Sushisay’s Last Day: A Petulant Sayonara To Lacquered Sanctum

It was Oct. 25, 2002, the last day of Sushisay. The Japanese restaurant on East 51st Street, the place I had counted on for so long, was closing.

How many times had I gone there anxiety-ridden, looking weird and unbalanced and emerged all healthy, renewed and triumphant? How many lousy days and hangovers were cured by a quick $40 trip? Sushisay was my sanctuary, my therapist, my drug, my woman, my weekly self-indulgence.

It worked every time.

The Lady Owner-I never knew anyone’s name there, it was all very anonymous-told me on Oct. 23 that she was moving back to Japan, where she owns another Sushisay. I’d had some run-ins with her early on in my relationship with her restaurant, but we’d made peace. The first incident occurred after I was led one day to the sushi bar, to sit right between two loudmouth idiot businessmen who were barking “What’s that?” to the friendly, elegant chefs. It was the last thing I needed in the world. Besides, there were numerous tables open and four unoccupied chairs in a row at the sushi bar. I protested. The Lady Owner’s smiley reaction was essentially, No, sorry, take it or leave it, we don’t need your business, we’re Sushisay, we’re No. 1.

So I stormed out, vowed to never return, and began a search around town for an equally good place. Two months later I was back, like a dog returning to its own vomit …. well, more like a human returning to the greatest seafood the city had to offer: striped bass, octopus, red snapper, tilefish, raw squid legs, monkfish liver, clam muscle, fluke, sardine, cockle, gizzard shad, and oh that fatty tuna, eel, sea urchin … everything so fresh.

But I’d made the mistake of going back there with an excitable young woman I know, Sarie. I’d brought a few women to Sushisay before, but I mostly ate solo. For one thing, it was cheaper. One piece of yummy endangered bluefin tuna goes-went for-$10.

Sarie and I had no reservation but it was after 9 p.m., not too many people there. So where did the Lady Owner seat us? At a little table super-close to one with six dudes. We protested. Lady Owner smiled, shook her head: Sorry! I complained that I ate there twice a week. Sorry! We bolted.

After a three-month search, I was back again. Lady Owner smiled at me knowingly: I knew you’d be back. I looked sheepish: It’s O.K. if I eat here, right? It was, and everything went smoothly for a full year.

On the last day of Sushisay, I got there at 1:30. Timed it right. I was still worried they’d sandwich me at the sushi bar. If they had, would I have thrown a fit? Maybe. I sat at a good table. The waiter handed me a hot towel (love that) and asked if I wanted my usual green tea, cranberry juice and water.

I’d had the salmon caviar the last time, so I went with the tuna tartare to start off. Mmmm, so nice and fluffy. I dumped a mess of soy sauce in the bowl, turning it half into soup. I got the miso soup with mushrooms, too.

Soon enough, perhaps too soon (were they rushing me?), my Special Deluxe Bento arrived. The head chef’s selection of sushi, sashimi and appetizers is-was-arranged in a beautiful lacquered box. Like a doll’s house with four rooms of tasty delights. I wanted to save the piece of uni but couldn’t wait. I picked it up and let that slimy orange stuff glide down my throat. Next up, a piece of tuna. Soft, fresh, nice-smelling tuna. The wasabi got to me. I sneezed and blew my nose into a napkin. Then another nice sinus-clearing sneeze.

All of a sudden, a busboy asked if I was finished. I hate that. I’d ordered another hot sake and wanted to relax. Apparently they wanted me out of there.

To my left I spotted the Lady Owner, who was making the rounds, saying goodbye to good customers. “We’ve had such good times here,” said a plump British lady.

Then the Lady Owner started coming my way and … walked by me! To talk to a table of friggin’ three to my right! Yeah, she’d spoken to me the last time, gave me the heads-up Sushisay was closing, but I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. Then another busboy tried to take my lacquered box.

Could I just sit there in peace and say a proper farewell? After all, I’d easily spent thousands of dollars there. The bill came. I don’t want to say how much it was. All right, it was $69.28 plus tip.

I’d had enough.

