Do it Again
In summer the straight lines hang back. In their place is the heavy rotation of fun – running, melon-swallowing, whatever. Logic, your mind – these you stow in the back seat. When it’s hot and you are under the black locust tree observing that the grass needs a shave and so do you it can also come to you that the future isn’t going to arrive via syllogistic reasoning.
My black locust moment came in 2003 when I lost my job. My boss, twisting in her heels, invited me into her office, closed the door, sat down and began to cry. That was April. By May I was standing on my back lawn, the tops of my feet tan, my face and chest likewise. Trance documentaries about art played at the Crest Theater. I read late into the night, made lists, planned a basement rewiring project.
Every day was 72 degrees. The back yard, weedy, looked like salad. Clothes pinned to the line smelled like bread. The sun, the sky, usually the white of eyes, brimmed with color. The air was spongy. I talked to my neighbors.
One Saturday, I drove north to a home brew supply place on Greenwood. It had the hardware store scent of boxes of washers and hobbyist fantasy, and after a consultation I left with a trunk full of brewing paraphernalia: a large pot, grains, tubes, hops, a glass carbide. At home, I boiled water for the mash. The process took weeks. In the mornings I pulled wire and in the afternoons I colluded with the wort. One night the cork on the carbide blew and I woke up to the reek of yeast, fermentation.
The kitchen floor was, eventually, filthy; the windows, strangely clean, looked up at raccoons in the trees. My hair grew. My beard grew. I was a mad professor. A woodpecker hammered the side of the mountain ash. In the evenings I read books about Egon Schiele, chapters on pouring cement. For dinner I ate tomato and cucumber on toast, blueberries for dessert.
And then my neighbor across the street did a 180 and sold his beer-making gear and bought a machine, a drum roaster, for making coffee. One day after lunch he said, Wait. It was around 72, dry. The big trees moved a little at the tops. The other unemployed men stood in the street, their arms crossed, Skilsaws idle. He brought out cups of coffee, two to a hand.
Drinking it, we knew a dark turn was coming on, a changeling thing. It was so much better than coffee in the places you know, than the corporate places and the nascent corporate places, and the place that’s good and new and local, and the place on the corner with the line out the door. It was face-of-god good, and it was 72 degrees all that summer, and standing with our coffee on the street Seattle seemed large enough suddenly, a city not of practical khaki’s and unfocussed eyes and inward smiles. It seemed good. It said, Do it again.