Uncovering the City Island Freemason Conspiracy (three picture deal currently in negotiation) really gave me an appetite. So, I headed back onto the main drag, known for its mediocre yet proliferous seafood joints. However, on the way to the south end of the island, where you can’t throw a cat without hitting a restaurant, I found myself waylaid by a rather uncommon sign.
Maybe the word, “Nautical,” which is such a great and underused word, drew me in. Or perhaps the excellently painted sail boat was to blame. Either way, around the corner I found a single room store chalk-a-block with all things maritime.
The purveyor of this most curious store? Trader Joe. (John really, but everyone seemed to call him by his nickname.) He lived up to his nomenclature, in my opinion, when one customer walked in with an anchor, and Trader Joe said, “You’ve got good taste in anchors.” Indeed.
While full of verve, Joe looked like this was not his first trip off the dock and I asked him if the island had changed much over his lifetime (almost all of which was spent here). Definitely, he replied. Once a thriving seaport, City Island now relies on the tourist industry for economic sustenance. It’s a “restaurant island” were Trader Joe’s words. I for one would have preferred an isle full of swarthy seagoers, like the ones that must have once supplied our dear Trader with his wares. Life isn’t always fair, as they say, but you can still get popcorn shrimp. Right?
Walking south, my stomach growled, expectant of the aforepromised battered decapods. However, my wallet demurred. Sammy’s Shrimp Box wanted $15.97 for a basket with fries. What are they trying to pull? I wondered and stepped back outside to sample one of the many other eateries. But then I noticed something disturbing. Something perhaps even more chilling than the Freemasons. Just look!
Sammy, whoever he is, has not 1, not 2, but 3 restaurants AND a parking lot for each location. So who is behind this fishy monopoly? (Sorry about the pun. I can’t help myself sometimes.) I asked one of the waitresses in le shrimp box, who referred me to the manager, who shall remain nameless because of the following statement. Mr. Manager was having a meeting at the main branch with a man I imagined to be the assistant manager. He said, and I quoth, “You have to get your own crayons and balloons! You’re own your own now.” He then stormed out, leaving his clipboard behind, leaving me to think he would be returning soon. Not so. In the meantime, I became distracted by an acne medication info-commercial they had playing on the bar TV.
“Are you watching this?” asked the bartender.
“I miss the good old days,” he said, switching it off. “Before they had TVs. People used to talk to one another.”
Now this barkeep philosopher was not some weathered old man just come in from the sea, as it were. Rather fresh faced (I’ll end my description there in case Mr. Manager should ever read this) he went on to describe how technology was tearing our social fabric apart. I concurred and neglected to mention this blog.
After this exchange, I didn’t really care who Sammy was anymore. A Grand Master Freemason no doubt. Better to leave these sorts of things alone. I just wanted my fried shrimp! And I found it at the very end of the island at Johnny’s, a cafeteria-like establishment where my order took all of two seconds.
A little rubbery, but totally passable, I took my lunch outside to enjoy the view.