Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 24

Hi.

Coffee: Breakfast Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

I have this skin condition called vitiligo. It means I’ve lost the pigment in patches along my face and arms. I forget about it mostly. Even in the healthy spots, my skin is the color of a peeled banana, so what’s a little more white to do to me? But I went walking today for a couple hours and now I’m cherry soda.

Skin damage notwithstanding, it was a nice walk.

I was thinking about stories. What’s the first story you remember someone telling you? Was it from the family? Did Grandma Lutz have a secret drinking habit? Was Grandpa Dan a lieutenant in the Second World War? Instead, it might have been fiction. Something cooked up.

I’ve got this vivid memory of sitting awake some afternoons in my crib reading a baby book about a woman’s lost britches. It was done up in whites and oranges. It was hardly real. And a little later in life, the things that really stuck to me are the fantastic – Llyod Alexander’s Black Cauldron books. The first few things I tried to write were fantastic. I wrote a poem about greek gods embodied in the clouds. I wrote a breezy novella about a man with a sword. All of this was before middle school. Since Middle, only realist words come out.

A few days ago, I posted something about the ‘ordinary’ being the most compelling thing to capture in writing. I stick by that. But I also think the ‘ordinary’ might only appear when you pit it against the extraordinary.

There’s this video game that’s the fourth in it’s series called ‘Persona 4.’ I might have talked about it on here before. It’s a long, winding RPG. The protagonists have supernatural powers and fight a supernatural threat. But they all live in a small Japanese town in the 2000’s. In fact, half the game (no exaggeration) is spent studying for math exams or going to soccer practice, idling rainy days at the local ramen shop, watching TV with your cousin. Shadows and monsters lurk in every corner, but they’re there to put a spotlight on ordinary life. You stay at home and build a plastic model, knowing that the whole world could come down around you tomorrow. Kind of Sisyphus, when you think about it. Damn if that game didn’t stick to me.

So I have to ask myself: can I come back? Can I re-capture that magic? I’ve been stripping stories down, taking out the pigment. Is there some pixie dust around with which to put it back?

Novel Count: 30,740

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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Child, child, do you not see? For each of us comes a time when we must be more than what we are.

Lloyd Alexander, The Black Cauldron


Coffee Log, Day 102

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s brand; It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even taste it; well, you don’t taste air either…

A disproportionate amount of my richest memories involve walking. I say ‘disproportionate’ because only a sliver of my life has had much to do with the act. To be clear, I don’t mean the dotted-line walking we all participate in on occasion – the zigs and zags from our car doors – but rather the intentional sort of walk where your body’s motion is the goal.

Tonight, I walked around our apartment after the rain. The stream has gotten gorged and you can see the fishes swimming. It was bright enough but twilight cast everything bronze. The streetlights had nice reflections on the puddles.

I took two important walks in Japan, the combination of which became my first novel. One was intentional and the other less so. The first walk led me through Fukuoka at bleak midnight as we waited for Yamakasa. I was led by the hand of a quiet, clever, fierce Japanese woman who got headaches when she spoke English for too long. The night passed through me like electric coils. I came out the other end, but I hardly recognized myself.

The second walk found me after an impromptu doctor’s appointment. I’d taken the train from Munakata to Fukuoka to visit an international clinic. There were strange white spots on my arm where the hair had lost it’s color. I was terrified, particularly as I was about as far as one could get from the comforts of home. It was a quick visit; the doctor billed me eighty dollars for one word: ‘vitiligo.’ Harmless but defacing, I realized I would only be getting whiter, and suddenly I saw myself a caricature of my white, southern heritage. When the train got me back in Munakata it was too late and the buses had stopped running. I walked three miles on vacant highways as the night hid me from myself. I was met by one runner, a few trucks, and civilizations of crickets.

Every summer, around this time, I dream about Japan. The place left it’s mark in me, though I hardly dented it. I miss the heat, the forests, the mountains, the people – a few people in particular, though they’ve left the country for their own horizons. But the walks came with me. You can take off your shoes but the skin’s still there.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

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“Walking . . . is how the body measures itself against the earth.” – Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

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