Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Stuff I Love #1: Gerber pocket knife
Let's take a break, ignore the Punch & Judy show of Chicago politics and the banshee howl of the country's burgeoning population of crazy people, to visit the comforting world of tangible objects, with a brief reprise of my popular 2013 series, "Stuff I Love."
Just before Christmas, a reader wrote and said that he needed a gift for his nephew. He remembered my gift guides of the past, and wondered what I would recommend.
I thought for a day or two, but only came up with one thing: this Gerber lock blade knife, the L.S.T. Drop Point, Fine Edge.
I've carried one in my pocket for at least 25 years. It's very light—just 1.2 ounces—yet sturdy and solid. It can be opened easily with one hand by a flick of the wrist. Lightness is important—ultralight backpacking guides rave about it—since knives spend the vast majority of the time in our possession not cutting stuff but merely being carried. The stainless steel blade is strong and smooth; it's a joy to run your fingertip along its flat surface. The half-checkered, fiberglass-filled nylon handle is light and easy to hold. When the company brags the knife "just feels good and satisfying when you open and close the blade," they speak the truth. I probably open the knife and close it far more than anything else, even when I don't need it, just to have something to do with my hands.
Not that the knife doesn't get put to a hundred practical uses, from slicing apples to cutting rope. It'll trim cigars, razor articles out of the paper, even open a can in a pinch. Someone will be fumbling with a package that needs cutting and before anyone can think, never mind say, "Anybody got a knife?" mine is out and open, proffered with pride, accepted with gratitude and returned with reluctance. It sharpens in an instant, with a stone and honing oil.
I did pause, recommending the knife as a gift for a teenager. It is a weapon, I suppose. Our schizophrenic society is such that while adults are waving their assault rifles around convenience stores, a kid can find himself trundled off by a SWAT team for forming his finger into a handgun at school. I can imagine the excitement this knife could cause pulled out at the wrong moment. So I hope, if this kid's uncle gave him the Gerber, he gave him some advice too, and the kid has the good sense not to bring it to school.
Once you hit adulthood, however, it can go almost everywhere. Back before 9/11, I remember airport security opening it up and giving it an admiring look—at 6.1 inches, open, it just squeaked past airplane restrictions. Post 9/11, I once tried to take it through airport security at Denver, and they had me put it in an envelope and mail it home. But it returned, safe and sound. It always does.
Once I forgot I had the Gerber and tried to take it to Cook County Jail; the guard suggested I go outside and push it into the ground under a bush. I did, retrieving it afterward, muddy but none the worse after a quick rinse. They're simple, a single blade and open body, so clean up easily.
The LST isn't really a defensive weapon but, finding myself walking through a sketchy area at midnight, I'll keep it in my hand, in my coat pocket, as a talisman if nothing else.
That said, the knife is so light, it has a way of disappearing for a while—I own two, just so one is usually around—but then they always turn up, buried in a pocket, in the bottom of my briefcase, on a table, and finding one is a burst of the Christmas I never knew. And should I ever really lose it, well, no big deal. If I ever need to replace the Gerber they usually sell for under $13. You can buy a knife for twice or 10 times that, though I can't imagine why.
There is, I suppose, a cool factor. Gerber is headquartered in Portland, Oregon and many of its knives are assembled in the USA. Hunter S. Thompson mentions Gerber knives in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas—and while the "Mini-Magnum" is the style of Gerber his attorney waves around, it is bigger and looks almost like a kitchen knife. I'll stick with my LST.
You can buy it from Amazon here. You'll never need another knife. And if you lose it, you can get another one for 13 bucks. In fact, buy a few and save yourself the trouble. They also make great gifts. It's a beautiful thing. I gave my wife one and she keeps it in her purse.
LST, by the way, stands for "Light, Strong, Tough." I can vouch for all three. Carrying it might not make you, yourself, any of those three. But it sure will encourage the illusion.