How to Eat Lobster in Texas

I asked him what he was testing for.

“I can’t tell you. It’s secret.”

“I’ve taken my dog on planes this entire year. It’s never been a problem before.”

“We changed the rules. It’s on the website.”

The first machine was broken. He lumbered towards another.

“This is not my country,” I told him. Straight up. “This is not America.” My dog, tucked under my arm, stared at me wide-eyed as we followed the guy from machine to broken machine.

“We have to treat everyone like the enemy so we can keep everyone safe.”

That’s what he told me.

At which point, I started to cry.

***

I’ve traveled a lot lately. Across North America, into South America, over the ocean to several different continents.

One thing I’ve noticed – the land mass that I live on, the one called North America, isn’t really a country. It’s a jumble of misguided expectations wrapped in some really pretty views.

Maybe it’s more like a bunch of culturally diverse, politically incompatible, religiously schizophrenic neighboring countries that can barely stand to look at each other, but do because no one can agree to whose responsibility it is to build the fence. It’s always the other guy’s responsibility. And the other guy’s fault.

There are beautiful, magical, majestic places here, and we’re lucky enough to have the  freedom of movement to visit them. But, most people don’t stray too far from home.

There are beautiful, magical, and majestic ideas and people and things everywhere, but it seems that most people are afraid to talk, and more afraid to sit still and listen.

***

The island I live on is a doorway through which people from all over the world come together and prove that when you’re riding on a crowded, sweaty subway car in the middle of summer, pride takes a back seat to tolerance. And sometimes kindness will surreptitiously wedge itself between strangers who never look each other, never acknowledge the small shifts and turns one makes in order to make someone else more comfortable.

As far as I can tell, even if you don’t like your neighbors, facing them every day tends to make you a little bit of a better person.

***

Here’s what a date in Texas hill country looks like: a ten-mile uphill hike on a rocky trail on a hot, steamy day.

The sun hangs in the sky and stares. The grass and trees stretch, languid, looking for relief. Cacti tease you with heavily guarded fruits, and the sharp sting of sunblock blinds as it slides sadly into your eyes.

But when the stinging subsides, and the breeze stands still, and you stop to look where you’ve been and where you’re going, a slow, stately, and clever beauty whispers to you from a path that looks like running water, but is really stone upon white stone…

***

I’ve been thinking about pride. Pride in oneself, in one’s surroundings, in one’s possessions, and accomplishments. I think about that TSA officer, that nice old man who proudly explained to me that by treating me like a threat, he was keeping me safe. I think about the pride behind his bogus badge and his crisp blue shirt.

According to the dictionary, pride is, among other things, “a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.”

I think about the things I’m proudest of and realize pride looks backwards, sometimes to a past that never imagined me. To walk with pride, is to walk with my back towards the future, to see who I’ve been or imagine how my ancestors dreamt of me. It’s a shallow, simplified, and misunderstood interpretation of events I take ownership of, even though they’re not mine to own.

***

How to eat lobster in Texas:

Drive four lobsters from Maine to Texas in the cab of a pick-up truck. Tenderly drizzle water on them as they prepare for their fate in a dark, cardboard box.

Add two Texas cowboys, one Ugg wearing entrepreneur, one gluten-free, Maine-native vegetarian, five dogs, and three bottles of wine. Garnish with corn and potatoes.

Search the kitchen for a corkscrew to open the wine.

Search the house for a corkscrew to open the wine.

Search the garage for a power tool and drill bit to open the wine.

Settle for an open box of wine.

Sit on the porch with five dogs and a cowboy while lobsters scream in the pot until slightly over-cooked.

Once lobsters are slightly over-cooked and laying on a bed of mashed potatoes, peel the tail meat away, dip in a vat of butter placed artfully in the middle of the table.

Pry open the insides of lobster and dismember legs and claws.

Search kitchen for a nut cracker.

Search house for a nut cracker.

Search garage for a hammer.

Settle for a wrench.

Drink more wine.

Bash lobster claws until mangled. Beware of squirting gluten-free vegatarian.

Watch the dogs watch you.

Drink more wine.

***

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pride, so long as it’s mitigated with love and mixed with humility. A sweet backwards glance at an accomplishment… the memory of a beautiful smell… the swelling in one’s heart for having lived an adventure or having spun an amazing tale…

There’s nothing wrong with loving where you are and who you’ve been and where you think you’re going. There’s nothing wrong with admiring your own fighting spirit and the spirit of those around you.

But, I believe it’s as important to sit in places you don’t know, where you can’t see the past, and where no one knows who you think you are. To erase everything so that you can listen.

***

Those poor lobsters. Traveled all the way from Maine to Texas to get whacked on the claw with a wrench. Cowboy style.

That cowboy was so proud when he got those claws opened.

4 thoughts on “How to Eat Lobster in Texas

  1. Pride is a sin. People are always extolling how proud they are for this or that, or just proud to be a ‘mer’can. It’s true that I love this country, and people come from all over the world to be here and experience it for themselves, but people are usually proud of where they come from, too.
    “Pride goeth before a Fall”, and the punishment for excessive pride, (Hubris), is to fall flat on one’s fanny, thereby abnegating that foolish pride. If you’re going to be proud, and walk with your head held high, just watch your step, too. You might step in something.

  2. So you wonder why it is that Texan’s use a wrench to crack a lobster. The answer: Texas has been infested with Republican teatolitarian’s.

    The Republican Party of Texas 2012 platform contains a plank that opposes the teaching of “critical thinking skills” in schools.

    The plank in question, on “Knowledge-Based Education,” reads as follows:

    We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

    Elsewhere in the document, the platform stipulates that “[e]very Republican is responsible for implementing this platform.”

    Read it here http://www.forbes.com/sites/johntharvey/2012/07/01/texas-gop-platform/

    • Well, necessity is the mother of invention, and the wrench did work when proper tools failed to emerge, so I’d say the ban on critical and creative thinking has, thankfully, not yet interfered with the eating of lobster in Texas.

      In fact, I’d say Bashed Lobster Claw is a Texas Hill Country delight, as is having a date with a cowboy, his cousin, his cousin’s nephew, his cousin’s nephew’s gluten free, vegan girlfriend, and five dogs.

      The wine was good, too. And there was no cork in the bottle!

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