Written by Jose Kevo on 09 Dec, 2004
In late May 2002, a regular customer requested personal favor. Donna had become property manager for 27 rental houses and needed introductions translated, since most tenants were Hispanic. Stopping at one house, blinds were drawn, but it was obvious somebody up and moved. Needing to…Read More
In late May 2002, a regular customer requested personal favor. Donna had become property manager for 27 rental houses and needed introductions translated, since most tenants were Hispanic. Stopping at one house, blinds were drawn, but it was obvious somebody up and moved. Needing to confirm, stepping through the door, I knew the house was empty, and it was mine!
Don't ask how. It was precise for vibrant visions that I had finally found a home. I picked up my keys on June 3rd, raising blinds and windows, to begin a thorough cleaning. Time had slipped away when I heard pounding on the front door, followed by a rapid request to turn the music down. It was after-hours. Sure enough, when checking, my new neighbor had been prompt at 10pm.
Hispanic Panic is the equivalent of White Flight when African-Americans start moving in, but I undoubtedly helped seal fate for ending up the only Caucasian on my side of the block for quite some time. Blastin' Latin music never warranted another meeting, but she was always lurking, waiting for any opportunity. There was an unlikely mix of family and friends frequently visiting. Using a cordless outside while talking 'hoodish with NYC comrades probably only confused things. Too tanned to be white? Not dark enough to be black? Always keep 'em guessing, or so I'd like to think twisted the neighbor lady during those first months.
A couple of friends joined one early November Sunday for raking and burning. The outdoor boom box gradually escalated in volume as morning wore on. By noon, Hispanic neighbors on the other side began stirring. What erupted was a spontaneous block party disguised as the annual autumn ritual. Eventually, a monster stereo system came out three doors down. Scents of freshly lit grills now mingled with smell of burning leaves. Using a rake as a torrid dance partner only recycled the chore into a fiesta.
All was well until about 4pm, when a car door slammed from other side of the privacy fence. Making a furious beeline, raging about the music -- according to her, "no one would ever want to buy a house on this block" -- she yelled that she had prospective buyers arriving shortly, and something had to be done about the music! With the blankest face possible, I repeatedly asked, "cómo?", causing her to writhe even more until spewing a rapid-fire volley en español that sent her packin', literally!
A young black/Hispanic couple with two rowdy boys eventually moved in, rounding out the block, but raking day was pivotal, beyond learning she was leaving. I met my other neighbors for the first time beyond a "cómo estás" and was rather satisfied. They may have also been perplexed about my identity, but there was no mistaking coming to their defense. After 10pm that night, when finally putting out the fire, Latin music could still be faintly heard from somewhere down the alley...
Island SonsFirst semester back in classes, a faculty member suggested meeting with a 6'8" forward from the basketball team. Not only was he from Puerto Rico, there ended up being three of them! Carlos, Michael, and Hiram turned out to be almost 20-feet worth of island "hoop"-la. There was instant connection, but something greater transpired after my first invitation for dinner at the house.
Lost and out of sorts, these athletes had slipped through the cracks as Americans not eligible for international student perks. English was barely a second language. Cold weather and bland dorm food had them pining away for comforts of home thousands of miles away. My substitute haven, a 15-minute ride from campus, became their private island hide-away. But even more inspiring was the link to home their presence provided, beyond my neighbors' best efforts. Their familiar zest for living founded through dance, food, and thirst for rum was mutually nurturing while reviving my role as surrogate Dad.
The last of the Ricans had flown home for summer when I received a call I'd been waiting almost two years for. Antonio, youngest of the three boys I'd taken off the streets and raised while in NYC, was ready to make good on my ever-standing offer. Within 48 hours, he arrived with all his possessions including a GED; my only requirement for permanently staying.
The scrawny 13-year old was now 6'5" almost 8 years later, with a 94mph fastball that had area coaches drooling over a mythical Dominican pitcher never seen in these parts. Getting him a full ride at the local junior college was no problem. Convincing him to get a job while instilling self discipline in joining the real world was not as easily accomplished.
Calling Emilio over from next door, he agreed to take Antonio to the turkey plant as summer hire. He got the grueling job but called about halfway through his first shift, saying he'd now have to stay until at least 3am. Of all my panicked reasonings, I'd have never guessed a transfer to the graveyard shift's wide-open basement department, because he kept banging his head on processing lines set to accommodate the pint-sized Central Americans!
Lucky for Antonio, my original plans to spend the second half of summer in the islands gave him a free pass for exiting the poultry business early. He headed back to NYC for baseball while I stopped off to visit the Ricans on my way to DR. Before leaving, Emilio agreed to watch the house and personally guard the bottles of Mama Juana.
Beautiful Days in the NeighborhoodPerhaps if Señor Rogers had left the house more, he'd have realized there was a whole other world beyond all that putzing around inside. With the start of another school year, I got Antonio settled into the dorms with a Venezuelan teammate/roommate, only adding to our diversity. The Ricans' basketball season, between fall/spring baseball, made for busy schedules and frequent needed escapes back to Isla de Kevo.
