12 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Lobster

In my younger and more vulnerable years a self-help huckster gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my head ever since. Whenever you feel like criticising anyone, he told me, tidy your room and fill your house with innumerable lobsters.


Some months ago I was neither fortunate nor unfortunate – for the universe is a cold, indifferent nightmare incubator – to spend some time with Dr. Peter B Jordanson at his remote Toronto lake house. The B, he would later inform me, stood for “BIG MOOD”. Reluctant to unveil the inner workings of his actual house – I suspect he hadn’t cleaned his room – Jordanson suggested we conduct the interview a little closer to the water. As my car emerged from the surrounding woodlands, and I came upon the Jordanson homestead, I scanned the scene before me. Panning from the dense woods to the left of the lake all the way across the water, I spotted Jordanson’s house sitting on the far right of the murky water. Upon my arrival, I was instructed to “parallel double park that motherfucker sideways” in Jordanson’s neatly maintained astroturf driveway, before following a stone pathway from the back of the house down to a strange, dimly lit building on the edge of the lake.

I knocked on the door, to no response, and finding it unlocked I tentatively crossed the threshold. It was dim inside. A huge L-shaped tank ran along the walls. Full of lobsters, the tank’s internal light provided the room’s only illumination, casting disconcerting shadows. It resembled a page from David Lynch’s 2006 autobiography Colouring in the Big Fish. I couldn’t see all that clearly in such low light, but it looked like Jordanson was hunched down with his face smushed against the glass. He was mumbling under his breath and I had to strain my ears to decipher the professor’s words, directed toward a lone female lobster – “How am I supposed to focus on my work when your shell is that shade of red? We both know what that colour means…”

I called out a hearty greeting and closed the door behind me with enough force to alert the professor to my presence. Startled, he stood up as straight as possible, shoulders pushed back and chin jutting out. It was the kind of stance you’d need to mercilessly cull an overgrown population of pronouns. Before turning to face me, Jordanson awkwardly shuffled further to his right, planting himself in one of those tacky egg-shaped chairs that’s supposed to look modern but is just wildly impractical. He spun around to face me, stroking a crudely crafted stuffed cat toy, “Ah, hello there.” He noticed me eyeing the cat. “Can’t stand the real things you see, far too needy and affectionate.”

“Hello Dr. Jordanson. Eh, yes, pets can be a lot of work. You’re a very busy man, I’d imagine.”

“Never too busy to stop and pet a cat, my friend! I passed this little darling on my way home from the university one evening and simply couldn’t leave her behind.”

As he nuzzled the tattered stuffed animal, I began to wonder if the glued-on fur was real.

“Isn’t that right, Elsa? Isn’t it? You little strumpet!”

Jordanson threw the cat to the floor and met me with an oddly aggressive handshake, his forearms tensing as he trapped me with a two-handed grip. “I suppose you’ll be mainly interested in discussing my fascinating lobster colony for your little article then, son?”

12ruleslobsteredit

 


Peering into the immeasurably vast tank, I witnessed a large male lobster wildly asking surrounding female lobsters if they had watched deified HBO drama series The Wire. (Though the lobsters had yet to learn English – much to Jordanson’s disdain – he had trained them to use morse code, interpreted through taps of their pincers). An LED screen attached to the tank rolled up the lobster conversation for me – “Aw man, you HAVE to watch it. It’s SO good.” A nearby female tapped out a query on her pincers, asking the male to elaborate upon why it was “SO good”. The translation software, still working out the kinks, merely read – “Sex and the City [derisory patriarchal laughter]”.

Continuing to wax lyrical about his lobster community, Jordanson informed me that he called the large male “Pinchy”, as it had been his own high school nickname. I thought better of asking for the origins of that particular nickname. Pinchy was the only male. The female lobsters had not been named, but numbered according to their sexual viability. I considered querying the parameters and methodology for ranking a tank full of lobsters according to sexual desirability. Again, I thought better of it.

pinchy

 


“So, which of these fine specimens do you desire to quell your innate bloodlust?”

“Excuse me?”

“You’re here to claim your bride, yes?

“It’s… What? I’m here to interview you, professor. For the student paper, The Varsity?”

Jordanson turned on me sharply, fire in his eyes. Perhaps even a hint of fury as well.

“Okay Mr. Journalist. Or is it Mrs. Journalist? Or is it neither?! I suppose you’ll want me to call you any damn thing you want. Well I won’t do it. I won’t!”

“Well, professor, I mean, you haven’t even asked me my name ye-”

“I WILL NOT DO IT!”

