Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 108

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee; where does all this coffee come from? It’s packed in blue plastic pillows, three scoops per. We get the pillows on order from corporate and they come in brown boxes stuffed to the brim. There’s no sourcing. I don’t know whose hands picked the beans or roasted them, who ground them up. I don’t know how much Maxwell House paid to package this coffee conveniently. I don’t know who’s putting dinner on the table (and who isn’t). I just drink the stuff and pinch my nose at it. Tastes like amnesia, or a radio blackout, every single time.

I read a story on Vice about human trafficking. Specifically, the sale of First Nations women between northern Minnesota and Canada across the wide, cold waters of Lake Superior. The article was mostly a reference to work by Christine Stark, a Master’s student at University in Duluth, who’s doing a study of the subject. Stark spends most of her days interviewing women who survived.

Anyway, the way they do it is gradual – friend, family, or a lover gets the woman (or child) dependent, bit by bit, until she’s obligated by shame or force. They use the water because it’s easier that way. It’s hard to barge into a barge, discover what’s going on. And the money comes mostly from parties. A rented yacht, a bruisy Autumn evening, Superior gone gold like Western movie posters, so glorious you can get away with anything, even the rape and sale of someone you’ve stripped of freedom.

I saw Superior once. I put my hand in her water. It was Presque Park, the tip of Michigan. She lapped like an ocean, even though we were far away from the coast. Clear to the bottom. Welcoming. Winter-cold, even though it was July. Back then, it seemed the only thing she carried were the oak leaves getting loose in a slick wind, but I guess she was also carrying a darker sort of cargo just a couple hundred miles away.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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He paid her bills, rent, and the essentials for her children, but on weekends, “brought up other white men from the cities for prostitution with Native women… he had her role play the racist ‘Indian maiden and European colonizer’ myth…

Dave Dean quoting Christine Stark, on Vice.com, article ‘Native American Women Are Being Sold into the Sex Trade on Ships Along Lake Superior’

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 41

Hi.

Coffee: Breakfast Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

It’s been an exhausting day. I was sick last night with a stomach virus. Couldn’t sleep, couldn’t make it to work. I spent the morning in and out of day dreams, the afternoon in a deep orange haze. I can’t remember most of the pieces of the day. I know I read a lot of The Sense of an Ending, so I guess I’ll talk about that.

The book’s grown on me. I feel like I say that with every book I read. Maybe it just takes me some time to acclimate to an author. Maybe it’s a confirmation bias – this far in, I don’t want to feel like I’ve wasted my time.

The narrator is still a pretentious prick, but I think he’s supposed to be. The book is about looking back on your life and realizing your memory of events gets it wrong. You weren’t as good a person as you thought you had been. Your worst enemies were more complicated than you gave them credit for.

One thing that bugs me is it ends up being about a woman. Not in the ‘this is an examination of this woman, or womanhood, etc,’ but in the manic, hungry way every book written by a man ends up being about a woman. Even in Crime and Punishment, salvation is found in a separate female body.

I’m guilty of this, too. Pop over to the Writing Samples section of this website and you’ll find my most recent published work – Chessboard and Tequila – full of all kinds of wining about ‘losing the girl.’ It’s complicated. A lot of life is driven by love. But is this really love? Is this fictional mad-dash to absolve something wrong in your maleness by attaching it to a woman anything like real love?

So where does this trend come from? Male writers have been writing these same stories for centuries. Is it genetic? Is it something in our cultures?

Even now, my novel involves a bit of chasing girls. The idea comes out of my fingers like summer crickets on the keyboard, bouncing all around, making a racket. I try to catch them but a few get through. These days, I figure the best I can do is draw attention to this oddity – this obsessive problem in male art, including my own. The best I can do is pick and prod it until it shows me something new.

I’m tired of stories about men chasing women.

Novel Count: 36,338

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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Man grows used to everything, the scoundrel!


Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

Coffee Log, Day 365

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand

I read an article about the end of civilization. It was by Luke Kemp, this guy who researches trends in the collapse of old empires. All the trends point to our contemporary world going under. It was scary and persuasive, but of course all doomsayers are.

How many Coffee Logs have I started with the words ‘I read an article?’ I guess I could go through and count them. The number would surely surprise me. My own end of civilization statistics – read, written, posted, done. Blog posts come and go like old Rome. Ah, the good old days…

You probably already guessed why I’m being so reflective – this is it, the big 365. I’ve been doing this thing daily for a whole year. This is the Coffee Log’s first anniversary, and like most anniversary’s, it’s one of those days that seem a lot bigger before you get to it. I brought our favorite store-bought coffee, set the template on the post just right, even turned down the lights as I’m writing this on the old keyboard that we started with. Romantic, huh? All the little things that kept us alive last year.

Here are some memories:

The first post I wrote was 44 words long. So short it would give Twitter shivers. I was drinking Guatemalan and reading ‘Women’ by Bukowski. I’d really only chimed in to say that this site existed. Damn if I haven’t gotten long winded over time.

