News Of The Weird

Michael Nelson opened a law firm in an Orlando, Fla., suburb recently (plush leased office space, a Mercedes company car, a letterhead listing law partners) and began soliciting business from drug convicts’ families, offering to negotiate reduced sentences for their kin. However, an investigation by WKMG-TV revealed in November not only that Nelson and his “partners” are not lawyers but also that Nelson “practices” only during the day because he returns to a halfway house every night to finish a five-year bank-fraud sentence. (The station also found that business was good, with “hundreds of thousands of dollars” “received or solicited.”) Amazed at the station’s findings, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons revoked Nelson’s halfway-house privilege and began its own investigation.

Inexplicable
In July, to increase membership, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Cape Town, South Africa, voted 19-2 to become the Death Penalty Party of South Africa, with a special “lesbigay” subgroup. And in September, the Manitoba government announced it was ordering 40,000 condoms for prisoners in its 10 jails and specified that they be of “assorted flavors” of “strawberry, banana and vanilla” (though shortly afterward, it cut back on the number).

Latest Religious Messages
During filming in a remote area of Italy earlier this year for the controversial Mel Gibson film “The Passion of Christ,” the actor who portrays Jesus was struck during a lightning storm, according to an October report in the trade paper Variety. Also struck was assistant director Jan Michelini, who had been struck by lightning at a previous shoot for the film, in Matera, Italy. None of the strikes created a serious injury. The film’s portrayals of Christ and of Jews are expected to make it extremely controversial.
Dale Doell’s preaching parrot (vocabulary: 2,600 words, many of which form Christian evangelical messages) flew away while at Doell’s father-in-law’s home in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, in August and is still missing. Doell told a reporter in September that he’d just have to see “what the Lord is going to do” about the parrot, named Solomon.
News of the Weird reported in 2001 that some priests in Kali temples in Tamil Nadu, India, still practiced an ancient ritual in which a child was buried alive (for 60 seconds, anyway) as a method of activating the Goddess Kaliamman to bless the child. Indian human rights organizations complained, and this year, in November, a temple priest in Madurai district demonstrated an altered ritual. The Goddess Kaliamman’s blessings would be just as effectively conveyed, he said, by having each child (about 60 children, aged 1 to 12) lie down on special leaf mats and having the priest leap over each one.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in September on what it called increased instances nationwide of black Baptist clergymen consecrating themselves as “bishops,” which are not formal Baptist positions and are sometimes assumed against the will of their congregations. The new bishops say the title gives them added credibility, and Baptists’ tradition of local autonomy discourages leaders outside the congregation from objecting, but critics say it’s just an example of some pastors being caught up in the “celebrity culture.”

Least Competent Criminals
News of the Weird has reported several times on police officer wannabes who don uniforms and perform free-lance traffic stops (usually limiting their work to merely lecturing the motorists). However, faced with recalcitrant drivers, police imposters Jeremy Lepianka, 22, in Syracuse, N.Y., in September, and Donald Sebastian, 54, in Cleveland, Ohio, in November, took an extra, bold step: They actually called headquarters for backup. In both cases, the incidents eventually led to the imposters’ arrests. (Asked for an explanation for his obsession, Sebastian said it was just his way of giving back to the community.)

Things People Believe
Mark Your Calendars: Indonesian police, fearing mass suicides, detained leaders of the Christian “Sibuea” church on Nov. 11 after the world failed to end, as they predicted, on Nov. 10 (Bandung, Indonesia). And according to a November Houston Chronicle dispatch, Catholic priest Alfredo Prado, under accusations of child molesting, fled his church in San Antonio and landed with a doomsday (probable date: late December), Virgin Mary-worshipping cult with, according to the archbishop of San Antonio, a reputation for violence (San Isidro de Grecia, Costa Rica).

Update
A familiar News of the Weird character, the indefatigable gay-hating Rev. Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kan., announced in October that he would take advantage of the Casper, Wyo., City Council’s earlier decision to allow a religious monument (the Ten Commandments) in a city park by erecting his own religious monument: a statue celebrating the 1998 fatal gay bashing (and descent into hell) of Casper’s Matthew Shepard. (A U.S. Court of Appeals had ruled that a city cannot discriminate among religious messages.) The City Council subsequently decided that its Ten Commandments monument was a bad idea and voted to remove it and ban all religious messages from the park.

