Friday, July 6, 2007
GRANITE STATE IV – The Clam Box
In Littleton that night, after Cousin Carolyn and her husband Thor had left – Thor living proof since I was very young of how wrong they could be. Carolyn always so level-headed, they said, so unusually effective – for a woman in – business. They said it silently clicking their tongues and tutt-tuting through pursed lips. So solid, they said, until that vacation in Norway (which was 45 years ago now). Can you imagine it? Someone from our family marrying her young ski instructor?
Which is why they had made fun just now of Carolyn after she left , and by implication of me because what had been so outrageous was her admiration for a very small and light piece of my writing. And the we went off to dinner at Littleton’s newest restaurant – here in the far north, just below the Canadian border -- surrounded by the highest mountains in the East – this new restaurant was called the Clam Box. Right at our cramped table - one of those family scenes I had been so good at avoiding for so many years – a cousin and an aunt of whom I was suspicious – here about as far as you could get from any sea – right in our face at the table an aquarium tank filled with slimy monsters – a banded water snake, a sort of squid thing, small cat fish sucking up something nasty at the bottom of the tank – a very slippery eel – all right her at the table where we were supposed to eat their close relatives.
This had been in August – this part of the hunt for what had happened in the deep past up here. And now it was late November and in-between was a trip that turned into a trysting trip – which combined intense sex with longing and what felt like instant betrayal, a trip during which this present seemed strangely familiar and the information about the past was pouring in and reaching flood proportions - and now it was nearly Thanksgiving and I was back. My first night – caught in a death-like whiteout in the notch = I’d gotten up to my old friend Ellen's house very late, but the next night I met up with Lauryn – who it turned out was recovering from her recent time in and out of Minneapolis battered women’s shelter with a new boyfriend in New Hampshire – a Littleton man who worked construction in summer and ski patrol in winter, and whose father was a locally famous Canadian mob figure from prohibition days. Not exactly what our family fancied itself, and it was seeming to me likely that this new place of Lauryn’s was far safer than any place for her in our dark, careful, faux Victorian family.
She said on the phone that the best place to meet, the best food, was the new sports bar above this new restaurant called the Clam Box.
Clams in the mountains. A Sports bar.
In the summer I had noticed how on nearly every village green in Vermont there were folksingers – the sixties seemed alive in Vermont’s eighties – and every Vermont town had all these new eating places – sometimes fancy nouvelle this or that, and sometimes health food that was thankfully as far removed as the fancy food from the traditional tasteless New England boiled dinner.
Most New Hampshire villages did not have village greens. I did not know of the Clam Box in August but would not have gone there if I had. I went to the Littleton Diner – which had a big blackboard advertising new specials – just like in all the new eating places in Vermont.
There was only one special on the Littleton Diner board. Oh God – am I becoming as snotty as the tight-ass people I came from? But so help me, the special was Cheeseburger quiche.
This strange part of the world that was supposed to be the happy summer place of my childhood – this past which was changing from sunshine to dangerous darkness so fast I had to be alert to keep up.