Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 170

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I’ve been sitting here for fifteen minutes thinking about what to write today. My mind keeps getting stuck on violence.

I was reading articles about India. Modi’s grab of Kashmir, Pakistan’s reaction. I’m not Indian. I’m not Pakistani. I don’t know much about Kashmir. What I’m trying to say is that I can’t speak on the conditions creating the conflict. But reading about the hot afternoon protests and the armed guards walking the streets stuck a knot in my head.

I watched a video about conservationists catching hellbenders up near Asheville. Hellbenders are a particularly large and ruddy kind of salamander. To catch them, the men and women waded in thigh-high river water and turned over submerged stones. They brought the slimy red bodies into a plastic tract to measure them. Hellbenders are good indicators of a stream’s health – they’re sensitive, so they die in poor pollution.

In Canada, they just found the bones of two boys who left home to commit murder. They started with an old man who lived alone and caught more attention by killing an American woman and her Canadian boyfriend. As far as anyone can tell, they were dead set on committing the murders, not out of any particular ideology, but a deep personal desire. There’s a clip circulating of one of the kid’s Dad’s talking about how he knows his son is going to die. How he still loves him. How he’s sorry he couldn’t save him. This was before they found the bones.

I think about cool, running water. The weight of the world is a river stone.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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I like it, I’m not gonna crack
I miss you, I’m not gonna crack
I love you, I’m not gonna crack
I killed you, I’m not gonna crack

Nirvana, Lithium

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 166

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I watched a video of an 11-yr-old crying while she told the camera her dad’s not a criminal. This was hours after her father was arrested by ICE (along with almost 700 other brown-skinned men and women in Mississippi). She was wearing pink.

Late last week there two shootings, one in El Paso, the other in Dayton. In Texas, at least, the shooter said he was aiming for immigrants. He called them an invasion. He shot a lot of people, mostly Latinos. He was white, they weren’t.

I read a review of memoir called ‘When I Was White.” The book’s by Sarah Valentine, an author raised white in a white family, but who had a black father, and was taught from day one by her white mother to detest blackness. The review goes into this idea that since the original sin of slavery, whiteness has defined itself by ‘purity,’ the one-drop rule, etc. Valentine finds herself discovering her blackness and losing her former identity in the process.

I met a man who tiles pools. He’s black, and said he has a partner who handles the marketing.

“Why?” I asked. He struck me as a grade-A businessman.

“Because I’m a big guy. And, you know. Around here, people get worried seeing someone like me knock at their door.”

I did know.

When Cortes crossed the ocean and met the Aztecs, he fancied himself a divine visitor. And over the next three years, he cut up all the brown bodies until there was no-one left to contradict him.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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

A 7-year old body becomes
A monument to our excess aggression
On Sunday morning she became
An effigy to our excessive aggression
And our lack of suppression
And access to automatic weapons.

We didn’t pull the trigger
But we pulled the blinds down.

The Fucking Cops, Aiyana

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 160

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I saw a pair of shoes I liked and was going to buy them until I looked at the label: leather lining. I put the shoes back. Can’t be both a vegetarian and a hypocrite, but when I got home and told this story to my roommate, her response was ‘leather is better for the environment.’ And that’s true. I know a guy who bought a $400 pair of leather loafers because they’re hand-crafted and able to be repaired, less lifetime waste. And even my mother – the first vegetarian I knew – bought leather shoes, for similar reasons.

But I can’t wear something else’s skin again. I just don’t have it in me.

I read a story about artificial eggs and dairy. The newest entry in the trend of impossible meat-free meats, biochemists isolated the whey protein producer and egg compounds and got a bunch of microbes to produce them en-mass. They sold their secrets for top dollars and now one company – Perfect Day – sells dairy-rich ice cream that never touched an udder. Pretty amazing. One of the scientists says ‘It’s a lot cheaper and more energy efficient than keeping a bunch of animals alive.’ I feel like there’s a dark lining there.

So I stick to my morals, I don’t buy the nice leather shoes, and I choose almond milk alternatives to dairy nine-times out of ten. But I still eat eggs occasionally, or a bit of cheese. What happens to the animals when we don’t need them anymore? A cow makes a poor pet.

Is there no way out of the violence? No, probably not.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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

A modern woman sees a piece of linen, but the mediaeval woman saw through it to the flax fields, she smelt the reek of the retting ponds, she felt the hard rasp of the hackling, and she saw the soft sheen of the glossy flax. Man did not see ‘just leather’, he saw the beast – perhaps one of his own – and knew the effort of slaughtering, liming and curing.

Dorothy Hartley, The Land of England: English Country Customers Through the Ages

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 120

Hi.

Coffee: Large Americano, Caribou Coffee; there was a time in my life when espresso drinks were a daily thing; a cafe on campus at Duke, a cappuccino between classes; or the days I worked for a bookstore, buying Americano’s on break; now, I drink espresso rarely; it’s never close by, like the city on the other side of the hills; today, it tasted like listening to old records bought at a yardsale, or giving your ex a call on a long drive

The older I get, the less I understand violence. Maybe it’s the youth drained out of me, a testosterone spigot, drip drip the golden years of fighting for a chance at fertility. Or maybe I’ve just clued into something I should have seen all along.

