September 14, 2009

The 'El Cid' Theory

I've been spending a lot of time in my hometown of Oakhurst lately. It's 250 miles north of LA. I left 20 years ago and really hadn't been back that often. The last 10 years I could count the visits on one hand. No bad memories, just a bad family member/friend I guess.

I've always been great at keeping in touch with childhood friends, some of which still inhabit the town itself. I'd get bits of information from friends now and again about the daily happenings of the town and it was good enough for me.

This summer I organized a huge school reunion... not just my class but anyone who ever attended. The word was only spread via facebook but it turned into a 200+ peraon, three day event. Turns out it will be a yearly event and next year should be twice as big... scary.

All this is really moot I guess since the point of my story is about the town itself and perhaps one of the reason I left and never came back. I've come to realize a lot about this place and the people who still live here. Part of which makes me question a state of mind I've always envied.

Ignorance Is Bliss.

Whether its religion or bad TV. I've always appreciated the power of 'not knowing any better' and how life is easier when questions aren't asked.

But this time it actually angers me a little. This is where the 'El Cid' theory comes in.

There is a Mexican restaurant in town called El Cids. I don't remember going there before I left yet hear about the place constantly from the locals. They love it and can't wait to return. Often I will see Facebook updates stating "Going to El Cids, I can't wait!". In fact it seems people there get more excited about that than Disneyland. Could it be that good?

In July I finally sat down for my first meal at the famous locale. I was with about 10 friends who were all giddy, so giddy that I think I myself was starting to show my excitement as well.

Time to shorten up this story.

I ate, I drank, I left, I somehow miss what the hype was about. I walked out a little confused. I didn't say much about it and used all the Margaritas in my system to direct the conversation in a more drunken manner.

For a few days I let the experience and my food digest. Perhaps I was wrong, could have just had a bad meal. So bbqing with friends a few days later I expressed my thoughts. I pointed out that the food was moderate, the service was less that desirable and the interior looked as if a Tijuana exploded on the lobby.

I now expected a heated debate since I was dissing their beloved Mexican restaurant.

Nothing.

Well, not as much nothing as 'you're right'.

I am? How can that be? They LOVE that place.

Well, it turns out not so much 'love' as 'are used to it.' These people have been going there for so long they've learned to adapt to the taste. They've settled on their overall experience, learned to lower expectation and have convinced themselves that it's as good as you can get in Oakhurst, especially since it's the only place in town.

So that's not why I am angered. I am angered at the management of El Cids. Here you have a restaurant that only needs to be as good as people will accept. They don't need to blow people's minds, or constantly dazzle their guests. They just need to make sure people don't get sick. That's it.

My point to my friends was that in a big city that would never happen. Restaurants survive by being the best. There is so much competition that if you don't top the next guy, you're pumping gas in 6 months. Average food lasts less than a year in the real world. In Oakhurst, it makes you rich.

So for this, I am angered. Angered that El Cids will only be as good as needed to be and the people in the little town where I grew up don't care. They will come back every Friday, giddy, hungry and ready to pay too much for the experience.

But my theory goes beyond El Cids as it is spread across the whole town itself. The clothing stores, gas stations, bakeries, coffee shops.

They just need to be 'good enough'.

Ignorance is bliss. It makes me sad.

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