When Joe emailed me the below photos the other day, I was stumped. Not only didn’t I get his hint about how that connected us, nor did I have a story about a knife. I thought. The first stayed true, and his story might or might not reveal it. The second is wrong. I have knife stories. Three actually. But they are not related to these photos. Sometimes knives don’t cut the mustard for me; this one actually triggered connections.
My first story is about me as a seven-year-old, and I was already a foodie. Big time. Nothing made me happier than being able to help my mother cook or bake. I remember it was a sunny day, and I was given the task to chop hazelnuts for I can’t remember what baking creation. I managed quite well for a while, until my knife slipped. Big time – it was almost nuts how my left index finger was bleeding. I remember that my mother took me and went to the doctor with me. I cannot remember for the life of me whether I got stitches. What I do remember though was that for once I was as interesting as a little wallflower kid in second grade could get – I had a huge big white bandage around my finger. It looked really dramatic. And it was acquired through an adult task. Huh – you bet I have been wearing this scar with pride ever since.
My second story is one that was even more dramatic. As a 19-year-old, I was at a picnic with some friends on a very late summer night in a Stuttgart park (Germany) that we probably shouldn’t have been at. But it was the summer vacation before all of us would go into all kinds of different directions, and we were celebrating the last bit of togetherness before university and similar. Long story short, I ended up sitting next to our fire all by myself, gazing into the flames. And suddenly somebody held a knife to my throat and told me to give him back his passport and driver’s license. Now, anybody who knows me also knows that I haven’t ever in my life stolen anything. Much less what turned out to be a Polish driver’s license and passport. The knife felt all wrong where it was, for the life of me. But it made a virtual connection with my tongue. For I started reasoning with that guy why he wouldn’t gain anything and especially not his paperwork by killing me. Goodness, my tongue was all silver, and obviously my thoughts were sharper than the blade. The guy left off and vanished, and that was when I learned that sometimes words are stronger than anything in the world when it comes to making an impact.
My third story is job-related. You might have heard that some of the best knives and cutting instruments in the world are made in Germany (actually the one in the photo has such a stamp!). And most of them are made in the region of Solingen. Brands like Trisol, Zwilling, and Wuesthoff might ring a bell with you. I was invited to an incentive event by a business partner of mine, funny enough NOT one of those in the blade-making industry but one of the fine art suppliers. The entire advertising and marketing department and the industry’s few journalists would be kayaking down a stretch of the river Wupper in double kayaks. It was total fun, and my partner, a lady from England, and I simply hit it off as a team. At one point we landed on a steep bank to walk to a so-called knife-mill where they had used water power for manufacturing knives in the olden days. In dry weather it wouldn’t have been such a challenge to climb up the 5-foot bank. But it had been raining until the early morning hours; the grassy slope was slippery and, where we deboarded, worn down to mud. I managed well to reach land, then turned around to lend somebody with more difficulties a hand. Let’s say the lady was approximately double my size, not exactly agile, and I was about three feet above on the bank holding her hand. She stepped into the mud and slipped, and I sailed over her, head-first into the river. When I reappeared, I looked into a group of ashen faces. Everybody thought I’d hit my head on one of the kayaks and would “go across the Wupper” – the German translation of which is literally “to die”!
As you may have guessed, I didn’t die. I didn’t even hurt myself. And at the knife-mill they had an assortment of dry clothes for kayakers with a similar fate. They even had a washing machine and dryer, though the river dirt would never wash out of those pants again. I don’t remember much else about the knife-mill, as you can imagine. On our way back, this time with no rescuing dry-clothes-supplier anywhere near, similar fate befell some of our other kayakers; so not even my pride got hurt by the incident. But the fun group forged some close bonds that day, for sure.
What is my moral of these stories? Knives involve danger – but they are at least as good for cutting as they are for making connections, no matter whether it’s between people or your brain and your tongue.
Care to read Boyle’s Double Take? Click here.
Joe Boyle, author of the Suburban Times’ column “Westside Story”, and Susanne Bacon, novelist and author of the Suburban Times’ column “Across the Fence”, are sharing their thoughts about a variety of topics in their joint project of double features called “Double Take”. Comments are more than welcome, as they know that the world has more than their two angles – the more the merrier.