Home away from home. The Tallahassee Junior Museum, now the Tallahassee Museum, once served as a sort of home-away-from-home for me. A friend of mine worked there, and one day he called and said I should come over Friday, they'd be having a party & I might like it. He knew I was feeling down about a bad breakup and could use a little cheering up.
Bushel & a keg. So I headed over after work and stepped right into a time warp. The partygoers were the folks who worked there and a few good friends. Not a big group, a little over a dozen. They were setting up when I got there; the party was an outdoor bushel & a keg affair: one bushel of fresh Apalachicola oysters in the shell and one keg o' beer.
Baked beans. There was a bonfire, and logs to sit on in a circle around it. There were ritz crackers, tabasco, lemon etcetera for those who had not yet learned to enjoy the noble oyster in its natural state. A few covered dishes for variety; someone usually brought home made baked beans, a dish I dearly loved and learned how to cook right from these fine folks.
Figure of speech. They welcomed me in with a beer and a hug; my friend had told them my sad story. I proceeded to get pleasantly toasted and my first lesson in the fine art of oyster shuckin'. That's a syllepsis, doncha know; I'm so cool.
All the months with an r. That was the first of many a fine evening at the Junior Museum; bushel & a keg happened on a sporadic but frequent basis for the entire oyster season, traditionally defined as all the months with an r in them. Sometimes those evenings became overnights when I realized I'd made a few too many trips to the keg to drive home. That was always an option; there were couches, and also rolled up foam pads stored for just such an eventuality.
A regular. Their ages ranged from just barely legal to drink, on up to a guy in his seventies. They were the most congenial, open-armed, gentle bunch of drunks I ever knew before or since, and I have known some drunks. I was happy to be one of them, a regular.
Masonic shuckin'. Oyster-shuckin' lessons continued. I got my own oyster knife, and while I never became a master, whose knife always lands in exactly the right spot then a simple twist of the wrist, I advanced on through apprenticeship fast and became a purty decent fellow craft oyster shucker during my time there. I was a faithful member of the bushel & a keg crew right on up until TH started weaving his magic spells about me.
Pro tip: if you're ever buying oysters in the shell, and you have the option to buy them washed or unwashed, go ahead and pay the extra for washed.