What, are Tentacles out of Season?

My boss, feeling that his devoted and talented Advertising staff had kicked quite a substantial amount of ass last quarter, took us all out for lunch Friday and then to the Seattle Art Museum to see the Roman Art from the Louvre exhibit. It was, overall, a delightful time, though the experience did ironically force me to endure a level of inelegance for which I was terribly unprepared.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S., the city of Seattle is located on a waterfront, which is to say that being downtown is much like being in an open-air fish cannery only with less mackerel blood and more hobo urine. Pretty much everything along the waterfront itself is, as you would imagine, maritime themed. This is because it is impossible to think about anything else when your every sense is being assaulted by the countless and odious essences that waft in off the ocean. When all you see is water and wood pilings; when chum is the only aroma; when you open your mouth to say something and immediately taste brine; when the din of seagulls, ships and foghorns becomes a white noise; when everything you touch is either slimy or gritty… well, let’s just say an environment like that does not readily inspire visions of shiny technology, fine woodworking, and glossy metropolitan chic. No, when you’re on the waterfront, you feel like a fisherman – from the cracked lips and cold ears right on down to the unending desire to drink yourself dead.

But if sea life and all its related rankness doesn’t perturb you too badly, there are some really neat things to see, such as the peculiarities at Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe. There’s nothing like looking at a two-headed calf suspended in a jar of formaldehyde to make you forget how disgusting the waterfront is.  Seattle’s fish district is an enormous tourist attraction. This is because most tourists think anything so drastically different than home is worth spending far too much money to experience. Hell, people will shell out thirty clams per person just for the opportunity to eat actual clams the way I imagine actual hyenas might eat actual clams.

Which brings me to the irony I mentioned earlier of becoming completely repulsed during an excursion to view some of the most beautiful artwork in human history. It so happens that the Seattle Art Museum resides very close to the waterfront. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn it was decided lunch would also be consumed on this selfsame locale. It makes sense after all, doesn’t it? Consider: the museum is in Seattle. Seattle is a port city. Therefore, logic dictates lunch absolutely must consist of boiled crustaceans and mollusks. Anything else would unravel the very fabric of reason that holds the universe together. And so it was that reservations had been acquired at a lovely little wharf-front eatery known as The Crab Pot. I had been informed prior to the event that The Crab Pot was one of those novelty restaurants – you know, places that feel the need to adopt a gimmick in order to peddle their (in this case smelly and offensive) wares. This, I was assured, meant good times for all.

So we arrive at the so-called “restaurant” and sit down to a thirteen foot long table covered with…

.. .wait for it…

… butcher paper. As far as I can tell, someone’s going to slaughter a hammerhead right there in front of us as we enjoy our complimentary bread and water*.

And then I spy my first random disgusting item: a saltshaker covered in the resultant goop of someone else’s seafood-crazed orgasm. Beginning at the moment my cerebral cortex decoded the visual data, my desire to eat lasted about as long as a virtual electron-positron pair. That’s a fancy way of saying I immediately lost my appetite.

Nevertheless, I ordered the Colossal Burger, one of only three meat offerings not of the cold-blooded variety. And for the record, a forty-two pound wad of ground beef on a bun was the smallest portion I could order. There was no ‘Moderation Burger.’ I guess in their zealous love of seafood, they figured whoever ordered a cheeseburger at a fish joint deserved to force down half a cow – it would be their own fault for hating fish and being in Seattle at the same time.

Pretty much everyone else ordered The Westport, or as I like to call it, ‘The Shellfish Orgy.’ With the Shellfish Orgy, they just come along and dump bowls of briny bits right onto the table. Clams, mussels, shrimp, two kinds of crab, Andouille sausage, corn on the cob, and red potatoes all piled right there in front of you like so much animal fodder.

Your silverware consists of a shrimp fork and a wooden mallet. You just bib up and start in crushing exoskeletons with a hammer! That’s the elegance of the seaport.

“No point in concerning yourself with dishes or hygiene, laddie; you might be sucked overboard on the morrow! So roll up your sleeves and revel up to your armpits in the salty, smelly moment!”

Real sailors and fishermen, I’m told, don’t bother to de-poop their shrimp, either.

* Have you ever noticed that bread and water are the staple complimentary items at both American restaurants and Turkish prisons?

Last 5 posts by Kirk Starr