“When you like what you do, it’s really easy” A morning at Cafe Blé in Guadalajara, Mexico

ble cafeteria y panaderia guadalajara mexico

Photo credit: Blé’s Facebook page

I wake up at 7:11am, 19 minutes before my alarm’s set to go off. My alarm never wakes me up. I’m terrified of the sound, so I always wake up before it goes off. I lie in bed for a few moments, feeling confused. I get up to go to the bathroom, but there’s already someone there, and so I go back to my bedroom and brood. It’s a good morning for brooding. I didn’t sleep that well, I think because of all the caffeine yesterday. Yesterday I drank mate, which I had been drinking from time to time in my favorite cafe, El Rincon del Mate, but now I have a bag of the stuff, I can make it whenever I want, and so yesterday my intake was increased.

While lying in bed someone comes into the kitchen and starts making breakfast. I immediately want to strike them. How dare they make such noise. I think it’s Rodolfo. His phone beeps from time to time from (probably) messages, and I want to get up and scream at him to turn it off. But instead I lie in bed rating Instagram ads for Appen, the job I still haven’t been fired from. I rate six ads in 21 minutes, deliberately taking a long time to do so. If I rate the ads too fast I won’t work the full hour, and won’t get paid the full hour. So I take my time. I minimize my usage of my phone’s speech to text capabilities, since that generally makes things go way faster. While I’m rating I continue seething at what’s going on in the kitchen, the beeping of Rodolfo’s phone, the sound of whatever he’s frying, probably heated-up chilaquiles from the day before. And then when I’m done I get up and get dressed so fast I almost pull a leg muscle, and then storm out of the house in a huff.

And all is well.

It’s cold outside. Daylight savings just kicked in, which means what’s 7:30am used to be 6:30am, which means when I wake up it’s much colder, and in the evening it’s hotter longer. The temperature change came quick. In February it rained and I wore my hat everyday and sometimes even my wool jacket, and now every night while going to bed I lie on top of the sheet with no shirt on, covered by nothing, listening to whatever TV program my neighbors are watching. My neighbors are an older couple often visited by their wayward son who has a dog that might be a boxer or a pitbull. They  mean well, but I don’t know how conscious they are of how close I sleep to the entrance to their house. I essentially live in their living room. I can hear almost everything they say and do. I can hear when they yell at each other. I can hear the dog eating its dog food outside, and I can hear the woman filling up her bucket with water every night, though why she does this I still have no idea. I’m separated from them by a single plate of glass, and in the middle of the window there’s not even glass; it’s just a sheet of plastic. To say the neighbors and I live in close quarters would be a statement.

I get to Ble, the cafe I’ve been coming to lately, and say hi to Ulises, the owner. There’s no one there. I’ve only ever seen one customer there besides myself. We make two seconds of small talk and I order the matcha latte and slice of toast with butter and jam I get every time I come here. There’s good, hipster music playing on the speakers, which he quickly changes to something softer. I wonder if this is for my benefit.

The first thing I do when I sit down is deactivate Facebook, and then I start looking for flights. I think about where I’d like to go in 2018. I decide the following places are must-go’s: Svalbard, Norway, and Bergen, Norway. Svalbard I must visit because it’s the furthest north place in the world that has commercial flights. And Bergen because my favorite author, Karl Ove Knausgaard, lived in Bergen ( for 14 years?)  and wrote Book 5 of his series My Struggle about it. Those are the only two places I must go. There are other places I’d like to go. I’d like to go to Siberia. I’d like to get lost in a small, Russian town. I’d like to go to Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. I’d like to go to Vladivostok. I’d like to go to South Korea. I’d like to go to North Korea. I’d like to go to Bhutan. I’d like to go to Japan. I’d like to go to Little Diomede Island, and Big Diomede Island, and Quebec City, and Chicoutimi, and Ushuaia. But Bergen and Svalbard are the only places I must go.

I sit in the cafe staring out at the street, listening to the music, wondering what I’m going to do until I teach online at 2pm. I’m getting sick of teaching online. I’ve stopped planning the classes, and the quality has suffered because of it. I don’t care. These classes will run their natural course. My teaching career will run its natural course. I think I’ll always be a teacher in some capacity, from time to time, sporadically, but I think what I teach will vary, and that will allow me to keep my sanity. I think about how I have exactly a week until I leave for Lima, where I’ll stay for at least a week. I think about the chess video I’m going to watch when I get back to my apartment after Ble, the mate I’m probably going to drink, and the Instagram ads I’m going to rate. I wonder if something extraordinary will happen today. I decide it probably won’t, and the thought briefly makes me sad.

And then I get up to pay and leave.

