Act Sharp. Get To The Point!

The wife and I have been going to Knife shows to view hand-made, custom, and Art Knives for about 22 years.  The first one we became aware of, that we could afford the time and money to attend, was in Detroit.  The trip to that show was a real adventure, perhaps the basis for a future post.  Detroit is about a four hour drive.

Soon after, we found that there were knife shows in Toronto, only an hour away.  Actually, back then, there were three shows a year, hosted by the Canadian Knife Collectors Association.  Shows organized by collectors, embarrassing!  Soon the Canadian makers organized themselves into a guild and took over the shows.  They’re down to two shows now, with talk of dropping the fall one.

Makers came in from the Yukon, B.C., the prairies, Quebec, the Maritimes, and the northern U.S.  Then, 9/11 happened.  Overnight, makers were not allowed to carry knives onto airplanes.  A maker flying from Hawaii to L.A. lost $30,000 worth of knifes from cargo.  Soon shows shrank, because they were limited to makers who lived close enough to drive.  The Detroit show went from 200 exhibitors, to 50.  The Toronto show has gone from 50, to about 20.  Still, we go!

This year there were four makers from Montreal and area, a 7 hour drive.  Their French business cards list them as joalliers – jewelers.  Their knives were elegant, gem-adorned, gold-inlaid pieces of art.

The most recent Toronto show was held March 9 and 10.  With the wife’s deteriorating mobility and increased breathing problems, she often stays at home.  Bright and early Saturday morning, (It was early, but I was none too bright, with three hours sleep.  The son had been up since 6 PM Fri.) I took the son, the grandson and his fiancée, and we went to Toronto.

I got to socialize with makers I’ve known for years.  We discussed those who have passed on, or had to leave the business, and some of the new, up-and-comers who are taking their places.  We all looked at knifes and swords, and supplies, and non-knife stuff that cutlers (A name, meaning knife-maker.) make.

The five-dollar work-knife the grandson bought last October has been extensively used, causing wear to the lock, which creates a safety hazard.  He paid $60 to buy a much more reliable replacement, prettier too!  The son also paid $60 to get a different-style lock-back, to replace the twenty-some year old Swiss Army Knife he carries.

Last year, and the year before, he paid $300 for art-engraved, solid titanium hook-type belt-buckles, which he displays with his utility/fighter knife, and the Katana sword he won last year.  The door prize this year was a pattern-welded Damascus-steel knife with a strip of Canadian Maple-Leaf flags down its blade.

One maker had a matching brother/sister pair of knives.  A gentle S-shape, the blade down, and the carved coca bola-wood handle up, with a matching carved wooden sheath.  The his-knife a little larger, but each at $300.  The grandson and the fiancée each wanted to buy one.  She had cash in her wallet, but the work-knife purchase had left him short.  He went up to the ATM in the lobby, but it was out of order.  The desk-clerk sent him to the building across the street, where he got cash at another ATM.  Just as he re-entered the room, another guy picked up “his” knife, and bought it for a friend.

The grandson learned to “reserve” a knife, even put a deposit on it.  Fortunately, the maker is a relatively new displayer, and lives here in Kitchener.  It would take about a year to work it into his schedule, and it wouldn’t be exactly the same, but if the grandson asks, he’ll make another, to complete the pair.

The son bought a shooting star, literally.  One of our friend/makers had a small billet of steel made from a piece of meteorite.  Only able to get a couple of knives from the piece, he cut and polished a few shapes from the scrap, including a thumbnail-sized, star-shaped pendant, on a rawhide thong.  He paid $60 for that also.  A piece of a star doesn’t come cheap.  He also looked at a beautiful titanium art-knife folder, engraved with skulls and crosses, like one of the buckles he bought from the same maker.  Boy, I wish I lived at home with my parents, and could afford pretty stuff.  Well, it does all live at my house, so I can gaze and fondle it.

After the show, we went down the street to a sub shop for lunch.  On a busy street, by the airport, there is no sidewalk, just a paved shoulder up to a tiny parking lot.  While we sat there, a black Lincoln stretch-limo pulled up and stopped.  Five minutes later, a black Cadillac pulled in behind.  A questionable-looking driver got out and walked up, carrying a briefcase.  The rear window rolled down, the briefcase was handed in, a different briefcase was passed out, and they rolled away in opposite directions.  Another “What The Hell Did I Just See?”  That wasn’t a drug, or weapons, or industrial espionage deal??!  Nah, the driver just took his wife’s briefcase this morning, with the wrong lunch.  Yeah, that’s it.

I finally nudged the son into applying for his passport.  The wife cut his hair and trimmed his beard.  Now he only looks like the second-in-command to an Arab terrorist.  He got the requisite photos taken, had his Mom fill in the last of the application form, and I drove him down to the passport office on Thursday.  I’ve been there before, and know where to park.

The clerk told him that they were scheduling to mail out passports, applied for that day, on March 21.  There’s the spring knife show in Detroit, coming up on April 26/27.  Unless the bureaucracy really fouls things up, he’s taking the Friday off work, and the two of us will go.  If something does get screwed up, the wife says she’ll be happy to go again.