He’d begun to sweat profusely. Tripping over his words, his skin glowed as red as the lobsters in the tank and his veins looked fit to burst – “Out. GET OUT!”. Jordanson lunged and ripped a fire extinguisher from the wall, flying toward me. I froze – terrified, fascinated, downright confused. He glanced me with a shoulder barge, knocking me to the floor and, with the butt of the fire extinguisher, landed a fierce blow to the side of the tank. A crack began to snake across the glass. I stumbled back to my feet. He charged again, shattering the glass completely this time. Water rushed out and lobsters piled up on the floor around my ankles. Jordanson dropped the fire extinguisher and pointed an accusatory finger at me, directing his colony – “FLY MY PRETTIES!”. The lobsters splashed around aimlessly, like a school of Magikarp on the Monday after Body & Soul.


Fleeing along the stone pathway toward my car, I glanced back toward Jordanson. He was scuttling side-to-side like a crab, hands wildly pincing the air around him. He was attempting to pursue me, but the necessity of moving side-to-side before any forward motion slowed him considerably and I made it to the car before he had reached the halfway mark of the sloping stones. As I slammed my car door shut, Jordanson looked to have abandoned the pursuit and was scuttling back toward the decimated lobster colony.

Pulling out of the driveway, I stopped the car and took one last look toward the dark building on the edge of the water. The lobsters were spilling out of the dim aquarium, and dozens of red blurs fled into the lake. When the last of the lobsters had dropped into the dark blue, Jordanson scuttled off the edge after them.


Driving through the winding woods, the sun had dropped low in the sky. I flicked on the radio to distract myself from the evening’s events. A song crackled into life and with my slow recognition of the track, the red mist descended. As the off-kilter stylings of the B52s filled my car with the strains of “Rock Lobster”, I frantically tried to silence the interminable 80s wailing. I violently yanked the radio from the dashboard, rolled down the window and fired it into the descending night. Breathing a deep sigh of relief, my eyes settled back on the road and… Sweet Jesus. It was Jordanson. Soaking wet, covered in algae, clutching a rusty bucket full of lobsters. I swerved and barely managed to stay on the road. The car spun sideways and I hammered on the brakes, screeching to a halt.

The esteemed psychologist, enemy of harmless pronouns, misinterpreter of Canadian civil law, one of the few with the guts to stand up to a children’s movie about princesses and magic snowmen, was advancing now. Picking up a jog, Jordanson began to wildly hurl lobsters. Hard red shells cracked my rear window, little white bits of lobster guts smearing the glass. Panicked, I repeatedly failed to start the car. He was growing ever closer, each successive lobster landing against the car with increasing force. I managed to start the engine and pull away toward my escape. One last lobster made contact and shattered my rear window completely, landing injured in the back seat. It was Pinchy, writhing in pain, but alive. Beyond Pinchy, through the shattered remnants of the rear window, I saw Jordanson growing smaller and smaller on the horizon. He was stood in the middle of the road, wildly swinging the bucket of lobsters in the air. The surrounding tarmac was smeared red and I heard the word “hierarchy” fading into the cold air as I rounded a corner and lost sight of one of the greatest minds of our generation.


With a safe distance between myself and Jordanson, the physical tension began to subside. I feared my mind would never shake the events of what was supposed to be a routine interview assignment, but the adrenaline of survival had settled at least. I looked to the other survivor. Wounded, but still moving, Pinchy was desperately clawing around the back seat.

“Don’t worry Pinchy, you’re gonna make it boy, I promise. We’re both gonna be okay.”

At the sound of my voice, Pinchy froze.

Jordanson had said Pinchy could understand English, and in turn I had promptly dismissed it as more pseudoscientific nonsense, but as I slowed the car to a crawl, Pinchy turned and met me with his fierce alpha-lobster eyes.

“C’mere man, have you seen The Wire?

 

 

texas-lobster-massacre

Advertisements

The One Where Ross Controls The Narrative

 

“You know the way I’m always on about that missing episode of Friends I thought I saw?”

“Yeah, the one that obviously doesn’t exist? Your white whale?”

“Yeah, white whale, entirely white cast, whatever. Anyway, I finally remembered it! It came to me in a dream.”

“Oh, like ‘Yesterday’.”

“No, not yesterday, it was earlier today!”

“Yeah, I just mean it’s like when Paul McCartney came up with the melody for…”

“Paul McCartney was never in Friends?”

“He’s a straight, white man though. Could probably find a role for him handy enough.”

“Here, I knew you wouldn’t listen so I jotted down the synopsis as soon as I woke up. Just read this and I’ll get Schwimmer on the phone. Finally get that reunion up and running.”