 

A special thanks to EAW and RR for their contributions to this blog.

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Struggling

karl ove knausgaard

Sitting in Starbucks in Providencia talking to my friend R. R is a writer, as in R actually gets paid to write. I’m also a writer, in that I also get paid to write, though it’s not my full time job. Someday it will be my full time job. Of this I’m completely sure. But right now it’s not.

This morning I woke up and prepared mate. First I poured a bit of the leaves into my gourd, and then poured room temperature water over the leaves several times, not drinking it but rather spitting it into the sink to get the powder out.  The powder’s a result of the leaves being in packaging and getting ground into a fine dust; too much powder means an upset stomach. While I was doing this I heated the water, close to a boil but not quite, and then sat in the living room sipping the delicious, barn-flavored tea.

While I was sitting there I began to think about my upcoming trip to Lima. I’m staying in an Airbnb for $10 a night in a neighborhood called Magdalena del Mar, near San Ysidro, near Miraflores. Whenever I’ve gone to Lima I’ve essentially gone to the same places, i.e. Miraflores. This is where almost all tourists go. It’s a beautiful neighborhood, right on the top of the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. You feel like you’re in Santa Monica, or Venice, or San Clemente, or Santa Barbara, or Santa Cruz, or Pismo, or Marina del Rey, or San Onofre. But you definitely don’t feel like you’re in El Segundo.

But this time I’d like to see more of Lima. Would I like to see more of Lima? Actually, I might be pretty content just staying between Magdalena del Mar and Miraflores. My Airbnb is two blocks from the boardwalk. I envision myself taking walks every morning on the way to a cafe, smelling the Pacific Ocean.

R’s talking about how she’s thinking about buying some KOK, aka Karl Ove Knausgaard, aka the author you should be reading right now, and I said, “Have you ever read him?”

“No,” she said.

“Christ, R,” I said. “Start now.”

“Where should I start?” she said.

“Book 1.”

I think the frappuccino I just drank has started to kick in, because I feel a little jittery and a little excited. In approximately two hours I’ll feel the opposite. Is it worth is? Absolutely. Because when I get home I’ll just have a little more mate.

“I just ordered it on Amazon,” R says.

“Mother of God,” I responded.

I hope R likes his books as much as I do, though that might be impossible. I think the only who likes KOK as much as I do might be Zadie Smith, who once said, “I need his next volume like I need crack.”

Not that Zadie Smith has ever smoked crack. But you get the idea.

Top 5 Norwegian Books Containing the Word “Struggle”

lofoten

5. My Struggle: Book 3 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

This is the worst book of the My Struggle series, which means it’s still better than 99.4% of all books ever written. It’s the worst because it’s about Karl Ove’s childhood, which essentially means it’s less about girls, one of KOK’s best subjects. Also, since it’s about his youth, it seems more obviously novelized, which might detract from the reading experience. That said, it’s one of the few My Struggle books I’ve only read once, so maybe it’ll be more impactful the second time around.

4. My Struggle: Book 2: A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard

For awhile this was my favorite KOK book, but as I slip deeper into my love for the My Struggle series, this book has floated to the surface. For its shallowness? No. The thing is, Book 1 remains strong because of Karl Ove’s descriptions of his father. And Book 4 seems great because I just read it. And Book 5 is obviously the best. So that leaves nowhere else for Book 4 but here.

3. My Struggle: Book 4 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Like I said, I just finished (re) reading Book 4, in which Karl Ove spends a year teaching in northern Norway, just north of the Lofoten Islands (pictured above). In 2012, after finishing a Masters Program at the University of Washington, I went to the Lofoten Islands (and nothern Norway). I spent $1,000 dollars in four days. I ate whale tacos with a girl named Madeleine. And on my last night I had some kind of bizarre fever where I spent the whole night shivering and waiting for the ferry to the mainland.

But Book 4. It’s good.

2. My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I still remember my first brushes with Book 1 and thus my first brushes with Karl Ove Knausgaard. I was in Elliott Bay Books in Seattle and had read about a series by a Norwegian author that was apparently incredible. So I picked it up, started reading, and then after 15 minutes put it down again. I didn’t touch the book for awhile, and forgot about it. Then one day I picked it up again, and this time made it to about page 30. The rest is history.

1. My Struggle: Book 5: Some Rain Must Fall by Karl Ove Knausgaard

I’ve read this book three times. The reason I’ve read if three times is because it has a beautiful narrative arc and in the end hits you in the sternum like a bag of unmixed cement. Your soul feels like it’s simultaneously crying and on fire. And you think, “My God, give me Book 6, and give it to me now!” But Book 6 doesn’t come out till Fall of 2018. Unless you want to read it in German.