Coffee Log, Day 201

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s

Hurricane’s coming. It was on NPR the whole morning drive. It was top of the feed on Google News. It came out of every set of lips I worked with today, some trembling, some laughing, some just full of gunk.

Hey Florence, nice to meet you.

After work, I went to the store and bought bread and peanut butter. Easy to eat without power as a vegetarian. Traffic was backed up around multiple corners outside every grocery store so I did my shopping at a Walgreens. It was busy too, but not so much. There were kids buying Halloween candy with their lunch money. There were families stocking toiletries, distressed dads. On the way in, I passed a woman in a sleek blue dress and wondered what party you might go to on a Monday. At checkout, a Swedish woman asked me two times if I had a membership card.

The Southern way is to joke about things that scare you. Power-poles falling on your relatives, rampant flooding, or the dry creekbeds of yet-another-industry-departure. We stand up straight and sneer real good and maybe have a drink or two. There’s no extra strength in the show, it’s just bravado, but there’s a power in the collective spell of casting your best side outward with a mouthful of tobacco spit and letting whatever comes, come.

I might drive home to beat the worst of Florence or I might stick it out. I hope those on the coast make it through.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.” – Bob Dylan

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Coffee Log, Day 189

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s

I cooked dinner: homefries and a soy chorizo hash. To start, I chopped vegetables into separate bowls. I washed the potatoes. In cubes, they glowed like church Sunday. Gold robed skin, candlelight eyes. I set them in a colander to drain.

Two pans going, sunflower oil popped concessions at the movie theater. I fried the potatoes with spritzes of pepper and dill, then cooked onions, mushrooms, tomatoes in a lot of a hot sauce. Fragrance. I watched starch break down and thought about moving: that feeling you get when all the stiff spots in your heart aren’t holding you up anymore. Later, I threw in the chorizo.

I haven’t cooked in a while. My last dish was quick fried rice from the freezer. My hands took to it tonight. Chop, pick, grip cutlery like you used to grip a sabre. Years ago, I was a fencer.

It was a good meal. It’ll last me three more days. I’ll be burnt-skin sunsets, rust on the train-tracks, the wandering evidence of comfort and home-cooked meals, at least a little longer.

Currently Reading: Nothing! Still poking through some books, will settle soon.

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“I went to a cooking specialty store, bought tomatoes by the dozen, purchased every brand of spaghetti I could lay my hands on. Particles of garlic, onion, and olive oil swirled in the air, a fragrance one might have smelled on an ancient Roman aqueduct. Every time I sat down to a plate of spaghetti, I had he distinct feeling that somebody was about to knock on my door.…” – Haruki Murakami, The Year of Spaghetti

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Coffee Log, Day 153

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema

A few Japanese 7-yr-olds told me you only put soy sauce on rice when you’re trying to get the dogs to eat it. I liked that: maybe I’m a dog.

Since I stopped eating animals I’ve wondered more about being ‘human.’ Unlike the wealthy white kids who wear Salvation Army and dumpster dive because they know they’ll never depend on anything, I see the difference between us and animals clearly. We’ve got a spark, they’ve got something simpler. No wildcat would choose not to eat me. The beautiful, structured violence of a predator.

The voice is exhausting. I think maybe that’s being human: a constant, boring fatigue. Not the tired you get swinging muscles, but the exhaustion of constant thought. We buy our free choice by chaining our mind up to moral dilemma. Humanity is dull like paint drying. Stick with it, though, and you build the best blue house.

But today I’ll take a break. Woof.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx

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Coffee Log, Day 145

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema; the most expensive cup of average coffee I’ve had.

I’m getting pretty good at stir-fry. It only took two years.

Today I got the heat right, the onions clear but crunchy, tofu golden. I learned a trick: marinate your oil. I tossed garlic and chili flakes for thirty seconds in sunflower oil; the garlic pop-cracked like bullwhips and then the apartment smelled so good.

I talked to a coworker today about going vegetarian and I talked to my cousin about the same thing yesterday. My coworker was real worried about my protein intake. My cousin was real worried about the privilege behind the choice.

They’re both right – I’ve had days where I didn’t eat anything hearty; I’ve gone to bed feeling faint. But those days are rare because tofu’s plentiful around here. But in Crossett, Arkansas where my cousin grew up? Or the stern brick apartments where my students grew up? Or hell, any of the apartments around me made home by vibrant families, two-year old sets of new teeth and new smiles that can’t make a dollar, can’t provide for themselves…

The cheapest food I can think off is a giant sack of rice from the Korean grocery but you have to have the mental capital to know that. To the exhausted, poor, overworked American purple hearts, it’s more likely your head goes to white bread, 25 cent chicken ramen, dollar menus at the fast food joint.

