I recently dined at the one of the newest restaurants in town. And while I considered writing a review, the thought of it brought up some interesting issues of existential proportions. Yes, I said existential.
The restaurant is on the very hip Alberta street in a small but open space. Exposed brick, concrete and wood floors make for a very industrial vibe. The chefs: two ladies and a guy who cooked for notable restaurants in New York City opened the place a few weeks ago. And as if they somehow understood Portland's affinity to bird print and "putting a bird on it", appropriately named it: Aviary.
Tattooed servers, great indie rock over the sound system, and Edison bulb lighting make it seem, oh-so-Portland in a great way.
Our server had this scribed on his arm:
You become responsible forever, for what you have tamed.
"It's from the book, 'The Little Prince'," he smiled, cheerfully refilling our water glasses.
Just the mention of it whisked me back to High School AP English with Ms. Kandaris. She assigned The Little Prince, and The Stranger, and others rather existentialist in nature. I remember she explained existentialism as the search for meaning through actively questioning and seeking it. I also remember she concluded that most existentialists decide the world is cold and meaningless. True connections to others is an illusion. Cheerful isn't it?
In the book, the Little Prince meets a fox. The fox explains that to tame a fox or anything for that matter, is to befriend and forever change it. Through the relationships we create, the encounters we have with strangers, we are never the same. Items and places, colors and flavors take on meaning that did not previously exist.
The Mr. and I dined with a dear friend that evening. We discussed books and food all the while drinking wine and receiving thoughtful and patient service. Before we knew it we were the last ones left in the restaurant. We finished up our coffee and headed for the door and just then I noticed her. I saw one of the owners sitting at a dining table looking over paperwork. She looked to be in her early thirties, dressed in chef's whites, with her long hair pulled into a ponytail, bangs and glasses. She waved goodbye and thanked us for coming in. And for a moment, I saw myself in her.
It was then I realized I would make a terrible existentialist.
Did I like Aviary? No. And then Yes. I realize it takes more than a couple weeks for a business to find the right balance. Consistency takes time.
Perhaps it's my appreciation for the guts it takes to open a business (especially in the middle of a recession), or the strange connection I feel for these strangers, my Portland-ish affinity for bird related items or a combination of all three that leads me to hold my tongue for now. I plan to go back in about six months and check it out again.
Besides, to force my opinions as dogma is a terrible offense...even an existentialist would agree with me on this one.