Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Thoughts on Bailey's retirement

(By Erik)

A little more than a week ago we bid farewell (sort of) to Bailey McBride, who’s leaving his post as editor of The Christian Chronicle after 10 years.

He’s been part of the Chronicle’s staff for more than 25 years — since it came to Oklahoma Christian University in 1980. He’ll continue to be part of our family, writing his monthly column and attending meetings when he wants to. The Chronicle published an interview with him this month.

Bailey’s been a big part of our lives for the past five years. I was working for the Savannah Morning News when I got an e-mail from Kim Chaudoin, a longtime friend from the PR office at Lipscomb University. She told me that the Chronicle was looking for a new staffer. She didn’t think I was interested but passed the message along anyway because I was the only full-time newspaper guy who might remotely want to apply.

I wasn’t really interested, but I was curious enough to apply. One phone interview and a trip on Delta later, I found myself face-to-face with Bailey. (It was July of 2001, so he met me at the gate.)

Five minutes later, I knew I wanted the job.

I couldn’t imagine having a boss like Bailey. I thought your boss was someone you were supposed to talk about behind his or her back. Bailey was different, and after spending a couple of days with him and Joyce (along with Scott LaMascus, Lindy Adams and Joy McMillon) I was sold on the Chronicle. (And the cheese enchiladas at Chelinos in Bricktown sealed the deal.)

Since I started working at the Chronicle Bailey’s been a friend, mentor and a sort of adopted grandfather. When Jeanie and I got married, he drove down to Altus and performed the ceremony. He and Joyce are both active members of our small-group Bible study. They’re family.

So I’m glad this isn’t goodbye.

Several of my bosses over the years have taught me to be a better journalist. Bailey has taught me how to be a better person.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day wrap-up

Memorial Day fishing
Originally uploaded by eandjtrygg.
(By Erik and Jeanie)

For those of you who think we only jet off to Zimbabwe and Guatemala, we offer this recap of Memorial Day weekend.

Jeanie had an exceedingly rare 10 days off from her residency, so we decided to take advantage of that with a mini-vacation to Dallas. Erik couldn’t get off more than a couple of days due to catching up after the Zimbabwe trip, but he promised to make it up to Jeanie the next time she gets 10 days off. That should be sometime around 2009.

So we made the best of it by checking into a quaint little bed and breakfast in the Love Field area (the locals refer to it as “Fairfield Inn.”) We visited the historic West End area and ate at a quaint little restaurant (the locals refer to it as “On The Border.”)

We visited the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza, located on the sixth floor of the former Texas Schoolbook Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald perched himself and assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Erik had never seen the museum — or the grassy knoll across the street. It was eerie looking out the windows of the sixth floor down over the Dallas streets and realizing what happened there about 43 years ago.

We also treated ourselves to a culinary experience at Texas de Brazil, a restaurant in the Metroplex that offers a taste of southern cooking — south of the equator, anyway! Erik ate at a similar restaurant in Georgetown, Guyana, back in 2004 and wanted to share the experience with Jeanie.

Eating at Texas de Brazil was an experience. First you load up your plate at their 40-item salad bar, which has everything from beans and rice to fish and exotic cheeses. It would be a meal in and of itself, but there’s more.

You’re given a round token with green and red sides. When you’re ready for the main course, you flip your token over to the green side and waiters come at you with swords — literally. Five or six waiters circled our table with skewers of pork, steak, sausage and lamb prepared in various ways. If you’re interested, they cut you off a slice, so you can sample all sorts of stuff. Erik liked the house sirloin — very juicy and tender. Jeanie really enjoyed the parmesan pork — great flavor. And the spiced bananas were a nice dessert.

As for the price of this meal … well, let’s just say it’s cheaper than round-trip airfare to Brazil. But we highly recommend it for special occasions. Plus, some locations of Texas de Brazil, supposedly have started offering lunch service for a reduced price. We’ll look into that for next time.

We spent a day shopping in the retail nightmare that is Frisco, Texas. We both got a pair of shoes and a couple of other things, but mostly Frisco is just a bunch of stuff that we have in OKC — all crammed into two miles or so.

Then we headed north and spent the weekend with Jeanie’s grandmother and uncle in Madill, Okla. Jeanie’s parents joined us. We scouted out a good fishing hole and set up some rods and reels. Erik caught his first bass and learned how to hook minnows as bait. Jeanie’s dad caught two bass and uncle Leroy caught two more. We threw all but two of them back. Jeanie’s dad cleaned them (we chose not to watch) and we’ll be eating them soon.

Erik also got reacquainted with an old nemesis — fire ants. He got about five bites on one leg. We don’t have fire ants in OKC, but they’re plentiful in Texas and south Oklahoma and are headed north. Of course, they were a frequent nuisance in Georgia, where Erik once got 70 bites on one foot while waiting for the ice cream man. Ah, that painful-yet-familiar sting that reminds us of a land of cotton. Look away, look away, look away lidocaine.

Click on the photo to see what we caught.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Thoughts on food and funerals on two continents

Zimbabwean funeral
Originally uploaded by eandjtrygg.
(By Erik)

Following is a piece I wrote for the Edmond Sun. They're doing a series of reflections on Scripture as part of a "read the Bible in a year" package. I had several verses to choose from, but I thought that a couple in Proverbs related to an experience I had in Zimbabwe:

“Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.” (Proverbs 15:17)

It was a thin stew of herbs, greens and a few meager scraps of chicken, served with a side of sadza — a doughy substance made from corn that tastes a bit like mashed potatoes.

