Archive for May, 2007


Dig it

Saw Diggers the other night, a film by Katherine Dieckmann about clamdiggers on Long Island circa 1976. A movie on a small scale, close focus on a handful of people living ordinary lives. Not the kind of movie we see a lot of in this country, though apparently many such movies get made. Some great acting by Paul Rudd, Lauren Ambrose, and Ron Eldard, and several other actors whose names were unfamiliar to me, like Ken Marino (who also wrote the script). Also a nice evocation of the seventies on Long Island (actually shot in Staten Island, but it worked for me.)

Not a film that would grab many people, maybe, but I grew up on Long Island, which means I spent a lot of time on the water. And seeing the clamboats on the bay–long, low barge-like workboats called garveys, usually with a stand-up cabin made of plywood–made me dream of growing up to be a clammer. It always seemed like a great life to me, and I quite seriously considered dropping out and digging clams well into adulthood. Never quite got around to it, though.

One of the things I admire about the writer Jeffrey Ford–there are many–is that he actually worked as a clamdigger on the south shore for a year or two.

A friend of my mother’s had dropped out of some more elaborate life in NYC and lived on Long Island since the 1930s, living however he could, which included clamming. I asked him once what it was like on the island before World War II, before the massive postwar suburban invasion changed everything.

“Marc,” he said, “It was a paradise. A fucking paradise.”

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