/ Family /
My mother was the youngest of four. My father was a one-and-only: to his parents, and to my mother too: until my mother learned that my father had been checking into motels with alternate “Mrs. Knatz”s. But before she threw my father out, thereby throwing away our only financial support, foolishly believing that whether or not she could control my father the state could control my father. No, no: my father never, no matter how drunk he was, ever lost a game of that kind of chicken: blacks, spics can’t play chicken with the state, but white lawyers can: that’s what white lawyers do.
My mother’s sister, second oldest of the four, married a guy who served in the Army Corps of Engineers: WW II, Korea. The major hand-built a cottage on Squires Pond in the Hamptons: no plumbing, no running water. Wonder of wonders the pump, had to be primed, what a kick to a kid. The outhouse wasted no water at all, the boats’ oars had to be rowed. At night we propelled the boat slowing backwards with a lantern lighting the stern: netting blue crabs. I loved it, I adored it.
I’ll never forget my cousin opening a clam. He showed it to me before he slurped it off the shell and into his mouth. Eeew! Ugh! But then one day taking me to lunch at Joe’s in Brooklyn my father ordered a dozen cherrystones on the half-shell as an appetizer. No, ugh, I didn’t want any clams; but I relented and tried one from his plate. Oh, wow, delicious, I love it. Then he gave me another, with a piquant seafood sauce. Wow.
So the next time we were at Squires Pond, my father (no longer living with us but sharing a weekend with me) rowed us across the pond to the inlet that connected us with Paconic Bay so we could wade out to meet the incoming tide. We sat in water that rippled around our ribs. My father had tethered a couple of clam knives to lanyards that we hung from our necks. My father had a third lanyard for a bottle of piquant sauce. Between uses the knives lay against our chests. Soon the tide quicked. Live cherrystones began to tumble into our laps. Soon we were gathering and opening and eating them as fast as we could wish, throughout as much of the tide as we wished to harvest. That’s a lot of clams!
Eventually few new clams were arriving. But we were already more than full enough to stagger a bit. Back to the boat, back home to the cottage, in time for a nap. Bliss.
(My buddy John and I once split a bushel of oysters and a case of beer. I think we each took aboard as much bay muck as we did oyster flesh. Yum, and psst!, pop another brew.
John bought the oysters on Cape Hatteras, thought of me, and drove up to NYC: no warning call, just knocked on our apartment on Riverside Drive at 97th.)
Anyway that rising tide on Paconic Bay became one of my favorite memories. And it bore lessons. I don’t doubt that the experieence contributed hugely to my becoming a legendary fisherman: as did John! Put the lure where a fish might find it, then let the fish find it, react to it. Give it a twitch, but not too hard a splash: you want to engage the fish, not scare it away.
With some hunting you have to chase the pray, but there’s other hunting where it’s best to sit still and let the game come to you. There’s tracking; then there’s sitting in a blind.
In the tide, it’s the clams which are blind.
I repeated that story to my darling Jan last evening. Nervous about a number of things she’d been getting ahead of the facts all afternoon. She wanted to know how Steph Curry’s ankle was before the trainers could have looked at it. I said if you want to know the final score you have to wait till the game is over. We weren’t talking about Steph, or the Warriors, or about clams, or bass; we were talking about the things worrying her mind: things out of sight, but far from out of mind.