|IMAGINE A ONE OUNCE CUP (above) FILLED ABOUT 40% OF THE WAY WITH COCKTAIL SAUCE.|
These clams were important to me because I believe that by having my favorites less frequently, I will enjoy them more....and in this case, they were good. But the long-shot threat of getting my throat slashed ruined this rare opportunity for my desired, orgasmic epicurean delight.
Clams are available everywhere...but not necessarily the way I truly love them...raw! Yes, I also like steamers, clams casino, zuppa di clams, Manhattan chowder, red clam spaghetti sauce etc. But raw clams are my Mt. Everest...but the proper venue, clam bars, aren't easy to find.
There's something grand about sitting at a raw bar, scarfing down clams and guzzling beer. In the mid-1970's, SLW and I loved Lundy's seafood restaurant, (in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn). In addition to being the best seafood restaurant EVER , they had a separate cocktail lounge and another separate clam bar.
Way back then, a dozen little necks were $1.35/dozen and an eight ounce draught beer (Piels) was twenty cents. SLW and I would each front two bucks and tell the shucker, "Keep the change." After that we were lavished with extra clams in each additional order and bumped up to a bigger glass of beer, for the same money.
|SLW, OTHER FRIENDS AND I NICKNAMED THIS AWFUL TASTING SLUDGE, "THE LAST OF THE 99c SIX-PACKS." THE ONLY THING THEY HAD GOING WAS CUTE ANIMATED COMMERCIALS FEATURING THE COMEDY TEAM OF "BOB AND RAY," AS BURT AND HARRY PIELS.|
It is a homage to SLW that I associate eating clams with him. Since I haven't had partner in crime for forty years, I infrequently indulge in my favorite. Last week, on my birthday, my wife offered to take me anywhere I wanted to go for lunch. Instead of one of our usual haunts, I suggested breaking my long spell without clams. I picked Smitty's Clam Bar, on the bay in Somers Point (NJ). It took thirty minutes to get there...only to find that they now limit their hours of operation and don't open till 4:00PM during the week.
Our jaunt to nowhere wasn't in vain because it catapulted my craving. So I suggested dining at the Lobster House, in Cape May (NJ) this past Friday, in order to not only prolong my birthday festivities but to also include my son Andrew.
Andrew is braver than me. He has always been more open to eating new foods than I'll ever be. Ten years ago he tried what he called, "cold clams" in a Chinese buffet restaurant. They weren't fresh, they weren't good and he never tried them again. In fact, he and I use the term, "cold clams" to describe something that tastes disgusting, (i.e. those Brussels Sprouts are as bad as cold clams).
My boy didn't know it but disguised in my birthday bash, I looked forward to encouraging him to give raw clams another try. I was prepared to dangle the added incentive of sloshing them down with icy beer but he willingly agreed.
He didn't even change his mind when I brought the shucker to his attention and said, "When she opens the clam with that knife, it kills the clam." Ever-humane, Andrew's face contorted in disgust so I cited a "circle-of-life" related quote from the 1995 movie "BABE," and said, "That's just the way things are. " When he didn't react I added, "This way you'll know the clams are fresh."
|THE LOBSTER HOUSE IS A FAMILY FAVORITE. BEFORE DINNER, WE HAD OUR APPETIZERS ON THE DECK OUTSIDE THE CLAM BAR. ANDREW COMPROMISED BY ORDERED CLAMS CASINO BUT TRIED ONE OF MY RAW CLAMS (AND LIKED IT). THE REST OF HIS RAW CLAM DESTINY, IS UP TO HIM.|
The clam theme of this year's birthday made me reminisce back to the 1980's when I had the dealer training academy. One craps student (GM) brought me a small coffee every day. I repeatedly told her to stop but she joked each time, "It's worth it, to get some of your morning edge off."
In May, towards the end of GM's three-month course, another student, Jing, (a hostess in the Tropicana Casino's Chinese restaurant), came back after school with a huge plastic container of soft shell crabs for me. I told her that her token of appreciation wasn't necessary as she blushed and scurried out. Moments later, one of her morning classmates (Slade) who was making up lost time, came to my office to ask a question. He saw me going to town on those delicious crabs.
Slade (19) from rural Florida, was not an ordinary good-looking guy, he was the essence of what a chick magnet represents. Beyond his fit physique, continuous smile, curly brown hair and dimples, he was also warm, bright, and funny. Slade was so nice to everybody that other guys weren't jealous of him.
He came to Atlantic City to make his way in the world through the casino industry. During his first week of class, (the end of February), nobody realized it but it had started snowing. By the time his class had their break, two inches had fallen.
While nobody else paid any mind to the white stuff, Slade with boundless energy proclaimed, "It's snowing! I NEVER SAW SNOW BEFORE!" His positive, effervescent and magnetic personality was so infectious that the all the students, from both classes, followed this Pied Piper outside, without their coats. Together with my secretary and the two instructors, I watched from the window, as Slade looked skyward, opened his mouth, spun in place and ate the fluttering flakes. Many others joined him. It was like a winter love fest.
Slade jumped down on the filthy Atlantic Avenue sidewalk, got on his back and in the meager accumulation, made snow angels. Two girls (around his age), from the blackjack class followed suit. In the days that followed, I saw the glint in these girls eyes and knew Slade had a shot with them. I made a passing comment to my busybody secretary and she said, "He's absolutely gorgeous and funny and sensitive and cute and..." I said, "Whoa..." She said, "Get with the program, he's already *had them both." *For the sake of clarity, she didn't use the word, "had."
In a short time, I found out that Slade's female coworkers at Bookbinder's clam bar in the Sands Casino line up to be bedded by him. Of course, as a cynical old fart and a doubting Thomas, I didn't believe my gossip-monger secretary who claimed she heard that some of his conquests wanted to have, "I GOT LAID BY SLADE," tee-shirts printed up.
Towards the end of his course, (early May), Slade was so likable that I considered him almost a friend...maybe more like a nephew. So when he poked his head into my office for help, I dropped Jing's soft shell crab that I had stabbed with a plastic fork and gave him my full attention.
Later that month, (at 10:00AM), shortly after Slade graduated, a taxi pulled up in front of the school. He came out toting (with both hands), a heavy, white, five gallon bucket with Bookbinders logo on it..
I said to Slade, "What's all this?" He whispered, "Let's go in your office." In private, he pulled a crushed envelope from his back pocket and handed it to me. It was a birthday card. I said, "How did you know it was today?" He smiled, "My people have people. Now, shut up and open your present."
Reflexively I said, "You shouldn't have," as I struggled to pry the lid off. To speed-up the process, Slade jumped in to help me unsheathe the mysterious gift. Duh, I shouldn't have needed to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out the contents, yet I was still truly stunned. At first it looked like a ton of ice. But buried underneath, he had brought enough sweet ambrosia for the soul to serve an army, (three dozen cherrystone clams, lemons, cocktail sauce, Tabasco, a shucking knife and four bottles of Heineken).
Slade transformed the room into a clam bar in seconds. He was already shucking before I could say; I can't eat clams or drink beer in the morning But I didn't. Instead, I said, "We can't eat this ourselves." So I called in the two instructors and shared my bounty with them.
I don't recall whether Slade ever became a craps dealer or not. However, he was so sharp, charismatic and likable that I'm certain he would succeed in anything he did.
When my birthdays roll around, my wife has a tough job. She likes to say, "What do you get for someone who has nothing...and wants nothing?" Well, Slade will always remain in my heart for making that birthday special and giving me exactly what I wanted. I guess you could say: I was slayed by Slade.