Cutting the Cheese

John and I returned from Memphis on January 21 and my luck changed for the better when I sliced off the tip of my ring finger on my left hand.  What a swell piece of good luck that was!

You may, at first, think I am being snide and bitter… but no…. as I explained during our concert on Feb 3rd, it was truly fortunate.

So that fateful evening was the Wednesday after we had returned from Memphis.  I had been working on some new songs and generally practicing, still kind of high from our trip to Memphis and looking forward to a very busy February schedule and back to back to back gigs in just a few days' time. That day and week I had also been dealing with American Airlines who damaged one of my guitars, and Fed Ex who lost a package with my suit jacket and Rayban glasses in it.  It had been like that since I returned - squeezing practice in between hour upon hour, day after day of phone calls talking with English-as-second-language, script-reading, sloggers-sitting-in-phone-farms-continents-away that were doing everything they could to discourage me from dealing with these two huge corporations.  But I had finally found the time to get to the music and had only been just getting warmed up when the noise from my stomach started to drown out my guitar.  It was 6PM; I was a bit hungry and my patience had been worn skinny.  Not svelte.

Ellen was still in her studio so I poked around the fridge and cupboards to see what might remain there after my absence.  I had not had a chance to get to the grocery store since my return from Memphis and I uncovered a small bit of Manchego cheese and some stale crackers. Good enough to tide me over till I could make some dinner.  The cheese was a narrow, dry, hard little chunk that was too thin to use as a door stop but probably not much good for anything else.  I was quite undeterred.   

As it can be with old, dry, hard cheese, it didn’t take well to slicing, but the knife definitely wanted to slice something.  If not the cheese, why not a finger?  And so that is exactly what happened.  The knife ricocheted off the impervious cheese and came down at an obtuse angle, slicing through my fingernail and severing about a 1/4 inch or so off the top of my fingertip.  The cheese was unscathed.

It was one of those weird moments.  Did I just cut myself?  I wondered.  It seemed like I must have.  I looked.  It was such a clean slice that at first I thought I had missed.  And then it started to bleed.  And then I realized that a piece of my fingernail and attached flesh was resting comfortably on the counter next to the cheese board.  I reminded myself that no matter how hungry I was, I should probably not eat it.

I cancelled that weekend’s gigs. 

But this is where the luck is:  it was my ring finger.  That is the finger I use to play slide guitar.  When playing slide, there is very little pressure on the tip of the finger!  After getting it addressed the next day by a well-meaning but harried Baltic immigre, and the day after that by a pleasant hand specialist at U of P, I purchased an extra-large slide that would fit over the bandages. With a ticketed concert coming up in just a week, I started working on transposing as many of my standard songs as I could, into slide songs.  And it felt fine!  And it was fun!

I had been meaning to build up my repertoire of slide songs for quite a while, and I had always found reasons to put it off, and now here I was being forced out of the comfort of procrastination by a cheese mishap, into the joy of accomplishment!  How lucky is that?  As I said at the concert, had it been any other finger I would not be playing at all! (Unless the finger belonged to someone else, of course!)

And so, when the ticketed concert at Steel City happened on Feb 3rd, I had a full evening of slide to perform!  I think folks enjoyed listening to it as much as John and I enjoyed performing it.

The wound is called an avulsion wound.  I'll let you all look that up.  The harried doc from the first visit placed some fabric over the wound and said in her thick accent, "Dew gnot remoofe dis.  Dis will be your new skin."  In her haste, did I mention she seemed awfully harried?  She did not get the "new skin" on the entirety of the wound.  But the stuff is remarkable!  Where that fabric touched the wound, it is already healed!  In just three weeks!  Amazing!


Stay well everyone and please be careful when cutting the cheese!

J & E

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