The oyster knows the drill

Prying one of the prized oysters that inhabit the San Juan Islands. Photo by Kelly Brown

Prying one of the prized oysters that inhabit the San Juan Islands. Photo by Kelly Brown

Oysters are encrusters, latching onto something more stable than they and holding tight. An oyster is shaped by its stasis. They cling to live. The dread oyster drill knows this. Slowly but fatefully, the drill settles onto the calcified shell of the oyster and worms its way into the chamber. The oyster, never having anywhere to run, now has nowhere to hide. If the alternative is getting trapped, it’s better to keep moving. In travel, we dodge the drill that would eat our meat. We ingest the life that rides in the waves.

During my newspaper days, I was privileged to interview one of my heroes, writer Mark Kurlansky. A perfect storm had brewed in the form of two recent releases, neither of them books he’d actually written. He’d translated Emile Zola’s Belly of Paris for a nice Modern Library Classics edition, and performed editorial duties compiling Food of a Younger Land, a state-by-state of the way we ate. Neither of these titles was on my mind when Kurlansky picked up the phone (somewhere in Florida, as I recall) and I told him how much I enjoyed his books, and that I’d fairly recently devoured his book on oysters.

“So … you’re a huge fan of The Big Oyster,” he said. “That’s funny.”

I’d not intended the pun and found it not as amusing as a man inhabiting yet another anonymous hotel room. That’s what a book tour can do to a writer, I imagined: After so many cities and telephone interviews, all the questions become routine and all the beds feel the same. Like an oyster, a traveler thrives in home waters, provided he keep the drill at bay.

Excerpted from the newest installment of Argentfork, now available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Leave a Reply