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Living
Hustle Is a Verb

To say that Jamal Oakes has cultivated a diverse array of professional interests would be an understatement. For two decades, the Philly-born rapper and musician has floated in and out of Jacksonville’s hip hop and rock scenes. His punk-hip hop hybrid project, Askmeificare, was able to successfully speak to several audiences.

Over the years, Oakes has earned a reputation for outspokenness and verbal dexterity to rival almost anyone else. Now he’s taking his skills into a new venture: His carry-out wing joint, Trap House Chicken, opened in Arlington late last month—in the same storefront where Askmeificare used to rehearse.

THC has a decidedly “urban” aesthetic that blends in well with its surroundings. It’s nestled between a laundromat and a convenience store on Justina Road, about 1,000 slightly curved feet from Merrill Road. In between are apartment complexes like the Villager, the Caroline and Miramar, which all have unique histories, not all of which are particularly pleasant. The strip embodies the faded glory of 1980s Arlington.

“I’ve had this building since May, and I have had to fight,” Oakes told Folio Weekly, with exasperation still fresh in his voice. “Zoning, permits, city hall, everything. Because this was an existing restaurant, but they didn’t do it the right way, so I had to go file an exception ... I’ve been going through it, trying to get this place open. They didn’t roadblock me, it was just stuff that I had to do.”

The Trap was finally sprung on March 30. “It was hectic,” he said. “We closed at 7 [p.m.], but we had people coming until 8.”

Oakes’ wife and son work there, and it was their first day as well. He also employs young men from the neighborhood, who are learning not just about food but about life. “We’re starting young,” Oakes quipped with a laugh. His apprentices can be seen running around, bringing food to patrons and promoting the business outside by flaunting branded T-shirts. The uniforms are eye-catching to be sure, all canary yellow and neon green, adorned with the company’s logo: a (trap) house and star crafted to spec by local artist Eddie B.

Oakes has paid close attention to branding in every aspect of his career. THC (get it?) is no different.

“Everybody does the ghetto chicken,” he said, “and I’m, like, ‘No!’ I’m not doing no chicken with a gun, I’m not having a chicken with a gold chain.”

Oakes opted instead for a slightly more subtle drug-den theme, reinforced in the names given to some of their items. For example, THC offers fried, thick-cut potatoes smothered in melted cheese and chunks of boneless fried rib chunks; they’re dubbed “crack wedges” for their addictive qualities. Sauce for the fried ribs comes at three different levels of heat: “reggie,” “mids” and “fiya.” But perhaps the most habit-forming ingredient is Oakes’ “Kilo Sauce,” a creamy condiment that tastes like a cross between Boursin cheese and fondue. It comes out cold, but the heat of the food melts it just enough to dip smoothly. (It’s a good idea to always order a couple extra, for later; it goes great on sandwiches.) Like everything served here, the recipe is a family secret—don’t bother asking!

Born in Philly, Oakes moved here some 15 years ago. The Nathan B. Forrest (now Westside) High School grad has spent his fair share of time at various actual trap houses around the city, but he’s matured into a husband, father and up-and-coming community leader. For him, Trap House Chicken is bigger than just business.

“My purpose is showing people in this neighborhood that there are other ways than selling drugs,” Oakes explained. “Anything can be a trap, if you’re positive and you’re pushing forward and you’re getting money from it. It doesn’t have to be drugs. It doesn’t have to be sports. It can be any business that you put your mind to, you know? That’s the impact I’m hoping to have on the community.”

THC’s Southern Fried Baptist wings—made from a special recipe of Oakes’ mother—lead the menu. These are served in increments of five (a nick), 10 (a dime) or 20 (a dub) and can be combined with exclusive “Duuuval” fried ribs or “Blk Pines” shrimp. The name comes from the Mayport neighborhood where Oakes lived when he first landed in Northeast Florida, and from where he sources the product today. Between the high quality and the low price, this is one of the better seafood deals you’ll find in Northeast Florida.

The main event, however, is the chicken, which is served with a variety of sauces like butter garlic, butter krab and Philly style.

“What separates our chicken from everyone else’s,” explained Oakes, “is that I wanted to go with flavors that enhance the chicken, versus just regular hot wings, where you fry the chicken and cover it with hot sauce.”

