Coffee Log, Day 318

Hi.

Coffee: Americano, Caribou Coffee; a bit more burnt than usual; I carried the cup into work where they had the heat off despite the cold; it was nice to have something hot in my hands, bitter or not.

The hardest days to work are the ones you don’t work regularly. Paradoxically, they’re also the easiest.

The bank has us scheduled to work two Saturday’s a quarter. There’s only a handful of branches open on Saturday and they’re only open until noon. So really it’s nothing to complain about. I spent years working at a bookstore where a Saturday shift from two to midnight wasn’t only common, it was weekly. But everything in life is about expectation and when you’re no longer expecting to work the weekend, those hours drag long.

But there’s also something kind of neat about it.

Way, way back, I was one of those kids who joined academic clubs. Lit club, science bowl, I was in orchestra from 4th grade on. So it wasn’t unheard of to have to stay a few hours after school. There was magic in that. The halls were empty. The teachers were walking around talking more casually than you were used to. It was like catching your mother with her hair down for the first time, or your father out of his suit. You were in on something. It was good and special and dorky and powerful.

The Saturday crews rotate at the bank. You’ve got people from all over the triangle at different branches than they usually work. By chance, I was at my home branch today, but I worked with a couple people I haven’t seen in a while. We talked a lot, mostly work stories, and even though we hadn’t really said anything, there was an ease you can’t feel with the same people you see everyday. We passed four hours.

We packed up to go. Lately, on a weekday, we’ve been getting out when it’s already dark. But today it was only noon. The sky was blazing with the sun.

Novel Count: 11,157

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

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As we approached each other, the noise and the students around us melted away and we were utterly alone, passing, smiling, holding each other’s eyes, floors and walls gone, two people in a universe of space and stars.

Jerry Spinelli


Coffee Log, Day 250

Hi.

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

Long day. Worked eight hours. Came home, didn’t work out, but should have. I ate Taco Bell. The cheese was orange and got stuck to the wrappers and now I smell like a flea market. Messy. It was what I wanted.

I’m trying to make moves – career, personal, artistic, etc. I’m always making moves. In college, I thought I’d major in biochem. When that got old, I majored in philosophy. When that got old, I fell in love and took school less seriously. When that got old, I quit my job and moved and failed for a few years until I understood myself.

‘Restless’ would be a word to describe me. ‘Ambitious,’ if you’re generous. But anyway, long day, worked and ate and worked some more. There’s a half-empty bottle of wine from a week-and-a-half ago on my kitchen counter; it’s sour, but drinkable. Me and that wine have a lot in common.

This is all I’ve got tonight.

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

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“I am somewhat exhausted; I wonder how a battery feels when it pours electricity into a non-conductor?” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Dying Detective

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Coffee Log, Day 194

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s

I sat in a lot of chairs today. R was buying another – his desk chair broke – and I went along with him. We started at Staples, meandered to Target, ended in an Office Max that was once an Office Depot. There were bright yellow clearance bins in the Office Max. It was crowded, mostly kids, back to school shopping. We were there one hour before close.

R sits in a chair and a staffer shows up: “How do you like it?” she asks. She’s got spaghetti blond hair, basset hound wrinkles, she’s over 50. R says “It’s alright, seems like a good deal.” The chair was half off. She’s happy he noticed. Then R says “Yeah, these things can get pretty pricey,” and the woman dead faces him with one last line before walking off: “Well, most people have jobs.” He and I couldn’t stop laughing when she was gone.

We left the store with a different chair and got cheap Chinese for dinner. I kept thinking about the lady. I felt a little bad for laughing. He and I are both employed, but how would she know? And even if we weren’t, it’s bitter and lonely to mock someone who can’t work. But then I got to thinking: it’s Labor Day; a beautiful, stormy September; this lady is stuck doing shift work at an office store. When she looked down on us layabouts testing her chairs and wasting her time, maybe she was actually trying to say: “Don’t look at me. Don’t laugh at me. Don’t see me as less than you. I am working. I have a place that needs my blood, my bones, the sweat of my later years. It might be a corporation that doesn’t respect me – I might get paid pennies to another man’s dime – but here I am working when the rest of the world rests in big, comfy chairs; this is my pride, and if you won’t take it then I’ll shove it down your throat.”

Similar thoughts got Trump elected. And a similar fit of laughter when those thoughts turn the corner tanked any hope for Hillary. I’ll try to accept what the world is handing me: elitism. In spite of that, I’ll try to keep the bitter fire I used to know and bury that elitism below a head capable of hearing what old white women working two jobs on bad knees are trying to say, rather than the words that come out.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“No man needs sympathy because he has to work, because he has a burden to carry. Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” – Theodore Roosevelt

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Coffee Log, Day 139

Hi.

