"What is it with you and lobsters?"
Well, the long and short answer is...
Listen, I was raised in New England. I didn't eat lobster when I was growing up because I thought it was gross, but once I started I really couldn't stop. Lobster rolls, lobster tails, lobster mac and cheese ... you name it. My day job is at a seafood counter, and I love telling people about lobsters. They're cool little bugs! Who wouldn't want to know fun facts about their food? (As it turns out, most people, but that's another story.)
Now, I didn't come from thinking lobsters were disgusting sea roaches to considering them my favorite animals out of nowhere. I read a book. But the circumstances that led me to reading that book, now there's a story.
There's an island off the coast of Maine that used to be a Victorian summer vacation spot. Accessible only by boat, it's filled with cabins and cottages, and it has a shack where the caretaker spends his days, along with a tennis court and a beautiful meeting hall with a stage. Much like in Dirty Dancing, the stage used to host an annual end-of-summer talent show of sorts. Now, it's not used much and the hall has a few couches and a lending library. There's no electricity on the island and the cell service is abysmal, so all of your distractions need to be analog.
This place is called Heron Island, and I was lucky enough to go visit it maybe eight or nine years ago. The person I was dating at the time had a family cabin there, the Sunrise Cottage - it faced the eastern edge of the island and was the first to be touched by the rising sun. The cabin was very charming. There was a rumor that Robert Frost had stayed there once, though I never learned if it was true or just a family legend. It had a cast-iron stove and an old-fashioned refrigerator - the kind they stopped making after World War II because they didn't want little kids getting stuck in them at the dump. It also had a beautiful wrap-around porch, where we would sit in the mornings and have coffee and wave to the lobster fisherman.
I spent the week exploring the lush forests and lounging in the meeting hall-turned-library, going out to hike to see the cliffside and trying to find sea glass on the pebble beach. I cannot begin to describe to you how beautiful that island is; it feels as though it was from another time. I can still conjure up the smell of that place, the feeling of wet leaves on my face and the brine of the ocean spray at high tide. I felt transported there, as if I was existing outside of time and space. It was its own secret garden, separate and beautiful, where the forest met the ocean. I would stand in the meeting hall and look at the photos of all the summers past, the women in their high-necked blouses holding squash rackets all the way up to the brightly-colored short-shorts of the seventies and I would feel so insignificant in the face of the passing of time. And yet, I felt like I was in on a secret, too. I could see the pictures and see all these people, feel a connection to them even though we would never meet. I was standing somewhere they had stood once. I still get this feeling when I go places; my friend Nicole took me to see the Warner Brothers lot and I stood in front of the last remaining artifice from Casablanca and I think that the realization that Humphrey Bogart stood where I was standing was as close to a religious experience as I'll ever get.
Now, to the point: everyone in that cottage looked forward to the trip we were going to take to the mainland to visit one of the docks where the lobster fisherman unloaded their catch. You could get lobsters way cheaper than at the grocery store, and you couldn't get any fresher. I wasn't excited, because I still hadn't really eaten lobster and I was still laboring under the delusion that they were disgusting. What ended up changing my mind was finding a copy of The Secret Life of Lobsters. I found a copy in the cabin, and since I had already torn my way through my copy of American Gods and all of the Doctor Who serials I had brought with me, I figured, why not?
That book made me realize that lobsters are complex creatures. They're fascinating. These solitary bottom-feeders like to roam and live in rocky caves. They have brains in their stomach and their blood is made of copper. They can be right or left-handed, depending on which side their "crusher" and "pincher" claw is on, and sometimes they are observed walking together holding claws as they make their way across the sandy bottom of the ocean (hence the name of this post, which is also a nod to The Mountain Goats - if you know, you know). There are so many types of them! European lobster, American lobster, Caribbean lobster. They're not like crabs, but they are like crabs. They're unique and they're weird and they're delicious! Even the history of how we came to eat lobster is weird - but I'll save that for another post.
I learned so much from this book, but the most important thing about it was that I finally decided to try lobster. You know, for science.
Joke's on me, really. Lobster is fucking delicious, and I had been missing out my entire life.
I never did go back to Heron Island, though I really would like to some day. I think about it all the time, though. I would love to go get lost on that place again. If it weren't for Heron Island and that book, I don't think I would have ever gotten the lobster bug (get it?) and I don't think I would have ever written Conditional Immortality.
Until next time!
PS: Check out the website proper - my new headshots just came in last night and I've updated my photo. I think I look pretty good. :)