Coffee Log, Day 346

Hi.

Coffee Tea: Black Tea; I got home late last night and didn’t feel like getting the coffee ready. So I didn’t have coffee this morning. I microwaved a cup of water for two minutes and popped in the tea bag. It was sweet, a little nutty. It was just fine.

I had to work today, despite it being Saturday. I spent the morning listening to a young Colombian talk about getting engaged.

My cousin posted a video of him doing a penguin dive in Montana. The lake was frozen so they’d cut a square off the ice by the shore. He walks out in shorts and a tie-dye t-shirt, stands in line with a lesbian couple in matching tu-tu’s, and jumps. He does a cannonball. Spoosh! I’m a little worried when he hits the water, but then again, I don’t really know the guy.

In high school, I used to joke with R that his brother didn’t exist. At that time, his brother was off in college so he didn’t come around too often (at least that I could see). But if anyone had made the same jokes with me – that whatever aunt or uncle wasn’t real – I’d be hard pressed to prove them otherwise.

My family keeps the four corners of America. That’s a busy enough job that no-one ever visits each other. There’s a sliding scale of bad blood between them. And even when the blood’s decent, no-one feels like they have much to share.

The older I get, the more it sticks with me that I don’t have an extended family. Sometimes that’s a sad thought, other times liberating. It makes you feel like there’s just no chance that you’ll walk outside and see someone who shares your DNA. A tourist in your own home town.

I’ve got another cousin who came by last summer. He’s a big guy, friendly, a little drunk on fancy words. He makes movies. Or really, experimental film. He’s been posting snippets of a video he did on cow auctions. They fix the cows in a vice so that they can only face forward. Cattle all around, belting and hollering, but try as you might, you’ll never get your eyes on them.

Novel Count: 21,067

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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What are they, Dad? Cows, son. What are cows, Dad? Cows are cows, son.

Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes


Coffee Log, Day 296

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I drive back to Burlington with a scratchy cough and a bottle of Advil. The streets are disappearing in fog.

I went home for a belated birthday get together with family. We met in a crowded Mexican restaurant where I used to know all the waiters but now I know some of the waiters. It was cold and crowded and loud and bright with pink string lights set out for Christmas. It was comfortable but nothing like I remember.

Later, I met friends for dinner at an empty Chinese sit-down. They were running Greensboro news. The food was so-so. The staff was familiar. They hadn’t aged. We each got soup with the dinner and most of us gave our soups to C. He had so many soups you’d think he were trying to drown, but pleasantly. We finished eating and my fortune told me to follow my heart.

Cold old roads, cracked winter pavement.

Novel Count: (on hiatus while I recover from this cold)

Currently Reading: Cherry, Nico Walker (Finished! Mixed feelings overall; I’ll try to get to a review this weekend)

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Under the thinning fog the surf curled and creamed, almost without sound, like a thought trying to form inself on the edge of consciousness. – Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

Coffee Log, Day 290

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

At noon, the snow gave way to rain.

There’s a special sadness to rain that washes out snow. It’s something like a falling out. These things are brothers. In a little while, they’ll both be gone.

I didn’t take a walk today. I got my clothes washed, coat fluffed, shoes dried, then the rain started. I think that’s okay. I’ve seen snow before. I’ve been through this before. Instead, I made tea and then some coffee and watched the unraveling whiteness from the kitchen window. I read ‘Cherry.’ I’m trying to finish that book. I’m trying to finish anything.

I’ve been having nightmares about teaching again. I often have nightmares, but it’s been awhile for this specific variety. Maybe the stint at the middle school writing club brought them back. I’m standing in the hall with all the lights off. There’s a storm outside. The classrooms are empty. In some of the classrooms are school supplies – books, backpacks, coats and phones – so I know students used to be here. They’re chased off. They’re not coming back. And somehow that feels like my responsibility.

Another year closes. What did we learn? Things seem dire. It’s hard to tell how dire they really are. We have a habit of fixing on the negative. There’s a human resilience, but it’s often tested, and I don’t know that any of us are ready to be tested again.

A month ago, a 13yr-old girl was abducted and murdered in Lumberton, NC. Her funeral is coming up. Her father is Guatemalan and lives and works in the country. The US just denied his Visa to return for her funeral.

What is my responsibility? I write some things and some of them matter. Is there something more? I’ve been thinking about teaching. The thought of teaching paralyzes me. I don’t think I made much of a difference in my students’ lives the last time. A lot of them had hard lives. Some of them didn’t have homes to go to. Meanwhile, I talked a lot about the water cycle.

But that’s the trick: you only have the time to do one specific something for the world. You can’t do anything more. It’s terrifying to think that ‘something’ might not be enough. Or rather, it’s terrifying to know that it can’t be. But you still have to pick it and I guess that’s what I’m trying to do.

Novel Count: 15,400 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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Melancholy were the sounds on a winter’s night.

Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room


Coffee Log, Day 288

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I bought figures and a game book at the local hobby shop for a DnD campaign I’m running. The store was busy. They were hosting tabletop games.

I like places where people feel comfortable to be themselves. There was a lot of cheering, a lot of laughing at the store. Community is valuable and hard to come by.

I’m writing this in the Chinese joint I frequent. It’s my second trip this week. I’m with two friends, we’re just about the only ones in here. It smells like fat and salt. The lady at the counter knows my order.

A cold whipped Saturday night. Winter storms on the way. In food or games, we wait for the sky to harden and crack apart together. A little warmer this way.

Novel Count: 15,980 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. – Dr. Seuss

Coffee Log, Day 285

Hi.

Coffee: Bolivian Medium-Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

When I think about Christmas, I think of a thrift store off Main. I’m pretty sure it isn’t there anymore. In fact, I’m pretty sure the store only lasted a few years, and I only went to it once or twice.

Anyway, it was on this side road in East Burlington that if you took long enough would either get you to the middle school or to Graham. It was in an old, hollowed out brick building that had fallen on hard times, it was lit like an ER, there were old black particle-board tables set in rows and cardboard boxes full of stuff obliterating the even lines. The owners were old ladies. So what I’m saying is, the thrift store was nothing unusual.

I went there with my Mom. I think it might have been after school, or maybe it was a weekend. Either way it was dark outside. We were Christmas shopping. Not for the family, rather the ancillary gifts you put a few dollars and two cents into in hopes of warming up the people you sort of know and would like to know better. We walked around for an hour and I got bored. There were tinsel wreaths. There were craft ceramics. I bought a tiny straw angel for a family I knew took angels seriously. Then we left.

But that whole store was Christmas to me: a dim, uncomplicated lull of gift-giving; the cheap earnest dressings; the streetlight evening through the windows; I think they were playing Christmas songs on a scratchy record player.

Anyway, that thrift store has been on my mind lately. I’m glad it was there. I wonder if anyone else remembers it?

Novel Count: 15,069 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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Why they were loaded with bags of beans and peas and anything else they happened to pick up when they were still some distance away from the street where the first blind man and his wife lived, for that is where they are going, is a question that could only occur to someone who has never in his life suffered shortages.

Jose Saramago, Blindness


Coffee Log, Day 282

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s brand; rich, muddy, and deeply familiar; just like the wet clay soil you had a mudfight in with the neighborhood kids before you were grounded for tracking mud through the house.

It smells like diesel at our apartment. They’ve been re-roofing the building and one of the guys has this gas-powered blower that knocks the old tiling down. They’ve packed up for now, it’s about to rain, but they’ll be back tomorrow. When I opened the curtains this morning there was a ladder in front of me.

As long as I’m not stuck under it, I like a cold rain. There’s a sort of reclamation. The trees give up the last of the year’s leaves, all but the greedy conifers. The dirt gets soaked but it’s so cold that mud is more pudding than a landslide. Grass looks like the washbasin at a hair salon.

I tried to take a walk but got caught by a few drops. My hair smells like ammonia now, which makes me wonder what we’re putting in our water. I read somewhere that acid rain is less of a problem than it once was, so maybe the smell is natural, bits of seafoam carried from the coast containing the relinquished acids and oils from tiny things that die in the thousands without you noticing.

But I might just need a shower.

Novel Count: 14,900 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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The rain lets up. The devil stops beating his wife, but I beat the dashboard, punching it over and over, numb to the pain of it.

Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give


Coffee Log, Day 275

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand; I found a reusable filter in the cabinet. It’s not as fine as the paper. I’m drinking Turkish coffee – muddy, the grounds brewed in – except without the better taste.

It’s Saturday. I’m working. I picked up a shift because I figured I don’t have plans with my family and this is Thanksgiving Weekend, other people might. Can’t say I’m looking forward to it, but what better have I got to do?

It’s dreary. Wet. Rain. Clouded over. My kind of day. I don’t know how to think when it’s sunny. There’s a pressure to perform, like that beautiful man or woman you got in bed with without knowing their last name. Nah, the clouds suit me just fine.

Sometimes, when it’s almost December, I feel like I’ve got an answer for the year. It’s never a good one. Rarely bad, either. Instead, it’s just a feeling of being spent. Put the batteries in the Energizer bunny and he marches a full circle. Here we are again.

At least for now the whole world looks blue. The sun’s barely up. The trees are bent by last night’s rain. It’s brutal cold and I wonder how the birds are doing. I’ve always wondered how birds stand the cold winter winds, perched in a bush or tree. Not all of them have the luxury of flying south. But they do manage. And I guess that’s the best hope for any of us: birds in December, shivering for Spring.

Novel Count: 12,062 words

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

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Ignoring me, she looked up at the pigeons sitting on the windowsills, which this year were so caked with droppings that they looked quite disgusting. The pigeons were a big problem at Wolfsegg; year in, year out, they sat on the buildings in their hundreds and ruined them with their droppings.

Thomas Bernhard, Extinction