I heard a radio program about Baltimore cops who were running a crime ring. They’d stop people in their plainclothes and pat them down, taking cash from their wallets, roughing them up, pressing no charges. They targeted drug dealers and the poor, people no-one would listen to, and they got away with it for a long time.

I saw a video a few weeks ago filmed from inside a Cleveland prison. There’s an old man in a face mask strapped to a chair. Three officers enter the room, check his vitals, then two of them walk out. The last officer punches the man over and over, and when this causes a commotion, another cop walks in and starts punching the man too. He suffered a concussion, so goes the article. He was mentally handicapped, black, and beaten by two white guards.

I woke up this morning to reports of a juvenile detention center in Texas where kids are sleeping on the floor. They’re migrants, seeking asylum, separated from parents, and held in hundred-degree weather without air-conditioning, no diapers for the babies, 300 per cell, little food and water, insufficient blankets, no toothbrushes or toothpaste because that’s ‘not necessary.’ It was a concentration camp, of course, ongoing. To their credit, the Border Patrol agents (at least the ones that were interviewed) seemed just as horrified at what they were doing as me.

I sat outside today and found a small red and black bug. It was attached to the chair and not moving. I tried blowing on it, nudging it off, but it stuck there. It was alive, because its legs moved, and it was committed to sharing a space with me. I sat in the chair with the red and black bug for a long time. I was worried it might bite me. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to hurt it, because one pin prick of my skin isn’t worth the price of a life snuffed away.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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

I wish only that my spirit and fury would drive me
to hack your meat away and eat it raw for the things that
you have done to me

Achilles to Hector, Homer, The Iliad

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 66

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

Sometimes it feels like you speak things into focus. You’re thinking of something and all of a sudden it’s everywhere. 1985’s movie ‘Cocoon’ – now see how many times you notice ‘Cocoon’ coming up in conversation.

Yesterday, I wrote my blog in part about Charlotte. Today, two people were murdered by gun violence at UNC-C.

These days, nowhere feels safe. Every morning you take a serving of mass shootings with your toast and coffee. Places you assumed were impermeable are criss-crossed with bullet holes. It feeds itself – the less safe we all feel, the more on edge we all are. Our hands go quicker to our holsters.

Truth is, though, the world’s never been safe. In fact, even in America, there are communities that have suffered constant, consistent gun violence for decades. They just happen to be largely black or brown or poor, always marginalized. The papers don’t cover what they expect to happen, just the juicy stuff. We’ve been expecting poor minorities to die violently, but now we’re shocked when shots are fired at college kids.

None of that is to take away from the tragedy. It’s just perspective.

Anyway, I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted with the violence. Isn’t a peaceful life wretched and heart-breaking enough?

There’s no news yet about the motives of this shooter. No news about the lives of their victims. I saw one picture of a shot-out glass door at the UNC-C library. A long time ago, I opened that door on the way to meet up with someone who loved me. Now the glass is gone and there’s no more border between warm, book-laden hallways and the long-fanged outdoors.

Currently Reading: Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

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Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

E.F. Schumacher


Coffee Log, Day 152

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema; today the taste was ‘woodchips from your grandpa’s studio’ and a hint of ‘college dorm’

St. Lawrence Market in Toronto looks just like you: gray skies, string lights, cooking fire.

I’ve been to Canada once – ninth grade, an orchestra trip; we played at a high school, then listened to the Canadians play. These days, they’d probably do a Drake arrangement. Back then it was Beethoven.

On an off day, we toured the city. The Market was a morning stop, breakfast for many, though I don’t remember eating anything. I walked around with a few friends. We warmed up by the food stalls. It was late winter and mostly freezing. For those who haven’t seen it, St. Lawrence is in an old brick shipping warehouse. There’s a ground floor and a basement. Eventually, we got tired with the main floor so we went to the basement. There are more and more stalls down there. I looked at fish drying. I spied the pretty girls with fourteen-year-old eyes, careless.

Back against a pillar, tucked off the main drags, a man in blue jean-rags played guitar with the case open. He had a wild beard. His music was better than the Canadian orchestra’s, better than ours. I’d bought currency at customs and had already broken most of the bills. Pockets full of one and two-dollar coins, I emptied all the foreign money in his case. It was thirty-something. He nodded my way but didn’t miss a beat.

Last night, a gun, bullets, and fire-blooded man shot 15 and killed 2 people on a restaurant-packed street in Toronto. He was crazy, they say, but they always say that. I wonder what songs St. Lawrence’s guitarist is playing right now?

Gray skies, string lights, cooking fire – you can’t find what you’re looking for in the restless brick walls and crowded market, so you take it from someone else, irreversibly.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“It seemed to me that everybody ended up in Toronto at least for a little while.” – Alice Munro, Dear Life

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Coffee Log, Day 103

Hi.

Coffee: Two cups drip from Cocoa Cinnamon; One cup Iced from Joe Van Gogh; the first two were better.

It was a long day. Distracting, like one of those stinkbugs that climbs your wall and looks like the paintjob until you really focus.

It wasn’t easy and I don’t have much energy.

When I was seventeen, my dog Becky was taken to the vet in the morning for pains that ultimately killed her. The same day, I stopped at a gas station on the way to work. There was a woman on the ground. She was crying. Bleeding from her face where she’d hit the curb. The couple passers-by told me that a man had run up, hit her hard, and run off. They didn’t know why he did it. She didn’t either.

I got the gas and drove to school.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

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“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” – Mark Twain

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