Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Moon Over Lithia

Florida, that is.

I'm feeling strangely ambivalent about shrimp lately. Beginning with an Atlanta layover lunch at a green chain restaurant (can't keep them straight, but it was neither TGIFridays nor Bennigans, of that much I'm sure), and ending with some crisply seared shrimp last night at a local (Tampa area) chain variation on the Beni Hana theme (delivered, that is to say, with some deadpan witticism in unrecognizable pidgin English by a grinning Japanese chef, who kept calling me "Mr. Sarah's brother," identifying me as brother to my (here renamed) sister's husband), and I have to say, a propos shrimp, that I just don't know. Lately, eating them bothers me, everything about eating them, the sight of them raw or cooked, the thought of their former lives below the sea, their taste and texture. Oddly, last night at least, I did not have a similar ambivalence about my grilled calamari. Perhaps squid carries less suggestion in its prepped and cooked form of its former self than shrimp; perhaps that's the problem.

This morning, and a couple of days ago on the beach at Honeymoon Island, pinched between an offshoot of Tampa Bay and the Gulf, I had a sudden sympathy for the Intelligent Design crowd. Not because I think theology should be taught beside science; I most affirmatively do not, and I count ID squarely a mmatter of theology. Rather, in considering the alien flora in this place, spiky and rigid and determined, as against the northeastern flora of my childhood, equivocal and manifold and as transient as the seasons, I find my mind pitches and yaws in trying to imagine these deviations arising from some unlikely conspiracy of mutation and ecology. That is to say, for a few moments here and there, I have found myself contemplating the watchmaker idea: the implicit hallmarks of design even in unfamiliar things. Spiky leaves thrusting forth from white sand; palms pitched over muddy streams and flourishing; lizards and insects the size of my hands hopping about me; a fox chasing a cat across a busy thoroughfare in the Tampa exurbs; two overweight moms strolling five children, two pinkly indifferent newborns swaddled and sleeping, down an elevated wooden walkway in the shadow of prodigious palms and spanish moss.

Shrimp, too, like the proverbial springs and gears of a mechanical watch, suggest something of design in their ungainly curl. Perhaps it is the preserved crustacean comma, as real on the plate as in the tank as in the sea, that gives me pause before biting down.

I must have achieved the restfulness I sought in southern climes if my mind has turned in on itself in this way, in some metaphysical or epistemological facsimile of an autoimmune disorder, questions breeding questions and no hope of answer.

Tomorrow morning, I will drive my uncle's convertible back to the Gulf coast for a sail on his sloop and the flight home.

I will try not to think. Not hard. If possible, not at all.

But regular readers (and I) know just likely I am to achieve that end. Perhaps, then, I'll just think about my loving family and the wind in my hair. That, perhaps, I can do.

So long as I remember to apply sunblock liberally.


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