I am floor-ridden. After two years of relative back health, I have come undone. I forgot how much it sucks to have your back ‘go out’. Nothing is comfortable. There’s only so much that ice and ibuprofen can do. I feel helpless.
I spend the morning doing chores, all in a very straight-backed position. Chin up, lifting body weight with my legs; I think to myself, Maybe those chips the other day weren’t such a great idea. Also, I need to do more yoga. Also, Where does Mom keep the Vicodin? My body is failing me. I’m too young for this, damnit.
I sweep and do some dishes, making my legs form an equilateral triangle with the floor to bring my shoulders closer to the sink. It hurts to bend. Mom has been given a couple of Dungies (Dungeness crab, for you non-San Franciscans) from a friend with a crab trap on the ocean side of the Golden Gate Bridge. I am charged with the task of cleaning them. My mom LOVES crab, especially Dungeness. (Second favorite being, of course, Aunt Honey’s Maryland Blue Crab.) This is not something that will go over lightly if I mess it up. I pull out my laptop and a friendly Indian man on YouTube teaches me the proper method. Success.
To clean crab:
Step one: Put the crab shell side up on the table and place your hand firmly over the legs right next to the shell. Using your other hand, rip the shell off. Simple.
Step two: Pull out the gills, guts and off with the head. This is easiest under running water. There is a bunch of yellow goo (crab cholesterol) which, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to eat. I really don’t even want to touch it.
Step three: Turn the crab over and pull off the ‘tail’. My dad taught me when I was younger that this piece on male crabs is narrow and on females it is wide. This one was a Male. Now it is Dinner.
Strange, but cleaning crab makes me feel like an adult. Even having worked as a chef in Seattle, having cleaned and fileted whole halibut and King salmon, cooked shellfish countless ways, this is the first time I have been entrusted with the process at home. While I know it’s just because my mom is busy at work, I take a childish pride in being given the task.
As a kid, my dad, sister and I would bring home live crab from Half Moon Bay after spending the day at the beach. It was one of the little things my dad did for my mom that he knew would make her happy, like stopping on the coast to let me cut her fresh calla lilies. Bringing home crab always meant a good time. My sister and I would sit high on chairs in the kitchen while my dad cut them loose from the plastic bag and let them scurry around on the floor, Ali and I shrieking in fear and excitement. Mom’s homicidal hunger would reach a boiling point (pun intended) and soon they would be in the pot. I have rarely seen my mom happier than at the table with a mountain of crab before her, picking the bodies apart with her fingers, savoring each mouthful.
When I can’t take standing up anymore I go lie down in my mom’s bed, pillow under my knees for support. What the hell do I do now? Download a book onto my phone and start reading. Anything is better than crappy daytime TV. Even I, without a TV for over five years, have seen this re-run of America’s Next Top Model. I’m suddenly glad for a portable device that lets me do so many things; it means I can stay in one place. Books and games at my fingertips.
Barry Lopez has got to be my favorite author of the moment. My BFFL (Best Friend For Life), Alec, turned me on to him about a year ago. His writing is exactly what I want in this time of transition, full of anecdotes and forays into the relationship between people and the land. I strongly recommend it to anyone who appreciates and welcomes those moments of silence in nature; moments in which you feel the world continuing on around you, uninterrupted by human involvement. Powerful. Inspiring.
At three my mom comes home from work and we leave for San Diego to visit Nonnie, my grandmother. Eight hours (plus) in the car does not sound like a great idea when I’ve been icing and medicating all day. Deep breaths, a fresh dose of ibuprofen and a back brace from the 1980’s resembling something between a corset and a straight jacket let me at least sit in a fairly comfortable position in the passenger seat.
We set off, hitting weekend traffic almost immediately. Once we are through the windmills and hit I-5 South it is smooth sailing, and Mom’s new Clubman Mini Cooper is soon weaving through cars going 90. Crab on ice in the backseat, me with my back brace, Mom flipping radio stations asking me to tell her bad jokes to stay awake. San Diego, watch out!
This drive means I will have traversed the entire west coast of the U.S. in a matter of weeks. It feels fitting, to travel the length of my homeland before setting off overseas. A thorough farewell. As the sun dips over the undulating hills to the west, we become just one of many, heading south. Cities glow along the distant horizon, the stars are overhead, and cruise control kicks in.