Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Patrick the Starfish - Spongebob Squarepants’s buddy.

Anyone who knows Patrick will tell you that a starfish ain’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. But I’m here to tell you, there’s more to those spiny suckers than meets the eye.

Let’s hop aboard the Wayback Machine, shall we?

Our Sordid Tale takes place back in 1980, at a time when the Family d’Elisson were living in the remote reaches of western New Jersey, hard by the world’s sole source of M&M’s.

Back then, my responsibilities as a faithful minion of the Great Corporate Salt Mine included attending the occasional Supply-Demand Planning Meeting with one of our trading companies. We had a trading company based in the warm, blue, and relatively lightly taxed waters of the Bahamas, and so therefore I would have to spend several days, now and again, doing the Heavy Corporate Lifting in Nassau, deep in the midst of hordes of sun-baked, sweaty tourists.

It was rough, lemme tell ya.

Sure, it wasn’t all telexes and spreadsheets. We’d have a nice dinner - perhaps at the Greycliff, a boutique hotel that had been a favorite haunt of the Beatles. You would be seated in a comfortable living room-like atmosphere for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, and you would place your dinner order. Only when dinner was ready to be served would you be ushered into the gracious and elegant dining room, there to feast on Bahamian lobster or perhaps a Chateaubriand. Afterwards, you would retire to the veranda, where you could relax with coffee and an after-dinner Cognac while overhead fans circled lazily. The place practically shrieked Somerset Maugham.

[Several years later, I took She Who Must Be Obeyed with me to Nassau for a Romantic Getaway, a long weekend on the beach. To this day, she will tell you that the dinner we had at the Greycliff is the most romantic meal we have ever had...and I do believe she’s correct.]

On one such trip, my colleagues and I had the foresight to schedule a few hours of free time before we had to head back to our respective offices in the States. Naturally, we headed for Cable Beach, there to do some snorkeling in the crystal blue waters.

One of my associates, in one of his forays to the sea bottom, dredged up something interesting: a huge starfish. This sucker measured close to a foot from edge to edge and stood a good three or four inches high at the center. Deep red it was, with beige coruscations. Beautiful.

My friend presented the beast to me. I was all eager to take the thing home and dry it out, perhaps to decorate Chez Elisson in what could become a burgeoning Nautical Theme. Lighthouses! Seagulls! Fishnets! Anchors! The possibilities were endless.

But first things first. Our flight was not until the next day. What to do with Mr. Starfish in the meantime? Why, put him in the bathroom, of course!

I’ll interject with a little Biological Wisdom, hard-earned. Did you know that starfish, while they may appear rigid and unyielding, are actually flexible and pretty damn mobile? I knew this not, at the time...but I found out.

With the starfish safely perched on the bathroom counter in my hotel room, I went to sleep, only to be awakened a few hours later by a clattering sound. A sound that was coming from the bathroom...

...where Mr. Starfish had apparently decided to commit suicide by preparing to leap off the counter. Perhaps it is that he was trying to get a shot at the toilet bowl, where he could flush himself to freedom. Who knows? All I knew was the son of a bitch was walking around the bathroom, leaving a trail of noisome, vile fluid.

The only solution was to put him in the bathtub.

All night, I lay awake as I listened to a symphony of clunks, clanks, and thumps - the sounds of my Five-Pointed Prisoner trying to escape his unjust confinement.

The next morning, the starfish was still alive, if not happy - and the bathtub was coated with an unmentionable fishy substance.

I scooped the creature up in a plastic bag and dashed out to the nearest pier, where I unceremoniously lobbed him back into his ancestral Oceanic Home. No doubt he spent the next days regaling his spiny friends with tales of his imprisonment in a mysterious Dry Place.

In retrospect, I’m sure I would never have made it past U.S. Customs with a live starfish. But all is for the best...for Chez Elisson was spared the Nautical Theme.

Would Spongebob Squarepants have been more cooperative? I wonder...

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