More Things to Worry About
According to testimony at a disciplinary hearing, British dentist Neville Kan, working on a patient who already owed him the equivalent of US$100, drilled a hole in her tooth and said he’d fill it only if she paid up immediately (Chiswick, England, July). And a 26-year-old man, arrested in an Internet sting trying to meet a “15-year-old girl” (who was, of course, a cop), asked the arresting officer if he’d be released on bond in time to make a scheduled meeting with his fiancee about their upcoming wedding (Fort Worth, Texas, July).

Alternate Universe
In an October report, the federal government’s General Accounting Office revealed that the Pentagon has been lax in monitoring just who was buying its surplus chemical and biological equipment and that such items could easily have found their way to terrorists (and been bought at deep discounts). On the other hand, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency admitted in September that it had been Internet-monitoring a Web cam of a factory on Scotland’s Isle of Islay that it said resembled a chemical weapons lab but which turned out to be a whiskey distillery.

Names in the News
Ms. Dorothy M. Death, 91, died in Van Wert, Ohio, in July, but Jon David Died, of Akron, Ohio, is quite alive. (In fact, he accused the county Board of Elections in August of botching papers that he had filed to run for the Akron City Council.) And expatriate American Thomas Frank White, now living in Thailand, was accused by Mexico in May of having had sex with children; to fight extradition, he hired a Thai attorney named Kittyporn Arunrat.

Thinning the Herd
A 27-year-old man, fishing with three friends, choked to death on a 4-inch bream that he had put into his mouth, possibly to imitate a stunt he had seen on television (Palatka, Fla., October). And a man commandeered a fire department rescue boat but then drowned when he leaped overboard while being pursued by police; trained rescue personnel were late arriving at the scene because, after all, their boat had been stolen (Nashville, Tenn., August).

Also, in the Last Month
Hearing jeers during a curtain call after his version of the Richard Wagner opera “Tristan und Isolde,” director Gerald Thomas dropped his trousers and mooned the audience (Rio de Janeiro). And Lyon, France, bought 10,000 plastic dog droppings to place on the city’s sidewalks, hoping they would shock dog owners’ consciences into cleaning up after their own dogs. And Naked Lunch, believed to be the country’s first stand-alone (not located in a nudist camp) clothing-optional restaurant, opened in downtown Key West.

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Missouri Hick Bar-B-Q A Royal Treat

During a recent motoring trek from Cuba to Sullivan along historic Route 66 (I avoid the interstate at all costs), my eyes and grumbling stomach forced me into the gravel parking lot of an interestingly named rustic eatery aptly named Missouri Hick Bar-B-Q.

The “Hick” part of the name justified my instant belief and understanding that any (and all) Missouri hicks know how turn anything barbecuable into a culinary masterpiece. And, I’m proud to report, I couldn’t have been more right – the food was some of the best I’ve found anywhere in the Show-Me-State.

On that particular day, I had little time to do any business other than applying the art of sauce-to-shirt and quieting the rumbling of an embarrassingly loud (and empty) gut. That accomplished, I made it a point to return for a little more investigation into this new place of barbecue worship situated a few hundred yards from the city limit sign in the Crawford County town of Cuba.

“We will definitely come back here,” said Missouri Hick patron Judy Knudsen, who recently moved to the area from Dallas, Texas. “As a matter of fact, we’re coming back this evening to sit upstairs on the balcony.”

Knudsen stated that the barbecue that she was experiencing during an afternoon lunch was as good as the places found in Texas.

Her friend – and Chicago native – Sally Krause agreed with the review and plan to return.

“Chicago has great pizza and Italian Beef,” said Krause. “But they don’t have a clue as to how to make good barbecue like this.”

Other visitors, some first-timers to the “Hick”, mingled with veterans that know the value of great food on a local scale. One gentleman politely stated that his “choppers” were too busy reducing the size of a half-slab of ribs to talk to any reporter. “This is his first trip here,” said another member of the table.

