Chip's record, which he set last year at Renner's first annual oyster shooting contest, has not yet been recognized by Guinness, because there is no video documentation of the event. There were several eye witnesses, however, including the bar's owner and Chip's unofficial promoter, Marshall Meadows, who claimed that the spectacle was "some pretty fast eatin'."
Marshall provided me with photographic evidence of the event. Any doubts I might have had about the legitimacy of the record were put to rest by the sight of an unnaturally bloated Chip with strings of cocktail sauce and oyster goo oozing down his face. The photos, combined with Chip's unwavering confidence, convinced me that he is the real deal. He will break the record again at this year's competition, and this time it will be videotaped.
"Last year, I didn't even have my rhythm down until about the first thirty or so," Chip told me.
"You must have been training for a while to set this record with such ease on your first go at it," I replied.
"Actually no," he said. "I mean, I love oysters, and I hate to lose. Basically that's what it is. I hate to lose."
"So you think it's more an intense drive to compete that propels you, than it is sheer physical prowess?" I asked.
"If you don't like losing, then that's what it is, and I hate losing."
I had trouble believing what I was hearing. "Let me get this straight," I said. "You don't possess any particular physical gifts that allow you to consume such an insane amount of oysters?"
"No. I don't. I hate losing, and I like to collect trophies and plaques. That's what I do. I just did it and I was surprised I won. I didn't even know I won till the end when everyone was like, 'Hey! You kicked their ass!'"
"How does your body feel after performing such a feat?"
"I was fine. Afterwards I tried to have a beer. I wanted to brush my teeth is what I wanted to do. It's not pretty, you know. I mean, people are saying congratulations afterwards, and you're just like [he covered his mouth while pantomiming shaking hands with an invisible well-wisher] I mean, it's pretty nasty."
"Did you feel sick at all?"
"No, I was fine."
I couldn't let it rest. "Okay, it just seems like this great feat just came out of you. It seems like this is "
"I just don't like to lose."
"Right, but it just seems like you're a natural or something. I mean, no training "
"Right, no training. Like I said: I don't like to lose."
I left the bar shaking my head. The fact that Chip doesn't possess any miraculous physical gifts is a miracle in itself. On the surface, he is a human like any other human, but his thirst for victory is unprecedented. In that sense, Chip Beck is perhaps a metaphor for this city we call Portland. Portland doesn't like to lose either. In the face of utter defeat, in the ravages of the highest unemployment rate in the nation, it continues to pop out divine creations like Chip Beck--a man who reminds us of what we love about our fair town. A man who lures us back into the folds of her motherly embrace. A man who makes us proud to be Portlanders.