Trap House Chicken is only the first of several business concepts that Oakes hopes to roll out in the months and years ahead. They all reflect his long-term goal of uplifting the neighborhood and providing a positive example for young people who can always use more role models.

“If we’re profitable, I don’t see why my employees shouldn’t be making $15 an hour,” he said. “I want them to be making $50,000 a year. Helping the community isn’t giving them jobs where they still have to be on welfare. Helping the community is giving them jobs where they can actually start their own businesses, put their kids through college. That’s how you change a community.”

THC is a mouthwatering throwback to kinder, gentler times, when neighborhood pride was a thing and local food shacks commanded the same fierce loyalty as college football. With the decline of Regency Mall dragging the whole area down, Arlington gets a bad rap these days. But the stunning exteriors of Miramar are reminders of how beautiful the area was once. While Jamal Oakes wasn’t around to witness its glory days, he’s made it his mission to help bring the better aspects of those days back.

A+E
Get Thee Behind Me

Life is not fair. To wit, Neil Marshall’s new Hellboy reboot was probably doomed from the start. Series predecessors had set the bar hellishly high, leaving the new production very little wiggle room to differentiate itself from the original except through its R-rating and gratuitous cartoon violence. In the process, however, Marshall missed what made the material so engaging in the first place.

The opinion isn’t ours alone. After one weekend in multiplexes around the world, this new Hellboy is turning out to be a turkey of epic proportions.

Where did it all go wrong? It’s been 15 years since Guillermo del Toro got his whimsical hands on the eponymous cult comic-book character and his surreal world, in which literal forces of evil are plotting to take over, while the U.S. government secretly recruits its own monsters and misfits to fight them. Del Toro promptly made all this his own. The Academy Award-winning Mexican filmmaker crafted two auteur installments of a projected trilogy—Hellboy (2004) and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (’08)—before studio suits in their uninformed wisdom pulled the plug and rebuilt with a new creative team.

But del Toro’s aesthetic had already marked Hellboy’s world. His aesthetic was Hellboy’s world for a generation of moviegoers. As much as comic-book purists grumbled about certain plot liberties (Hellboy’s creator, Mike Mignola, was not one of them; he was well-pleased with the author’s work), the coherence of del Toro’s visual imagination placed his Hellboy films on the same shelf as his Oscar-winning features, Pan’s Labyrinth (’06) and The Shape of Water (’17).

Above all, del Toro’s leading actor owned the role. The great Ron Perlman balanced Hellboy’s supernatural origins, immense power and adolescent insouciance. It didn’t hurt that del Toro gave him time to breathe. We got to glimpse his home life, lounging around with lots of cats.

Enter Neil Marshall and his new Hellboy, David Harbour. The Stranger Things star is a passable demon spawn. In an alternate reality, one in which Perlman had pursued a career in plumbing rather acting, Harbour might even be the iconic Hellboy. But it’s already been done, and Perlman had far better material with which to work and create.

The reboot suffers from pacing problems, poorly developed characters and awful CGI effects (here’s looking at you, Ben Daimio). The villains tend to be nondescript giants and middling monsters. There’s gore. It’s superfluous to the script. The film wouldn’t have suffered with a PG-13 rating.

One of the film’s few bright spots is Ian McShane, who shines as Professor Broom, Hellboy’s adoptive father. The secret to McShane’s success: He’s allowed to play a different kind of father figure than John Hurt’s Broom. In del Toro’s 2004 film, Hurt played Broom as a thoughtful sage; McShane’s turn is, naturally, more aggressive (and foul-mouthed). It’s unusual, and it works.

It’s not a bad movie. It is a B-movie, though. (The casting of Milla Jovovich as the Blood Queen should’ve been fans’ first indication that the production would be more Uwe Boll than Werner Herzog.) And it’s not the Hellboy movie we needed. We needed a third and final Guillermo del Toro/Ron Perlman romp.

Weed
Let's Make This Happen

Throughout the run of this column, readers have routinely chimed in to ask about the evolution of our state’s cannabis scene. Ever since Amendment 2 went into effect in January 2017, most everyone has wanted to know when–and if–Florida would make the jump from medical marijuana to recreational reefer. Hard answers have been elusive, for the most part. However, a recent stroll through historic St. Augustine went a long way toward clarifying those matters.

