"Ugh," I said. "I don't know if I'd be able to handle it. That kid is annoying."
"He's not annoying," my father said.
"He's gross! He's a know-it-all!"
"Well, he certainly has his Cliff Clavin moments," my father said. "That's true."
I gasped. "I never ever thought of that comparison!" I said. "But it's so perfect!"
My brother is, if nothing else, a font of inane trivia, of probably-untrue-facts, of information that makes people think, Jesus, who gives a shit?
For example, after family dinners, my brother sometimes likes to trot out his Encyclopedia of Sauces and school us on the importance of clarified butter or a nutty roux. "You know what's some good shit?" he'll say. "Bearnaise. Bearnaise is some good shit."
And then he'll hold up the book in the way that all good elementary teachers do--turned out so the kids can see the illustrations--and he'll show off the perfect Bearnaise, fully expecting the rest of us, who are full of stir-fry or meatloaf or whatever, to be filled with the sudden urge to discuss the proper method of Bearnaise making, when none of us--least of all my brother--has ever made a Bearnaise sauce.
Now don't get me wrong. Ours is a family who talks about food. A lot. All the time. I don't mind the food talk. It's just the way the talk is presented. My brother, like Cliff Clavin, has a certain amount of bluster. He has a certain amount of pomposity. He's right, goddamnit, and you better listen to him in his rightness because--seriously!--no one else has ever been right about this, not ever, and he's going to set the world straight.
Over the course of his four day stay in Maine, my brother spouted off about ice cream, cold water lobsters, warm water lobsters, the proper trapping of cold water lobsters, crab cakes, TD Bank, poop, martinis, the proper technique for pouring a martini, boats, and the Lindt factory outlet. And this is just what I can remember off the top of my head.
(Also, it should be noted that he may or may not have burglarized a Portland lobster joint. We lunched along the water, and afterward my brother went to buy a T-shirt. On his way out, he snagged a plastic lobster figurine that had been sitting in a pail on a bench. He showed it to me as we headed back toward the shops so he could return to his hunt for the perfect gift for his girlfriend.
"Adam!" I said. "Those are the lobster lights the restaurant hangs in the window!"
"Well, they were in a bucket," he said.
"Well, they looked free to me!" he said.)
Let's just face it: The kid is strange. He's a little bit Cliff Clavin, a little bit stand-up comic, a little bit insane. There are some times I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to con him into a large glass box I could wheel around the country, charging admission as I went, luring people in to see the World's Weirdest Kid. They certainly wouldn't leave feeling like they'd been swindled. I mean, here's how he acts during dinner: