Hanging out with the Liberace of Lobster on Caye Caulker, among other pursuits

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Main stage area at the Caye Caulker LobsterFest on a brilliant Sunday morning, July 3, 2016.
Main stage area at the Caye Caulker LobsterFest on a brilliant Sunday afternoon, July 3, 2016.

After an especially eventful week on Ambergris Caye, with the San Pedro LobsterFest, the weeklong feast of Saint Peter, a huge downtown fire, and a firetruck getting stuck in sand responding to another fire, what’s a bunch of blokes to do but grab a boat and cruise on over to the Caye Caulker LobsterFest on Sunday morning.

When you’ve got to get away, Caye Caulker is the place.

Yes, that does sound odd, when you live on a tropical island that thousands of people have marked on their calendars as their dream get-away spot. Even Paradise gets to be too much after a while.

So, Caye Caulker. A smaller, quieter, less-dirty version of Paradise.

The Split. What more can be said? You sit on the dock. Jump in to the right and float down to the left. Then do it all over again. Sometime, the really entergetic swim across the channel while dodging boat traffic and jump from the top of a slippery wet tree branch, which to me is the definition of a self-destructive personality.
The Split. What more can be said? You sit on the dock. Jump in to the right and float down to the left. Then do it all over again. Sometime, the really energetic swim across the channel while dodging boat traffic and jump from the top of a slippery wet tree branch, which to me is the definition of a self-destructive personality.

Well, quieter most every other day of the year, except this one. And Saturday. And Friday.

Caye Caulker LobsterFest was the original. And from what I can gather, still the best. The third is that young upstart, Placencia LobsterFest, which I imagine to be quite nice but, yeah, that is in Placencia. And that is a bit far away when you’ve already spent two full weeks stuffing yourself full of lobster.

Perhaps some day they (the lobster moguls)  will begin handing out medals to LobsterFest attendees, with an extra-large fourth one for people who manage to hit all three in a single season. It works for marathons and half-marathons.

This is Fran, she has been hustling lobster on Caye Caulker for a decade and has the glib patter to prove it. Eatng at her table is both fun and delicious -- but don't you be bringing in lobster bits on a stick from somebody else's grill. No way.
This is Fran. She has been hustling lobster on Caye Caulker for a decade and has the glib patter to prove it. Eating at her table is both fun and delicious — but don’t you be bringing in lobster bits on a stick from somebody else’s grill. No way.

Like I said, Caye Caulker is still my favorite. Mainly because there isn’t much going on — except that a lot of people are grilling lobster, up and down the main road. And people are drinking a lot. And there is a lot of DJ music pumping out all over the island and blending together into a kind of surreal aural patina over the event that transports you into an Other World of dancing lobsters dripping in butter that must be eaten.

And football. Yes, even while eating Lobster Mac & Cheese and drinking Belikins you can not escape the utterly desolate reality that the Cinderella Dream is over for Iceland as a coldly efficient France dismantled their team, one player at a time, until the only figure left on the pitch was a melting snowman guarding the net.

That's what I'm talking about -- lobster, chicken and gigantic sausages all on the same grill, mixing juices and DNA into a delicious soup of smoke and meat sweat that enfuses everything with gastronomic goodness.
That’s what I’m talking about — lobster, chicken and gigantic sausages all on the same grill, mixing juices and DNA into a delicious soup of smoke and meat sweat that infuses everything with gastronomic goodness.

Or some such thing. I honestly stopped paying attention at 4-0, advantage France.

So you stumble out of the sports bar into the brilliant Caribbean light, buy an over-priced but over-sized grilled lobster from Fran who has been shilling spineys on the Caye Caulker midway for a decade and completely miss the lionfish contest, which you hear later is won by the same guy every year. He is either that good, or that clever.

This guy plays his lobsters like Liberace. In fact, he is the Liberace of Lobster. Each crustacean gets a brilliant slathering of spiced butter and an attentive twist and tune-up as dictated by the dancing flames. In the end, the lobster is plucked with a flourish and dropped on a bed of white rice, presented with an elegent sense that there is something special inside the Styrofoam clamshell. Twenty bucks. And worth it.
This guy plays his lobsters like a virtuoso and treats his grill like a baby grand piano. In fact, he is the Liberace of Lobster. Each crustacean gets a brilliant slathering of spiced butter and an attentive twist and tune-up as dictated by the dancing flames. In the end, the lobster is plucked with a flourish and dropped on a bed of white rice, and presented with an elegant sense that there is something special inside the Styrofoam clamshell. Twenty bucks. And worth it.

And then you think, “Oh crap. I should be taking pictures with my new camera.”

And then you say, “Oh crap. The camera’s battery is as dead as the hopes of Wales in its UEFA European Championship semifinal.” (Which is Wednesday, against Portugal, my subconscious reminded me….)

So you bring out the trusty iPod, snap off some photos and thank the God Apple for the automatic leveler and magic wand features which restore all of your photos to sobriety long before you get there.

That's what I'm talking about.
That’s what I’m talking about. These are lobster dinners served at Fran’s own tables in bustling downtown Caye Caulker.