It probably was more than most Zimbabweans eat in a week.

I visited Zimbabwe earlier this month with a group of missionaries from Kansas. They were checking up on a church-run hospital and school, both suffering from the economic turmoil that’s gripped this landlocked country in southern Africa.

In the 1980s Zimbabwe was an almost-utopia of racial harmony and prosperity — especially while it’s neighbor, South Africa, was in the throes of apartheid. But in recent years many of the farmers have been killed or run off their land. Crop production has fallen and inflation has reached 1,000 percent.

One U.S. dollar will get you more than 100,000 Zimbabwean dollars — if you’re lucky enough to find them. Fuel and food are scarce, as are drugs to deal with the country’s AIDS epidemic.

So I was a bit surprised to find smiling faces in Zimbabwe — especially at a funeral.

Brother Timothy, a local preacher, took us to the home of a church family that lost a 12-year-old boy to HIV. We mourned with the family and sang a handful of hymns.

I figured that was it, but then the family invited us to lunch.

I was more than bit concerned for how my stomach might respond, but my hosts smiled all the while. They even cheered when I turned down a fork and ate with my hands like everybody else.

“I would like to hear you speak,” said the family patriarch, and just like that I was on the funeral program. Talk about indigestion! I’ve never spoken at a funeral in the U.S., much less one in a country — and a language — I don’t understand.

But I muddled through it, with Brother Timothy translating my words into Shona. I told them that I didn’t understand their customs, but the love they had for the grieving family was universal. It required no translation. I read the verse from Romans that speaks about present suffering and future glory.

Right now, after a pulled pork sandwich from Earl’s Rib Palace that was much too big, I think about that humble meal of chicken bones and sadza — served by starving, smiling people.

“All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.” (Proverbs 15:15)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

PHOTO: Zimbabwean soccer ball

Zimbabwe village
Originally uploaded by eandjtrygg.
(By Erik)

They make them out of plastic bags, rocks and rubber bands, from what I could tell. Almost all the kids I met in Zimbabwe love soccer — or football, as it's called everywhere else in the world.

I'm back in Oklahoma after a week and a half in Africa. I visited Nhowe Mission hospital in rural Zimbabwe with a team from the East Pointe Church of Christ in Wichita, Kan.

It was quite an experience. I spoke at a funeral and ate warthog with a side of worms (not all in the same day, mind you).

I'm still trying to process it all, but will be posting about it in the next few days.

Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Why I can never work at Steak N' Shake

(By Erik)

Me: “Good afternoon, sir, welcome to Steak N’ Shake. My name is Erik and I’ll be your server.”

Customer: “Yeah, I’ll have the chicken sandwich with the platter special …”

Me: “You don’t want that.”

Customer: Excuse me?

Me: You don’t want that. It’s chicken.

Customer: And why wouldn’t I want that?

Me: What’s it say on the door?

Customer: Huh?

Me: What’s the name of this place — on the door?

Customer: Steak N’ Shake?

Me: Does it say “Chicken N’ Shake?”

Customer: No.

Me: So what are you doing ordering chicken?

Customer: I guess I just wanted a chicken sandwich.

Me: So go to Chick-fil-a. Y’see, they actually have “Chicken” in their name. And their grilled chicken sandwich is delicious.

Customer: And yours isn’t?

Me: I dunno. Never tried it. You don’t come to Steak N’ Shake and eat chicken. It’s like going to Earl’s Rib Palace and ordering a grilled cheese. It’s crazy.

Customer: (sighing) OK, fine, I’ll have a hamburger.

Me: Steakburger.

Customer: Yeah, whatever.

Me: (teeth gritted) Saaaay it!

Customer: Alright, I want a STEAK-burger.

Me: Great. What kind?

Customer: I dunno. Maybe a double with cheese and …

Me: You don’t want that.

Customer: Huh? Why not?

Me: Well, I mean, if you’re getting a steakburger, you might as well get one of the melts. May I suggest the Frisco?

Customer: This one here? Let’s see … yeah, that’s fine.

Me: Great

Customer: Oh, wait. I don’t want that Frisco sauce on it.

Me: Excuse me?

Customer: This says it has something called Frisco sauce. I don’t want that. Maybe just a side of mayonnaise instead.

Me: Dude, you can’t do that!

Customer: Why not?

Me: Cause it’s not a Frisco melt without the Frisco sauce! It’s the sauce that makes it what it is. It’s perfect the way it is. You don’t mess with a classic. You don’t buy a Porsche and stick a giant Chevrolet sticker on it — or slather it in mayo. If that’s the kind of guy you are, just go straight over to Carl’s Jr.

Manager: I’m sorry sir, would you excuse us a moment.

Customer: Of course

Manager: This is the third time today, Erik. You can’t keep doing this.

Me: Well, it’s not my fault that these guys don’t know how to order.

Manager: I don’t think this is working out. Please turn in your apron and Steak N’ Shake hat, please.

Me: No, you can’t do this! I quit my job for this! I’ll pay you to let me work here. Please!

Manager: Let’s not make a scene, now.

Me: No, I have to be near the Frisco melts. I’ll wither and die without them!

Manager: Alright, alright, you can keep the hat.

Me: Excellent! Thanks.