Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 215

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; I bought a slice of lemon bread with it; sunny as the last day of summer; the coffee was good, but it gave me a stomach ache

I went to a smoothie shop selling dark chocolate blended with blueberries, dates and bananas. Decadent. That’s not a word you can use without sounding like an asshole, but in this case it’s the best fit for the experience. The shop looked like an Apple store. Everyone else was wearing earbuds and athleisure.

I’ve been thinking about ‘whiteness.’ I come from a culture that cut itself from sea water, salt blocks, tart and fragile. It has no bones. It’s not English, not Italian, not even ‘American.’ Four hundred years ago, my ancestors saw themselves in the pages of ancient empires. They walked the bleached marble columns of Rome. They bought ships and blasted themselves on open waters. They brought swords and axes to carve and conquer different land.

That’s the thing: the history of ‘whiteness’ is in an admiration for imperialism. It’s not based in an organic community, not a long-term culture that binds itself to land, to rituals, to shared songs. It’s too reclusive for that, sustained on separation. It’s alchemy. It’s fool’s gold. And like all good alchemy, it’s bound by blood.

The ancient Greeks understood Achilles to be a part of themselves. They saw the might and beauty of a man unbound by culture and law. But they also saw how fearful was that life, and so they celebrated instead their customs, language, ritual sacrifices, a pantheon of Gods. But 400 years ago on a re-reading, my ancestors took Achilles to mean the will to power. They salivated at the lines where he declares himself free to feast on the flesh of his opponents. Power is everything. So ‘White’ men defined a kind of capitalism, a system of goods and demands, something to run the ships back and forth across the oceans, a raison d’etre, no celebration, not good enough just to survive, but the bloody sustenance of seeing themselves as ‘more than,’ ‘better,’ as living gods.

How do you destroy yourself? You rip the heart out of someone else’s humanity. You light fires to everything that stands against you. You enslave black families in Africa, brown-skinned Native Americans, anything that doesn’t look like you. Because you know you’re fragile, that you lost your culture, your community, cut out your own bones. When you look in the mirror, you can’t stand to see yourself as a sand castle. You must be white marble, flawless, a writhing God.

It does no good not to acknowledge it, my inherited, persistent sin. It does no good to pretend I’m somehow better because I’m aware of it. All that’s left is effort, and the ability to give it to a better future.

Life is made up of marble and mud.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 188

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I texted a friend who was waiting at an airport. Her flight got delayed. Someone had an excited dog in the lobby. The woman next to her was flossing.

I like liminal spaces. I like the way you look when you’re wearing the clothes you woke up in. I like walking backwards because I dropped my carry-on. I like picking up People magazine because there’s no better way to kill time.

I haven’t flown in a minute. I don’t know the next time I’ll fly.

It feels like life is getting away from me. I’ll be 30 in three months. But life’s always running and we chase it. Years ago, I met an actress by the beach. She joined us at a punk rock show. Later, that actress was flying beside me on an airbus out of Detroit. She’d been living in Hawaii and was coming home. Now she runs a small production company with another filmmaker.

There’s this anecdote that goes: “Don’t count the colored linen before labor day.” Or am I mixing that up? September can take a snail’s pace. I’m not eager to lift off.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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She had put on a white linen dress and let her hair down. I told her she was beautiful and she laughed with delight.

Albert Camus, The Stranger

Coffee Log, Day 184

Hi.

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

There goes August: running fast enough to trip itself.

I read an article about the ‘A-Team’ on NPR. Not the TV series, but rather the short-lived 1970’s experiment dreamed up to answer widespread migrant worker protests. It happened in California, mostly, and involved granting crop-picking jobs to white high schoolers for the summer. The act passed Congress on the heels of ‘They’re taking our jobs!’ It singled out the best and brightest, the most active white boys for the honor. Within three days of the first year, 200 kids had quit. Those who stuck out the six-day weeks at minimum wage talked about it like an earthbound Hell.

The privilege to walk away.

Not much has changed. Farm labor is still largely migrant labor; or, if you’re in Eastern NC tobacco farms, it’s seven or eight year-olds who pick all day and sometimes miss school. Regardless, it’s hard, unloved work given to people who are most desperate. Five centimeters past slavery, in other words. No wonder our country can’t stomach loading it on well-to-do white boys.

I sit in the shade. Cold tea, new book. September mentions herself in a nice breeze, we exchange calendars and contacts. Autumn ease, there’s not a cloud in sight. Somewhere west of here, another 28-yr-old man bakes until his skin comes off, blood on knuckles, only knowing the sadistic love of burrs and melon seed.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich; FINISHED!! Will have a review soon

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“The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.” – Cesar Chavez
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Coffee Log, Day 182

Hi.

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

A few days ago, the blood of my great-great-grandfather was shoved violently into summer soil. I couldn’t be happier.

