Lobster Roll Blues

Written By: Earl Carter

Lobster Roll Blues E.N.J. Carter When I saw the ad in Dan’s Papers, I thought–perhaps unfairly–that this Best Writer on The East End contest is B.S. I mean, who can argue that the subject chosen for the contest isn’t favorable for the well-connected scribes already living in this gilded place. You know, the Nervous Nellie’s that check the East Hampton library every other day to make sure their book is still on the shelves. And even then, not reward enough for some of them, it seems, at the indignation of self-published e-book authors, receiving a larger cut of the profits from Kindle than their bricks and mortar publisher is giving them. Furious, perhaps, that the ability to get a choice table at Bobby Vans means nothing to Amazon.Com. A monster that swoons to the secret input of algorithms like a cobra appears to move to the music of a snake charmer. It may be easier to conquer Everest than talk to a human from Amazon. That said, when you think about the folly of this contest it’s kind of like having a writer’s contest for only the writers who ran the bulls at Pamplona, or enjoyed 1945 Mouton Rothschild at dusk. Location. Location. Location. Is obviously the key component of winning this contest. Where it would not be a surprise to hear a realtor say, “No, my client wants 3 million—then pointing her finger says, “That’s the bush that Jackson Pollack urinated on and it will be in your yard.” I mean who could really compete with ‘How the journals of my Great, Great, Grandfather—a whaling Capitan living in Sagaponack —helped me get through rehab.’ Or how about ‘Clamming with Mario Puzo.’ Outsiders don’t stand a chance against this kind of East End intimacy. Frankly, would any up and coming writer living in a South Bronx project be able to enter this contest? You know the answer. Pure red-lining in my outspoken, and perhaps, bias opinion. The same as when Banks once refused to give anyone a mortgage above 96th street. Yet, am I being fair? Surly there are ways to experience the East End without living there. The Fresh Air Fund has sent many a child from the projects to the East End for a vacation. Certainly some of those children have had experiences that have served them well in the future: attending the jumping competition at The Hampton Classic for example, or participating in Yoga classes with their sponsors. Even learning what a real bagel tastes like. I myself have stopped for a lobster roll in Sag Harbor and am trying to draw inspiration from that experience; somehow turn it into a meaningful discourse of 600 words or more. Of course, as I’ve indicated, actually living on the approved side of the canal, and having day-to-day experiences on a daily basis on the East End, is basically a stacked deck for the writers who live there. Anyway, ask yourself: what does my aspiring writer from the Bronx have to draw upon? See what I mean. The rules of this contest actually not only prevent my aspiring writer from entering it, but most of the Planet as well. What do writers know about The East End who live in Singapore? Or Sydney? Or Bangor Maine? Or in a South Bronx project? Yet, Yet, is this not an opportunity to mix metaphors with the best and the brightest? To be in the company of writers who have made the New York Times Bestseller list, or its equivalent: an appearance on Morning Joe. I figure the East Hampton area—a mere 4.9 miles—having the greatest concentration of such writers sharing their version of the truth with us. So, I’m not giving up, however. I know it’s going to take all I have to turn buying a lobster roll at Sag Harbor into riveting non-fiction. I probably would have stood a better chance if contest rules allowed fiction. ‘The Falling Prey to the Cruelty of Misfortune’—a basic pattern of plot—works better in my mind with stopping off in Sag Harbor for a lobster roll. Of course, it’s possible that I have repressed my memory of that eventual day at The Dock House in Sag Harbor. That there was much more to that experience than I can recall. Lately, since reading the contest rules, and forcing myself to forget about the future writers in the South Bronx being deprived of entering this contest, as well as the unfortunate billons on this planet who have never been to the East End, I’ve been working hard to remember my actual Sag Harbor experience. I thought: It is odd that I go blank right after finishing the lobster roll. Did I repress a memory so chilling that it would takes years of therapy to recall what happened? As I finished my lobster roll, was I hit on the head during an armed robbery attempt, and saved by a Bay fisherman? Or did I suddenly see the ghost of John Steinback? Could the truth of what I may have experienced been so painful it’s the stuff of an entire memoir, perhaps? After careful thought, sad to say, none of the above. I even thought that I might not have paid the bill, which would have given my East End experience a little more depth. So I know that eating a lobster roll at a snack bar in Sag Harbor will be pretty hard to turn into an enviable work of non-fiction. But then again, If Dan Rattner can publish an entire newspaper every week on a place that mostly exists in the minds of its inhabitants who am I to get discouraged. E.N.J. Carter , Orient Point, July 12, 2013