Despite the risk of coming across materialistic and worldly while claiming to be a missionary, I think a short “Ode to the States” is overdue. Since returning to the U.S. of A., I have sought to indulge in as many of the aspects of American life that I have missed since living overseas. I try to do all this while avoiding all the cable news stations – how have the majority of their viewers not yet committed suicide? By and large, the reporting borders on the despondent, if not downright morbid. All the more reason to celebrate the good things in life, simple though they might be.
So, let Americans celebrate…
Is there anything better than a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich? Leigh and I have visited this place multiple times since arriving for a visit. Word of advice for those who don’t visit weekly – the new Spicy Chicken Sandwich is okay, but the spice detracts from the classic taste. Stick with the original.
It’s hot in Texas (check off ridiculous understatement – got one). However, it was hot in Italy last year when Leigh and I drove down for a brief vacation. One thing that makes visiting the States this summer better than visiting Cinque Terra last summer – cold air blasting in our faces from the car vents.
While Leigh and I have not taken as much advantage of this wonderful vanquisher of Blockbusters and Hollywood Videos everywhere, I still find this little contraption remarkable. How we wish there was something like this in Germany. Maybe then there wouldn’t be so much illegal downloading going on. And, if you’ve got a Netflix subscription, you’re even cooler…
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Yes, if you order the chicken burrito (which I do) and the chips and guacamole (which I also do), and you eat it all (which, yes, I sometimes do), you feel like crap. But it’s that wonderfully exhausted crap-feeling telling you that you have just been to heaven, and you will hear angels singing again sooner than you think since you just ate a year off of your life. Mmmm!
How I mourn for all the Europeans cursed with mere Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta Orange for their major soft drink selections. Thank goodness they make good wine and beer, but if they only knew the wonder that is this sweet nectar from Waco. Oh, and if you are a resident of the United States and you choose any of the above drinks over this one, shame be upon you and your children and your children’s children.
Leigh and I have cooked ribs a few times in Germany, but to get the meat we have to go in together with another family and order it special (and expensive) from a butcher a few towns over. And while German sausage is great, they don’t hickory smoke it or glaze it with honey barbecue sauce. But here in the States, this lip-smackingly good, finger-suckingly fine bane of Vegans everywhere is readily available. And, since we’re staying outside of Austin right now, that means a trip to The Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX will be happening soon!
Sure, I’ll take Guinness on tap over this sumptuously smooth solution, but when it comes to the beer aisle at the local grocery store, this is the one to grab. Granted, I did just learn that they haven’t brewed this in Ireland for centuries and it is actually a Coors product, but I still love it. I’ve never gotten in to the German beers – too much wheat-brewing going on in that stuff. Give me an amber red lager like this one!
Yes, they’re exclusive to Texas, but we should all celebrate our massive grocery stores. Sure, they can be glaring eyesores of consumerism and excess, but if you shop ‘em correctly, they are a place of wonder, dwarfing almost all European grocers with their selection and pristine organization (and that’s just the cereal aisle!). Now, I’m all for the farmer’s markets for fresh produce, and bringing along some canvas sacks to avoid plastic bag-pollution, but I can’t get over the wonder of so much under one roof.
Chips & Queso
Leigh and I sometimes eat at a Mexican restaurant in Freiburg, Germany, which is the closest place to find such food even though it is forty-five minutes away. They serve you a thimble-sized bowl of chips (no refills) and a NyQuil cup of salsa, and you can forget about straight queso. It’s a travesty of Mexican cuisine and eateries, but that’s Europe. Glory be to Mexican restaurants in the States for their insistence of stuffing us with this goodness before destroying our bowels with their entrées.
Personal swimming pools are not an unreality in Europe, but they are where we live. While Leigh and I don’t mind the local pool in town, there is something remarkably relaxing about stepping out your own back door on a hot afternoon and having a gleaming blue swimmin’ hole calling your name. It’s also easier to introduce your newborn daughter to her first swim. If you don’t have your own, go make friends with someone who does.
Living in Germany, there is nothing more frustrating for me than walking by bookstores and knowing there is probably not one volume inside that I can understand. I love the musty, crammed book closets cluttered with stacks upon stacks of old books, but I also hold a fondness for the giant retail stores like the one that clobbers Meg Ryan’s little shop in You’ve Got Mail. Aisles of shelves filled with shiny new books, with plenty of wide open space for relaxing and sifting through a few tomes with no pressure to buy, and a little coffee shop at a safe but reachable distance. These places are magnificent – a glimmer, perhaps, of what heaven’s libraries might be like. I just know the iPad and the Kindle are going to ruin everything!
Neither Leigh nor I speak German beyond a few passable phrases, but even if we did, I suspect German television would be lost on us. Even in the time of re-runs, it is nice to be able to relax on the sofa and have a plethora of choices for entertainment. It is perhaps more comforting than anything listed above, including the food. I’ve caught plenty of Sportscenter, The Colbert Report, a showing of Twelve Angry Men on TCM, and syndications of Seinfeld and Scrubs. And, oh, how I have missed ol’ Alec and his head-scratchers (and, no, the irony is not lost on me that the show represented in the picture of “American television” has a Canadian host).
There are so many more things that I enjoy. In reality, all of these things take a back seat to being home with family, and spending time with my wife and our new daughter. Each of the things mentioned above are simply those little additions – that icing on the cake – that we so often take for granted. If even one of the things I’ve mentioned means as much to you as it does to me, the next time it comes around, take a moment to absorb it in all its wonder.