"I'm just a citizen with a knife."

Ever since I spoke with Jeremy in a recent post and included a certain photo, I have been deluged with requests for a follow-up.

So I called to talk to him about the matter.

The following, as usual, is a description of a conversation I did document, but did not record. I will use quotation marks to convey the sense that I am using the precise words that Jeremy said. Of course that is not factually correct. It is true, and it is accurate, but it not necessarily letter-of-the-law factual.

Jeremy knows this.

Some have complimented me on my courage in daring to use quotation marks to indicate something I'm paraphrasing, and to be transparent about it. To that, I strongly say:

"I am no hero. Some of you may call me that, and that is your prerogative. Do I think I am a hero? No. Absolutely not. I'm just a little guy standing up in defense of a different way of doing things against hundreds of years of dogma and institutional thinking that has led to syntax authoritarianism. I have merely said 'there is another way.' Does that make me a hero? Some would say so. But I cannot say."

Back to Jeremy. This is the photo in question (see below).

Portland musician J.M. Long drinking coffee and showing off his knife.

Here's a closer look:

A closeup of Portland musician J.M. Long's knife.

As you can see, this is the photo that lit things up and that I will try and address in the following conversation.

Read below for the raw transcript.


he said, answering my call.

"Thank you for answering my call,"
I said.
"I'll make this quick: a lot of people are wanting to know about the knife you've started carrying around, so I need to ask you some questions about it."

he said.

"I'm driving,"
I warned him.
"So I'm not going to give you the best part of my attention because I need to be safe and focus on the right things. But I am documenting this conversation. I'm not recording it, but I am documenting it."

"How are you documenting it?"
he asked.

"In my head," I said.
"I will remember everything important fairly accurately. And I'm going to quote you, even when I can't remember your exact words exactly. Agree?"

he shrugged; I could feel his shrug.

"Question one,"
I said aggressively.
"How long have you had this knife?

"Since last Saturday,"
he informed me.
"I found it in a tree."

"Tell the story."
I demanded.
"Well," he said. "I was at the park, and I looked up in a tree, and this knife was hanging down. So I took it and tried to find somewhere I could turn it in, but there wasn't anybody working, and everything was locked, and I didn't what to do with it."

"So you took it,"I said aggressively. "You took the knife that did not belong to you."

"Yeah," he said. "I couldn't find anywhere or anyone to turn it into, and there were a lot kids playing there and I didn't want one of them to find it and get hurt."

"Wait a second,"
I said suspiciously. "Are you telling me that you're a hero? You took the knife because you wanted to do the right thing?

"I wouldn't call myself a hero,"
he said modestly.
"I'm just a guy who likes to save toddlers' lives."

"I'm just a guy who likes to save toddlers' lives."

"You are a hero."
I said.
"So how do you decide where to wear it?"

"On the right side,"
he thought carefully. "I've been practicing my fast draw and I'm right-handed. Also, I don't want it to scratch my phone, which I keep in my left pocket."

"I'm just a citizen with a knife."

"Makes sense,"
I said.
"So what is your primary purpose in carrying a knife? Is it a weapon?"

"Thing is," he said. "I'm just a citizen with a knife. It's not a weapon or a tool. It's both. I use it for protecting people and for cutting apples."

"You cut apples with it?" I asked.

"Well," he said, and I could tell I had touched a small nerve.
"I haven't actually cut any apples with it yet. I don't know who owned it before, and I'm kind of obsessed with hygiene so I don't know if it's clean and I haven't learned how to clean it yet."

"Well," I said. "Would you like a few tips?"

"Yes," he said.

I provided some tips about knife hygiene, cleaning, and etiquette.

Then we moved on.

"So," I pushed him a bit. "What role does your knife play in making a safer world?"

"Thing is," he said. "I'm just a concerned citizen, and a knife is an alternative to a firearm. It's both a tool and a weapon.

"A tool can be a weapon and a weapon can be a tool."

"So you're saying a knife can be both a tool and a weapon?"
I carefully phrased my question.

he said firmly, the weight of conviction supporting his statement.
"Absolutely. A tool can be a weapon and a weapon can be a tool. I think citizens need know that there are alternatives to firearms."

"Now you have a folding blade knife,"
I said.
"Do you think you'll ever go on Etsy and get a really fancy holster or case for your knife?"

"Probably not for this one,"
he said.
"At some point I may get a fixed blade knife. When I do that, I may go shopping for a really good holster."

"What are your immediate plans for using your new knife,"
I asked.

"Now that it's clean,"
he said.
"I'll probably cut some apples."

"Almost done,"
I said.
"Wondering if you think your knife would be capable of handling a James Franco?"

"What do you mean?"
he asked.

"Like in 127 Hours, the movie, where his arm is trapped in a boulder and he has to amputate it with a multitool, or pliers or something. Do you think your knife would be capable of that? Could you cut through your own flesh with it if need be?"

I could hear him pondering this question thoughtfully over the phone. Finally he responded slowly.

"Yeah...I think it could handle it if need be. If I had to cut off a limb to survive, I think my knife could handle it. Hopefully better than pliers."

"If you were getting mugged by violent muggers on your way back from a movie with your wife and dog,"
I asked.
"and you had to choose between a gun and knife to protect you, which one would you choose?"

He answered without hesitation:

"Thank you," I said.
"It can be maddening when people respond to a two-choice question with a third option, but I should have seen that one coming."

he said.
"Definitely dog. My knife is great, but not always the best tool - or weapon - in every circumstance. It's like the ocean: it's a powerful force and you have to know how to use it."

"A knife is like the ocean: it's a powerful force and you have to know how to use it."

"You have had so many wonderful quotes during this conversation,"
I said,
"that I don't know which one to end with. So I think I'll go with your last one. Love it."

"Thank you,"
he said.
"I'm going to cut some apples now."