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A mural at the Museum of the Gulf Coast
A mural at the Museum of the Gulf Coast

The Texas Gulf Coast Has It All - Page Three

 

Off to Port Arthur

Next it was off the the third corner of the Golden Triangle, Port Arthur. Like the rest of the Gulf Coast, Port Arthur has great fishing and birding and outdoor recreation.

Sea Rim State Park offers swimming, kayaking, camping and airboat tours, and the 17-mile Pleasure Island on Sabine Lake has two golf courses (regular and disc golf), the Fun Island Depot for kids, as well as RV parks, picnic areas and a waterfront boardwalk.

Our tour began at the Museum of the Gulf Coast where visitors can learn all about the area, past and present.

There are murals and exhibits on the prehistory of the area, the Civil War and the Spindletop gusher, as well as tributes to the many Gulf Coasters who went on to fame and fortune like J.P. "Big Bopper" Richardson, Janis Joplin and her schoolmate in Port Arthur, Jimmy Johnson, one of two coaches in football history to win championships at the college and professional levels.

There is also a gallery of 21 works by world-reknown artist Robert Rauschenberg

They have a replica of Janis' pop-art covered Porsche, a Civil War cannon, and a fresnel lense from the Sabine Banks Lighthouse.

Music Legends

Clarence "Frogman" Henry was a buddy of the Beatles. Photo courtesy of the Museum of the Gulf Coast.
Clarence "Frogman" Henry was a buddy of the Beatles. Photo courtesy of the Museum of the Gulf Coast.

And it's a great place to find out about the area's rich musical heritage, with exhibits on the many music legends from the Gulf Coast.

There's Janis, of course, and the Big Bopper and George Jones and Tex Ritter and ZZ Top and my personal favorite, Percy Sledge: "When a maa..han loves a woman... she can do no wrong. Turn his back on his best friend if he put her down."

But then there are the musicians who inspired and mentored later generations in rock and roll, blues, zydeco, western swing, R & B and swamp pop: "Moon" Mullican, "Ivory Joe" Hunter, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Barbara Lynn, Tony Joe White (remember "Polk Salad Annie"?) and many more.

Spiritual Sites

Port Arthur has welcomed newcomers from all over the US and the world throughout its history and this diversity is reflected in the city's many spiritual sites.

Inside the Buu Mon Temple in Port Arthur
Inside the Buu Mon Temple in Port Arthur, Texas

The parishioners of Queen of Vietnam Martyr’s Catholic Church created a Hoa Binh ("area of peace") with a statue of Mary "in gratitude for their escape from Asia and the city which welcomed them."

There is also a shrine to Our Lady of Guadelupe set on rocks brought to the site from Mount Tepayac, Mexico City, where the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego.

We visited the Buu Mon Buddhist Temple, which was originally a Baptist church and then a Vietnamese Catholic church.

In 1986, the steeple was replaced with a stupa and Abbot Thich Huyen Viet moved in with a small congregation.

The temple water garden, with its bamboo, lotus flowers, water lilies and bamboo, banana, and citrus trees, draws thousands of visitors each year.

A Circuitous Path to Buddhism

Bhante Kassapa keeps up with his fellow monks on Facebook.
Bhante Kassapa keeps up with his fellow monks on Facebook

It was here that I and my fellow travelers met Bhante Kassapa, a wonderfully calm and welcoming monk who had tea with us and showed us around and talked with us about his circuitous path to Buddhism.

He served in the US Air Force and later became a Franciscan monk. After ten years he returned to secular life and worked in aviation. In 2006 he became a Buddhist monk.

Bhante Kassapa teaches meditation and the principles of Buddhism in a wide variety of settings. He speaks at churches, universities and even radio talk shows, and he's the chaplain for Buddhist inmates at the federal prison in Beaumont.

Since he took over as chaplain his meditation group has grown steadily.

"One of the reasons I think why it works for them," he says, "is that in the beginning, Buddha had to take himself out of society for a number of years while he discovered who he was, and these guys have a similar situation."

He keeps up with fellow monks on Facebook, and has his own channel on YouTube. I particularly like his reply to a caller who asked him why he turned his back on God.

Larry Judice of Larry's French Market in Groves, Texas
Larry Judice of Larry's French Market in Groves, Texas

Maw Maw's Homemade Boudain

After an afternoon in the peace and tranquility of the water garden, it was time for some serious chow, and from what I hear the number one place for serious chow in the Golden Triangle is Larry's French Market and Cajun Cafeteria in nearby Groves, Texas.

They've got alligator and frog's legs and heaps of crawfish, as well as Cajun favorites like crawfish pistolettes, seafood gumbo, shrimp etouffé, dirty rice, andouille sausage gumbo, fried oyster poboys (or shrimp or catfish, take your pick).

Take my advice, get the buffet so you can try everything. I loved the 'gator -- like a cross between an octopus and a scallop with a lot of interesting flavors of its own.

You also have to try the andouille sausage -- beef, seasoned with salt, cracked black pepper, and garlic, and smoked over pecan wood and sugar cane -- and the house specialty, boudain -- a pork and rice sausage that includes the liver and heart.

Dancing the night away at Larry's French Market
Dancing the night away at Larry's French Market in Groves, Texas

The business was started by Albin and Lariza (Maw Maw) Judice as a grocery store in 1925, and the popularity of Maw Maw's homemade boudain caused it to grow into a deli.

Now it's a 440-seat restaurant and dance place run by their grandson Larry, with live bands -- cajun, country and swamp pop -- Wednesday through Sunday nights and diners and dancers from all over Texas and Louisiana.

A great place to eat a delicious meal and dance the night away.

More to Come

Now if all that sounds like a lot of fun, stay tuned. I'm just getting started. Coming soon, two more stories about family fun on the Texas Gulf Coast: "Galveston: The Indomitable Island" and "Houston, Texas: A Great Place to Be Yourself."

 

Stephen Hartshorne

 

 

Stephen Hartshorne is the associate editor of GoNOMAD.com. He writes a blog called Armchair Travel about books he finds at flea markets and tag sales.

 

 

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