Sundays are Hispanics' traditional family day, with feast and fiesta, while catching up on chores for week ahead. Open houses up and down the block became the norm, sometimes lasting entire weekends. By the time spring 2004 rolled around, few introductions were needed between neighbors and the towering island versions of Latinos. Even more curious were life-long residents and co-workers who might have watched a game or stopped by during the quiet mid-week but petitioned weekend invitations, which proved their closest encounters with foreign travel experiences.
Basic Spanish and English were readily practiced, as were numerous dance steps to ensure that no one felt excluded. Teammates, classmates, and international students only complimented the growing entourage. Gravity proved to have no favoritism for the short or the tall, thanks to neighbors' stockpile of beer and my caché of island potions. Celebrating life is one thing. Having respect for elders is quite another, and it never ceased to amaze me how everyone, regardless of age or race, could put such a lid on things when my parents or 94-year-old grandmother happened to drop in.
Beyond fiestas, the greatest endearments came from quieter, simpler times – sitting on milk crates under a shade tree while talking with Emilio, listening to the sounds of restful sleeping when someone needed a night home, away from the dorms. My created island sanctuary served a purpose far greater than my own, but even a bird's refuge lasts only for a season.
Feather Traces in the NestRestlessness had triumphed over studying for the following day's Spanish presentation. Hiram, also in his senior year, assured we'd have no problem on the joint project, discussing cultural comparisons and differences between the islands known by heart. Actually, we'd been rehearsing since the day we met over two years ago, but voices of input were now limited. A bored peek into the refrigerator was postponed when magnetized photos from days gone by commandingly seized abandoned attention.
As a lottery pick in the 2004 draft, the Braves wanted Antonio closer to Atlanta, justifying transfer to a Florida school. Request for more playing time from Puerto Rico's semi-pro basketball league had scattered Carlos and Michael to Pennsylvania and Iowa. Reuniting with them or the white, toothy smiles on display from my Bayahibe crew would happen again, but not anytime soon enough.
Symbolic hunger bypassed food in lieu of wide-open solitude on the back porch. The house on the other side, where I'd met my original neighbor, had been empty and for sale this entire year, but I was looking head-on towards Emilio's, now darkened for weeks. He'd stashed the family before turning himself in for an extended holiday season back in Guatemala, compliments of INS. He assured me not to worry; they'd all be back within a few months. The damp autumn air had set my mind to roaming. Collected raindrops were splattering to the ground from breezes rustling the trees. Every now and then, a car would pass along Oak Street, familiar Latin tunes increasing with approach, before vanishing into the silence of darkness. Perhaps Mr. Rogers had had similar disquieting experiences for why he always stayed sheltered away inside, and with his unwavering petition...Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Whether from a self-created environment or part of the aging process, turning into a homebody was one of the last things ever expected. This change in lifestyle has been enjoyable while conceding to down-home country roots. However, all work and study without some type of…Read More
Whether from a self-created environment or part of the aging process, turning into a homebody was one of the last things ever expected. This change in lifestyle has been enjoyable while conceding to down-home country roots. However, all work and study without some type of play makes the rut of routine inescapable. Here's some of the ways I shake things up a bit . . .
Wild KingdomCarthage has their own version of a Central Park; at least a dozen of them would fit inside the Great Lawn of NYC's original. There's a larger-than-life bronze statue of Marlin Perkins, one of our Who's Who worth checking out, but my most frequented place is across the street. The Carthage Public Library is one of the original Andrew Carnegie branches, with a beautiful domed rotunda, local displays, and historic literary collections. On days I'm not at the university, this is where I use internet services. Patrons are allowed 1-hour time slots based on computer availabilities, and travelers are welcomed to stop by and to check their email.
Kellogg Lake ParkCentral Ave. is the northern thoroughfare running east and west. Where Highway 96 veers northeast over a historic bridge, Spring River and Kellogg Lake are a quarter mile further on the right. This has always been my local outdoor hangout; a place we used to head when cutting classes during high school.
An outdoor nature trail meanders through several diverse settings used as environmental science labs-expect always-roaming flocks of testy Canada geese. Fishing in the lake is by permit and license only. As for what you'll catch is anybody's guess, but banks are lined with eager fishermen in all kinds of weather. The river draws a wide assortment of locals, especially on weekends, including jet skiers. At no point are waters deeper than 7-feet, only adding to the potential catastrophes of the scattered rope swings that seem to cruelly detect a person's age.
There's a small, manmade dam presenting daring challenges for walking barefoot across the moss-covered top or sliding down the slippery concrete slope. These days the entire park area is used more by the growing Hispanic population. Open containers are legal, provided they're not glass bottles, but the natural settings are a peaceful break from the bustling cow town, especially on hot summer nights, when crickets, June bugs, and other forms of insects fire up their natural orchestra, great for shadow-dancing under streetlamps.
