Friday, March 24, 2006

farewell, my lovely clam

I discovered today that my favorite clam shop, Bob's on Highland Ave in Salem, has gone out of business.

Fried clams are in my blood. As a kid we lived next to the "Famous" Clam Plate at the south end of Brown's Pond in Peabody. It had a big sign with a blinking arrow pointing to the restaurant, wrapped around a smiling woman holding a big plate of yummy clams.

"Famous" seems to mean "owned by Greeks", in Greek because every dinky little sub and pizza shop in the area labels itself "famous", and they're all owned by Greeks. It could also mean "not famous."

Many Fridays my mother would just send me over there for a clam plate so she didn't have to deal with cooking fish. I got a take out and ran home and ate it by myself on a little tray in front of the TV. Clams, french fries, coleslaw, tartar sauce, ketchup. Heaven! In those days clams were cheap. Sometimes I'd get a seafood plate for the scallops too.

Somebody set fire to the Clam Plate in about 1966, then set fire to it again the next year. They said the owner had gambling debts. I live in the same neighborhood now and pine for that joint.

Later when we lived in Nahant I got my clams from The Tides. Clams were still cheap. I used to get a large box and eat the whole damn thing sitting on the rocks on the beach, behind the restaurant. The Tides went out of business and changed hands about five times. Now it's owned by some out-of-town company, and they couldn't be bothered with local food--it's all frozen. You can get tilapia and Chilean sea bass there, but not a fried clam from Ipswich.

When I lived overseas after several years away the only things I missed about home were clams and the Bruins. My sister who has moved to New Mexico is similarly afflicted with the yearning for clams. When she visits she makes the trek to Woodman's whose clams are good of course but it's too far to drive. I don't like that you have to go out of your way for clams. Our mother found Bob's. It's across the road from Wal-Mart and next to a storage place. It was completely lacking in character--the lighting was harsh, the decor yellow formica and brown panelling. Most of the clientele were elderly from the senior ghetto across the street. Unlike Woodman's no one travelled more than ten minutes to go to Bob's. But its clams were as good as Woodman's any day.

Twenty years ago at Digital I had a computer named "exclam". Computer names were limited to six characters. Its motto was "Once a clam but no longer--Ex-clam!".

Now, till I find another clam joint nearby, that's me. A man without a clam. An ex-clam.

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