Before I let you explore the awesome menu through the wonders of print, you should be aware that this IS NOT one of those “hole-in-the-wall” wonders that somebody’s neighbor or cousin’s best friend says he knows about. The décor is like Hicksville Hollywood, the finest Ozarkian style encompassing finished cedar and antiques of an era lost to time and technology – granny’s cabin in splendor.

The minimal use of neon beer signs is a definite plus, which gives it a good old family feel. The pace is easy and the atmosphere quiet – nothing to distract one from a plate of ribs, one of a variety of sandwiches, a salad, or the incredible hickory smoked barbecue chicken.

With wood floors and tables – everything essentially in the wood motif – the feel is constantly and always as advertised. Antiques adorn the walls throughout the two-story restaurant, which was opened in February of last year. Old iron cookware and an amazing variety of old tools adorn the walls. Even pitchforks lend the feel to the Ozarks lifestyle – what better tool does an old Missouri hick need for an honest day’s work?

One of the most impressive features is a set of finished cedar steps that take the patron to the upstairs (smoking allowed only upstairs) and the outdoor covered balcony – you probably haven’t seen anything as impressive in any stairwell in Crawford County.

The second floor seating area is decidedly in line with the first, but the best part of climbing the steps is getting to the balcony, which sports a grand vista of historic Route 66, which winds its way from town to town along the Burlington Northern Railroad tracks.

The balcony has plenty of room to spread elbows and sling sauce, six tables with two oversized for large groups – or for someone with a “hickuva” an appetite needing lots of plate space. The upstairs can accommodate groups of 50 or more.

Oh, the food. I started with a pulled pork sandwich, which is pork shoulder roast, dry-rubbed, then slow-smoked on the rotisserie for hours. A small pulled pork sandwich goes down the gullet for only $4.49, a large just a little under a buck-and-a-half more. My pulled pork was excellent and filling, kind of made me want to lay around in the shade with my dog and enjoy a nice Missouri breeze before the next round. Other sandwiches include: smoked pulled chicken, turkey breast, smoked sausage (I heard it’s worth a three-county drive), jumbo hot dog ($2.95), ham and swiss, or Ruben’s ($6.95) on toast with Tiger Sauce or Thousand Island. All sandwiches come with chips, pickle, and choice of one side (more than a dozen available).

I didn’t have enough room for a salad, but I saw one – Wow! Accurately described as a large bowl of salad greens, topped with tomatoes, two kinds of cheese, bacon bits, scallions…and your choice of chicken or turkey and lots of dressings to choose from. Like an old Missouri musket, this thing is big and loaded and only $4.95.

There’s also a huge spud that comes as loaded as any you’ll ever see ($4.95) and tons of side dishes to choose from. Small side dishes may be purchased for a buck, pints $2.50, quarts $4.00 and gallons for $14.00.

But the real magnet has got to be the ribs. Hickory smoked for that authentic flavor, full slabs dinners are $15.95, one-third slabs only $7.95, and half-slabs $8.95. A smoked one-half chicken is $5.95 and a six-ounce pork loin dinner only $6.95 (10 oz. $3 more), and a brisket dinner is $7.95. Dinners are served with a choice of two sides and Texas toast (the only thing borrowed from Texas!).

Don’t want a dinner or want a carry-out? No problem, just ask. And Missouri Hick also has specials and can accommodate groups or holiday meat requests – again, just ask. A kid’s menu is also offered.

For those seeking real Missouri barbecue – or just a great place to relax inside or out – Missouri Hick Bar-B-Q is perhaps the best set of fixin’s on Old Route 66. To get there, take I-44 West to Cuba and proceed south on Hwy. 19 until the Old 66 intersection, turn left (east). Or better yet, take the scenic route along the South Service Road (from Sullivan/Bourbon/Leasburg) – otherwise known as Old 66 – until you see the big two-story rustic building (formerly a Texaco Station/Annex Café) on the right. Located at 913 E. Washington, Cuba, MO. Phone 573-885-6791. Closed Monday.

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