A Land Down UnderNorth of town is what's said to be the largest gray marble quarry in the world. This, coupled with a centuries worth of mining limestone deposits, has created an entire other city known as the Carthage Underground. As teenagers, we used to enjoy the tennis club or high school dances with live bands echoing in cavernous ballrooms. As to actual extent and size of it, this was to be evacuation center for the entire Midwest in case of nuclear disaster. There's said to be enough nonperishable foods to feed multitudes for over a year, but we always considered survival consolation as having the potential access the stock of the three largest beer distributors in the four states.
With the supposed end of the Cold War, cold storage lured development of more than a dozen major enterprises tucked away deep below the surface. After 9/11, a lot of speculation arose towards what's really going on, which local officials remain tight-lipped about. Heightened security increased for entering anywhere off the main roads. Bus-sized blocks of granite line edges of the central pit area. Local kids no longer use Quarry Hill Road for drag-racing, making this another deserted place to enjoy over conversations and 40's. Sitting atop the boulders can create a utopia feel, like there is some surreal, sci-fi world below.
Exploring Our Civil SideCarthage lays claim to hosting the first major land skirmish of the Civil War, which totally destroyed the town. There's an interesting museum off the square, but the valley where hardest fighting took place is more enjoyable. It's a short walk from my parent’s farm and where we used to play as kids. Now it's the official Battle of Carthage State Park, with nice shaded lawns running along bluffs and a small pond fed from natural springs.
The cave entrance has been sealed off, but a tunnel connecting to a grand mansion's basement at top of the hill was an escape route for slaves on the Underground Railroad. Once finished browsing around the park, it's worth a drive up Chestnut Street Hill to see this magnificent house that's been fully restored as a private residence. A historic iron-fence surrounds the property, preventing actual entry. Within view on the right, just outside the city limits, is the old black cemetery. As you come back down the hill, imagine all the bumps and bruises you would have accumulated from recklessly sledding as a kid . . .
Scratching the Flea ItchA 1-block walk from my house on Oak Street is The Route 66 Flea Market, housed in an old car dealership, and across the street is Dean's Furniture and Flea Market, which can turn up some odd finds with enough browsing. They're open daily. Otherwise, the largest concentration of antiques and oddities malls are located around the Carthage Square, with some very upscale finds for collectors.
Regular Pit-StopsWithin an hour's drive of Bentonville, Arkansas, we were blessed with #13 of the original magnetic spend forces, which will gravitate you towards south Grand Avenue. Expect to find whatever you could possibly need-and then some!
SEASONAL FAVORITESWithin walking distance of my house along Route 66 is the Carthage Municipal Park, with scads of picnic grounds, a skating rink, the county fairgrounds that spring to life every July, and one of the finest 18-hole golf courses in the four-state area. However, I opt for where I had my first job.
The public pool has been around for decades, but received major renovations in the ‘80s, dividing the main pool into three sections and reconstructing a new kiddie area. The diving tank is 12-feet deep and has one- and three-meter boards the "old man" still likes to use for keeping up with youngsters. The pool is open Memorial Day through Labor Day 7 days a week from noon to 6pm. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for kids.
GO . . . Greased LightningContinuing west passed the park for a couple more miles is a rare nostalgic find that brings people in by the carloads! The Route 66 Drive-In was one of only four officially licensed theaters on the route-to-route coast and is the only one back in operation today, as well as one of the few drive-ins left in the entire country! Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, property had been converted into an auto salvage yard until historic preservation funding was spent for clean-up and restoration.
As teenagers, we spent countless nights here watching movies while perfecting all the other drive-in-related shenanigans that local youth have obviously revived today. People-watching can still be as interesting as the double features, especially on theme-night parties or when caravans of antique autos traveling the route invade for a blast from the past. New releases showing at regular theaters dominate the big screen, though don't be surprised to find Grease, Where the Boys Are, Animal House and other classics from time to time. The Drive-In is open from May to September on weekends, with shows starting after dusk, and sometimes the second movie doesn't finish until 2am. Admission is $2 for kids, $4 for adults. Call 417/359-5959 to find what's showing.
Alley Cats & Sewer RatsWhen cabin fever sets in, there's some fairly standard activities worth leaving the house for. Star Lanes Bowling, at 219 East 3rd Street off northeast corner of the square, has open bowling on Friday/Saturday nights, with some lanes available on Mondays and Tuesdays. More often than not, we've had the place all to ourselves and gotten pretty creative with the sport. Games run $2.50 per person and $1.50 for shoe rental, but usually the bar tab adds up more quickly while bets are even more costly.
Every now and then, coworkers talk me out for a night on the local town, where downtown bars no longer have darkened stigma of winos and bums waiting for doors to open at 8am. Jim's Place, at 325 East 4th Street, has a nice outdoor beer garden featuring live music on weekends with a $5 cover charge. Crowds are as offbeat and varied as the music; types I never knew existed in these parts. Most groups are local garage bands, whether outdated hippies playing original and cover rock tunes, or metal-techno youth looking as if they've gone AWOL from junior high detention.
