Friday, April 13, 2012

On Pocketknives: Matt Summers

As an addendum to my original post on pocketknives, I've asked some others to share their own knives and the stories behind them.

Matt Summers was a classmate of mine of in graduate school, is a former Green Beret, a semi-pro adventure racer, and real estate mogul. In spite of being a Yankee, he is one of the nicest, most selfless guys that I have ever met. I asked Matt if he would do a post on his knife, suspecting that he might have a good story, and he didn't disappoint.

Being Matt’s Pocket Knife
An Essay by Matt’s Pocket Knife.

I was born circa 2005 in Oregon City, OR. My Maker assembled me by hand on His craftsman’s table in a well lit, warm building sometime in the spring. I know it was the spring because I was shipped to my guide’s location and given to him as the snow was gone and it was getting warmer outside. I was delivered with about six dozen of my peers who were part of a special batch Benchmade Knives being sent to Ft. Bragg, NC. Although my Maker didn’t tell me much about what I would be doing or how I would be treated, he knew that I was going somewhere adverse because He built me with the strength and efficiency I needed to get me through my working life.

The "author" of the story

Once I arrived at Ft. Bragg, I was separated from my peers and put into Tuff Box with a bunch of, what I call, “goodies”. The goodies were made up of laser grips for an M-9 Beretta, Asolo Boots, Camel Back Bladders, a Puffy coat and pants, seven H&K Magazines for M-4 rifles, Eotech and ACOG optics and a few other things that brought a smile to my guide’s face when I met him for the first time. I was pretty self assured and had a chip on my shoulder because I knew I was different from the other goodies in a few ways: First, I was the only one that was truly handmade and part of a special group that was created for a special purpose. All of the other “things” were not special; they were just “things”. Second, I knew that because of the way my Maker created me, I would be physically attached to my guide at all times; whereas my counterparts would only be carried when my guide needed them. And last, I was the only item in the box that had conscience and the ability to write essays.

It wasn’t long after my guide clipped me to his right pant pocket for the first time that I found myself in an ancient and confused land spilling over with boredom, anticipation, excitement, hope and despair all at the same moment. I heard him call it Afghanistan.

My first real job in this place was preparing counter-IED charges. They are simple devices that include about one minute of time fuse, a four wrap of detonation (“Det Cord”) cord, two M-112 C-4 plastic explosive (“C-4”) blocks, some 100 mph Tape, two fuse igniters and two blasting caps. You see, my guide was a bomb guy, which by coincidence also made him a counter-bomb guy; so whenever he or his friends encountered a bomb or a suspected bomb, we would be the ones who checked it out, and if suspicions were confirmed, we would either disarm it or blow it in place. This part of the job, although it made my blade-well pucker, gave me a sense of purpose; I knew that if I did what I was supposed to, I could keep my guide and his friends intact and alive.

My second job, or maybe better stated as my “real” job, was to serve as an opening agent for a mysterious and wonderful blend of American spices and organic plants which were aged and processed into a wonderful concoction called Copenhagen. My guide had a real affinity for this stuff. I remember one time I heard my guide on his radio confirming he understood that he and his friends were heading into an imminent ambush and that they were “almost” prepared for it. When the operator at the other end of the radio asked why “almost” prepared, he responded, “we need to stop to put a dip in and we’ll be good to go”. And that’s exactly what they did…it’s a hell of a thing to see twelve grown men putting cut up plant in between their gum and their lip as a “pre-game” ritual before another fight for their life…but hey…it’s the little things. I’m just glad to have played a part in it.

Other than the bombs and the Copenhagen, I had several odd jobs. On more than one occasion I pried hot brass out of a jammed .50 Caliber machine gun during times that my guide referred to as the “hot and heavy moments”. Other times I was used to cut candy bars in half for the poor children that lived everywhere we went. I remember being used as an adjustment tool to my guide’s windage and elevation on his long gun. I was used to butcher a sheep my guide purchased from a farmer when an operation ran a few days longer than expected and we ran out of food. I had a hundred odd jobs and I loved them all.

