The courses that life takes are in many ways out of our hands. Unwittingly we are brought into the world and unwittingly we are dragged from it. To maximize the brief time that separates these two events is the only purpose to parse from our scornful pre-death-life-death cycle, if that is indeed a purpose. The game is zero sum. Our memories-the cherished, the repulsive-wear away at the foundations, implode, collapse into themselves like fading skyscrapers forced into demolition. We spend our lives sculpting a faint idea of self out of that mammoth rectangular slab of blank consciousness. In the end, it is for naught. All is wiped away, flung unceremoniously into the nothingness of the never-was. What survives you will too come to be destroyed with equal unconcern. This is not necessarily a bad thing. To be alive is to be in some way infirm, and our ceasing guarantees an end to our continual infirmity. Every burden is relieved, and an impossible levity is thrust upon us. The memories we strained so hard in life to forget are immediately, entirely, eternally forgotten. I did not look forward to any of this. The prospect of my own death was a noisome waterwheel within me, propelled perpetually by a toxic river, churning, bucking, chasing away every silence the inner me would ever know. Yesterday, miraculously, this changed.
The Crab’s Claw Inn changed me. For those lucky enough to be in the dark, The Crab’s Claw Inn is a restaurant and bar located in Lavalette, New Jersey, on the right side of Route 35, after The Music Man. Since I was old enough to masticate, I have heard the legend of The Crab’s Claw Inn. The savoriness of the food. How serene and life-affirming the atmosphere was. Full-grown adults have looked into my trusting eyes and said the words, “Crab’s Claw? Crab’s Claw is the best!” I payed heed to these words. Yet providence always steered me away from the establishment, until yesterday, when I ate at The Crab’s Claw Inn, and came to no longer fear death.
I was able to overcome this fear because the dining experience at The Crab’s Claw Inn was so reprehensible, so sharp-nails-to-eyes-ily lackluster that I knew instantaneously that the complete erasure of me would be the only way to forget that lunch. Crab’s Claw is essentially an underwhelming diner that, due to market forces, is able to charge exorbitant prices for food that calls to mind the gastronomic ecstasies of chewing on air. The atmosphere resembles that of the house of the grandmother of someone you hate. It is dank without being endearing. Bright and welcoming as a broom closet with the door closed, dead-bolted. They kept pouring water in my Sprite. Whoever versed the kitchen staff on food presentation was either blind or very keen on slices of lemon tucked into sleeping bags of lettuce. I hated every moment. When the check came, my hate mutated into an unbridled rage, an unbridled rage that will never fully subside, even in death, I fear.
And everything mentioned plus, I never complain about food. Never. I have eaten Taco Bell for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for days at a stretch. Once, I ate an expired Starburst for dinner. I have pulled arm-length hairs from my food and continued consumption undeterred. On my short list of anathemas, complaining about food ranks ~3rd. Crab’s Claw changed me, struck me like an arrow through total darkness, piercing far enough in to alter what can’t in any light be altered. It is a transformative experience, an awful, horrible one, but a transformative one. Be warned. Be lucky where I was not.