Other hot spots doubling as watering holes for wide-spot-in-the-road crowds dot the countryside. The Mill is a dance club in a renovated feed-storage barn that has a deck overlooking Spring River-great for summer happy hours. At times, juiced-up crowds are more entertaining than the Discovery Channel; especially at Roadside Tavern, where sloshed farm girls vie for weekly Tuesday competition titles.
If ever near Carthage, Missouri, with time to stop awhile, I invite you to a historic strip of Route 66 that runs through town. Don't think you're lost just because almost everyone in the neighborhood appears Hispanic. I'll greet you at the door...and welcome you…Read More
If ever near Carthage, Missouri, with time to stop awhile, I invite you to a historic strip of Route 66 that runs through town. Don't think you're lost just because almost everyone in the neighborhood appears Hispanic. I'll greet you at the door...and welcome you inside to my own private island.
My home is El Barrio-goes-beach shack, but don't let that fool you. It's straight-up nouveau ghetto! Favorite possessions include photos and obscure must-haves from around the world. Otherwise, if it's not from a yard sale or flea market, it's authentically Wal-Mart, including more than 100 various-sized trees and plants that help ice (or, in this case, melt) the balmy tranquility.
During the months while the jungle is pumping sun in the backyard, the interior all but doubles in size, with exposed walls and ceilings splashed in Caribbean colors. Stages of daylight transform hue-schemes, thanks to 11 windows bordering the four main rooms that open into an el-shape. It's like an inside greenhouse that's unfortunately impossible to heat in the coldest of winter. That's a clue for not expecting to find air-conditioning either, for now, but windows open, with nice, fan-enhanced breezes.
The house is probably around a century old and isn't in bad shape, for a rental property. There are two bedrooms, but don't assume sleeping options are limited. If you're like most, making it past the living room might prove difficult. A double-wide beach hammock from Venezuela has became my potato for veggin' out. It's got a couple of cruise levels based on tautness; a sagging chill mode great for conscious activities, and low-rider, more suitable for sleeping.
Across the room is a plush, extra-long couch, great for taller people. The highlight has been tagged the human burrito blanket, a native masterpiece of handwoven wool found in the mountain village of Sintra, Portugal. It's seasonably common to see two people, stretched out with heads at opposite ends, watching television and/or napping while double-wrapped under the palm trees. Come evenings, appropriate black lighting can provide a village streetlamp affect or a Dark Side of the Tropical Moon.
Otherwise, I'm willing to offer up El Cuarto del Mar -- the Sea Room -- that might leave more than just your mind swimming. Walls and ceiling fuse the marine-colored palette with a Caribbean comforter, accentuated by beach shots. When needed, additional warmth comes from an electric blanket. Stimulation and motivation are further invigorated from a basic weight bench and wicked curl bar off to the side. I can stir up an alarm clock, should you need one, but my inner-ticker has me up naturally by 6am to put coffee on.
Since the last one flew the nest again, The Dominican Room is the official guestroom, inspired by 15'x12' flags covering the two longest walls. Should you feel totally lost, there's a couple of appropriate maps to help you get your bearings. There's a large collection of memorabilia from the country's baseball greats, including an extensive baseball card collection shelved with 20 years' worth of photo albums. A double-wide futon can sleep two smaller people comfortably. I think the mattress is too hard, but I've never heard any complaints.
Don't let the dinosaur in the corner scare you. It's great for homework and writing journals, but my computer is so old, it runs on Microsoft 2.0! That's right -- no Internet -- and while listing things, there's also no cable, DVD, cell phone, or much of anything beyond simple life. High maintenance has never been part of my nature. The computer and/or stereo are usually on far more than the television. Antonio moving back home forced agreeing to my first-ever answering machine, but I'm more pleased with his second demand.
A new stero system that included a CD player was really a must for any household deemed Latino. Sharp Stereo vibrates a smooth groove that conjurs my biggest one-way ticket back to the islands with constant music; loudly, when need be. It must work. English-speaking friends regularly request copies. Even neighbors raised on oom-pah and mariachi solicit backyard concerts.
Merengue and bachata from DR and salsa from PR have long been my favorites, but the stack of 50-cent CDs from Venezuela are still tearing down the house with fusion remix versions of the three styles above, as well as regional country music. When the timing is right, if you don't mind cassettes, an older, eclectic deluge is especially heavy on classic rock, jazz genres, and throw-down black gospel for all the churchin' you'll ever need.
I've been told the house actualizes stepping into my journals. The smallest of keepsakes and mementos are shrouded by entanglements of garden, including quite the European collection. Perhaps it's a bit much, but what else could be expected from my personal travel Hall of Fame?