By the end of my working days I was tired. Although I was young, I felt as though I had done and seen enough for two lifetimes. I had been around the world a few times, met some wonderful knives and had a deep sense of purpose. I am grateful for my experiences. Now, with my and my guide’s working days behind us, I spend most of my time next to a really rare knife named Yarborough 2306 who seems kind of weird to me. Not only does he stay in his sheath all of the time, but he and his sheath live in a box. So I guess it would be more appropriate to say that I spend most of my time next to a box that has a sheath inside of it, and a knife inside of it. When I asked him about the sheath and the box, he said that he needed it because he was special, but how special can one be if they never get out of their box, let alone their sheath?

The author of the story and his drawer-mate

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Music

Here are a few albums I've been pretty excited about lately.

José González- In Our Nature

I came across José González via a random Youtube video. He's an Argentine-born Swedish artist who I would describe as a 21st Century Nick Drake. In Our Nature is the 2007 follow-up to his 2003 debut, Veneer (which I have not yet listened to), and is composed almost exclusively of him singing and playing classical guitar. It is a bit somber in mood (as description I typically prefer rather than avoid), but it is brightened up by a slight Latin flair. Check out one of his songs from the album, "In Our Nature," below.

Alabama Shakes- Boys & Girls

The Alabama Shakes have been getting a lot of press lately. They've been making the late night talk show rounds and were even featured in the latest issue of Garden & Gun. They have been all over Twitter and almost all of the shows on their current tour are sold out. It's all for good reason, however. The band is from Athens, Alabama, which isn't typically considered to be a hotbed of music. However, their music has a throwback sound, and is a combination of blues, gospel, and Southern rock. It's great music for the spring and upcoming summer, and is great for driving down the road with the windows down. Right now you can get the MP3 album for only $5 on Check out an in-studio version of the first song on the album, "Hold On," below. If you can't get into this song, well, I have no other advice for you.

M. Ward- A Wasteland Companion

I'll admit, I haven't listened to this album yet, though I am downloading it (legally) as I type. However, M. Ward is one of my favorite artists and I've been excited about this album for a while. It's Ward's first album since 2009's Hold Time, which I loved. If you're not familiar with M. Ward, just know that he his the "Him" part of Zooey Deschanel's She & Him albums. M. Ward's music has an interesting quality in that while it has evolved over the past thirteen years, it all has a similar, and fairly timeless, sound. From what I heard of the album so far, A Wasteland Companion is no exception. Ward is an excellent songwriter and even better guitar player. If you like good music, chances are you like this album. And like the Alabama Shakes' album, it's only $5 on right now. Check out the video for "The First Time I Ran Away," from the new album, below.

Monday, April 9, 2012

On Pocketknives: Greg from Manifold Destiny

As an addendum to my original post on pocketknives, I've asked some others to share their own knives and the stories behind them.

Greg has an excellent eye for design and style, as can be seen on his blog Manifold Destiny. It's now in Tumblr format, so if you're on Tumblr, be sure to follow him. Otherwise, look for updates in my blog roll to the right.

The Knives I Don't Carry
To paraphrase the inimitable Martin Short in Father of the Bride: every party has a pooper, that's why Trip invited me. Though it may horrify the Southern blogosphere, I do not carry a pocketknife on a daily basis. That's not to say I'm opposed to knives, quite the opposite actually: I've had access to sharp implements long before it would be even remotely prudent. I received a Swiss Army Recruit when I was 5 for serving as a ring bearer in my uncle's wedding. That carried me through many years of Cub and Boy Scouting, surviving trips to Bert Adams Scout Camp, and once spending 6-8 months rolled up inside a tent in our basement before being rescued the next spring. In high school I worked as a summer camp counselor and bought an elaborate Spyderco knife that managed to get lost at a lacrosse teammate's party in remarkably short time for such an expensive piece of cutlery. College often saw me without a knife, which was probably for the best from a public safety standpoint, but I did carry a Case Sodbuster during most of law school, which is most useful during a recession for opening rejection letters.

