Maybe it was Ringo

and his bashful first rendition of the first bars of “Octopus’s Garden” on Get Back, which I binged furiously this past week along with much of America.

Maybe it was My Octopus Teacher, a loving and fascinating documentary about a man searching for answers under the sea. Or perhaps it was the holiday email from a brother-in-law, a paean to the tragic but heroic nature of deer-hunting, in which killing a doe could be forgiven if the shooter pets the sentient animal and says I’m sorry as the light fades from her eyes. In any case, the seared octopus (with heirloom beans) on the menu at Eventide in downtown Portland had much less appeal than it would ordinarily offer, especially with a bounteous oyster bar.and a master shucker from somewhere out of Moby Dick, a Maine Queequeg between voyages out of Bar Harbor. No facial tattoos, unfortunately.

We were there at the wrong time of day. We were the wrong generation. And we eschewed the probably salubrious alcoholic cocktails. We nonetheless pulled up to the bumper.

A dozen assorted briny oysters (they may also be sentient – in any case they quiver when first shucked and squirted with lemon) came on ice and accompanied by a guide to each one’s provenance.

The man and woman beside us at the bar each had a dozen, and seemed to be having some kind of romantic first date duel as to how much seafood they would consume with their drinks. On the other side, another lost soul escaping New York carefully placed her spent shells upside down.

Oysters do generate love.

We dutifully overturned our shells and downed the chowder and smoked whitefish.

Is whitefish sentient? Did Queequeg pet it and say he was sorry before setting it beside the pickled saffron cauliflower? Was it properly honored. I’d like to know, because I think it’s speaking to me through the receptors in my stomach.

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