The main entry contains a large shrine from my concepts of the Caribbean religion Santeria. In addition to photos and candles, it's a memorial to persons and things of special significance: a small bowl of dry rice and pigeon peas, hoping my family will never go hungry, a pile of Dominican pesos in bills, and coinage. There's my half of the heart-shaped brain coral that was split with a machete, the boarding pass from rushing to a farewell, and other simple things that all have a keep-forever purpose.
For now, it's been unanimous that all that's missing is sand -- something often given serious thought and discussion, especially after sitting around and indulging the atmosphere for awhile. My property manager sometimes takes hours just to collect rent. When appropriate timing no longer mattered, Donna was easily convinced of how simple it would be to extend the baseboards paritioning off bedrooms/kitchen and filling the rest with sand. Obviously, when later coming to her senses and remembering first-hand my spontaneity, she called the next morning, saying she'd absolutely kill me if I did!
Aside from lounging around places, my dining room is anchored with a large glass-top table accommodating six padded chairs, straight out of the Garden and Patio section of a magazine. It's the perfect fit for meals, talking over drinks, or candlelight card games in the middle of Midwest electrical storms. For calmer evenings, a built-in hutch begs inspecting international compilations of shells, Coca-Cola products, scenic jigsaw puzzles, and decorative magnets. But don't be shy if chairs and table are moved for opening up the dance floor.
Hosing down after working up a sweat is my least appealing option. Currently, I've got a claw-foot bathtub that's unfortunately the junior model and useless for actual baths. For now, it's a shower hose. Seriously, I've done little to the bathroom, which doubles as a utility room. There's a washer and dryer and an ironing board, should you need it beyond casual wear.
The kitchen is basic, with what there is to work with, but foods coming out of it are even more commanding than the three shades of lime green trimmed in sea blue. My only house rule is that no one lights up inside, regardless! But even for non-smokers, the back porch is a magnet for gathering over diverse conversations, providing some of my most memorable times. An unexpected perk is that the house came with no gutters, so rain showers cascade off the roof, just like in the islands, and it's also peaceful watching snow fall from favored interior snuggle spots.
Whether sitting around outside using steps, milk crates, or pulling out dining room chairs and my papason throne, the backyard stretches a good 30 yards to the alley. A privacy fence next door and garage help to enclose the densely shaded area. Limbs and other natural debris keep a woodpile stocked for campfires and bonfires.
There's room to park a camping trailer out back, but we've enjoyed the convenience of tent camping -- roughing it steps away from home base. Understand that backyard presence is open-invitation on my block of Hispanic neighbors. As a guest, they'll respect your privacy or welcome you in with a bottomless beer. Taking life easy is just in their blood...usually along with a high BAC!
In the mad scheme of things, I've decided to buy this house, add on some space, transform the outside to be Caribbean, and develop the backyard. That's right, a bed-and-breakfast: Jose Kevo's Caribbean Cabaña and Cocina. A day at the beach out in the middle of nowhere. I can promote the hell out of it through all the Route 66 hype. Meantime, everyone just randomly shows up and eventually contributes something. Until the day comes, consider the rate based on worth of experience.
* Additional back-yard photos.
Written by btwood2 on 01 Jan, 2005
Due to ongoing Civil War guerilla warfare, much of the original town of Carthage had been destroyed by 1863. Following the war, the town began to be rebuilt from the ashes. Lead, zinc, and marble mining, plus productive wheat fields, created considerable wealth.…Read More
Due to ongoing Civil War guerilla warfare, much of the original town of Carthage had been destroyed by 1863. Following the war, the town began to be rebuilt from the ashes. Lead, zinc, and marble mining, plus productive wheat fields, created considerable wealth. This, in turn, led to those who profited from these industries, business ventures, and farming, building stylish Victorian mansions.
Town Square: We began our architectural tour on Town Square, dominated by Jasper County Courthouse. It was completed in 1895 after more than a year and a half of day and night construction. The courthouse, built of native stone quarried locally, was designed in the Romanesque Revival style by architect Maximilian Orlopp, who also designed the Dallas County Courthouse in Dallas, Texas. The building is still used for Jasper County government offices and also contains a historic mural and historic artifacts in the lobby. The perimeters of Town Square contain mostly viable businesses and a wide variation of building styles.
Victorians galore! Main Street and Grand Avenue between the 900s and 1400s are where you’ll find the highest concentration of Victorians. Undaunted by wet weather and drawn to the big homes looming in the mist, we continued our Victorian tour at the head of Grand Avenue in our Hyundai Elantra, with heater and defrost fired up high. Towel at the ready for window shots, it was impossible to resist exiting the vehicle to get a better feel of these imposing mansions up close. So, cameras in pockets and hoods on, we made our way, sometimes on foot, then again by car. One of these days, I’ve got to get a book that clearly categorizes Victorians. Just when I’m beginning to recognize familiar styles, a drove of new ones pops up, seemingly unlimited and bounded only by imagination. This was again the case in Carthage.
