The Crab’s Claw Inn. An institution. -al establishment. I’ve been familiar with the Claw for years, but I only began to properly cherish it this past summer, while working next door at Shaded Vision. (An institution.)
On Friday, the Claw re-opened its door to the public for the first time since Superslut –storm Sandy. When I arrived at 10 p.m., the place was packed with jubilant patrons, doling out hugs and high fives by the hundreds, downing Winter Ales and Yuenglings, and, mostly, smiling. So much smiling.
Houses have been flattened, gutted, renovated, rebuilt. The Heights opened its streets to… everyone. Park residents were allowed to go home. Cheese balls were served. But this? This felt like a real milestone. It felt like the mail man and the boutique owner and the bar owner and your mom’s friend and the pro surfer and the restorer were able, maybe, to feel almost normal again. Maybe. They saw each other with drinks in their hands again, in a place to which they all pledged allegiance, a long time ago, without ever saying a word.
You see, the Claw is like our Central Perk. It’s where we go after work and spend our hard-earned dollars on deliciously unpretentious fare prepared and delivered by people with heart. Where plans are made and friends are met. Where we replenish ourselves after hours in the sea. And remind ourselves that we’ll be in the sea in just hours. We go to eat dinner. Or to skip dinner. We sing and dance, talk story, talk shit, aggrandize waves and fish and babes. Everybody probably doesn’t know your name, but I’d bet that everybody knows your face. It’s where we go when we don’t want to go home, or when we can’t go home. It is a sort of home.
I know how this sounds. It’s not that we’re a bunch of alcoholic bar flies. Because the Claw isn’t really just a bar. It’s an institution. And it’s back.
On the morning of Saturday, November 3rd, I wake up at 7:30 a.m. to a dark room. The nightlight I plugged into the wall, a subtle alert to the presence of electricity, is still dim. I grudgingly push two down comforters aside and climb out of bed, wearing the latest in pajama couture: Long socks, shorts, sweats, and a hoodie layered beneath a ski sweater. It’s our sixth day without electricity and it’s 4 degrees in my house. But at least I have a house. I keep reminding myself. So many of my friends lost everything. But at least they are safe.
This headspace is surreal. I remember watching Katrina and her aftermath on the television, and being unable to process what I was seeing. Too much destruction and sorrow. Human kindness–as well as malevolence.
The night before, I sat in my friend’s living room, absorbing borrowed warmth, and watching the nationally televised Sandy benefit concert, broadcast from Rockefeller Center in New York City, where half of Manhattan still didn’t have power. Another friend who made the journey back through the Lincoln Tunnel said returning to the City was the strangest thing she’s ever experienced. It’s hard to fathom New York standing still.
I stumbled out of bed at 5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, washed my face. Changed into a ‘kini. Pulled on cutoff jean shorts. Listened to early morning political discussions while I drove to the island. I grabbed three coffees from Wawa and grabbed two friends from up the street. We checked a spot just to the north and headed for the inlet. Somehow, we found parking. The lineup was a madhouse. Mad people, mad waves. Pulsing, beautiful, large. The skilled, the swell-deprived junkies blocked and dropped in on each other as the unskilled allowed their boards to drag them over the falls on top of their fellow watermen. And women. There were two of us out there. A minuscule percentage.
I managed the paddle out easily, navigated the clean-up sets without incidence, stayed sufficiently out of the way. I sacrificed noteworthy rides for peace of mind. Dot suffered sets on the head and aggro challengers, a board to the mouth. She situated herself amidst the action. Not interested in staying out of your way, sir.
After an hour and a half, I aimed for the beach, only to be tossed around and crushed to the bottom by menacing shorebreak. I clawed my way onto the sand and sat down with a not-so-small effort to refrain from embarrassing collapse. I told myself I’d wait for Leslie to pass before paddling out again.
I stumbled out of bed at 5:32 a.m. on Thursday. Continue reading