Right, so Ross is obviously the only remotely interesting character in the entire show and the rest are just foil for Schwimmer so the episode primarily concerns him. The appeal of Ross is multi-faceted but essentially he’s the focal point of the action due to Schwimmer’s comedic timing and the fact that Ross, the brutally oppressive patriarch of the group, forces the viewer to empathise with a domineering individualistic representation of entitled consumer capitalism. This is the Nabokovian beauty of the show. In Lolita, Nabokov lures the reader in with beautiful prose. In Friends, it’s the unadulterated banality of the sitcom format that lulls the viewer into a false sense of security, dulling their awareness of the horrors unfolding on screen.

The plot concerns Ross and his relationship with Rachel. Obviously that’s the only plot line of note in the entire series and they probably could’ve concluded it within a season or two if they weren’t schwimming in money like the corporate leeches they are. So anyway, Ross treats Rachel poorly and flies into a fit of jealous rage when she resists his demands of uncompromising subservience. Let’s just say a co-worker tells her a joke and she politely laughs or something. Obviously Ross finds out about this, having planted the male co-worker two seasons previous, off-screen, to lure Rachel into making some sort of forced mistake eventually. Thus, in his eyes, asserting his position as the morally upstanding party in their on/off relationship. Of course, they’d have “broken up” over an actual, legitimate mistake committed by Ross at this point. Despite this, the surveillance would continue, because Ross, as a sort of surrogate for the viewer, has a meta-awareness of the sitcom environment. Owing to this awareness, Ross rests easy in the knowledge that he and Rachel, as the respective male and female leads with the most screen time, will obviously end up together when the cameras stop rolling.

So anyway all the other characters are off doing their own thing, attempting to force chemistry or stumbling down narrative cul-de-sacs full of catchphrases. Ross has the surveillance network in full-swing. Every single extra on the show is part of this network. Now here’s the twist – Gunther is a plant. That’s right, he’s the mole. It’s obvious really, if Ross found himself in close proximity with someone who fancied Rachel that much he’d obviously take them off screen and quietly shoot them in the back of the head.

Outside of the rent-controlled conveniently dead Grandmother apartment, Central Perk is the main location for all the action to play out. By placing Gunther in this key area, Ross has his Snape, a man who will protect his best interests in order to protect his own love, Rachel. Utilizing a method comprised of emotional blackmail and imagined violence, Ross installs Gunther as the kingpin of his shady surveillance network.

This forced understanding serves Ross almost immediately, with Gunther’s employment of Rachel early in the series, an ostensibly sympathetic action, actually serving as the first nail in her Schwimmer shaped coffin. With Ross a core member of the supposed “friends” and Gunther keeping the workplace on lock-down, Rachel’s early character development is forcibly Ross-centric. From this tightly-controlled world inhabited by the Rachel of earlier seasons, we witness the development of a kind of forced Stockholm Syndrome. Ross, aware of the sitcom structure, positions himself as the only fitting narrative resolution for Rachel when the curtain finally comes down, after ten harrowing years.

I’ll be there for you, when the rain starts to pour, for I control the weather. I’ll be there for you, at all times, because I’ve constructed your world as such. We were on a break, of my own design. Play upon the imagined drama my sweet, simple audience, because loutish Ross can never truly jeopardise the relationship, for jeopardy cannot exist in a sitcom world of his own construction. The other characters, locked in their linear narrative trajectories lack the awareness to save Rachel. Perhaps her only true hope was Gunther. Alas, he, like all before him, cowered in the shadow of the mighty Schwimmer.


“Are you finished reading it?”

“Eh, yeah. I mean, it’s not really an episode synopsis though. It’s just a demented, rambling analysis of…”

“Schwimmer wouldn’t pick up.”

“Sorry?”

“He didn’t answer the phone. None of them did. Well, apart from LeBlanc.”

“Matt LeBlanc actually answered the phone?”

“Yeah.”

“Not gonna bother with it then?”

“Nah.”

 

Bananarama

Pegsy pulls a splinter from his thumb. He’d been told to wear gloves on innumerable occasions but his subconscious entwinement of masculinity and pain tolerance has led to a standing belief that gnarled, dirty palms will contrast the soft femininity he desires in a potential mate and make him minutely more attractive. This splinter is tinged with a royal blue, born of a pallet crafted to carry fruit into the store. Pegsy despises fruit, with a particular contempt reserved for bananas. His own father had held an ill-fated dream of opening a local store dealing exclusively in the trade of bananas and, perhaps in time, the sale of other banana-related products and merchandise. Alas, it was not to be.

 
Little Pegsy, not that he was ever truly “little”, had wholeheartedly supported his father’s fructose-soaked dream, gorging himself with bananas on a daily basis to prove this support to Papa Pegsy. The man took little heed of his son’s support, considering it an insultingly juvenile act and lambasting his son for such a childish approach to the whole banana business. It may have been negative attention, but it was attention nonetheless and the young Pegsy must have internally correlated banana consumption and fatherly attention on some subconscious level because each critical comment would only drive his daily intake of bananas higher and higher. Undoubtedly, this gluttonous childhood indulgence, coupled with the implied daddy issues and internalised importance of food consumption have contributed to Pegsy’s considerable volume today, and all the health issues included therein.

