It runs in the family.
One of my favorite memories from childhood, was going to the corner of Newbury and Mass Ave. There’s a Best Buy there now. But back then it was a Tower Records that was open until midnight. After dinner my sister and I would pile into the Caravan with my dad, and head downtown.
I loved driving through the sleepy neighborhoods, lying down in the backseat looking up through the window at the trolley wires criss-crossing between me and the moon. Upside down, I’d see the gigantic yellow and red sign emerge, signaling our arrival. Inside, the store was always buzzing. Berklee kids, and night hawks like us scouring the racks in search of a late-night ear-itch.
Living in Los Angeles, there is a dearth of late night or 24 hour establishments. I work at a bar that puts me out on the street most nights at 3am. And, there is scant opportunity for late night diversion, aside from one or two Hollywood diners that collect douche-bags at that hour like giant trawl nets.
Back at the beginning of the century, when I decided I had had enough of Los Angeles for a while, I moved back to NY.
The night of my return, I met my father and friends, out at restaurant-cum-gallery in Brooklyn. His work was being shown on the bare brick walls of the railroad-style loft space. Delicious food was followed by Budweiser in pony bottles at Hanks Saloon. We closed the bar and reached the point in the evening where no one wanted to go home, but we couldn’t stay there.
I don’t know who suggested it, but we found ourselves on the 4 train headed to lower Manhattan, and the Fulton Fish Market. At the time, it sat in the southern shadow of the Brooklyn bridge.
My dad said he knew a guy.
The guy he knew, was a hulk of a man with a fighter’s nose with whom he had traded one of his paintings for a year’s supply of oysters. Our entrance was greeted with a smile, firm handshake, and slap on the back that almost knocked my teeth out.
"This is your boy?" he asked my father between orders.
It was 4:30am and buyers from Manhattan’s top restaurants were pouring in for first pick of the haul coming off the boats.
"I’m kind of busy right now, go take a look around. I’ll be with you guys in a minute."
The smell of the hive was enough to knock you out. Uniformed in lumbar-support straps and rubber gloves, the men long accustomed to the odor, laid the catch on long tables for butchering.
"You like sushi?"
I was handed a hunk of pink flesh, cut straight from the belly of the giant tuna in front of me. The morsel melted in my mouth.
A few Months later, on another late night, we returned with my cousin. The only female for a mile, she got lots of love from the bosses.
Smarter than the rest of us, she went to the supply stand that was wedged between two shrimp sellers, and bought herself a hook.
They loved it.
The toughest guys in NY aren’t in the gyms. They’re wearing rubber boots, and they’re covered in fish juice.
Do not fuck with them.
I live in Los Angeles again. Some nights when it’s late, and I’m too wired to sleep; I wish there was a place I could go that was well lit, where people were just starting their day. A place where you got handed fresh sushi and where it was completely appropriate to wear a giant hook on your neck.
This guy wears two.