The Knife that Turned Me into a Pornographer by JM Darling

There is no point to this post. I just woke up with some memories.

For my friends who read this, you may know I’ve had a colourful past (growing up in 60 countries on a sailboat, multicultural family) and a complicated father (pirate, one legged Brit) so this little gem may come as no surprise:

When I was about 13 my family and I (myself, my parents and 3 of my sisters) essentially camped in a Danish forest and later bayside for a couple years while my father and I built a boat from scratch. We chopped down trees. Built planks. Created a hull, masts. Caulked seems, pitched tar, sanded and varnished what seems like endless hours of wood. It snowed alot. There were tents and canopies to stay dry in. There was no lavatory, we used the woods or a bucket. In the winter it was dark by 3:00pm. But in the summer I’d steal apples and lentils by the sack for us to eat and the local Danish girls werent afraid of skinny dipping in the local lake at night. My sisters went to the local school during the day while Dad and I would work. Think little House on the Prairie meets Mosquito Coast.

Some people would say this was a pretty sweet existence: Huck Finn/Swiss Family Robinsonesque and to some degree that’s true. Other people who know this story don’t quite agree as the man who lead this expedition, my father, was complicated.

In trying to explain him to people I invoke a few things: a) he was raised by disciplinarian alcholhic Australian circus folk who kept a swatch (for beatings) above the door. b) He was forced to work by age 6 tap dancing for the allied forces in Europe. He never went to school a day in his life, couldn’t spell but spoke 8 languages (of which he taught me 4). He was dashing and good looking in an Errol Flyn sort of way (his hero) but regularly took to beating my mother and myself. He wouldn’t beat the girls, using me instead since he wouldn’t beat a woman (excpet mum). This was tempered by long bouts of melancholia in which he regretted his actions ( the violence, chronic philandering) and cried about his lack of a relationship with his Father. Much later in life he was dual diagnosed as bipolar schizo effective, but no one knew what the fuck that was then. People just called it “old school”. He loved saying he want to the “University of Life” and that he was taking me with.

As a kid though, I worshipped him. He taught me to sail, build, hustle and charm gals. When he wasn’t in a rage he could be genuinely warm and loving. One time on a dare we drove from Holland to Spain nonstop  (2 days) and rewarded ourselves with sangria and a swim in the Mediterranean. I digress.

It had been his birthday approaching and I saved all my money one summer to buy him a gift-one of those beautiful multi tooled shiny red Swiss Army knives. He loved this knife and announced, repeatedly, that no one was to ever touch his beloved new possession. He was to say this often. I assumed that it was because it was a gift from me. But I was mistaken.

In the middle of a hot Danish summer while he and I were caulking planks, he announced he was starving. So eager was I to keep him happy, without a moments notice I dashed over to the small spread of bread and liver pate to make him a sandwich. The whole thing was done speedily as the tar I had set was setting and needed attending to. There was nothing to spread the pate with and I saw his army knife laying nearyby and used that. This whole event happened in a matter of seconds. While spreading the pate he saw me with the knife in hand and yelled: “Joshua!”-I knew instantly that this was because he didn’t want his knife touched. Startled, I dropped the knife and it fell, sunken into plate of  liver pate. I knew this would be bad.

Without missing a cue he was striding over for what I assumed was a smack so I shouted in defense: “I was making you a sandwhich!” to which he replied “I said NEVER touch my knife!”. I shouted back: “but -I- bought it for you!” He said: “doesn’t matter, lad”.

Then he picked up the knife and, drove it into my hand.

It stood there, standing straight, almost comically between my thumb and index finger. I’m looking at the scar now. There was no doctor for miles.

Now, it may be that I’m plain stupid and forgot (as I often do) to not heed a warning. The truth is,  it was a genuinely impulsive moment to try to make someone happy.

Alot of you may react in horror about the psychosis and this man, and yes, he was truly no saint. How I later came to kick him out and deal with those years is another story.

In all this Dickensian drama you’d think there was some large life lesson to be gleaned, but the most practical application, for -me-, something I need to keep reminding myself: is that no matter who much you love someone or they you, or how noble your impulse, if someone say’s ‘don’t touch my stuff’, just don’t fucking touch it.

And that’s why I’m a pornographer.

The end.



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