Thursday, June 11, 2009

Paht Chee and the jamboree

Once we were past the border, it was time for the exploration we had been so eager to experience. The first vendor we encountered was a Mexican juice stand. Now, we were just not thirsty, but the thought of returning some time during our tenure here was not out of the range of possibility. We marched apprehensively on.

The festive qualities of this place reminded me of an open air market in any of the number of countries I had been to in my travels, but with a complete air of American 'flair', if one can use this word to describe what I was experiencing. Americans know how to take something completely universal and make it into something that only smacks of fried food and baseball caps. This place was truly the most melted pot I had been to in a long time, with the exception of maybe NYC.

Walking in and out of the jam-packed aisles of what some would call junk (of course not me), it occurred to us that interviewing the people that make this place magic might be of some interest. After all, the merchandise was really not what made the atmosphere; it was the people selling it. We met a woman that sold perfume, who told us with some kind of irony that she only did this when she wasn't on duty as a health inspector for the city of Chicago: we weren't quite sure what to make of that. In addition to this hawker of cheap scents, we met two people who would then become the subject of this posting: Gina Alenas and her husband, Alex DeJesus.

Gina and Alex came to the US separately from the Philippines and met in Chicago in the 80s. After marrying, they embarked on the adventure that one might call the American dream: they began selling Asian merchandise at the Fair. Gina was the more verbose one, telling us that on top of selling statues and bamboo, she is also an expert in Paht Chee and Feng Shui, and that if we knew of any way to help her business, she would appreciate it. She also recounted with enthusiasm her plans to open a Feng Shui consulting business in Milwaukee on Vliet St., around the corner from the Times Theater. If you're in the neighborhood, you may want to check it out to see if she's there yet. We could all use a bit of advice when it comes to arranging our living quarters. If interested, her booth number at the Fair is #776 and her phone number for Feng Shui consulting is 224- 650-0513. You can see more of her wares at

After our in-depth conversation with Gina, we did indeed return to the Mexican Juice stand and have a jamaica.
This drink made from the hibiscus flower is extremely refreshing and can be made easily at home. The flowers can be bought at El Rey markets everywhere in Milwaukee. Indeed, this was a great end to a great day!