 
Generally, Pegsy would dispose of his multiple banana peels each day by adding them to a crude compost heap he had unintentionally created in the small back garden behind the family’s semi-detached house. The pile grew higher by the day, as did a simmering resentment on the behalf of Mr. Pegsy Senior. Still, they let Pegsy off with it because the compost heap, the countless bananas and the desire for attention all bore the hallmarks of a potentially excellent child, in an entirely conventional sense. An inclination toward appeasing the patriarch of the three-piece family unit, a desire to eat ostensibly healthy foods and a conscious head with regards to environmental salvation. Realistically, the appeasement of Pegsy Senior should have flagged burgeoning psychological issues, the bananas alone didn’t constitute a balanced diet and the recycling basically amounted to a huge pile of rotting yellow shit in the back garden. The dire condition of the back garden drew the ire of many neighbours but the rectangular green space mattered little to any of the family, given that Pegsy displayed no tendency toward physical endeavours and had no siblings with whom to traverse the outdoors.

 
Eventually, the council had been contacted with regards to the unsanitary nature of Pegsy’s makeshift compost heap and Mr and Mrs P decided that it had to go. Young Pegsy was tasked with disposal and the parents turned a blind eye as he loaded plastic Tesco bags with foul, decaying bananas and promptly fucked them into the canal. After this point Pegsy had begun to develop a sense of awareness with regards to the effectiveness of his exponential banana intake and the attention extracted from his father. One week, in a fit of potassium induced madness, the considerably-bigger-than-little Pegsy switched out the bananas for apples in a fit of prepubescent rebellion. Again, Pegsy’s father reacted with a sort of dull weariness akin to that which greeted the excessive banana consumption. Despite the essentially unchanged reaction on his father’s behalf, Pegsy swore he saw a glint of anger behind his father’s loveless eyes and mournfully returned to the bananas within twenty-four hours.

 
The compost heap having been consigned to its own figurative compost heap, Pegsy reeled his consumption down to one banana per day. He resolved to diversify his approach by leaving his single stray banana peel on the arm of his father’s regular chair in front of the sitting room’s battered television. Alas, this approach yielded a response of complete ignorance on the behalf of Pegsy Senior, and so a more drastic approach was taken by the young Peg himself. Having indulged in his customary post-breakfast banana, Pegsy left the peel sitting pretty in the white tiled hallway, just before the front door, ensuring that his father would have to encounter the yellow symbol of paternal adoration before he left for work. Sitting in the shadows at the top of the stairwell, Pegsy watched on, silently willing his father to bend down, pick up the peel and finally grasp the extent of his son’s love.

 
As Pegsy the Elder strode toward the front door to carve out a path to his banana kingdom he never even glanced downward. His stride was long and fierce, covering two tiles in a single step. So careful was the placement of the little yellow trophy, growing browner by the minute, that Pegsy Senior, with such an immaculate stepping pattern, was destined to land heel atop peel in a moment of wondrous symmetry. And so it played out thusly, Pegsy watching through the vertical bars lining the staircase, his father slipped with such comedic verve that Pegsy still half-believes he heard a cheesy sitcom VWOOOOOMP, unlikely as that may seem. One sound effect agreed upon by Pegsy Jr and Mama Pegsy, in the adjacent kitchen at the time of the incident, is the sickening crack of Papa Pegsy’s skull upon the shiny white tile. Perhaps solace could be taken in the fact that Pegsy Senior died doing what he loved – rapidly losing consciousness.

 
The funeral passed in a haze of potassium-soaked guilt and in the wake of the incident, Pegsy, understandably, kicked his banana habit cold turkey. Futile attempts by Mama Pegsy to distract her son from the almost unfathomable recurring guilt that would characterise the course of his life were regular and ineffective in the weeks and months following his father’s burial. A particularly unfortunate attempt involved upgrading Pegsy’s battered old Super Nintendo Entertainment System to the three-dimensioned glory of its progeny, the Nintendo 64. Alas, the games bundled with the console, Mario Kart 64 and Donkey Kong 64, served only to remind Pegsy of the comical near-manslaughter of the man whose approval he would now never receive. He never managed to win many races on Mario Kart owing to his paralysed refusal to press Z and utilise the item whenever he received a banana, or bunch thereof, with which to thwart his opponents. He did, however, in some sort of sordid sadomasochistic penance, manage to 100% complete the notoriously collectible-saturated Donkey Kong 64, picking up every last banana, gold or otherwise, along the way.