A Whale of a Tale

In Maine, lobster is cheap.

Dani trivia fact number seventy-two: a Dani in any state of uneasiness or upset can be appeased with the simple offering of a boiled lobster and a bowl of melted butter.

I love lobster.  Love them.  I don’t care that they’re sea cockroaches, I would eat them in just about any form until doomsday.  If the news were to come down that an asteroid was going to hit the earth and we all had a week to live, among other choice activities I would spend that week hunting and eating nothing but lobster.

Naturally, the lobster dinner was an important Mainea that myself and my travel companion were eager to participate in.

Oh Sweet Sweet Sea Cockroaches

The cheapest place to find lobster in Maine is at a lobster pound.  Lobster pounds vary in size and degrees of presented professionalism, but for the most part to find a lobster pound all you really have to do is drive down a main street and look for signs that say “lobster”.  Our first evening here, eager to partake of the succulent sea bug, we set out searching for just such a sign.

Of course, it is simply our luck that we chose the one stretch of road with no lobster signs on it for miles.  I began to wonder if we had left Maine and entered Kansas.  A stretch of road, miles long, with NO LOBSTER SIGNS?  What was this world coming to?

Perhaps we were approaching things the wrong way.  Perhaps we were caught in a Murphean universe in which the lobster pounds only appeared to those individuals who weren’t particularly needing or wanting lobster at the given time.  Surely it wouldn’t hurt us to put into place certain pretensions that would fool such a universe; trick it into revealing its lobster goodness for us.  We began to declare, loudly in case the universe was listening, that no, lobster wasn’t what we wanted.  Nobody in his right mind eats lobster.  Sea cockroaches.  SEA COCKROACHES.

We did this for a time until we realized that no, this tactic wasn’t working either.  Perhaps we were just doomed to a lobsterless evening.  Destined to wander the roads of backwoods Maine hungry for the crustacean that existentially may not actually exist.  We were caught in an eternal loop of Schrödinger’s lobster; wanting to know if they were but doomed to never determine their actuality ourselves.

Then, magic.  On the side of the road, hand-painted in a child’s lettering,

CLAMS! Road sign number one

we saw a sign.  “Rat’s Clams” it read, black letters on white planks that may have otherwise declared “yard sale” or “bake sale”.  We looked to each other, wondering silently whether somewhere that had clams would also have lobsters.  Then, perhaps .2 miles further down the road, a larger sign (similarly styled) stacked atop itself read “Rat’s, clams, quahogs, mussels, steamers, LOBSTERS”.

That was enough for us.  We banked the Subaru hard to make the turn down a dirt path through the trees.  It took us a moment to wonder to each other; was this really a prudent plan?  Would a reputable businessman have such simple homemade signs?  As the trees grew thicker (and the road more bumpy) we wondered if we hadn’t driven into a not-so-elaborate trap.  The people equivalent of cheese and a wire cage.  The Maine foliage grew thicker as we voiced concerns about how much this was akin to the beginning (or middle) of an axe-murdering-horror-movie.

second stacked road sign and dirt road turn-off

Further signs with the same whitewash and the same almost-crayon lettering guided us (“CLAMS!” they proclaimed with arrows pointing down the path).  The trees grew thicker and thicker around us as we got closer and closer to the golden destination, the promised land of seafood.

Then, finally, we turned into a driveway.  The trees opened back away from a large, circular, gravel-paved drive.  We faced a quaint house with a Silverado parked out front and a beautiful tabby Maine coon dozing on its hood.  A green garage stood open, arrayed with buoys and nets and all manner of fishing accoutrements.  We left the vehicle (charmed by the cat, of course, this was the next step of the trap) and poked our heads into the garage.

There, before us, was a table with a price list for the market value of lobster that day, and a large tank filled with lively-looking little delectables.

We were thoroughly relieved that we hadn’t traveled to some sort of strange alternative universe in which the concept of lobster exists only to torment the hungry.  We began to call for someone, though the place seemed deserted except for our shelly friends.  That is when we saw the sign; “Sound horn!  We are here.”

Obligingly, I hit the “lock” button on my remote and the horn beeped several times.  It was at this moment that the man who I can only describe as a good fairy of the ocean came harrumphing down his front steps towards us.

He was in his seventies with white hair and a weight to his step.  He spoke in a classic Maine accent, the kind that is dieing out and you don’t hear much of anymore.  He looked at us slightly askance as though expecting something completely different from the two twenty-somethings in jeans.  “We’d like to buy some lobster”.

“Well, what kind of lobster?”

“There are different kinds of lobster?”

“Oh sure, you’ve got your hard-shells, your soft-shells, your new-shells…” this

Garage from which lobsters were obtained

began the most interesting and informative discussion I have ever in my life had about my soon-to-be food.  The man, obviously a seamen for the majority of his earthly existence, knew more about the little guys than anyone I had ever met.  He reached into the tank with a rake declaring “My wife just sticks her hand in there, but they do still have the smaller pinchers and those hurt when they get a hold of you”.  He showed us how to tell the difference between a hard-shell and a soft-shell.  When we commented on how lively the lobsters were, he added “Oh, ya, my son just pulled these out of the ocean today.”  He showed us his prized lobster; a giant three-pound guy who was none-too-happy to have been caught.

Purchasing Steamers from aforementioned Good Fairy of the Sea

Then he started talking about steamers and mussels.  He threw a handful into our order because he  wanted to make sure we tasted them with our lobster.  As we turned to leave, he said “Thank goodness you’re not a pair of rich little old ladies from Philadelphia.”  We laughed, assuring him that we were from Boston (well, New York and Texas via Boston… but either was certainly better than Philadelphia).  As we got in the car, his wife came out to us with the biggest handful of basil I have ever seen.  She pressed it upon us, telling us that she had just trimmed her basil plant and had more than she knew what to do with.

The lobsters were delicious.

And nobody got axe-murdered but a couple of crustaceans… though I guess technically being boiled alive then dismembered to be eaten isn’t the same as being axe-murdered.  And we wouldn’t have done it if they weren’t so gosh darn delicious.  They were asking for it.  Look at how they were dressed.

A Vacation

I am in Maine.  Smack dead in the middle of Acadia National Park.  There is hiking and sailing and eagles and seals and porpoise.

…and the longer I am here…

…the more I am convinced…

…that if some higher power were to chose to send me to heaven (a dubious prospect at best given my choice of vocations… actors are no better than professional liars and scholars, well, just ask Samuel Johnson about how well they tend to do)…

…it would look something like this.