Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Love Lettering Project VI: a love letter for a Washington, DC oyster shucker

I love playing cupid-ninja in Toronto , dropping love letters along streets I walk on often, in the bathrooms of my favourite bunch spots and in laundromats that have seen countless loads of my dirty clothes, but dropping off love letters in cities that aren’t mine is positively gleeful.

One thing I love about this project is the anonymity of it – slipping love letters into books in a used bookstore and sneaking away. And to do it in a city where I don’t know very many people heightens this anonymity.

This February, I was wandering through a fish market in Washington D.C. with grit between my molars from the oyster that had been chucked by a man in a one-piece orange camo snowsuit. I think his name was John, or maybe Joe. He didn’t have any teeth and knew everyone in line, sliding his chucking knife around the edges of dirty shells and spiraling them open, six to a plate with a quarter of a lemon in the middle.

It was the second time I had ever had oysters and I was officially converted to the I Heart Oysters team.

There were bright flashing lights as if it was a carnival instead of a fish market late on a Saturday evening and the fish were stacked, gleaming, iridescent on ice. The clam chowder was piping hot in lidded Styrofoam bowls and I learned that tilapia, something I had only ever seen delicious on my plate, or in thin, frozen fillets, had black, black scales, the crow of the white fish family.

I bought a bag of shrimp, deciding I was brave enough to de-vein the little guys myself.

But the highlight of that fish market adventure was dropping a love letter at the second to last stall, right in front of the baby crabs, with their dusk-blue underbellies and slow moving legs. A love letter on the damp cement.

And then I ducked away as fast as possible. I didn’t want to see who found it. I just like hoping that someone did.

(Confession: Part of me hopes it was John, or Joe, the Oyster Man, who found it, though the chances are slim to middling. He probably had a pile of oysters to be chucked and a lineup that took over the chowder line.)

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