My most viewed post was just a couple weeks ago on February 12th, 2019 (day 356 for those keeping count). On average, Tuesday’s are my most popular days and 2:00 a.m. is when the bulk of y’all read my site. What are you doing up so late?

When I look back on the year, the post that’s stuck to me the most is June 8th, 2018 – Day 108. That was the day Anthony Bourdain hung himself. Bourdain’s death shook me. He’d been someone I’d looked to for guidance – as an artist and a man. That whole morning I felt like someone was stuffing socks in my mouth. None of my words seemed to matter but I had so much to say. I wrote my Coffee Log on a lunch break. Before I knew it, I was writing about Bourdain. That put me back together. I’ve always been a private person, but here was this immediately public way to express my grief. That changed me. And it changed the Log. Gone were the days of two-to-three liners, blips on a radar. Those blips may have been beautiful, but suddenly it felt like I had something to say.

Here I am, still saying it.

I like two things in my life a little bit better than all the others: writing and coffee. I like to write because it’s in me, an animal, a round sneaking oyster, something picking and prying that keeps on coming open no matter what I do. And I like coffee because it gives me the space to write. These are my two passions. I’m pretty happy when I get to share them. For 365 days – one whole year now – I’ve been sharing them with you. Thanks for sticking around.

Here, let me pour you another cup.

Novel Count: 25,512

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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The people of New York City sat out there and drank beer and soda and ice water. They endured and smoked cigarettes. Just being alive was a victory.

Charles Bukowski, Women


Coffee Log, Day 164

Hi.

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

America taught you I’m a threat. It taught me the same thing.

I was at the Japanese Festival at the NC State Fair grounds. L invited me. Go back a couple generations and his blood’s risen-sun red. We got there early, walked the stalls. There were many American faces, all cultures, all colors. I watched the snap-crack kendo demo. I watched a cadre of kids running with a tiny paper float on their backs, memories of Yamakasa.

On the way out, we wanted treats. I got some matcha mochi with red-bean paste, shared it with L. It was wrapped in bamboo leaves and AC cold. I liked it – earthy, like the year’s first mowed lawn. L wasn’t a fan so we had extra.

Anyway, standing with L and his wife, watching a Japanese woman pound piano on stage, a girl – maybe 17, 18 – walks by and asks “Where’d you get that?” I pointed her to the dessert stand. Then she tells me her grandmother used to make mochi. She was dressed western but had Japanese ravens in her eyes.

I said: “We’ve got extra if you want it.”

She stopped. Lips open; hands closed. Eyes went so wide all the ravens flew out; she shook her head, slightly. I could see the sweat.

“Ok, cool,” I said. She walked quick and the crowd swallowed her.

I was stunned. The bright warm Saturday had changed: eyes on me, a thousand; I hadn’t planned to wear my fangs to the festival, but here they were.

Girls grow up in America surrounded by long fingers, long stares, machinations to dislodge them from themselves. “Men are predators; men are a threat.” It’s too true not to learn the lesson. Her fear is far more suffering than I’ll know, but the bedtime story warps me too. If every girl is red riding hood, every man is the wolf. I feel you stitch the claws on me; that stiff ragged tail; I don’t want these teeth, but now I have them. A few thousand years of pack-hunting womanhood like African ivory and I’m born an animal. I’m a threat, however little I want to be.

I can’t change those stories, but I’ll keep trying to write new ones.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Beauty provokes harassment, the law says, but it looks through men’s eyes when deciding what provokes it.” – Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

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Coffee Log, Day 140

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand; I know I’m getting boring. I’ve been busy, my checkbook’s been busy. I’ll try something new this weekend!

Two black women come into the branch. Mother and daughter, the girl’s in high school. We talk about the heat, AC. Mom needs to open a business account. She goes to our manager’s office. Daughter sits on one of our froofy chairs and checks her phone.

Afterwards, three fat white men come in. They’re regulars. “Hey!” my colleagues say, brightly. First guy’s got a deposit. He’s pink as insulation. His head’s bald. He talks about the shave. He shaves his head often, sometimes his girlfriend does it. Last time she shaved for him, she rubbed raw and left some scabs. He waves his hands big. He doesn’t smile. “Almost hit her with the pine switch,” he says.

I’d been listening. I’d been smiling. And I didn’t say a damn thing to him.

Given my position, I don’t know whether or not I should have – customers, etc. I did glare at him. He caught that, we both looked away. I felt bad for the girl. I looked at her too. We were both too confused to sit our eyes together long. I kept to myself after that. When the men left, I didn’t know what to say. When the women left, “Have a good one,” was the best I could come up with.

Anyway, that’s growing up a girl in America: come to the bank with your mother to celebrate her success, hear strange men laughing about gender violence.

We’ve all got to do better.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Yes, we love the good men in our lives and sometimes, oftentimes, the bad ones too- but that we’re not in full revolution against the lot of them is pretty amazing when you consider this truth: men get to rape and kill women and still come home to a dinner cooked by one.” – Jessica Valenti, Sex Object: A Memoir

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