Sitting at home on a gray day on my lunch break writing a Coffee Log early because I’ll be driving this evening. Weather calls for thunderstorms. Open highways, greased lightning.
Last night was spent packing. I’ll be living the weekend away. I haven’t gone too far lately, this will be the farthest. I like long drives. Here’s one I remember:
Ten years ago, headed back from the beach with a full car. We’d gone to a concert, Bomb the Music Industry! It was a good concert and let out at midnight but none of use felt like staying in New Bern (or had the money to). E was driving. He took us home through the early morning. We listened to more music, but softer because all our ears were blown. Just past Raleigh, I fell asleep. There were guys to either side of me. Warmer than a blanket, people I still know.
I’m not taking today’s trip alone. A different E’s coming with me, though we part ways when we get there. Sometimes it’s nice to take stock of what you’ve got, the people who won’t lose you, no matter what kinds of storm winds blow.
I remember being on a boat. On the North Carolina coast there’s an aquarium, except it’s off-shore on an island and you have to take a ferry to go see it. This was twenty years ago. I was with my family, mom and dad.
What stuck with me most about the ferry were the seagulls. They lapped the water like a wedding procession, lining up in their best white gowns, waiting for bread. My mom had brought a stale loaf from our kitchen. We were a whole wheat family so the bread was dark brown and balled up well in your hands.
I tossed it. The seagulls latched on. They picked the best pieces, or fought for the rest. Blinding, a blizzard, white wet snow. By the time we got to the aquarium, there was no room in my head for other memories. The seagulls are what followed me, nothing else.
A few years ago, thousands of miles distant from the NC coast, I took a different ferry, much larger, and with a few friends, from the island of Miyajima back to mainland Japan, where we had a train to catch for our Hiroshima hotel. I was beat. We’d been walking since the morning and we’d climbed a mountain. We’d watched the sky go grey and threaten summer thunderstorms from the peak. But the thunderstorms never came.
On the ferry, I mostly thought about getting older. It’s the kind of thought you have when you’re leaving a place you’ll never see again. Halfway up the mountain, I’d gotten exhausted. I had to slow down. I was with three other Americans, they were all a few years younger, and they were happy to wait for me (we took up by a stream trailing down the mountain), but I felt bad about it anyway.
Eventually, I pushed on with them and reached the peak. At the top was a rock with no railing, a sheer fall into green forest. My companions climbed the rock and let their legs hang like Christmas mistletoes, but my arms were too heavy to lift myself and my head was full of vertigo, so I sat down in some dust by the old, grey stone. I looked up at the sky and it didn’t look any different now than it had at the foot of the mountain. Gradually, as clouds came, I took to sleep.
I couldn’t have been out for more than a second, but when I woke up I saw a single black crow on a gnarled, toothless tree. It had it’s head cocked and eye bobbing like it saw me, and when I’d rubbed the sweat off my forehead and gotten myself more conscious, the crow took off, careening toward the ocean, vanishing near the water where I’d soon embark a ferry, and leave Miyajima for good.
Grey-black skies at the end of something, or white seagulls at the beginning. Always getting ferried between the two.
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
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
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
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!
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.”