The Origin of Clams



i. My Philco portable radio and Casey Kasem were my teenage escape route. I spent an excessive amount of time holed up in my bedroom with the Sunshine Band live from New York City in the 50s. The Top 40 saved me from being left on the outskirts of friendship and awkward dating. As long as I pretended that I was floating along with the magic of the airwaves, I managed. My mother held secrets, and somehow the rest of the family learned to isolate themselves, too, for survival. That's how I became the dreamer I am today. 


 ii. Clam is a common name for a bivalve mollusk. Clams spend most of their lives half-buried in the sand of the seafloor. 


iii. During the 2020 pandemic, I relished those hours in my office without any obligations in the world. Sweatpants. A cup of coffee. No makeup. I stayed relatively undercover, so to speak, free to write on new projects. Sometimes unstructured time is not the most productive, though. Thoughts can hide away and tease me elusively. It would be so easy to pick up the phone or email a friend to stay connected. I didn't.  


iv. When I came home from elementary school, my younger sister was under the dining room table, cutting out paper dolls from designs that she had made from the newspaper. That was her portable art studio. She might stick her head out before diving back into her hideout. Later she would study art in college and become a painter. However, her work remained hidden mostly in her studio and not out for a broader public's viewing. She kept that she was dealing with the complications of cancer a secret from acquaintances, too. She lost her life prematurely. 


v. I am a fine specimen of a person who falls into a half-hypnotic state, and no one has a clue that my mind is elsewhere. I don't open up what secrets lie beneath the surface, and if I do, those valves are clamped shut quickly. 


vi. Clams are shellfish that make up an essential part of the web of life that keep the seas functioning, both as filter feeders and as food sources for many different animals.


vi. Occasionally, in the summertime, my mother would take my sister and me over to the south side of the island to buy fresh clams for clam chowder at the market along the bay. She would never cut us in on her plans ahead of time. All we heard was her telling us to hurry up and get in the car. Where? We would find out shortly. After hours of smelling of soup simmering on the stovetop, the end result would be a giant bowl for dinner. The next day the leftover clams would be minced and put in egg batter for fritters. Nothing went to waste. Even the clamshells were crushed for our driveway. 


vii. When I go out clamming, I wear holey sneakers that have seen better days and light pants rolled up to my knees. Searching for clams is a solitary task. Frequently my best ideas surface while the gentle waves cool my calves, and the early morning breeze rustles through my hair as a seagull skirts past on an updraft. 


viii. All clams have two calcareous shells or valves joined near a hinge with a flexible ligament.


ix. I was a shy kid. I would get harassed by other schoolmates, and I would clam up when I should be speaking out. Once on the playground, Carol, a bully, threaten to beat me up on the way home for no earthly reason other than she could. She taunted me and had me shivering all the rest of the afternoon, dreading my walk along Roanoke Avenue. How carefully I stepped on the pavement in between the cracks expecting Carol to be lurking behind a maple ready to pounce on me.  She never showed up.  I avoided Carol for days after that. She moved on to other girls, apparently having lost interest. I never told my parents and kept that secret deep within as another one of my supposed failures.


x. What got bottled up within me came out later. Mostly non-fiction. Pages and pages of a memoir. It did me a world of good if for no other reason.


For no particular reason…I


  • crave southern smoked barbeque

  • porch sip a glass of wine on a Monday

  • clean out part of my garden (and get stung twice)

  • wear long pants on a Tuesday

  • launder the runner from the dining room table

  • read three books simultaneously

  • scan local Groupon sales

  • write this piece of nonsense

  • virtual-stalk a friend of a friend of a friend

  • check the temperature for 4 pm

  • rearrange the pillows on my bed

  • block all incoming calls

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