Story. The Portland trip generated at least a few worth telling. Here’s one.
Even though R.C. and I flew to Portland out of different airports, we ended up there at roughly the same time, and so he gave me a lift to our destination in his rental car. (My hotel was a five-minute walk from the suburban church where the Ligonier conference was being held, his posh digs were somewhere downtown.) On the way to the church, we talked about what sort of food might make for an appropriate lunch—a favorite topic. We settled on trying to find Thai, Japanese, or possibly Chinese, all of which are poorly represented in the Bristol area.
The church is huge, with receptionists sitting at an information desk in the lobby. So after scouting the conference bookstore, we asked one of the receptionists if she knew of any good places nearby to get decent Thai, Japanese, or Chinese food. She didn’t know, and didn’t much sound like she would care if she did, but she did flag down someone from the church who proceeded to tell us how lucky we were, since the best Chinese food he had ever eaten, prepared in a special way he was unable to explain, was available just two blocks away, next to my hotel. R.C. was a bit skeptical, pointing out that he had spent years eating at Chinatown restaurants in San Francisco; still, the man assured us that it would be the best we had ever eaten. So we decided to try it out.
It was mediocre. It excelled in its mediocrity. It was the kind of place where your option was to pick your meat—chicken, beef, or shrimp—and then have them apply a sauce—cherry red, light brown, or dark brown. Given the limitations I suppose it was OK, but we were dismayed to be expending valuable out-of-town calories on food that wouldn’t have passed muster at the strip shopping center back home. And of course when we returned to the church, the fellow had to track us down—”How did you like it?”—”It was good”—”Oh, you didn’t like it very much”—”Well, it was good”—”But it wasn’t the best you’d ever eaten”—”No, not that good”—”But was it the best you’ve ever eaten for under five dollars?”—”Well, no, not that good either.”
Later that afternoon I was walking from my hotel through the shopping center to the church. When I got to the place where we had parked, I looked up and saw that right behind where the car had been—literally—there was a Thai restaurant. A nice-looking Thai restaurant. When I saw R.C. next, I said “This will either make you laugh or make you mad”, and then told him about the Thai restaurant. He didn’t laugh.
Saturday after the conference we made a beeline for lunch at the Thai restaurant. On the way I told him, “You know, if this place is any good, we won’t be able to enjoy it, because we’ll spend the whole time thinking about how we could have had lunch there yesterday.” As he took his first few bites of food, he said “This may be the best Thai food I’ve ever eaten.” I had to agree; I’ve eaten at many Thai restaurants, and this tiny spot ranked right up there.
The cruelest irony? R.C. had no problem thoroughly enjoying his meal. It was me who spent all the time thinking about what could have been.