The poor quality of writing that follows can be explained by one word: ‘oysters’.
In order to make a pearl, a little piece of grit has to enter the oyster, irritate it, and become slowly covered by whatever it is that makes the inside of oyster shells so lovely and shiny. And today, gentle reader, no grit appeared to enable me to fashion a pearl. It is not a complaint I expect to cause anyone sleepless nights, though I won’t blame you if you would like to stop reading now.
And it is ironic, because the day involved the consumption of an awful lot of oysters, at Grand Central Station, so named because it’s grand, in the middle of Manhattan, and you can catch a train there. You can also eat – this is after all, America – and I was keen to see the food court which my friend James Bellini claimed could accommodate the greedy visitor for a full week without any hardship. I’m not sure I could’ve stuck a week with the other epicurean pleasures of NYC waiting outside (it’s an oyster shell’s throw from Wolfgang’s, after all) but for lunch, the oyster bar is hard to beat.
L and I dined mid-renovation under the gaze of a cheeky-looking mural of an octopus holding drills and paintbrushes and apologising that the vaulted ceiling wasn’t visible. But as soon as the clam chowder arrived, there wasn’t much hope of me looking up.
Having worried about shellfish (I am horribly allergic to mussels), this trip has proven I can handle everything else that lives in a shell in the sea including clams. It feels like a death row reprieve, and this week I have taken full advantage of my proximity to the best of the New England catch. After the chowder, the sampler, ready shucked and on ice. One by one we worked our way around the perimeter of the dish, turning each shell open side down as we ate. I love oysters. It’s the only dish that looks as good after you’ve eaten it as it does before.
We walked down to the east side, then turned back on ourselves and crossed Manhattan again. Every day I manage to pick out a new route back to the apartment on 30th that I’m calling home for the week, and every time I see something different. This time, the iconic Chelsea Hotel, where rock ‘n roll’s finest contrived to make corpses rather less beautiful than the oysters.
All this walking worked up an appetite, which was fortunate because we had to get dinner before the show. We went to Hakasan.
Once again, not a hint of an idea of a suggestion of an insinuation of grit. Steamed dumplings to start, crispy duck for the main, and somewhere in the middle a mandarin martini of such dry subtlety, the mere memory rendrs m uncapabbble of tieping prply. I’d go again, but not for at least six months, because I never want food this good to become everyday.
And finally, the show: Pippin, which L managed to get stall seats for (‘I had to sell my soul for these,’ he said, outing himself as the reincarnation of a saint). It is an absolute must-see. The circus setting, the jokes, the tricks, the heritage choreography by Bob Fosse… I’m afraid I can’t do it justice. All you need to know is that there is a geriatric trapeze routine and my hands hurt from clapping. It’s as funny and warm hearted and visually spectacular as anything you’re likely to see, and there isn’t an ounce of fat on the production or most of the performers. I saw at least two genuine corpses from the cast: like the jazz, it’s great to see performers enjoying the show as much as the audience, and I came away thinking that as a performer, I have to seriously raise my game.
And as a writer, as you will by now realise, clean oysters make poor copy. It’s a cross I have to carry, I suppose.