October 18, 2006: The Great Lobster Battle
When last we left our intrepid travelers they were staring out the window at lovely Zihuateneo, Mexico reminiscing about their ill-fated trip to Acapulco. And that’s as close as we got to that lovely town. We learned from our prior day trip that some parts of Mexico are MUCH lovelier from a distance and we didn’t feel like chancing it again so soon.
As the afternoon turned into evening, we swung by the Carousel Bar to kick some more ass in trivia, only to win the same prizes we won at morning trivia. That was when we decided that trivia on board was not like a carnival game that would eventually yield a big prize if we won enough times. I guess I had this delusion of grandeur wherein I would be given a cruise for two, thanks solely to my gift for retaining otherwise useless bits of knowledge. After the trivia game we went back to the room and read for a bit on our balcony while the ship got underway.
We ate that evening at a specialty restaurant called the SoHo Room which serves Asian Fusion. There's even a lovely Warhol-esque mural of our governor in their foyer, replete with Terminator sunglasses, so we would feel right at home. I won’t bore you with details of what we ate (although I am closing in on my goal of consuming an entire goose liver’s worth of foie gras before we leave the ship). We got a free bottle of champagne by utilizing a trick we had seen a number of other couples do—we told them it was our anniversary… again. It’s been our anniversary three times since we got on the ship and we still keep getting free shit! It’s the best! But that wasn’t the most exciting thing about dinner. The most exciting thing about dinner was the Great Lobster Battle. Let me explain…
The SoHo Room boasts live Maine Lobster prepared one of three ways. Naturally, they have the requisite tank in the restaurant where they keep the poor bastards so everyone can point and laugh at those that are about to die. Only at the SoHo Room the tank isn’t in the entrance. It’s in the dining room. Actually, it’s built into a wall like a regular aquarium. Lucky for us, there was only one lobster left in it and someone wanted lobster for dinner. Since the tank was built into the wall, the chef had to climb on a step stool and try to catch the lobster solely by looking down on it from above the water. That’s stupid mistake number one. Once the water is disturbed, there is evidently no way to see what you’re doing on the bottom of the tank. This would be a problem with any old lobster, I would think, but we weren’t dealing with any ordinary lobster. Oh no—this lobster was the Harry Houdini of lobsters. He did not want to leave that tank under any circumstances. It only took a few attempts for us to realize there was a reason this little fella was the last lobster in the tank. He had moves that Jackie Chan would be proud of!
Being closest to the tank, Jess and I were the first to become fully committed spectators. We couldn’t stop ourselves from ooooing and awwwwwing when the chef would get the upper hand only to have the lobster flip its tail or wiggle some little appendages and scurry back to a safe corner. Once in the corner the lobster would make himself as flat as possible and only expose his smooth topside to the net the chef was using. That was mistake number two—for the chef. All he was working with were two green nets with two foot handles. The nets themselves were barely big enough to hold the lobster and there was no way of getting it into the net unless you could get under it or it simply walked or swam into it. I swear the lobster figured this out, because he didn’t make a single mistake. About five minutes into the fight, around the time I started thinking of him as a warrior instead of dinner, the lobster started to show some real anger by bringing out the claws. But again, he did it brilliantly. He would grab the net and pull, but let go when the net started to withdraw. I remember how stupid crabs were with their claws—actually helping you get them out of the bucket by grabbing on—but Sir Lobster was no idiot. He wasn’t giving an inch.
By now we’re going on ten minutes and every table within view of the tank is completely engaged by the struggle. Even the staff has clustered around (courteous enough not to obstruct our view, thank God) and they are all offering suggestions to the chef through an intermediary who is passing information to the chef around the wall. The Lobster Battle is all anyone is talking about at this point, so the stakes are getting pretty high for the chef. I can sense the mood starting to swing among the diners. Some rumblings started filtering through the crowd about paying double to let him go or at least giving him a chance to catch his breath before going on. I mean, even heavyweight boxers get a break every few minutes. Everyone started to speculate as to who ordered the lobster in the first place and you could feel the tension as we all looked around for the silent, guilty, heartless bastard who would destroy this perfect example of the will to live.
Unfortunately, things ended the only way they really could have ended. The chef forced the lobster forward into the waiting net using the back of the other net and then held him there until he was well clear of the tank. The Great Lobster Battle was over, but there was no joy in the victory for those who witnessed it. Perhaps there was a sense of relief, as it was clear that the struggle would not end in Sir Lobster’s favor, but it was the kind of relief that comes when those who have fought hard are finally at peace. In an unusual epilogue to the battle, the chef brought the still living lobster out to the dining room and let us all see the noble creature one last time. There were many mixed feelings, but I felt the general mood was one of hushed respect. Most of us applauded the effort—of the lobster, I mean. I almost stood and saluted. Had it been me who ordered him, I would have yielded the chase. No, Sir Lobster… You may die this day, but not by my hand.
After the emotionally draining meal, we went to the casino to forget what we had just seen. And forget it we did—to the tune of a few hundred dollars down the drain. After our raping at the casino, we went to see another schlocky cruise ship show called “It’s Fame!” It could easily have been called “It’s Gay!!” To put things in perspective, they billed it as a Bob Fosse tribute. However, they did it with mangled, slightly altered versions of popular show tunes and pop music combined with choreography that would make Bob Fosse want to cut his own legs off. I imagine that all things being equal, it wasn’t that bad, but they billed the shows as “Broadway Quality.” That phrase should now be used as one of the definitions of hyperbole. I think I’ve seen two of the performers in porno, but some of the dancers (two to be exact) were much better than the others and could accurately be labeled “entertainers.” (Did I mention they had fantastic asses?)
Now I don’t want to give the wrong impression. We had, and continue to have, a great time! Even the stuff that is disappointing beats the hell out of working, so I would do it all again in a heartbeat. (Except I wouldn’t ever set foot in Acapulco again. Did I mention it was a shit hole?)
I know I threw in a lot of extra detail tonight and some of you (Diane, I am sure; Fran maybe—what with her ADHD and all) are probably saying, “C’mon, already!” So I’ll wrap it up for now and write more about Puerto Vallarta (it’s like the San Fernando Valley, except everyone speaks English) tomorrow.
Love you all! Thanks for reading this far. And if you didn’t, I’m not getting you a Christmas present.