Fuck you, Sushisay. Go away. Go back to Japan and stay there. P.J. Clarke’s is opening back up. They got a great spinach salad with bacon there. Chicken pot pie. I don’t need you any more.

THE GOOD GIRL

A few years ago, Mary Catherine Garrison’s father, John, received the phone call that every actress’ parent dreads.

“I’ve just signed a nudity contract,” Ms. Garrison told her father, a history teacher. She’d been cast as a troubled young woman in the Nicolas Cage thriller 8MM , and she was explaining “why nudity was an important part of the role.”

John Garrison said nothing. But the next day, in his Southern drawl, he left a brief message on Ms. Garrison’s machine.

“Mary Catherine,” Mr. Garrison said, “I was thinkin’. Shakespeare didn’t make anyone get naked. Think about that.”

Clearly, Ms. Garrison didn’t think too hard. Not only did she do 8MM, the Louisiana-raised blonde-génue is currently stealing the show in the Off Broadway musical version of Debbie Does Dallas as Lisa, the world’s most lovable nymphomaniac high-school cheerleader.

Ms. Garrison, 28, doesn’t get naked in Debbie, but she does spend a lot of time rubbing her privates, dry-humping in wild twosomes, threesomes and foursomes, and a lot of other stuff Shakespeare didn’t make anyone do, either.

And it’s not just a job. For Ms. Garrison, performing as a sex-crazed adolescent has (and Dad might wanna close his eyes here, too) provided a personal liberation, too.

“Has it changed my sex life?” the sprite-ish Ms. Garrison asked the other day. “Completely! Complee-eetely ! In the best way. I feel totally unapologetic now. I have the feeling I had when I was 16-like I can do whatever I want and I don’t have to feel bad about it. I’m feeling cocky about it!”

Raised Baptist, Ms. Garrison said she was more demure in high school than Lisa-but she wasn’t a saint. “I remember the first time I felt sexy,” she said. “I was 16, and I was going to a creative-arts high school, and there was a boy in the art program-he was dumb as a box of hair-and I said to myself, ‘I’m gonna get him.’ I got him in a matter of days. I remember sitting on the back of his motorcycle and thinking, ‘I can do anything.’ It was a very powerful feeling.

“Those were the days when I wore a one-piece unitard with cowboy boots,” Ms. Garrison said.

After receiving a theater-arts degree from Indiana’s University of Evansville, Ms. Garrison headed to U.C. San Diego for graduate theater training. Her big break (she thought) came in 1999 in 8MM . The forgettable movie centered around snuff films, and the slashing made its way into the editing room as well. “I had to call home and say, ‘Mom, I was cut from movie-except for the scene that has me going down on James Gandolfini,’” Ms. Garrison said.

Ms. Garrison also goes down in Debbie Does Dallas, this time under a white towel upon actor Jon Patrick Walker-who, for authenticity’s sake, is performing sans skivvies. How’s Mr. Walker’s Mr. Walker? “The first time I saw it was during a live performance in front of an audience,” Ms. Garrison said. “I immediately started laughing hysterically-and then so did Jon.”

Ms. Garrison saw the 1979 film Debbie Does Dallas only a couple of weeks ago. “It was depressing shit,” she said. “They didn’t wax or tan back then. It wasn’t sexy at all. At one point there’s this doggie-style scene, and the girl has a huge black bruise on her butt. You’d think they’d have had a makeup person for that. And later there’s this one cum shot where this girl gets it in the eye, and they just leave the camera focused on her. They just leave it on her! So she improvises and uses the guy’s penis to clean off her face. Poor girl.”

Even with all its humping and innuendo, the musical Debbie is nowhere near as hard-core as the movie; if anything makes the audience horny, it’s Ms. Garrison’s constant nether-stroking.

“A couple of men have commented on how I touch myself during the show,” Ms. Garrison said. “I do that in subway stations now. I don’t even think about it. I’ll be waiting for the subway, and I’ll be rubbing on myself without realizing it. That’s so dangerous in New York City.”

-Noelle Hancock

-George Gurley