The Clam Bake!

Trip Start Jul 17, 2012
Trip End Aug 08, 2012

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Flag of United States  , New York
Friday, July 27, 2012

I don't remember how or why, but we woke up on the sofa bed. We usually slept on the inflatable mattress in our little curtained-off alcove in Justin and Steve’s living room, but here we were sprawled on the sofa bed. Had it been put out for us already? The only other explanation is that we decided to be ambitious and get it out because we had spent a night on a solid bed at Marcus’s and we had been turned. I’m picturing the two of us grunting instructions to each other, heaving cushions around in our half-cut state. Why hadn’t we had the grand idea of sleeping on the sofa bed all along instead of an inflatable bed that gave me sea sickness each morning as Becky got up to go for a wee?

For some reason we’d arranged an early breakfast date at The General Greene with Dan, our buddy from Building on Bond. We stuck to our word and got up – like I said before, there was no time for hangovers in New York. There were much more important things at hand, like putting the pieces of the night before back together.

We had a little mystery to discuss at breakfast. I had received a text from a random number saying, 'Hi, it’s Boris from last night.’ None of us remember a Boris, let alone either of us giving my number out to someone called Boris. And Boris is a very unusual name. The whole thing smacks of me giving someone that name because they reminded me of Boris Johnson. But where did we see Boris Johnson? He could have been a friend we met at the bar where Becky stole someone’s pizza – that would make sense as I recall someone being there. Whoever it was, they were better left in the night before, and they would go down on our character list as ‘Boris the Presence’.

Good ol’ reliable Dan turned up at General Greene’s too, so we relayed details of the evening to him, telling him tales of Auschwitz Dan, Desperate Dre (Dan/Andre), the Surf Shack and Boris the Presence. He had no idea who he might be either and told us that he was feeling pretty hungover. The half-time tequila that Becky plied us with so that we didn’t get tired was probably a major factor there.

Our sole plan for the day was getting ourselves back to White Plains for the Clam Bake in the evening. The Clam Bake! How the words, shining in their American-ness, excited us! We went back to Justin’s, got ourselves ready to go, and started our journey to Grand Central station, where we would catch a train to White Plains.

Marcus was working, so we decided to walk from the station to his house, not really having much clue where we were going. We thought we could remember the route that Daniel, his son, took us the other day when he walked us to the station – and we were probably on the right track until about halfway, when we must have made the wrong turn and ended up somewhere in White Plains town centre (Los the skater was right – how was it that we were allowed out of the house?). At a loss, we called Marcus. He didn’t know where we were either from our explanation, so, on his advice, we hailed down a cab, that literally took us down the street we had just walked down and turned at a corner that we missed.

Daniel was in, so he let us in and we nibbled at the beef that we had cooked the other day. We took some Dawson’s Creek-style photos on the steps of the porch (well, we recruited Daniel to take them for us) and hung around until Marcus got back.

It was time to get ready for the Clam Bake! We were so excited. What does one wear to a Clam Bake? We decided that our most rural flowery cotton dresses would look the part. We got ready and Nick and Kathy picked us up at six.

New Yorkers just have the best way of telling stories. They could be talking about going to the supermarket and back and it would still sound entertaining. Nick was telling us on the way how he nearly didn’t get tickets to this thing because they had sold out. ‘I said, Kenny,’ explained Nick, ‘ya gatta get us in!’ Luckily, Kenny came up good and squeezed five tickets out of somewhere. Good ol’ Kenny.

So, this Clam Bake was the most gloriously American thing I’d ever seen (well, white middle-class American – channel Baby’s family holiday in Dirty Dancing). It was held at a town called Rye in a beach-front open pavilion, overlooking the ocean. Everyone was donning their Country Club Casuals and there were American flags, red Solo party cups and a good couple of tables brimming with food. Nick introduced us to his friends and then we sorted ourselves out with some all-inclusive drinks (in red cups!!).

Before the Clam Bake was officially deemed open (before I could pounce on those fat juicy prawns I’d spied) the chairman of the club did a little speech. When he’d finished and when my eyes had landed on the stack of plates at the end of a food table, all of a sudden the speakers blasted out a note and everyone stood up and put their hands over their hearts. They started singing the The Star-Spangled Banner! Amazing – I just wanted to get my camera out and record it but something told me this would be bad etiquette. Becky and I put our hands over our hearts too (albeit limply) and, thanks to American Idol and the likes of Beyonce, we were able to sing along a little.

Finally, the food tables were open! Oh my sweet baby Jesus, there are no words. Prawns as big as my fist. All-you-can-eat clams. We thought we’d take it easy on this first round because there were several more rounds to come, including the grand finale: lobster.

It was the biggest feast of my life. Between us, Becky and I had clams, prawns, salad, hotdogs, burgers, chicken wings, more prawns and clams – and then we waited for the lobster. Yes, between talking to Kathy, Nick and Marcus – and some new friends we had made – all we did was eat. We had paid 65 dollars for this so by Jove we were gonna eat!

There was also some entertainment happening as the eating was going down, such as Kathy in general (more about Kathy later) and a raffle. We had all been given a raffle ticket on the way in and, now that everyone was waiting eagerly for the main course of lobster, it was time to pacify the crowd with some prizes. I think Kathy is a little of the competitive nature, however, and every time the chairman read out a number that wasn’t hers, Kathy would shout, ‘Son of a bitch, mine’s 58!’ After losing out the first few times, she was like, ‘Just watch – I’m gonna end up with the freakin’ umbrella!’

Kathy cracked me up – Becky and I loved her. She kept called Becky ‘Betsy’ and when we kept giggling at it, she would say, ‘What’s your name – Becky? I like Betsy.’ Her stories of rabid raccoons and psychic mediums kept us engrossed all evening – she should have her own show. Like Joan Rivers but with a face with more than one expression and less smut.

After the raffle, the lobster came out. We were all given a whole Maine lobster each – all to ourselves! How indulgent. It came with a dish of melted butter and claw-crackers. It was amazing. And after all that, we still made room for dessert, as a local bakery had supplied a massive selection of sweet baked goods. Obviously, Becky and I got one of everything and shared. Rude not to.

So, after an entire evening of stuffing our faces, the disco started, and Becky, Kathy, our new friend Erica and I danced the night away to Katy Perry et al. Still not with content with putting on a great night, the club had organised a fireworks show. They set them off at the other end of the beach, so we had an incredible view of the fireworks exploding across the water. It was a really nice touch.

Our first experience of a Clam Bake did not disappoint. The food was delicious and I’ve got to say, those Yanks know how to put on a show. Even the people we met were brilliant – Erica was an interesting, eloquently-spoken woman who told us she was brought up in a circus and sought out her own academic education later in life. Then there was this brash, snobby guy, who we named Funsponge Richard, who was telling us at our table how he sent his kids to the best, most expensive school in the area, but they still hated him. Erica really brought him back down to earth with tales of her own upbringing and a heated debate followed. We got the popcorn out and cheered on Erica (in our minds).

So, when the night was over, Nick drove us all home. We told Kathy and Nick how we needed to experience more American traditions and it was then we started planning Thanksgiving 2013. Roll on pumpkin pie! (That’s what people will soon be saying to us if we carry on eating at this rate…)
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