is that he’d travel more. I talked to a retired divorcee who’s selling Triangle property to move to an aluminum cabin he built for himself in Alaska. I talked to my mother who said she’d like to see Vienna someday and my father who said if he ever got to go to Korea the first thing he’d visit is the DMZ. In college, I paid two grand to study dead cultures in Greece; in 2014, I paid about the same to teach in Japan.

Why do we try so hard to get some place where we aren’t recognized? Is it privilege? Restlessness? The wide-eyed pastures of American culture? When you look in the mirror and see pajamas, a button down, no bags packed in the periphery, where does the stress come from, the shame, the disappointment?

So many posted pictures of places you barely recognize, showing off other peoples’ lives like they’re your own. Spend one more minute alone in your own bedroom and you’ll have to reckon with what you’ve made of yourself. You only stick around when the money’s gone, only pay attention to the street of premium parking lots where there used to be someone’s backyard if you can’t afford the next ticket out of town.

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

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“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom…is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.” – Anthony Bourdain