It’s gotten national press so I’m sure you’ve heard about it: Monday night, August 20th, Americans tied ropes around the head of Silent Sam – a famous statue memorializing the dead confederates who’d left their studies at UNC to fight the Union – and pulled him down. In April, Ms. Maya Little had mixed red paint with her own blood and marked Sam with it. It was a fair warning, raw art, the State had ample time to dismantle its own awful legacy, but like most things to do with entrenched power, nobody raised a finger. Monday, people got tired of waiting for justice that would never come.

I’ve seen a lot of pushback. Internet hailstorms of ‘respect history!’ or ‘honor the dead!’ A vicious funeral, cries of violence against the protesters, Americans gasping for the right to strip breath from other Americans – we re-enact the Civil War on message boards, painting bleak pictures, goading and goading until some white man or scared cop decides to paint history in three dimensions, black body canvases.

I’m sympathetic to the feeling of watching your past torn down. It’s my past too. But behind the best lace curtains, the wide summer porches, the blue shingles, there’s a black man bent over a table with his shirt off, dancing a waltz with your great-great-grandfathers’ whip. So no, not every student of grand ole’ UNC marched off with blood and slavery slavering out their mouths, but when they loaded their muskets and took aim they still still stood as bastions against humanity, against peace, against justice for all Americans.

There’s no honor for a nazi, and no honor for a confederate son.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“A statue that advocates violence against us, that honors slave owners. At this statue I have felt degraded, and I have also been harassed. I have been surveilled by police. I have been called a n****r. I have been told that I will be hung from the tree right above Silent Sam.” – Maya Little, interview on Democracy Now, https://www.democracynow.org/2018/8/22/meet_maya_little_unc_student_whose

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Coffee Log, Day 169

Hi.

Coffee: Fair Trade Five County Espresso Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

Blue Raspberry lollipop – it turned your whole mouth blue. Nephew of my coworker, the women show you off. Your mom was a drinker but you changed that. Your aunt talks tense phone-calls to laughter. Your friend – another coworker – has a strong southern accent.

How will you talk in 2035? You’ve got good parents, blond hair, blue eyes, but if you’re lucky – if we’re all lucky – those marks won’t have the same cache’ they do today. Will you spend fourth grade watching that one girl from the back of class, only to grab her hand in the lunch-line and kiss it, only to tell her that means you’re married, only to tell your parents and hear them laugh it off like ‘That’s what young men do.’ Will they teach you abstinence or responsible love?

In history books, white western men sin in the 100’s, fight in the 1000’s, conquer through the 21st century; they fight, kick, scream, spill blood until their hands are sticky enough to never drop the reigns. They don’t love, except voraciously; they don’t cry, except pathetically.

You walked behind the counter to get another lolly. I was there. I said: “High Five!” You were static smiles, so much innocent joy it got stuck on me. We smacked palms then you went running. I hope I gave you something. I spent twenty years making love to ill-gotten power, the next ten making up for that. I’m still making up for that. I hope you felt: brave; storied; vulnerable; open; powerless. I was born in the twilight of western white manhood. I’m fighting daily to make sure it dies. I hope you’ll never have to look at your naked limp body in the mirror and pick it down to honest sinews, take scalding showers to wash your grandfather’s sins. I hope you get to choose a good man, an honest man, an equitable man from the beginning.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“It is strange,’ he said at last. ‘I had longed to enter the world of men. Now I see it filled with sorrow, with cruelty and treachery, with those who would destroy all around them.’
‘Yet, enter it you must,’ Gwydion answered, ‘for it is a destiny laid on each of us. True, you have seen these things. But there are equal parts of love and joy.” – Lloyd Alexander, The Black Cauldron
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Coffee Log, Day 111

Hi.

Coffee: Organic Sumatra Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

Gray skies but it hasn’t rained. I’ve got my window open. I hear the two-tone of cars and crickets. Summer – ghost stories, according to Japan, and I get it – someone’s soul is liable to get lost in the bushy leaves.

School’s out. Lots of parents came by with their kids today. Most deposited a hundred dollars in a kids account. They were all white, all scrawny, a mayonnaise legion. I hope they’ll grow up to lock arms with a big, vibrant phalanx.

I think about story-telling. I’ve been running away from it since third grade when I stood up and answered a question in class, got it wrong, and was laughed at. Such a small thing, but it told me to shut up.

We stayed for two weeks at a camp off the coast of Hiroshima. There were dorms for us, dorms for the kids. One dorm was on a hill and the property owners wouldn’t touch it. Weeds, sheetgrass. Blue and white but faded, your grandfather’s photos of Santorini. On a mixed camp group – elementary to high school – I got stuck with the oldest, brightest, a group of five girls who spoke English with more character than me. We had a barbecue below the old dorms. The girls helped with the young ones, then we all went on a ghost hunt. I marched in front yelling “One, two, one, two!” Every kid was shouting with me. It was the most powerful I’ve ever felt. It was some of the only power I’ve ever felt good about feeling.

When we got up the hill, circled the old dorms, only old wind came to greet us. I’d like to think we scared the ghosts away.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

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“…I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

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