Seriously, Caye Caulker is a most photographable place. A long time ago, the island recognized the irresistible seduction of brightly colored paint on its buildings and cascading dreadlocks on its citizenry. It also recently rediscovered the charm of having actual beaches that expats and tourists can stretch out upon and roast themselves to an orangish-red lobstery hue in the sizzling white sand.

Belizeans wisely choose the safe harbor of shade trees, a cooling breeze and an occasional plunge into the effervescent blue-green sea.

Come on people, France is up 5-1 on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and you are still sitting in the Sports Bar on Caye Caulker? It may have somethng to do with the seven-count beer buckets or the absurdly tequilated margaritas or the occasional free shots making the rounds -- or the delicious food served in this joint. Gosh I guess there could be any number of reasons for spending the day inside a sports cave.
Come on people, France is up 5-1 on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and you are still sitting in the Sports Bar on Caye Caulker? It may have something to do with the seven-count beer buckets or the absurdly over-tequilated margaritas or the occasional free shots making the rounds — or the delicious food served in this joint. Gosh, I guess there could be any number of reasons for spending the day inside a sports cave.

All walks on Caye Caulker lead to The Split which was probably, in retrospect, the greatest marketing tool for a tropical island ever conceived and produced by a hurricane. People gather at the Split to drink, relax, toast in the sun and jump off the dock into the gentle current that sweeps them down to a landing spot so they can crawl out, climb back up and do it all over again.

Try it sometime. It makes a lot of sense when you are there.

In every aspect, Caye Caulker lives up to its civic motto: “Go slow.”

Which makes it a great place to go when you’ve just got to get away.

LobsterFest or not.

Among the things you are most likely sto see at the Caye Caulker LobsterFest are people dressed up as lobsters ... dreadlocked lobsters.
Among the things you are most likely sto see at the Caye Caulker LobsterFest are people dressed up as lobsters … dreadlocked lobsters available for photo ops……
... and elaborately costumed lobsters ....
… and elaborately costumed lobsters ….
... and children who look at human sized lobstes the way other kids look at Micky Mouse ....
… and children who look at human-sized lobsters the way other kids look at a Mickey Mouse character at Disneyland  ….
... while other kids would just as happily dance the day away to DJ beats on the hot san ....
… while other kids would just as happily dance the day away to DJ beats on the hot sand ….
.... as the adults flock to the front of the stage to sing along with their favorite DJ ....
…. as the adults and teens flock to the front of the stage to sing along with their favorite DJ ….
....and others are just as content to hang out in the water or along the wall, just outside the Split....
….and others are just as content to hang out in the water or along the wall, just outside the Split….
.... or on a beach in a quieter corner of town, where contemplation and a sunburn are both still possible ...
…. or on a beach in a quieter corner of town, where contemplation and a sunburn are both still possible …
.... while getting to the Split requires surrenduring to the proper authorities your open beverage and lobster dinners in Styrofoam clamshells .....
…. while getting to the Split requires surrendering to the proper authorities your open beverage and lobster dinners in Styrofoam clamshells …..
.... the thing about Caye Caulker is that as small as it si, there is room for everyone -- from the big dog ....
…. the thing about Caye Caulker is that as small as it si, there is room for everyone — from the big dog ….
... to the tiny kitten. Most of us came back from the Caye Caulker LobsterFest with happy smiles; Marie came back with an adopted kitty, which she named Ci Ci ....
… to the tiny kitten. Most of us came back from the Caye Caulker LobsterFest with happy smiles; Marie came back with an adopted kitty, which she named Ci Ci ….
.... but sooner or later, we must board the boat and watch Chip navigate away from the split before taking the backside of Caulker home. Our boat? The Lucky Devel. You got that right.
…. but sooner or later, we must board the boat and watch Chip navigate away from the Split before taking the backside of Caulker home. Our boat? The Lucky Devil. You got that right.
Bonus picture! New shop on Caye Caulker, our very own Sub-away........ but not a foot-long in sight.
Bonus picture! New shop on Caye Caulker, our very own Sub-away…….. but not a foot-long in sight.
Extra bonus picture: This is always my first stop on Caye Caulker ... always. One order of cinnamon mini-donuts, drizzled with chocolate and an iced Americano with a splash of milk. Always. What is Man if he has not traditions to pass on to the next generation? That's mine. I don't seek much or ask for more than makes me happy. And this makes me happy. Thank you, Caye Caulker.
Extra bonus picture: This is always my first stop on Caye Caulker … always. One order of cinnamon mini-donuts, drizzled with chocolate and an iced Americano with a splash of milk. Always. What is Man if he has not traditions to pass on to the next generation? That’s mine. I don’t seek much or ask for more than makes me happy. And this makes me happy. Thank you, Caye Caulker.

 

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Hanging out with the Liberace of Lobster on Caye Caulker, among other pursuits

    johnhenryeast said:
    July 4, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Kudos for calling it football (and for not using the S word) but EuroCup Bob! It’s the (UEFA) European Championship. They play for a trophy, not a cup.

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      July 4, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      Oh gosh. I try so hard. 😦 I’ll fix it John. Thank you! (I thought that was shorthand for European etc!)

      Like

    johnhenryeast said:
    July 4, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    Bob I doubt that anyone else noticed. I’m sorry (and after last Monday’s dismal performance I truly am) it’s our national game.

    Like

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