Ghostly presences: Not a few of these rambling Victorians are purported to contain ghosts. The Grand Avenue Bed and Breakfast, built in 1894, is one. Albert Carmean bought the home shortly after the original owner went bankrupt. Albert was a jack of many trades, including circuit court clerk, bank chairman, and owner of a mine and hardware store. He died in 1933 following a brief illness. Especially in fall, his trademark cigar smoke is smelled in the house. An interesting account of a ghost inspection of another Carthage Victorian residence by the Missouri Ghost Hunting Society was found to be quite full of manifestations of not-so-departed spirits.
Just south of St. Anne’s Catholic School, we thought we’d stumbled upon a Civil War unknown soldier graveyard of rows upon rows of white, anonymous crosses, but no, these crosses symbolized the 4,000 unborns whose partially begun lives are cut short by abortion every day, making a powerful and controversial statement. The Catholic presence is strong in Carthage. Not much further south lays a monastery dedicated to Mary, home to Catholic Vietnamese seminarians and priests.
Carthage has a gluttony of fast-food chains and buffet restaurants where a person can eat their weight in American food, seafood, and Chinese selections. Otherwise, there's nothing in between for rare times I feel like eating out, except tucked-away small eateries necessitating making a…Read More
Carthage has a gluttony of fast-food chains and buffet restaurants where a person can eat their weight in American food, seafood, and Chinese selections. Otherwise, there's nothing in between for rare times I feel like eating out, except tucked-away small eateries necessitating making a run for the border-and we're not talking Taco Bell!
Numerous tienditas have sprung up all over town, serving the booming Hispanic population. My favorite is called La Tiendita on the corner of River and Chestnut and across from Carter's Park. It's a smaller market, but on weekends they run a restaurant off to the side with authentic Mexican selections and atmosphere. Choices are limited, but you can't go wrong with soft-shell tacos for $1 or the gargantuan-sized burrito loaded with shredded beef, rice, and all the trimmings for $3.50.
Limes are great for helping take the bite out of the fiery picante sauce. A reach-in cooler is stocked with a selection of soft drinks and juices, and there are even more choices in the store part. If available, I highly recommend a glass of the Guatemalan favorite horchata, a sweet blend of milk and rice and flavored with spices or peanut butter. Leaving here stuffed for about $5 is well worth avoiding typical Mexican fast-food places.
Mauricio's is a full-service restaurant at 129 Main with more than 125 choices on the bilingual menu, which are ordered by the number; plates range from $3 to $12. They've worked hard to attract the downtown lunch crowd with widespread advertisements and even accepting credit cards. Unfortunately, I think food has been highly inconsistent, depending on whether kitchen staff is Mexican, Guatemalan, or Salvadoran for the day, but local Caucasians, not knowing any better, rave about this place.
Guerrero Supermercado is on the corner of 4th Street and Lyon, off the square, and certainly offers an interesting look around. Colorful piñatas dangle from ceiling along with clothing and other treasures from home. The Hispanic community is so dyed-in-the-wool with tradition and loyalty, even Coca-Cola and Pepsi products are imported from Mexico, with thick glass bottles that are labeled in Spanish. Tropical fruit, as well as standard produce is better and less expensive than anywhere in town, but my most common purchases are phone cards specialized for Latin American countries; $5 for 55-minutes when calling the Dominican Republic.
It's been a pleasure watching the owners start from a small storefront and develop into this larger successful location. They've since obtained a liquor license for satisfying thirsts for cervezas (beer) at lower cost and added a butcher shop with meats and seafood cut to order. Aisles are stocked with all the fixings for traditional meals, including fresh spices and seasonings that rival the new bakery for dominating aromas. Pan Dulces (sweet breads) are traveler's best purchase and come in large forms of biscuits, cakes, cookies, and pastries laced with fillings and sugar-spiced toppings at three for $1. Advertisements and booths with tables suggest that there's a restaurant inside, but it has yet to actually get off the ground.
Written by btwood2 on 18 Jan, 2005
KEVO’s Caribbean refuge on Oak Street/Route 66, you get almost an immediate high from the oxygen exhaled by the jungle of plants, mostly in the living room. It’s also like being immersed into a wild mixture of old Jake Ryan and new…Read More
KEVO’s Caribbean refuge on Oak Street/Route 66, you get almost an immediate high from the oxygen exhaled by the jungle of plants, mostly in the living room. It’s also like being immersed into a wild mixture of old Jake Ryan and new Jose Kevo journals – enlarged photos, many familiar from IgoUgo, line the walls, plus there are travel mementos and collections on the shelves and tables and in nooks and crannies of this very-full-of character home.