Even if nobody gets propositioned this time, there should be enough of interest for another post.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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What Did I Just See?

I took the wife out the other day.  Ooh, isn’t that nice?  A date.  Nah, first I took her to a doctor’s appointment.  Then I took her to a pharmacy with a prescription to be filled.  Then we stopped off at a supermarket to pick up a few items.  That’s about the limit of the excitement in our lives….usually.  This day then got a little stranger, but I’m not sure exactly how.

By the time we left the grocery store it was after 3:30 PM.  That’s what we get for not rolling out of bed till nearly noon.  We’d both only had a glass of juice and our “morning” pills.  As I loaded the groceries into the trunk the wife asked me if I had any plans for lunch.  Other than definitely wanting some, I said no.  The grocery store is at the end of the plaza, perpendicular to the road.  Then the buildings ell off, with a row of smaller stores at the back of the parking lot, facing the main road.  About halfway down the row is a pizza shop.

The wife wanted to share a pizza.  I thought she wanted to go in and sit down to eat.  Since she’d already walked a fair bit for her, I decided to drive the car from the store side of the lot and park in front of the pizzeria.  I cruised the line directly in front of it, but there were no open parking spaces.  Back in the second row I spotted one, right where we needed it.  Down to the end of the row, and back around to the second line, quickly, before someone else takes it, and pulled in.  I had to park carefully.  To my immediate left there were four people milling around their car.

I’d parked beside a Guidomobile, with two Guidos and two Guidettes around/behind/beside it.  I don’t know exactly what make and model the car was.  It was a bright red, small, two-door hardtop, had big wheels with low profile tires, a small whip antenna, which probably meant it had a stereo system worth more than my entire car.  It had bucket seats, a center console and lots of dingly-danglies over the windshield.  The whole bunch could have been the cast of Jersey Shores, dark skin, tight pants, muscle shirts, tattoos and lots of gold, mouth and attitude.

The wife said she wanted to take the pizza home and eat it there, so I went in and ordered and came back out to sit with her in the car, and wait for it to be ready.  It was a warm, sunny day, so we both rolled down our windows.  Now I could hear these people as they roamed around the little car, talking at and to each other.  Gabble-gabble-gabble “dos Rios”?  Gabble-gabble-gabble “amigas”?  Gabble-gabble-gabble “caliente”?  It sounded like Spanish, yet not.  It didn’t have the imperious fullness of Castilian Spanish, nor the round mud-voice of Mexican pronunciation.  This was tighter, quicker, more aggressive.  They kept looking toward the entrance off the side street.

Finally, a guy came out and moved the car in the row behind them and opened up the spot I’d wanted.  Parking spaces don’t stay empty long and the girls (25/30-year-old women) kept walking through and looking towards the side entrance.  Suddenly joy was in the air, much shouting and waving.  Another vehicle came down the driveway and parked behind them.  Not exactly a car-crushing Monster-Truck out of an arena, but, I’d have needed a stepladder to get up into it.  Black paint so shiny I could see seagulls reflected in it, and about a ton of chrome.

The driver swung down out of it and went to join his compadres.  He’s dressed like his friends, loose patterned cotton shirt over a colorful t-shirt that says ECUADOR!  Ah, it was Spanish, and that explains the accent.  The women got close to him and carried on most of the conversation.  Finally he reached into his pocket and pulled out the clichéd “wad that would choke a horse”.  It was only folded over, but he still could barely hold it.  After a bit more discussion, he flipped it open and began peeling bills off.  I missed the first couple because I was trying to see if they were all hundreds; we can tell, here in Canada, because of our color-coded bills.  They were merely twenties, but he counted out at least ten of them, and gave them to head-Guido’s tension-reducer.  She stuck them in the back pocket of a pair of jeans so tight that I could read the serial number on the top one.

Happy happy, gabble gabble, the girls walked up and both got in the back seat.  Heaven forbid a man should ride back there.  Chrome-guy talked to the other two for a few seconds, then it was handshakes and macho hugs and they started for the car too.  He followed them, still in conversation.  I heard a question, and out came the wad again.  He peeled off another twenty and leaned in the back window and offered it to the same gal.  I understood some tentative, polite negatives.  There were a couple of seconds of consideration, then the driver nodded and she took the money and stuffed it in her bra.

It was a good thing our windows were down.  When the little tuner rolled away, the exhaust could have blown them out.  Chrome-guy wandered around his toy, adoring it, while he finished a cigarette.  Then he climbed up and moved it out, quieter than the car half its size.

What in Hell did I just see?  What were these adults doing, hanging around in a parking lot in the middle of the day?  Was this payment for a drug deal?  They weren’t surreptitious, and nothing but money changed hands.  Did Chiquita get paid for services rendered last night?  Was the extra twenty a tip for something below and beyond the call of duty?  Or is that blow?  It was just so out-of-the-ordinary that I’m still curious. I wish I understood Spanish better, although with the regional accent, I’m not sure how much I’d have understood.  Maybe Chiquita was Chrome-guy’s sister, and he just gave her money to buy mamacita a birthday present.  Yeah sure, that’s it.  Anybody want to take a guess?