It has always been the presumption that pro-pot activists would attempt a petition drive to get medical marijuana on the ballot in 2020–an effort that, one assumes, would be successful. Yet I had heard nothing specific until last Wednesday, and it happened entirely at random. “Medium” Jim Minion and I were walking to Casa de Vino 57 for #FindYourFolio Happy Hour gathering (nice place, by the way) when we encountered a young man with a clipboard in his hand and a dream in his heart. He was pushing petitions to legalize the stuff recreationally. We, of course, filled them out while he brought me up to speed on the matter.

As it turns out, the petition drive was launched last June. The fact that neither you nor I had heard a word about it until now is not a good sign, of course. Our interlocutor explained that his merry band of pot activists–they’re called Regulate Florida–is vastly understaffed and thus generating signatures at a disappointing pace. They have until Feb. 1, 2020 to produce 750,000 signatures. In the past 10 months, they’ve gotten only about 20,000. Surely that will change as they build momentum and money-marks affix themselves to the cause. Between Surterra, Knox and Trulieve, the weed lobby should have no problem finding funds to float more volunteers up in them streets. One would expect guys like John Morgan and good ol’ Roger Stone to start publicizing these efforts as we get into summer.

I’ve looked around and asked around in the days since, but so far, no one I know has seen any petitions being collected anywhere except in St. Augustine. Nothing in Five Points, nothing at the Beach(es) and nothing Downtown at ArtWalk–not yet, anyway. But, folks, this is the only path forward at the mo. Remember, a recent bill to fully legalize died a quiet death in the state legislature a couple weeks ago, as Governor Ron DeSantis was mum on the matter.

At the current pace, Regulate Florida needs to average about 2,600 signatures every day for the next 10 months to make the ballot. If it happens, if voters are given the choice, passage seems inevitable. But crunch time is coming (actually, it’s already here), and Regulate Florida needs all the help it can get. If you’d like to sign up, or to help others sign up, go to regulateflorida.com and get those deets, dilly-dilly, be he a stud or she be a filly. If you support full legalization–and I know you do–then it’s all hands on deck. NOW!

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(Note: We’re debuting a semi-regular Folio Weed segment on WJCT’s First Coast Connect. The first one is at 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 17, and then one airs every couple weeks thereafter. Segments will be archived online at wjct.org. Tell us what you think!)

Categories - Main
Pets Like Me: Grace

There aren’t many dogs whose ancestral pedigree roots can be traced back to ancient times, but the noble greyhound is one who can. Greyhounds have been around for about 3,500 years and are believed to have mingled with ancient Egyptians and Greeks. They’re even mentioned in the Bible (Proverbs 30:29-31, Old Testament).

Above all, greyhounds are sprinters at heart, but when they’re not running, their favorite thing to do is absolutely nothing, earning them the nickname 40-mph Couch Potatoes. Rather than springing into action at any noise or movement, this breed would rather take leisurely naps on the couch with their favorite human.

 

WALK WITH GRACE

 

Davi: What’s the most interesting thing about you?

Grace: I was bred to be an athlete and raced for a year before retiring to the luxury hi-rise life. I favor cool seasons, so I can model my extensive wardrobe.

 

You’re outside for a whole day. What are you doing?

I’ll spend two minutes running very fast in a circle and then find a shaded area, dig up some cool dirt and lie down for the rest of the day, and wonder why I can’t go upstairs to my comfy couch.

 

Do you have a special talent?

I do what’s called roaching. I jump up on the couch, roll on my back with my legs straight up—I look like a dead roach. I can hold the position for hours. You know I’m fully committed when my tongue hangs out of my mouth.

 

Tell me something about greyhounds that would surprise folks.

We greyhounds have a special universal blood type, which makes us ideal blood donors. Many volunteer greyhounds go to clinics and give blood regularly.

 

What’s your favorite food?

I love marshmallows!

 

Would you rather chase or be chased?

When I raced, I often finished last. Not because I was slow—I’m actually super-fast, but I liked to chase other dogs, so I’d hang back from the pack and run right up their heels.

 

Where is your happy place?

The couch!