Nevertheless, I eventually secured employment in Washington, DC. Much like a spy behind enemy lines, I'm deep in foreign (Yankee) territory here, and dare not carry personal effects that would identify myself as a southerner. The bow ties and seersucker do that well enough. Our nation's capital has weapons laws that were presumably drafted by Gandhi himself, which I'm sure is quite comforting to the gentleman who was stabbed on my block a few weeks ago. Most of my day is spent in government buildings, and despite being a lawyer myself, I can't for the life of me decipher the regulations surrounding what kind of knives might or might not earn me a trip to federal prison. Someday I'll live again in an area where grown men can be trusted to carry pointy objects in public. Until then, my knives will be staying home.

Friday, April 6, 2012

On Pocketknives: Joe Gannon

As an addendum to my original post on pocketknives, I've asked some others to share their own knives and the stories behind them.

I met Joe Gannon a couple of years ago in Nashville and he seemed like an excellent candidate for a post. If his name sounds familiar, you may recall the project he is working on with Max Wastler called "Made Right Here" (I did a blog post about it a few months back. Joe is a great guy and often sports an amazing mustache. Be sure to check out his personal blog as well.

When I was a senior in college I lost my Grandfather. Howard Joseph Gannon, Sr. was a woodworker, a story teller, an old farm boy, a former factory worker, a deer hunter, a pretty typical Eastern Shore man. As a kid, I used to spend summer weekends watching him build wooden toys for the other grandkids in his little home workshop. Cedar hope chest's for the girls, gun racks and wooden trucks hauling "logs" for the boys. In between the hum of the table saw and the scuffing of sandpaper he'd tell me stories of his childhood. He'd remind me how neighbors would thrash wheat as a community. In between tears of laughter he retold the story of his first airplane ride and how he convinced the pilot to buzz his best friend while he sat astride an old Oliver tractor. He showed me the proper way to make a dovetail joint and how to use a biscuit cutter. Lessons were gifted to a grandson over the smell of sawdust and through the smoke of Chesterfield cigarettes. Perhaps his greatest gift was passing his name down to me. Howard Joseph Gannon, III.

It was weeks after the funeral and I was back at school when my Dad called with a request. "We are heading over to Dad's this weekend to sort out his things. If there's something you want let me know soon." "Just his pocketknife if it's still around..." I shot back over the line.

My Dad is the oldest of five brothers and a sister. They set out to divide up a lifetime of possessions, democratically. Starting with the oldest they went down the line in turn so everyone would get a fair pick. There was a veritable treasure trove of woodworking equipment, a truck or two, and as you can imagine boxes of stuff accumulated over 20 years of living as a bachelor. In a side table they found, "every greeting/birthday/Christmas card anyone had ever sent him" according to my aunt. We had no idea he made room for sentiments.

For his first pick, my Dad chose a $2, poorly sharpened, hardware store pocketknife. Second pick, someone snagged the Ford pickup truck.

Joe's son holding his grandfather's knife.

I've had that knife in my pocket almost everyday since. When I reach for it and can feel it's familiar outline in my pocket I'm comforted to know its safe and sound. I'm always met with a moment of fear when it's not there. Countless times I've turned the truck around miles from home just to retrieve it. It's been lost a few times...but somehow always finds its way back in my life, whether it be from the dryer or the TSA's return of valuable property envelope. It's still just a $2, poorly sharpened hardware special, but I wouldn't take anything pretty for it. After all, the knife really doesn't belong to me. I am just watching after it for my son, Howard Joseph Gannon, IV.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

On Pocketknives: Henry Sanders

As an addendum to my original post on pocketknives, I've asked some others to share their own knives and the stories behind them.

I asked my friend Henry to write a post on pocketknives. His take on the subject is a bit different than those posted so far, but no less relevant.

