Circa 1996: Green Peppers and a Bandaid

When I lived in Fells Point in 1996 I cut the tip of my finger off chopping green peppers.  Mike fixed me up. I’m pretty sure he’s still there at liquid earth.  Here’s a story from those days.

Some day I’ll lean how to chop. Then I won’t hack parts of my fingers and thumb off anymore. I have been working on it for several years actually. Somehow, I just can’t ever seem to get it right. It took me months to learn to rock the blade of the French knife across the flesh of the peppers on the board. I would slip up on my angle; the peppers would come out different shapes and sizes instead of all even diamonds.

It’s not that I’m new to cooking or using knives. I’ve been cooking for close to twenty years now and I was playing with knives when I was at least five. But I didn’t ever learn how to handle a knife appropriately until I lived with Chris and he taught me to hold it by the blade, not the handle. It gives you more control. Still I lack the control needed to dice up a mess of peppers.

Peppers seem to be the ones that give me the most trouble. I don’t know why; perhaps it’s their slick skin. The damned grocers always wax them up to make them look unnaturally beautiful in December. Two years ago, shortly after I was given my French knife I was cutting peppers one afternoon in March. The day had been an ordinary day. I had arrived home a little early I recall.

I lived on the corner of Aliceanna and Bethel in Fells Point, Baltimore, Maryland. It was a quaint little place that the landlord could have done better at repairing. He had bought it when the places were selling cheaply and folks were renovating them. It had been part of one of the Mayors’ attempts to make Baltimore a better place. Nevertheless, there wasn’t a straight line in Karos’ place.

Around the corner was everything that a young man in his twenties could need, a liquor store and a city market. I stopped into the market to pickup some things for the meal I was planning to make for myself.

The stands were closing down for the day. I walked hurriedly up to the produce stand to spy out some peppers and an onion. The local supermarket was worthless, even the project people avoided it if they could. Invariably the produce was already rotten by the time it hit the shelves there. I often wondered if the son of a bitch who owned it had just taken one hit on a load of produce would he have caught up and been able to sell vegetables while they were fresh; before they started to rot.

I found a pair of peppers and some onions. I asked the old polish lady how much they were. She looked me over; she’d seen me before I was sure of it but I don’t know if she knew I was local or not. She looked at the scale for a minute. Then she said, “ninety cents,” with out weighing the produce. I was amazed. In the supposed supermarket, I’d have paid three bucks and gotten rotten peppers. On the way home I stopped by the liquor store and got some smokes.

I was busily chopping the peppers not really paying attention when suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my middle finger on my left hand. I looked down and there was blood gushing out of the tip of my finger all over the white cutting board, mixing with the peppers. I grabbed a wet towel from the counter and wrapped up my finger.

Of course there was no first-aid kit in the house. I was a single guy living alone in the city. I had to make a dash up the street to the Rite-Aid for some supplies. The walk was quick. As I struggled to get my wallet out of my pocket, the clerk noticing the blood said, “Are you alright? Do you need to go to the hospital?” I assured her that there was nothing that the hospital could do for me. And there wasn’t. It was a tip of a finger cut off, not much bigger than the head of a Q-tip, but painful for sure. The nurse at the hospital wouldn’t be able to give me stitches, there was nothing to stitch.

I hurried down the street toward my house, intent on getting things squared away and cleaned up. I was getting really hungry. As I rounded the corner to my house I noticed Mike standing out on his stoop. Before I could even stop him, Mike had me inside and he was cleaning up my finger himself.

We made some small talk and smoked a butt or two. After he had bandaged up my finger, holding up his index finger he said, “Hold on I’ll be right back.” He dashed upstairs. Soon he was back down with a brownie in hand. “There man, almost as good as if mom had fixed it up.”

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