Coffee Log, Year 3, Day 3


Coffee: Organic Medium Roast, Don Pablo’s

I’d let my hair grow out. Today, I cut it. I shaved it down. Short on the sides, a little longer on top. I’d gotten bogged down by the weight of it. It was the longest I’d had my hair in years. M said it looked nice, which was fine, and made me feel good. There was gray in it. I don’t mind the gray, but without it I feel younger.

I’m not young. I’m 30. Anyone older probably scoffs at that. But I’ve lived long enough to start forgetting things, like where I was that Christmas, or my cousin’s face. Youth, to me, is about everything compressed into a single moment, so you can’t help but feel that anything you think or do is vital. Age takes a bit of that vanity away.

I saw a flock of geese by a local pond. The pond is downhill of a Lutheran church. On Sundays, the worshippers whisk off the parking lot and across the street to Trader Joe’s. The geese were the only members of the congregation to stay.

I’m still in the middle of studying. It’s lots of slideshows and pink highlighters. I’m lucky for it, lucky for the time, lucky for the opportunity, and that luck makes me anxious. We all want to believe that our actions are the sole progenitors of our success, but another thing about getting older, if you’re doing it right, is to realize that so much of life is set in motion outside of you. I’m fortunate to have my clothes, my bed, my family, my skin. The whole world wraps in conspiracy to push me into soft spaces, and that just makes me wonder who it’s leaving behind.

Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

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Ability is of little account without opportunity.

Napolean Bonaparte

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 67


Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

I stayed in the hammock long after everyone else had gone and even after my host had left to get ready for bed. It was 3 in the morning. I was 18. I was up thinking of stories.

Earlier, as in during the school year, I’d been at this same house sitting on this same porch (though the hammock wasn’t there, they strung that up for the summer) and talked a big game about how you could make a story of anything. I was trying to be encouraging. My host – we’ll call her the Gymnast – had a big speech coming up. It was at our graduation. She was co-valedictorian. She was scared.

So I said: “Take this: a ham sandwich. But the only topping is mustard. Sound interesting?”

She said: “No.”

I went on and on about that sandwich, building up a history with the bread and meat, a poignant love of mustard that had to do with an absent father. She laughed. It was a terrible story and I hadn’t proved anything, but at least it was fun.

In the hammock, I was eaten by mosquitoes. There was netting but some still got in. We’d been coming here weekly, me and all my friends, dying a last summer bleach blonde and bloodshot with late nights before we dispersed to different colleges. We hung out on the porch and in her basement, the Gymnast’s home. We all crowded in the hammock after her parents were asleep because none of us had gotten too cynical about touching another person’s skin.

I tossed and turned. It took a long time for the Gymnast to come back. She was brushing her teeth, I think. A perfect opportunity but I couldn’t think of anything. I knew I needed a better story but it all kept coming up ham and mustard.

When you’re young and not too poor, it’s easy to compress the universe into something pocket-sized. You take it with you everywhere you go, adding bits of lint, fiddling with it when you’re nervous. Back then, I was always nervous so I was always fiddling. I’d look at the moon and think it was two feet tall. I’d talk to the Gymnast and see a lock and a key and something precious behind a door I couldn’t figure out how to open.

I wanted to commemorate that feeling; I wanted the Gymnast to feel it too.

Finally, she came back and sat beside me, just us, she was in blue pajamas. She said: “Hey.” I said “I want to write something.” We sat together another half hour until it was impossible to ignore the mosquitoes, then she walked me out – past the kitchen where we’d baked together, the hallway she drew me in the first time, and out the front door. We said goodbye on her front lawn. I got in an old car that doesn’t exist as a car anymore (scrapped down) and drove home.

Whenever I’m feeling anxious, or stuck with writer’s block, I fiddle with my pocket and get lost in another universe: a dreamy one where I figured out a better story than a ham sandwich; an impossible world that doesn’t get past 18; some time and place where I knew exactly what to say.

Currently Reading: Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

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What a weary time those years were — to have the desire and the need to live but not the ability.

Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye

Coffee Log, Day 134


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

For a long time the most foreign place in the world was the Asheboro, NC Zoo. I went there on school trips and with my parents. The trips with my parents were better; we told safari stories.

There’s lots of problems in the world and somewhere about the lower-middle of the list is humanity’s treatment of animals. Zoos are a part of that. For its measure, Asheboro does well enough. It gives more land to its animals than any other zoo in the US. It funds conservation.

It wasn’t always so good…

In the African exhibit there’s a big glass building that used to smell like monkey. These days it’s where they have tanks of fish, creeping spiders, scant birds. Back then, the center was a walled-off, indoor meshed tower fifty feet high. It had a giant concrete tree. It was home to apes and monkeys.

I remember their screaming. Excited, angry, glad, the whole gamut. The monkeys were a loud bunch. They’d swing broad and give a show – for each other, really, but we observed. The ceiling was so high and the skylight was frosted so the room was always this bright, tropical gray. That and the artificial humidity, the monkey’s screams, the stink that was so close to sweat between a man or woman’s legs, but still a little foreign, a little violent – to me, that pavilion was the most foreign place in the world.

On my daily walk around the apartments a thunderstorm takes. Blue’s gone, sweaty smooth clouds; every tree goes this-that way, the bark creaking, leaves screaming, braced for the confines of a heavy storm; I walk fast to avoid the rain.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

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“Catch him down bad, beat him with a bat, hashtag that (yeah).” – Young Thug, Harambe