It started decades ago with Marky Mark, who saved his loose change all year to buy a crate of lobster. My duty was to rent the lobster cooker and provide a keg of beer. Fair enough. Mark would cook those red spiders and dump them on the deck, then watch the stampede.
The tradition was stabilized when Frank the Psychiatrist came along with his “Doesn’t Suck” barbecue sauce. He was a New Hampshire dude transferred from the swamps of Georgia, where cooking on a grill is a religion. I never liked Frank all that much, but his sauce was sublime.
Frank once complained that the 40 to 50 people who attended all thanked me while he did the chicken cooking and Mark did the lobster boiling. He said I took all the credit while sitting on the couch “like Jabba the Hut.”
Cruel. Accurate, but cruel.
Well, I tried to stop the tradition a few years ago, when Frank and Mark moved to Florida and I just got too tired to do it alone.
Enter Big Hammer.
Hammer was raised 10 houses up Cobb Road and felt a vested interest in the annual affair, even after he, too, moved to Florida. Seems to be a trend.
He took over the party using my house. The indefatigable Hammer bought already cooked crustaceans from Young’s Lobster Pound, along with 100 ears of corn, enough chicken wings to feed a navy, plus fish, clams and mussels. He made a quick pasta dish, in case anyone was hungry, then he cracked all those lobsters and made salad for lobster rolls. In 80 degree heat.
I watched him, as I drank an ice cold (canned) Corona.
Playing the role of Frank the Psychiatrist this year was Fashionably Bohemian Bob. He is celebrity chef who once won the Lobster Festival cooking contest. He still wears the winner’s apron. Every day. FBB cooked a pork rump on his grill for hours and hours and then brought it over to The Cobb for pulled Pork sandwiches on ciabatta.
I watched him prepare the meat as I drank another ice cold (canned) Corona. This was hot work.
There was no longer a keg in the barn. I supply some beer and wine, but everyone seems to bring their own these days, which is fine by me. We barely made an attendance of 20 when Arkansas Jane arrived with a snappy Panama hat, flowers and gin. The woman knows how to make an entrance.
Surprisingly we are all getting older, and children duties, birthdays and graduations thin the party herd. A few faithful partners have been lost along the way. No Galucki women attended, sadly. Texas Larry missed by a day or two.
We all sheltered under the umbrellas as a summer rainstorm flashed across Camden. In spite of the rain, we all ate like kings and queens. We could not hope to finish the feast prepared by chefs Bob and Hammer. But we did the best we could.
The annual event has been dubbed Hammerfest.
Some asked why I continue to do this every August. Well, I firmly believe that parties with your friends drive out evil spirits from your cell, attic and those dark areas under beds. Blue Eyes cleans up after the party and the joint is better than when I started. Not only do I get to see old friends, tell tall tales and eat like a pig, I keep the leftovers and the empties.
I can pay my mortgage this month.
Marky Mark saw this year’s pictures while he was watching the Olympics from his RV television in always sunny Florida. He asked by email “Where are the young people?”
Accurate, but still cruel.
Emmet Meara lives in Camden in blissful retirement after working as a reporter for the Bangor Daily News in Rockland for 30 years.