Until last September, I had never heard of Bobo’s Chicken. I didn’t know about the red trailer parked a few miles from my house where six were injured in a drive-by shooting in August 2008. I didn’t know any legitimate business opened only on weekends between the hours of 8pm and 4 am. Most of all, I didn’t know my son Kyle had been asked by The Daily — the OU student-run newspaper — to show up at Bobo’s at 2 AM to find a story. Sometimes it’s good to live life in a protective bubble.
Even before the shootings, the area surrounding Bobo’s weekend trade was reputed for having high crime. It’s the area where my brother once purchased his cocaine. It’s the part of town where my husband and I paid $600 to get my brother’s car out of hock — even though the business front was a car repair shop, we had more than a hunch that the business was little more than a pawn shop for drug addicts in need of cash. What else can I say but that it’s the sort of area many would think twice about going to — especially at 2 am in the morning.
Kyle wrote what I understand was a tongue-in-cheek story about his Bobo’s experience. Kyle’s editor called the article, “Chicken To Die For”. Before it was published in The Daily’s on-line edition, the story went through a round of reviews. I never read the story since it was pulled within hours of being published. But I painfully read every letter to the editor, most which held no punches in raining down judgment on Kyle.
There’s plenty of right and wrong to go around when mistakes happen. But when the chips fall, people do tend to scatter and deflect. I’m sure Kyle made mistakes. But I’m also sure that The Daily staff and its sponsors made mistakes too, just as I know that mistakes in judgment were made by everyone who took Kyle to task without knowing ALL the facts…or importantly, the state of Kyle’s mind and heart.
This is not a defense of Kyle or even an attempt to tell Kyle’s story. Kyle has publicly apologized and told his own story in the second article he wrote about Bobo’s, which The Daily published (under pressure) a few weeks ago.
Instead, this is a story behind the story; it’s a story of a mom who watched her son go through the worst point of his life without power to help. I was sad and shaken. I feared Kyle might never write again, and I knew that would be a real loss, since writing has been all my son has ever wanted to do. Even at seven years of age, Kyle was writing stories complete with maps- a la Tolkien — which he stapled together like books.
It is good then, that Kyle had two caring mentors to steer Kyle through this mess. Had these two not stood by to cheer Kyle on, the second story would never have been written or published. I am indebted to both whom Kyle publicly names in his second article.
Not all of the letters to the editor in response to the second article were positive. But most were. Most appreciated how tough it was for Kyle to go back to the place where a mistake had been made so that amends could be attempted.
Best of all, there’s some gravy to follow the Bobo’s Chicken story: Kyle now knows more about who he is and what he stands for after writing both stories about Bobo’s. And here are the three (a)sides:
- One, the Dean of O.U.’s Journalism School stopped one of Kyle’s mentors in the hallway to say he found Kyle’s second article deserving of an award nomination.
- Two, Kyle now has an internship at a highly regarded local newspaper; his Bobo’s experience primed him for the spot in ways that I cannot begin to describe and in other ways that I’ll never know.
- Three, my husband and I are taking Kyle out to dinner tonight to celebrate Kyle’s first day on the job. Bobo’s would be our obvious choice; but as it’s Monday, we’re forced to eat at another fine dining establishment. I’m pretty sure Kyle would have liked Bobo’s just fine.