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◌  Got Phở

1 April 2009

It was rainy and breezy on Saturday evening and I went to Got Phở. The neighborhoods on the way are delightful to walk, especially diagonally. The houses have the Portlandy look of being well maintained for a hundred years but never hauled out. Some lawns are mossy and some have palms. The petals were starting to fall on Knott.

I don’t know what-all it is about Got Phở. I enjoy the food but admit it’s not revelatory. The decor is sterile and it’s in a wretched little strip mall where the ugliest street in town goes over the highway. It adds only a little to things that are already fun – like Sunday dinner there, with Zack, Marina, Chris, Nick, Jamie, and Mitchell, which would probably have been almost as pleasing at any other non-bad restaurant.

What makes it bigger than a restaurant to me is heading out alone on a chilly evening, a little conversation with the head waiter, the A1 (gỏi cuốn: shrimp & sliced pork salad rolls (2) w/ special house dipping peanut sauce), the special bowl (Combination of Steak, Lean Brisket, Fat Brisket, Tip, Flank, Soft Tendon, Trip and Meat Balls), and watching Sandy light up. A lot of my best reading, writing, and deciding comes from sitting there in a food coma wondering whether another A1 would ruin the aftertaste of the phở on the way home.

Maybe it’s the well attested power of noodles in broth to reflect humanity (Blade Runner, Tampopo). By their deliciousness, by evincing work and taste, by taking attention to eat, and especially by making you look silly, they send you on a tiny adventure. My insistence that my nutrition entertain me is openly mocked in certain circles (you know who you are), but it’s not all ironic: good phở is highbrow entertainment.

Maybe reflexive distrust of popular rituals makes me more protective of my own. Abraham Joshua Heschel said the Jewish sabbath is a cathedral in time. My occasional Got Phở pilgrimáge is a little liminoid or lazzi; it’s a visit to another calendar. It’s dropping another breadcrumb as I’m hustled up the t axis. Oh, the things I can remember there. People and feelings now dead, gone, changed, or still here. Next time, this Saturday will be mixed in – the petals on Knott, talking to the head waiter (a friend since Wheel and I used to hang out there c. 2004) about the downturn, the feeling of visiting a town where I lived, thinking about how to move back here, worrying about plans for the startup, sketching schemata, staring out the window. And, like the other times, the feeling of tucking another picture of myself flipping through the album into the end of the album.

I didn’t know when starting Env that I’d talk so much about time and memory and the feeling of getting older. But lately it seems like I’m already falling behind on explaining the interesting things I’ve happened to see. Like I’d better get the first volume of my memoirs out while I remember most of it.