There’s privilege in affording to choose vegetarianism, even more in the energy to make that choice.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.” – Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

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Coffee Log, Day 138

Hi.

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

Last night, a Mosquito-Eater got trapped in my bedroom. She buzzed the windows mostly, sometimes my bed or pillows, sometimes the string lights. I don’t know how she got inside. I assumed she’d find her way out.

This morning, I didn’t see the Mosquito-Eater. In the strange, flexible valley of memory, I forgot I’d ever seen her. I ate breakfast, got dressed, went to work, came home, worked out, talked to a friend on the phone for a good long time, and took three walks around the apartments. When the busy things were done, I cooked dinner. Tonight I ate a sandwich with slices of fake turkey. I watched an episode of Planet Earth.

And she kept bumping, bumping, bumping into the window, right beside me, having been there even when I forgot about her. The Mosquito-Eater was still trapped. She looked weak – well, as weak as a spindly-legged monster can. I watched her struggle. I didn’t want to deal with the situation; it had been a long day; I was tired. On the TV, Marine lizards were diving off big rough rocks. They looked free. I put the sandwich down, grabbed a plastic cup and an old envelope, caught the Mosquito-Eater and gave her to the big outdoors.

It was a simple thing to do, after all.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“You do not respond to a mosquito bite with a hammer.” – Patrick L.O. Lumumba

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Coffee Log, Day 129

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Ethiopian Medium Dark, Harris Teeter Brand

I spell ‘summer’ a little different: c-u-c-u-m-b-e-r. At five I watched ‘My Neighbor Totoro.’ Satsuki and Mei made cucumbers look like everything you could want. Icebergs in an Arabian heatwave; solace, your first love’s fingers.

I bought two English and chopped them up. There’s a site I recommend, omnivorescookbook.com. Following Maggie Zhu, I made a sauce with rice vinegar. Tossed, sauced, I tasted twelth grade, eighth grade, second. I remembered cooking meatloaf with my mother; chili with my dad. He just turned 70. A big year. Happy birthday Dad.

Food’s intimate. Bourdain knew that. The hot plates and summer sweat evaporate drama from your pores, you can’t hide anything. Some notable meals: S made Kraft macaroni and introduced me to reality television. TT gets La Fiesta with me every time he’s in town. In Fukuoka, around 11, I ate pig guts dipped in stomach bile, MI laughed, I learned her language for the night. A stirred deer-meat in her spaghetti and we watched horror movies, felt a little less horror on the couch together. M mixed mushrooms in everything, even the late Spring sunlight, a hot kitchen caught in hair, curtains, shirts, skin, portabella flesh.

My fingers smell like salt and garlic. You could spin an Aegean cruise out of me. I’m ten feet above the blue water, watching Miyazaki, hearing Mei’s teeth, cucumber – click click! – cooking until the sweat slips out, un-hidden, all of you right beside me.

Currently Reading:

History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund (2017 Man Booker Prize Shortlist) (FINISHED!!! Unforgettable; will post a review this weekend)

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“Is your cucumber bitter? Throw it away. Are there briars in your path? Turn aside. That is enough. Do not go on and say, “Why were things of this sort ever brought into this world?”” – Marcus Aurelius

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Coffee Log, Day 93

Hi.

Coffee: Hot Americano, Caribou Coffee; I woke up too late to brew a pot and I’ve lost my thermos so I rushed to Caribou. There was a line in the drive-through and I thought I might be late to work. Better late than lacking coffee.

Summer says ‘vegetable’ like ‘tomato’ or ‘to-mah-to’: vibrantly wrong-headed and self-assured. The storms broke today and it was sun and blue and green, few clouds, less of that humid trudge, the kind of heat the gets under you. Kids everywhere scream ‘recess’ and fading malls pray for freed-up allowances.

I walked to my new car and felt free. It was a strange feeling, not quite good, and the only thing it led me two was an extra-long exercise and a night cooking dinner. The kitchen was hot as death but the only things that died for me were roots and fruits and tubed-up soy shoots.

I read an article today claiming Humanity has successfully eliminated 83% of wild mammals from the Earth.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

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