Kota

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Rice for the Soul

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Eric & Allen Rice

“You can sit anywhere you want…except for the teak table.” This has got to be the strangest coffee shop I’ve ever occupied. I’m sitting at a glass-top table that’s selling for $300, next to a towering, near-naked Christmas tree. Country Christmas music is playing in the background. Part coffee shop, part thrift store,  wholesomely bizarre and awesome. The past hour felt strangely spiritual as I had an uninterrupted opportunity to connect with the owners. Eric had previously ran a cafe while Allen did work to help shelter the homeless. Together, the brothers combined their efforts to launch Rice Brothers Coffee in Houston, TX. Articles are donated to the thrift store and the proceeds go to helping the homeless. Meanwhile, the coffee is damned delicious. I don’t have adequate words to describe this place. It’s totally weird and undeniably wonderful.

I couldn’t think of a better place to start this blog. After years of owning this domain and dreaming of all the things it could grow up to be, I finally decided to stop thinking and let it be whatever it ends up being. So here it goes…

Ode to Hutcheson Jr. High

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A corner of history

On a random trip to one of my [many] hometowns – Arlington, TX – I stumbled upon what once was my junior high school. I attended grades 7 through 9 from Fall 1989 to Spring 1992. I recall it being extremely segregated…roughly 30% Asian, 30% Black, 30% Latino, and 10% Caucasian. Fights broke out almost daily and no one would admit to caring about their grades. It was a shitty school, to say the least…but to see it being demolished right before my eyes left me feeling somewhat gutted. The entire campus was fenced off and grungy men in tractors were working the scene. Something tells me they were not renovating.

A flood of ancient memories came rushing back. This was where I had my first boyfriend and experienced my first [slobbery] kiss! Mom was going to Ogle School of Cosmetology at the time so I had the luxury of sporting a spiral perm – my long curly locks were the subject of envy! We were dirt poor and had to sew at home to make extra income. I was taught at a very young age to make and spend my own money. As an impressionable teenager, I remember buying a pair of prized Girbaud jeans for $90 and trying to maximize my spend by wearing them to school twice a week. My best friend at the time still pokes fun of me to this day about those over-worn jeans.

This was also where I served my first and only week-long detention…for fighting during recess. I’ll never forget that dreadful day. Conflict started in the morning during physical ed as I was defending a helpless asian girl from being bullied by a black girl. Rumors of an impending fight began to swirl during lunch and I was warned to ready myself. Fortunately, I found triumph during that schoolyard fight but it came at the expense of losing gobs of gorgeous hair!

Junior high was rough. I had to downplay my interest in school for fear of being an outcast. I was pressured to share my homework and help others pass their exams. I was teased for being friends with a black girl named Marguerite because the school was so racially divided. We exchanged letters well after I moved to Houston for high school but we’ve lost contact since. Many of the people I knew from that time never made it to or through high school let alone college. The vortex of academic disruption spared me for some godly reason.

Despite it all, “Hutch,” as we used to call it, will always have a place in my heart. Before I was chased away by one of the grungy construction guys for anchoring myself on their perimeter fence, I was able to capture this shot:

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Hanging on to my distant memories

Day of the Dead

While reading Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, I stopped in the middle of chapter three with a knot in my throat and pressure behind my eyes. Why am I not writing? What’s holding me back? Why care about whether I have anything worthwhile to say? What am I afraid of? Just let go of my inhibitions and write…regardless of who I think my audience might be. Who cares?

Whenever I think about who I admire, one of the first “person” I think about is a dog named Yaki. She’s facing me right now, sort of. Her eyes are glazed over and I think she’s half asleep. She definitely doesn’t give a shit about anything or anyone right now. She knows no tomorrow and lives everyday with authenticity. She greets people enthusiastically and loves unconditionally. Her personality is consistently pure and uninhibited. I’m not sure if all of her characteristics would transpire the same in humans, but I find her so worthy of love.

It’s a leisure Monday for me and I have the pleasure of doing whatever my heart desires. This self-imposed “freedom” happened when I decided in mid-September to quit my job. Somewhere, I have a long list of reasons to justify my decision at the time but I don’t care to recount nor relive any of them. What matters to me now is that I’ve created this time and space for myself to do whatever I want. I have my health. I have food and shelter. I have the support of my loved ones. So I should do some incredibly amazing stuff, right? That seems to be the expectation. “Imagine what you could do if you had all the time in the world.” This statement doesn’t seem challenging at all when it’s in the imagination. I don’t have to imagine that anymore and sometimes it feels like pressure. When time is readily available, there’s an unspoken expectation that it should be used wisely, productively and purposefully. If not, it’s a damn shame.

Well, I want to be shameless right now. I want to embrace my own vulnerability and let go of all the expectations – from friends, family, myself, society. I want to discover my drivers…and I’m not talking about the big stick in my golf bag! I want to resist the urge to compare myself to others, to desire meaningless things, to be curious about the things and people that aren’t truly connected to me. Basically all the stuff that streams through Facebook. I need to rethink what it means to live and how to share my life in meaningful ways.

On the day of the dead, I happen to feel more alive…an accidental irony!