Meeting Mama: We suggested taking Kev out for dinner our first night, and he was agreeable but doubted we’d need to after a very enjoyable happy hour(s), in which we were introduced to Mama Juana along with tropical fruit drinks and luscious, richly flavorful quesadilla appetizers. Mama Juana was quite nice, too… the combination of mysterious tropical roots, bark, herbs, and spices formed the centerpiece of the bottle, and reportedly just continues to improve in healthfulness and potency with each "rejuvenation" by rum, red wine, and honey. Kev had several bottles of Mama J out on the table, along with some shot glasses, the preferred way of downing the mixture. For those not so inclined, combining the shot of Mama with your favorite tropical fruit juice dilutes the intensity and eases the entry. After sampling the quick shot and the mixed fruit version, I liked the taste of it straight enough to decide that sipping it slowly from the shot glass would be my way. Using that method, I think I drank about seven of them, at least that’s what Kev told me later. To tell the truth, I wasn’t keeping count, but clarity remained, and yay, no hangover at all the next morning.
A True Feast: After a full wet day of exploration of Carthage, we were eagerly anticipating the get-together at Kev’s at 4pm. Outside, rain and drizzle was darkening sky. Inside were tropical plants, light, warmth, musica, Kev, and two of his friends. Hiram, a Puerto Rican college student and basketball player recovering from knee surgery, has a smile that would melt the frozen North. Donna, Kev’s landlady of Galveston fame, is a thoughtful and interesting conversationalist. Though I wouldn’t know, since I can’t smell due to a severe respiratory infection at age 2 that wiped out my olfactory nerve, the cooking aromas were reportedly tantalizingly floating throughout the rooms. We didn’t have to wait long to sample some of the fare. Along with Mama Juana (of course), Kev brought out a trio of deep-fried appetizers, a couple of tropical veggies, and fish. They reminded me a little of a combination of tempura and the fried krupuk my dad used to make. Not heavy and easy to keep eating. Obligingly, Kev kept bringing refills as plates emptied.
Main Course: The slow oven-roasted pork that had been preparing itself in the oven all day was fork-tender. And the rice with pigeon peas and much more went perfectly with it. After eating about half of my first helping, I was told I’d forgotten the guava-berry sauce, so I went back out to the stove for a couple of spoonfuls. I couldn’t stop eating it. The sweet sauce enhanced and contrasted with the rich pork flavor in such a way that I continued getting extra helpings of both well after my satiety receptors had been more than surpassed. The veggies also were a trio - chayote, platano, and a white root with a fiber down the middle. Dessert was almost anti-climactic but went down well enough considering how full I was: a bowl of a profusion of mysterious tropical marinated fruits topped with Cool Whip. After dinner, I basically couldn’t move and continued to sit at table talking with Donna, while somehow Bob made it to the jungle-living room and fell into a nice post-meal siesta. Kev and Hiram, conversing in Spanish, retired to the kitchen to wrap things up.
A park-like area opened up to the right as we drove south on Grand Avenue. Our interest piqued, we parked and walked up the long double sidewalk to the gray four-story rectangular, cross-topped building, which looked more like a school than a church.…Read More
A park-like area opened up to the right as we drove south on Grand Avenue. Our interest piqued, we parked and walked up the long double sidewalk to the gray four-story rectangular, cross-topped building, which looked more like a school than a church. "Our Lady of the Ozarks" was engraved above the arched door and first-floor windows. We’d stumbled into the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix, a seminary for Vietnamese Catholic men who spend most of their days in prayer, meditation, and study at Conception Seminary College.
The top of a statue off to the left and behind the seminary caught my eye as I stood in front of the seminary building. I walked around the left side of the building and found myself in a courtyard dominated by a 33-foot-high Mary, Queen of Peace, holding baby Jesus high and encircled within her right arm, his head above hers and his left hand holding a cross aloft, above them both. A barefoot boy, representing the Vietnamese boat people, whose head comes just to her waist, grasps her sleeve as she gently pulls him closer. The figures, compelling and comforting at the same time, stand barefoot on perfectly circular boulders, atop a sky-blue, double-staired pedestal. The monument was donated in 1982 by an anonymous Vietnamese family in Port Arthur, Texas.
But there’s plenty more to be seen in the square. Another fascinating statue lay north—a stiff-legged, mythological gargoyle-looking creature with cupped back and toothy grin, facing east, stands atop a benevolent-looking turtle facing west. Entitled "Peace and Prayer", the inscription states: "The incense urn is a symbol of prayer. The turtle stands for the sign of peace. Peace must come through prayers." The square itself contains rows upon rows of plaques, each inscribed with names and birth and death dates of martyrs to the Catholic faith. Most of the names are Vietnamese.
As we wandered back to the front, a group of Asian men carrying umbrellas emerged from the chapel. We asked about this place and were told they lived there, and that it was also a home for retired priests. Every August (since 1978), these grounds and surrounding Carthage are host to Marian Days, a four-day celebration that in more recent years attracted between 50,000 and 60,000 people, mostly Vietnamese and many of whom were ex-refugees. Families and individuals from all 50 states come to meet and attend Masses, communions, confessions, and family conferences. Plus, enjoy the tent city of food and product booths set up, and meet with distant relatives and friends. They camp in tents on Co-Redemptrix property and in the yards of willing Carthage families, as motels book up a year in advance. Law enforcement beefed up since they became aware that this gathering also reportedly served as neutral meeting ground for gangs. The police have set up a command center on the grounds, displaying posters of wanted Vietnamese-American gang members, and they also monitor a small, but vocal Carthage minority who’ve threatened hate crimes during the gatherings.