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

In July, I start to wonder what winter will look like. In January, I think the same about July. I guess that means I’m restless. Ready to move or settle down – well, that changes by the day.

I got called to work a Durham Branch. I left in the morning feeling like I was going backwards. Durham’s got so many of my ghosts you’d think I was already buried there. I took 40 to 147 to 12B, one exit before the one I used to take when I went to see you, slicked on 12% romance; a habit of strong beers. Well, 12B put me in the same places – Downtown, Parker and Otis, the Bulls Stadium – until it ran me past them.

The branch was in a Northern corner of the city I hadn’t seen before. We passed the wealth. We passed the haunts where hipsters with fat wallets pretend their money’s thin. Trees gave up to grass lots, curved roads, places where you only cook with butter. Then all that vanished and there was a stretch that looked a lot like Cary. Two medical centers, neither associated with Duke. It was strange – blasphemous – and if I were a praying man I would have crossed myself.

I parked beside a Chipotle, a Chik Fil’A, everything vibrantly counted down into nickel rolls. I met two good people at the bank, then I met a few more. Our clients reminded me of my year teaching in the city – I could see PTA in all their eyes. With my new tie and banker’s credit, I felt like I was hiding something. I checked the old men and old women for hidden colleagues; I checked the young men and young women for former students.

October 31st, best mask, best mask. In the end I’m still free like public water; can’t stop flowing, but there’s a price paid in the bushes somewhere, tucked away.

“Hi, I’m Mr. Livesay, how can I help?”

At lunch, I walked around the lot. I found a nice strong tree. I stayed in its shade a while. When you look at me, Durham, tell me I’m not transparent – take me, love me, hold me, validate those years – but be honest with what you see.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“In one aspect, yes, I believe in ghosts, but we create them. We haunt ourselves.” – Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls

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Coffee Log, Day 138

Hi.

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

Last night, a Mosquito-Eater got trapped in my bedroom. She buzzed the windows mostly, sometimes my bed or pillows, sometimes the string lights. I don’t know how she got inside. I assumed she’d find her way out.

This morning, I didn’t see the Mosquito-Eater. In the strange, flexible valley of memory, I forgot I’d ever seen her. I ate breakfast, got dressed, went to work, came home, worked out, talked to a friend on the phone for a good long time, and took three walks around the apartments. When the busy things were done, I cooked dinner. Tonight I ate a sandwich with slices of fake turkey. I watched an episode of Planet Earth.

And she kept bumping, bumping, bumping into the window, right beside me, having been there even when I forgot about her. The Mosquito-Eater was still trapped. She looked weak – well, as weak as a spindly-legged monster can. I watched her struggle. I didn’t want to deal with the situation; it had been a long day; I was tired. On the TV, Marine lizards were diving off big rough rocks. They looked free. I put the sandwich down, grabbed a plastic cup and an old envelope, caught the Mosquito-Eater and gave her to the big outdoors.

It was a simple thing to do, after all.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“You do not respond to a mosquito bite with a hammer.” – Patrick L.O. Lumumba

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Coffee Log, Day 92

Hi.

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

Another long one. Work dragged like a crabbing operation. There were few customers. The branch had big ceilings and I always get uncomfortable below big ceilings. What’s up there? What are you hiding?

I’ll admit it, I’m a short man.

Thank god or whatever else for the long weekend. The week stumbles forward like a drunk man on rollerskates.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson

“I am old, Gandalf. I don’t look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed! Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.” – J.R.R. Tolkein, Lord of the Rings

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Coffee Log, Day 70

Hi.

Coffee: Organic Bolivian Blend, Trader Joe’s Brand

It was family tradition to go out to dinner. We’d eat most often at La Fiesta, the Mex-American joint on Church, and back in the day before the remodeling it was a dark restaurant with few windows and brick walls and a big painted mural of two parrots in sombreros. We took turns telling adventure stories about the Amazon rain forest. Idle cultural appropriation aside, those were good memories.

As I got older, dinner nights became waiting for one or the other of my parents to come home from work. I remember blood-orange afternoons in the kitchen and the first sight of my father in a loose-fitting suit. These days, I wear white shirts and black slacks and tie myself up to go to work, then come home and heat something I cooked on the weekends. The only thing that sees me walk through the afternoon sun is a bundle of scratchpads and unfinished word documents bouncing off the taskbar. They’re a sort of family, and I’d like to think they tell better stories.

Currently Reading:
The Pardoner’s Tale, by John Wain

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“My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people.” – Orson Welles
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