Miles & Hyde: The Murder of Bonnie and Clyde
To China, to 'Merica, then Italy, and Back in a Day
Another round of New York City adventures with two Oregon farm girls.
Chinatown, N.Y. — Pagoda roofs sit like ballgowns atop the heads of jenga-stacked businesses, and neon signs splash characters and symbols across their sprawling skirts. Red and gold awnings cover tables knolled with green Opo Squash, King Crabs, and vibrantly packaged sweets abound.
Moments earlier, my friend Lizzie and I were passing a glossy skyscraper that stands like a compass needle in the heart of the financial district. In a matter of a left turn, we find ourselves immersed into another world entirely. The briefcase-toting businessmen on the previous block are replaced by storied grandfathers bent over their tables of goods.
The essence of green tea and lemongrass seep out from shop doors, creating a light sense of freshness in an environment thick with fish market odors and car exhaust.
We sludge through the soft blanket of yesterday’s snow, taking in the chirping of bartering locals outside markets and the swinging of lanterns that hang like smiles over the streets.
“Katherine, I want lobster with pasta for dinner,” Lizzie says, grabbing my arm.
“Uh, I think we’re in the wrong part of the city for that,” I say.
She pulls me past a pile of wriggling crabs into the doorway of a fish market.
“No, I wanna, like, buy two lobsters…” Her blue eyes widen and she lets go of my arm, “And boil them alive like Julia Child!”
We both contemplate the bravery needed to pull off this kind of a caper, and decide that if we have the courage to castrate steers on the ranch, we can certainly boil some lobsters.
“Let’s do it,” I grinned. The prospect of whimsy and the acrid smell of rusty crates full of eels distract me from the fear congealing in my stomach.
I make a point of erasing all knowledge of parasites ever learned in school from my memory. We scurry from shop to shop, pressing our noses up to the lobster display cases with the same zeal we had shown at Tiffany’s two days ago. After we see how much lobster costs here, my inner economist decides that Chinatown is the perfect place to buy seafood.
“These ones are too small,” She says of one display case, wrapping her scarf tighter around her face. “Let’s keep looking.”
It doesn’t take long before our stomachs remind us that we have walked several miles since lunchtime. “We still haven’t tried sushi,” I offer with a shrug. Sushi is toward the top of our to-do list, so we agree to find sushi-sustenance to further fuel our lobster search.
By now we are as far into Chinatown as you can get. The signs are all in Chinese and no one on the street understands us when we ask where to find sushi.
After several blocks and even more tummy-rumbles, I am horrified with a sudden epiphany.
“Uh, Lizzie…” I take a deep breath, trying to keep cool. “Uh, you don’t suppose sushi is Japanese food, do you?”
She starts to laugh. “Thank goodness those people didn’t understand us!”
“Thank you, public education for teaching me to be so culturally sensitive,” I snort.
“This is so embarrassing!” She says, covering her eyes.
By this point we’ve wandered so far that we have come out the other side of Chinatown. We have lost all feeling to our toes, but see a sign that reads “Sushi” next to a little Italian joint.
Not in Chinatown anymore, ok.
We squeeze through the door of the sushi restaurant and sit at one of the three tables.
Lizzie leans over her menu and whispers, “Are they playing…. Country music in here?”
Since this is my first time ordering sushi, I figure we’d better be bold. We opt for a roll with eel and fish eggs, listening as Luke Bryan sings about girls in cutoffs, ‘Merica, and all things truckyeah.
Definitely not in Chinatown anymore.
But hey, our waitress, we learn, is actually from China, so that counts for something.
Bellies full, we find our way back to Mott Street to resume our Lobster search.
Due to our sushi-goose-chase, we are a little off route, and end up having to cut through Little Italy on our way back to the fish markets of Chinatown.
“Now we can find our pasta!”
Here, round bulbs glitter and swing akin to the lanterns of Chinatown, and Italian red, green, and white is strung on every business. Lavish displays of rich cheese and every color and shape of fresh pasta sit proud in the windows of delis and markets. Iced pastries from the size of dimes to saucers sit in elegant cases before old women with strong arms; canned accordion music fills the air.
We put in a few more icy miles before we have everything we need for dinner, including the perfect lobster-duo.
Back at the apartment we decide to pay homage to our Chinatown sourced lobsters by dressing appropriately. We don our silk robes, and do our hair up with our leftover sushi chopsticks.
The sushi wasn’t Chinese, but our waitress was, so we figured our lobsters wouldn’t mind.
Lizzie brings the pot of water to a boil and I slice the lemons.
It’s time to do the deed.
Julia Child sends us her sincerest boost of courage from 1968.
Lizzie opens the paper bag containing our motionless prey wide enough for her eyeball to inspect the situation. Dis they freeze to death on or mile-trek home?
We nearly did.
“Eeeeeeeeeeh!” She shrieks, letting the bag fall to the counter.
I fear the worst, thinking one of the lobsters came back from the dead to claim her eye as one last act of revenge.
We take roll of Lizzie’s face, and are both quite relieved to discover her eye count is still at two.
The show must go on.
We dump the lobsters into a bowl as Julia instructs.
They are both still alive, but so numbed by cold (and fear, may I add), that their response time is somewhat disappointing. We take a breath and proceed.
“What on Earth are you doing?” Mom asks, walking into the room, quite surprised.
She’d been in the shower for the scary bit.
“We are identifying the sexes of our lobsters,” I said. “Julia showed us how.”
She asks us why we need to know such information.
“So we can name them, obviously,” Lizzie states. “I think mine’s a boy but I’m still naming it Bonnie.”
Now that we have given them proper names, and the water is boiling, we decide that the time has come. We summon our inner Julia Child (and Rosie the Riveter, and John Wayne, and everyone that thinks “we can do this”), take Bonnie (Lizzie’s lobster) and Clyde (my lobster) by the tails, and dip them into the hot water.
While Bonnie and Clyde reminisce on the Cremation Of Sam McGee, Lizzie and I put on our Italian bar music and prepare our Caprice Salad and gnocchi with red sauce with goods found on our way through Little Italy.
Lizzie adds a dash of white wine to our simmering sauce while I check to see if the “green matter” has set according to Julia’s instructions.
“I wonder what she means, ‘is it set?’” I crack Clyde’s tale open.
Now I know what she meant. Apparently it has not set yet.
Un-set “green matter” spews from the lobster, covering our robes and settling in our hair.
"Back in the pot with him!"
Ten minutes later we are cleaned up and ready to find out what fresh lobster tastes like.
Considering that our postage-stamp-sized apartment has no actual table, we take to the couch with our meal.
I dip a long strip from the tail into a dish of butter, as dear Julia insisted, and take a bite.
Lizzie does the same.
We don’t have to say anything. We exchange nods, confirming that this meal was certainly worth the miles spent in the cold and explosion of “green matter” that it took to obtain.
My kitchen will never smell quite the same, but Lizzie and I can officially say that we have prepared live lobster and that we are alive to tell about it.
No parasites. No lost eyeballs. No Chinese sushi.