My knife,

First, I believe in carrying a knife everywhere as it is a super practical tool, and a cutting edge is not something you come across in nature (unlike a hammer, since just about everything can be used to mash the junk out of something else). Second, I lose pocketknives almost as quickly as I buy them. Thus, I have become quite versed in the <$50.00 pocket knife. Third, I didn’t add any photos, so be prepared to use your imagination to paint a wonderful literary photograph of my non-sentimental, mass produced outside of the States, cutting machine.

I always go for one handed openers. While I have a nice collection of Buck and doctors knifes that I got as gifts, they are about as practical as using a black powdered pistol for self-defense. Sure, they carry a much larger amount of class, but f-that: I’m cutting things here. I prefer non-assisted openers as I have had a couple go off in my pocket, which is quite the opposite of awesome. However, that being said, I currently carry an assisted opener and I love it; I just make sure the sharp part stays away from my important areas, i.e. out of my pocket.
I currently carry a Kershaw Speedsafe (my third Kershaw, all assisted openers). My first went in the trash because my mother thought it was a switch blade, and the second my old man stole back from me after I stole it from him. So far so good. I bought it for $20.00 at Mark’s Outdoors in Bham (who I do NOT endorse except for gunsmithing). I didn’t look for a picture, but it has a plastic handle and a sharp pointed metal end for cutting and stabbing. It does both well and is pretty rad.

Point is, I think this knife jams. It is super lightweight, which is important for scrubs and bathing suits. I do carry my knife to work and I really don’t want its weight to cause it to bulge, as some of my knives have. Also, it has a good feel and a nice textured grip which fits the hand nicely. I have purchased several knives which were great except the grip was terrible, which can be a real pain when you are sweating (happens in the South). The clip is solid and doesn’t wiggle lose and the assisted opener isn’t’ so powerful that the knife jumps. Down sides is it’s made in China; I realized this after I purchased it and was pretty upset. It doesn’t have a lock to prevent opening—not super cool either. The clip isn’t ambi, which is also a bummer as I like to carry my CCP on my right side.

I believe in bringing every weapon you can to a gun/knife/fist fight--I really don’t care what the other dude has. That being said, this knife does rock and even though it’s made in China, I’ll probably buy another one. I used to use Ontario Knife Company because they make awesome knives, but they are asses in the customer service department and Yankees, so I said “Later.” I’ll probably go back to them in a bit as their knives are really too good to pass up, and I bear a grudge about as well as Obama runs America.

Monday, April 2, 2012

On Pocketknives: Jay from Red Clay Soul

As an addendum to my original post on pocketknives, I've asked some others to share their own knives and the stories behind them.

If you read this blog, chances are that you're familiar with Red Clay Soul. Jay and I have known each other in real life for over a year a now, so he was an obvious candidate for this post. Here is his contribution to the pocketknife series.

I grew up in a pocket knife carrying family, so having one has never been an issue. In fact, I experience multiple panic-stricken moments on the days that I forget to bring it with me. “Did it fall out of my pocket? Oh Lord – where did I leave it…” until I remember that it’s waiting for me at home. My Granddad was never without his pocket knife. I remember him teaching me how to sharpen a knife with a stone and spit. He carried a Buck for as long as I can remember. We’d give him a new one every few years, but it took him about ten years to trade it out. After his passing, Mom got his last knife and keeps it in her jewelry box.

This Buck Gent has been with me for about twenty years. I bought it at Beaver Creek Landing on Lake Wateree in South Carolina. I’ve ‘lost’ it numerous times, only to have it returned by good friends who found it on the floorboard of their truck, or by my in-laws, who found it beneath their couch cushions.

The size of the Gent is very pocket appropriate, and its weight is just enough to let you know it’s there. It’s not fancy, but it’s not junk. It holds an edge well, and is made in the USA. While it is only a single blade, it has been used for so much more than cutting. I would put it up against any of its Swiss Army cousins.

The value of the $25 I spent on the knife has been more than realized, and I’m sure it’ll eventually make its escape. Until then, here’s to my sharp companion.