Saturday, March 26, 2011

An end and a goodbye

March, as a whole, has sucked. The weather has played yo-yo with my feelings, I've seen a few of my friends be let go from the jobs they love due to "a new corporate direction", other friends suddenly ended happy relationships, and my own job took another step past indentured servitude and toward slavery. On top of this, Evie is moving back home to the West Coast. Kelly has been in sour spirits ever since she made her decision and I'm not exactly thrilled to be letting a new friend move so far away. We both know we're being selfish, but still...not the best way to end an already crappy month.

This blog was initially inspired after the "Bone Marrow Incident", but another factor that pushed me into start writing this was Evie and her Chinatown trips. I have eaten in Chinatown before, but I could have never prepared for the spectacle that is a Chinatown night. Gathered in a restaurant that I have passed but never eaten in before now, we gather in one of the larger tables tucked away in the corner. Our waitress (a woman that has been involved in these events well before I ever met Kel) already knows what to expect. She piles wine glasses, water glasses (extras for my camel boyfriend), and already knows we'll be getting the usual fish-fries and pea-pod stems, as well as an aquarium in butter and garlic. Each person drinks (at least) two bottles of wine and fills themselves with enough fish that they start to produce omega-3 on their own. The next day, I am pickled and saying things like "I had oyster three different ways" or "it's the whole silver fish, eyeballs and all", and my co-workers wonder how I am still standing.

As was only appropriate, we all gathered again to send Evie off with another Chinatown trip. Getting there early, Kelly and I meet with one of her friends and start prepping the table with our waitress. Like professionals, we arrange the table and start planning for the main event. This time, however, we have a set item that must be featured: king crab. As in Deadliest Catch, the Goliath beetle of the sea, big enough to completely cover my face and wrap its legs completely around my head sort of king crab. For large parties, the restaurant cooks it three ways and Evie has set her sights on enjoying one before she leaves.

We order the usual items and wait as everyone starts trickling in. Wine is clustered on the lazy-susan and we pour a little bit of bubbles to get things started. And then they bring him out. Carried in a spare tray used to bus tables, he thumps and scrambles to stand but can't get his feet to steady on the slick plastic. His carapace is thorny and deep burnt umber. His mandibles twitch nervously and he falls with another thump as he fails to stand. Kelly instantly names him Lloyd and we try to figure out how to cook him. Lloyd, with his constant attempts to escape, knows his fate.

Like tourists, we get Evie to lift him out of the tub and take part in a photo shoot. She smiles wide and hooks her fingers under his back legs. His front legs twitch and shift to get free, to fall to the floor so he can scuttle away, but Evie keeps her fingers tightly wrapped and far away from his pincers. She twists and faces each photographer's smartphone, laughing at one crude joke or the next, and gently hovers Lloyd over the tub to keep him from dripping salt water over the carpet. Lloyd finally makes peace with his crabby god by the last photo, pulling his legs tight to his body. We give him back and start on glass four or five.

In what seems like moments, Lloyd's legs come out of the kitchen. Deep fried with ginger and garlic, we peel back the now coral-colored shell and suck out the soft white meat. I have clearly never had real crab before as the flesh is soft and flaky. Like a barbarian, I take his horny legs in my fingers and pry back his former armor with sharp snaps, like someone cracking their knuckles, and smear the buttery mess along my cheek in haste to get through my portion of legs.

By the time the pea-pod stems and fish-fries come and we have started platting those, Llyod's body is put on the small space on the table not occupied with wine bottles. Steamed and a little tougher, much like the slightly rubbery meat of lobster tails, the body is sprinkled with scallions that give just a little sharpness. Speeches are made, more wine is poured, and it's almost like Evie is just having us all get together for another night of drinking and feasting.

By the time the last of Lloyd comes out of the kitchen, we are all starting to get a little nostalgic and emotional. His shell is flipped upside-down and filled with scrambled eggs and what I believe are brains or crab eggs. I pour myself a glass of the bubbly rose and tap Kelly's knee with mine. "She's my Boston family," he says and I nod, trying to be supportive. Having watched most of my friends go off to other parts of the country, I understand what he's feeling. We finish licking the juices off of our plates and finishing the almost empty bottles. Kelly gives Evie a quick goodbye, knowing we will be seeing her at least one more time, but is a little quiet as we ride home on the T. I try to let him be, but keep his hand in mine. After all, I know how much this month has sucked.

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