Although it’s estimated that only 7% of Vietnamese are Catholic (most are Buddhist), this contingent, among the earliest boat people in 1975, has demonstrated strong religious faith, gratitude, and devotion. Location: 1900 Grand Avenue Carthage, MO 64836 Phone: 417/358-7787
Was Mama Juana to blame? At first I quickly dismissed this idea when Kev brought it up, because the mishap occurred before my husband had even had a drop of the sweet, fiery liquid. We’d been introduced to Mama J the day before.…Read More
Was Mama Juana to blame? At first I quickly dismissed this idea when Kev brought it up, because the mishap occurred before my husband had even had a drop of the sweet, fiery liquid. We’d been introduced to Mama J the day before. But I later reconsidered… perhaps it was the mere anticipation of those shots that caused the careless toss of the jacket over the seat.
We were back in the motor home after a most satisfying evening of Caribbean dining and enjoyable company. Back at my computer station, I was showing Kev some of the photos I’d taken and also how slowly IgoUgo loads using my cell phone as a modem. The page hadn’t even finished loading before Bob asked me if I’d seen his cell phone anywhere. I hadn’t, but his continued searching, first in the motor home, then in the car, and then in Kev’s home, yielded no results. He’d had his cell phone in the left pocket of his jacket all day, as we’d been driving around Carthage, hopping in and out of the car to look more closely and take photos. Could the phone have dropped out of his pocket, unbeknownst to Bob, while he was shooting photos? But wait – wherever it was, I’d call his phone on my phone and it would ring. We’d hear it if it was still in the motor home, and I’d try it again in case it was in the car. After dialing, Bob’s voice immediately came on giving his "can’t come to the phone right now" message; he’d never turned it on!
Bob determined to retrace our steps in the dark of night and a steady rain in the hope of reuniting with his cell phone. Kev said to me, aside, "How about if you look for it? Sometimes when guys lose things, the woman can find it right away." I should have followed his advice. But both Bob and I often misplace things, and the "lost" item is usually found by the one who lost it, eventually, after some initial frustration, most often where it was supposed to be and overlooked in the initial panic. Bob assured me he’d looked "everywhere it could possibly be," so the only alternative was for us to go out into the night. Off we drove, stopping at the places we’d stopped and getting out of the car at the places we’d gotten out at earlier, with our flashlights shining beams of light through the rain onto the soggy ground and the wetness gradually soaking through our shoes and socks as we tramped about. But no glint of silvery metal was to be found that night, and I was relieved that we’d returned to the motor home and dry feet within the hour.
The next morning I called the police to find out if anyone had turned in a cell phone to them. No, no one had. We learned that there was a Verizon store in nearby Joplin. But first Bob wanted to re-drive yesterday’s route, which was by now becoming quite familiar to us both. Perhaps the light of day (even though it was cloudy and still raining) would reveal the stray phone. The phone didn’t turn up, but we did stop and admire some handsome Victorian houses we’d missed the day before.
At the Verizon store in Joplin, salesperson Brian amazed us and himself by locating in their back room the exact model of cell phone we required for our internet connection, which is no longer being produced. They’ve held on to it for warranty purposes. After purchasing the phone and learning about some higher-speed options for the future, we drove back to Carthage. Bob was jubilant about having a cell phone again, even though it set us back $80. Picking up to get ready to depart, I removed the bag of recyclable aluminum cans from in front of the driver’s seat and uttered an exclamatory cry as the little lost cell phone slipped out from the folds of the plastic sack. "But how could it have been there?" puzzled Bob. When we’d returned from our explorations of Carthage the afternoon before, while taking off his shoes at the entrance of our motor home, Bob must have tossed his jacket over the driver’s seat before handing it to me to hang up. In that toss, the cell phone slipped out and onto the plastic sack, where it remained hidden in its folds for the better part of a night and day.
Back to Joplin we drove to turn in the new cell phone, me muttering and grumbling, Bob sheepish. Had either of us merely lifted up that plastic sack, the cell phone would have been right there all along. As it was, all we lost was time. And we gained some lessons, like turning the phone ON if you’re going to carry it with you. Like carrying it in something more secure than a shallow, slippery jacket pocket. (Can you figure out whom I’m talking to here?)
So was it a meaningless mishap or fate, or was Mama Juana to blame? Who knows… but as Kev says, "Mama Juana can do some pretty strange things." As a postscript, I was tempted to take a reenactment photo of Bob’s cell phone lying lost amidst plastic bags at the front of our motor home, but luckily was able to hold myself back, figuring it would be just too corny.