I’ve never been good when it comes to favorites. My favorite movie changes every time someone asks me, and my favorite actor or actress is often whoever was in the last movie I saw. If someone asks me what my favorite color is, I’ll say the first color that pops into my head. Are there people in this world that truly have a favorite color? That must make life a lot more exciting. I can only imagine what goes through their heads: “Holy shit! I see purple! Purple! Oh my God! It’s my favorite color! I’m pumped!”
The idea of having a ‘favorite’ this or that doesn’t make much sense to me. I don’t have a favorite food – I love anything as long as it isn’t too Korean. I don’t have a favorite season – they all have aspects I can bitch about. I’ve never in my life had a favorite teacher – some have been more interesting people than others, but as for being teachers, it wasn’t like I had some crazy learning bonanza in one teacher’s class that blew away all the others. Similarly, I’ve never called anyone my ‘best friend.’ I feel that if I did, I would then have to also designate someone as my ‘worst friend’ as well. It would be fun introducing them to people. “This is Chris. We go way back. And this guy…er…I don’t know what the hell this guy’s name is. I never really talk to him and I blocked him from my newsfeed. I had him over once and he ate all of my potato chips. Whatever his name is, he’s a rat bastard. So now that you’ve met my friends, let’s have a beer!”
There are a few things in life, though, that clearly qualify as my ‘favorite’ this or that. Otters are clearly my favorite animal. The Buffalo Bills are, without any shadow of doubt, my favorite football team. “I Wish” is absolutely my favorite song by Ski-Lo. And I, at least at one point in time, had a decisive winner in the category of “Favorite Restaurant” – the amazing establishment known as Kenny Rodgers Roasters.
Way back when I was 13, before I’d made love to a woman or even to myself, I found my first love in the neon-red glowing sign of Kenny Rodgers Roasters. Walking in and seeing the chickens, sweaty with grease, turning slowly on Kenny’s rotisserie made my heart pound. Looking at all the choices of sides gave me butterflies. I’d sit at the table oblivious to what my family was talking about, lost in the warmth of the plate in front of me, the lovely ¼ chicken with corn, mac and cheese, and a biscuit. I dreamt that one day I could take it to the Senior Prom.
But like all first loves, my adoration for Kenny Rodgers Roasters wouldn’t last long. Only a year or so after he first appeared in a back corner of Henrietta, next to the Swiss Chalet, Kenny went out of business. My father broke the news to me on a gray Sunday afternoon. “Sit down son. We have to talk. It’s about Kenny and the Roasters. They’re gone. It’s not you…they just weren’t maintaining a profit margin enough to sustain a successful business. No, you couldn’t have done more. Getting the ½ chicken wouldn’t have changed anything.” I later tried having rebound dinner with Boston Market. It left me feeling cold and alone.
Every now and again, things from the past resurface. The ghosts of old relationships have a way of appearing when we least expect them to. So it was a real surprise when I arrived at the airport in Manila, of all places, and found my former flame sitting proudly in the center of the food court. Since KRR (that stands for Kenny Rodgers Roasters, fool!) had gone under in the States, I just assumed it didn’t exist at all anymore. It was gone, like the Dodo bird or the Arch Deluxe. How wrong I was! It turned out that KRR was alive and well in Manila, with restaurants all over the place. Really, Manila is just like America in the early ‘90s: it’s full of malls, guns, and Kenny Rodgers Roasters.
“Can we have KRR before we leave?” I asked TTD, shaking with excitement. We wouldn’t be in Manila long before having to fly to Cebu, so the reunification had to wait. All week I made sure I was good, eating sinigag and bangus and other dishes so that I wouldn’t feel guilty about finishing my Philippines trip with essentially an American fast food restaurant. When the day came, I was so focused on KRR I couldn’t concentrate on my lunch at JoliBee, where the door guy has a gun and where TTD ordered a burger that used two hash brown patties instead of a bun. I decided the most embarrassing way to die would be getting hit in the crossfire of a JoliBee shootout, especially if you’d come to order the hash brown burger.
“You’re not a bad person,” God would tell you. “What can I say? I needed some amusement.”
At the end of the trip, I did indeed make my triumphant return to Kenny Rodgers Roasters. Was it great? Um, no, not really. But I loved it. I don’t miss being 13 very much, although I do sometimes miss the standards that I had at the time. I miss thinking that a place like KRR could be the best restaurant in the world, Please Hammer Don’t Hurt Them could be better than Pet Sounds, and any girl that talked to me could instantly become the most gorgeous gal in the world. As one gets older, the perception of quality changes and things that were once nice suddenly don’t seem good enough anymore.
I don’t think I had many favorite things when I was 13. If I remember correctly, I didn’t want much more than to drive, to kiss a girl, and to eat my ¼ chicken with the corn and the biscuit while my family rambled on about all that adult nonsense.