 

What accomplishment of yours makes you proudest?

My ability to fall asleep anywhere, no matter what’s going on around me. I once slept through the Jazz Festival.

 

How do you show people you care?

When I like someone, my tail wags a mile a minute! I also shake my head and bottom at the same time. Weird, right?

 

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?

I’m often told I’m beautiful and sleek. Mom calls it “supermodel chic.”

 

In what way would you make the world a better place?

I’d teach people to just stop, roll over and relax.

 

What makes you feel thankful?

As a dog who suffers from separation anxiety, I’m most thankful for places that make me comfortable, like home.

 

In one word, describe your family.

Love.

 

I never expected to learn so much about greyhounds, but here I am, brimming with knowledge about this remarkable breed. Spending time with Grace has taught me so much about the finer points of this gentle companion breed—they’re almost like royalty! And there are so many in shelters and Humane Societies ready to join your happy family!

Categories - Main
Shell Yeah!

Here comes summer (whew! Spring went by fast!). And it’s the time of year to enjoy the virtues of one of the quintessential foods of spring and summer: the blue crab. Though live blue crabs are not widely available down here in the 904, where I’m from, they’re the kings of spring and summer seafood.

The Chesapeake Bay, which splits Maryland’s Western Shore, aka Baltimore/D.C. Loop, and its historical, genteel Eastern Shore, is home to the indisputably best crabs on the planet. They are, of course, blue crabs, renowned worldwide for their delicate, succulent flavor and exquisite texture.

When I was a kid, the extended family would pack into our non-air-conditioned cars during the sweltering summer months and head to the bay. We were not seeking standard fun in the sun beaches or putt-putt golf. Instead, we were headed toward the creeks which empty into the greater Chesapeake estuary. It was there that the crab shacks stood—or more likely, leaned. These were old clapboard structures, precariously purchased on ancient rotting wooden docks.

In the summer heat, folks like us flocked to gorge ourselves on as much hot, Old Bay-
seasoned, steamed blue crab and beer (no doubt National Boh) they could possibly hold. But there was much more to this than eating some crab meat. This was a ritual practiced by generations of locals, a time-honored tradition which involved all of the senses. One did not just stop by and ‘eat some crab.’

These crab shacks were completely open to the outdoors, no windows, just screens and no fancy restaurant amenities, like plates or napkins or tablecloths. You’d sit on old-time picnic tables covered with brown butcher paper. Rolls of paper towels were positioned at each end and, of course, there were several of the most important accessories, small wooden mallets and metal picks.

The beer and sodas were delivered in pitchers and the crabs themselves were brought in a large metal pail by a waitress, dumped directly on the table. Often, there was a good-sized hole in the middle of the table, with a big bucket directly below. That’s where we’d toss the few parts of the delicious darlings of the deep we didn’t eat.

Now the almost-primeval fun begins. Everyone grabs several of still-steaming crustaceans, trying not to burn their fingers. They first tear off the hapless creatures’ legs. Mmmm, the aroma of the exposed meat was beyond intoxicating. Now the mallet was raised up for its first blow to those claws; getting the fatty meat from those pinchers wasn’t easy without a fight. The bodies were then dissembled revealing the back-fin lump meat, which we would dip into a mixture of Old Bay seasoning and white vinegar—some locals dipped the meat in melted butter.

You have no idea how much I wish I was wrist-deep in this ritual right now! And the crab meat was enhanced with sides such as this tangy barbecue slaw.

 

CHEF BILL’S BBQ COLE SLAW

Ingredients

• 1 cup mayonnaise

• 3 tablespoons cider vinegar

• 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

• 3/4 teaspoon celery seeds

• Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

• One 1-pound head of green cabbage, quartered, cored, shredded; yield 12 cups

• 2 carrots, coarsely shredded

• 1 fennel, shredded

• 6 radishes, shredded

• 1 jalapeño, minced

• 1 jicama

• 2 limes, juiced

 

Directions

1. In a very large bowl, whisk mayonnaise with vinegar, mustard and celery seeds.

2. Season with salt and pepper. Add cabbage and carrots, toss to coat thoroughly.

3. Refrigerate until slightly chilled, about 30 minutes. Toss the coleslaw again; serve.