The Original Bag Lady

I’ll give politics a rest today, kind of wait and see, like the bailout plan. Instead, I’ve decided to discourse on one of my all-time favorite subjects: black leather carryall bags.

As I’ve said before, it was my friend Mari who got me addicted to fine leather, well before I could ever afford it. Her father used to indulge her love of Italian leather bags, and she used to indulge her own love of all things Coach. And every year before Christmas, before MacArthur Center opened, we used to drive to the outlet mall in Williamsburg to shop. We’d go into the Coach store and just inhale the smell of good leather, and then chances were good that we’d head into the 9 West store and buy at least one pair of leather boots. Those were good times.

But my addiction to carryall bags started a long time before Mari entered my life. I was precisely 6, to be exact. We were living in England where my dad happened to be stationed at the time. I was attending Flora Gardens School, which was just a short walk from our apartment in the West 6 area of London. We didn’t live on base, and I didn’t attend base schools. In British schools at that time, everything was provided, right down to the pencils. However, this did not stop my yearning for a proper, leather, book satchel. Just a few blocks from our apartment building, Mr. Higgins’ shop yielded all sorts of treasures for a child my age—sweets and biscuits galore, but there was one thing more than any other that I wanted from Mr. Higgins store: a tan, leather satchel, more of a small briefcase. I remember that it cost quite a bit more than anything else that I had ever been given, but that did not stop me from asking for it every time that we went into the store. My mother, ever practical, refused, reminding me that I had nothing to put into said satchel.

Nevertheless, she hadn’t counted on my single-minded determination to own this prize, and so for weeks, I would devise new ways of asking, until at last, something came up, some holiday or other, and my father asked me what I wanted. I told him quite plainly that I wanted money, an exact amount. He gave it to me, over my mother’s protests, knowing exactly what I was going to do with it. I ran the few blocks to Mr. Higgins’ shop and immediately purchased what was to be the first of many, many carryall bags in my life. I diligently packed this bag each and every morning and carried it back and forth to school. What I carried is not important (Barbies, a change of clothes for said Barbies, various important papers that I might need, and anything else deemed of importance in my six-year-old mind); that I had my satchel was what mattered.

Once in college, I carried a beloved khaki backpack that I had bought in an Army/Navy surplus store. I carried that backpack throughout grad school until the seams gave out. I also carried a purse, and sometimes an additional bag, depending upon how crammed the backpack was. Then when I began to work full-time after grad school, I continued to carry two bags, my purse and my carryall. My purse was usually very large, but it was never quite large enough for all of the other things that I might need during the day.

What were these things? Well, I would need to break it down into must haves, which would be purse items, and might needs and could needs, which would be carryall items. Bear in mind, the lists could be longer, but seldom shorter, but I’m always great to have around in an emergency.

Must Haves:

  • wallet
  • checkbook
  • small calendar
  • small makeup bag with lip glosses
  • medicine case
  • card case
  • comb and scrunchie
  • eye drops and contact case
  • sunglasses
  • band-aids
  • pens
  • tissues
  • hand sanitizer and lotion
  • gum
  • mirror
  • inhaler
  • keys
  • small notebook
  • phone

Might Needs and Could Needs:

  • current book
  • gloves
  • expandable umbrella
  • miniature sewing kit
  • more pens and probably some markers
  • small scissors
  • ibuprofen
  • full makeup kit
  • hand sanitizer
  • mints
  • whatever food I might be eating
  • a soda
  • any important papers I need to take care of
  • CD’s (music)
  • disks or computer CD’s
  • empty glasses case
  • chocolate
  • post-it notes of some size
  • a notebook of some size
  • rubber bands and paper clips
  • mirror
  • hair combs
  • backup inhaler
  • backup meds
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • travel saline solution
  • at least one safety pin
  • pocket maglite flashlight
  • maybe a change of shoes

Yes, I know, the slipped discs in my back had to originate somewhere, and I think that we may have found the culprit. I honestly have tried at least twice in my life to stop with this obsession. One time, I forced myself to carry a small purse instead of the big purse, but then I just ended up putting more in the carryall bag. Another time, I split my carryall bag into two carryall bags, one that I left in the car with the might need emergency things, and one that I carried into the office with the things that I knew that I would use that day. 

Both of these efforts helped until I found the rolling Liz Claiborne bag. It was perfect. I’m sure that it was supposed to be a carryon bag, but for me, I used the excuse that it allowed me to put all of my bags inside and roll them into the office instead of carrying them on my shoulders after I hurt my back. The Liz bag was/is wonderful. I can fit my purse, my carryall (a nice, black, squishy Kenneth Cole), a small zip cooler, and a messenger bag that I was using for grad school these past two years (that came close to replicating my khaki book bag from college) all into one bag and roll it around. The only problem is hauling it into Izzie the Trooper. Usually I have help with that, though.

Now, about that obsessive/compulsive disorder I was referring to earlier . . .

Platoon and “Adagio for Strings”

Last night, in my usual inability to sleep mode, I was flipping through the channels, and I caught the tail end of Platoon. Usually, when I see this movie in the listings, I keep right on going. I figure one viewing is pretty traumatic, and twice is enough, so I will not subject myself to another. But last night I was feeling pretty down, and I just couldn’t help myself, so I stopped on the channel. Sometimes, you do things to yourself that you know that you shouldn’t, and you know exactly what the outcome is going to be, not of the movie, but the outcome of your reaction.

Platoon is one of those movies that is so visceral that I dare anyone to watch it and not be touched in some way by it. The scene in which Willem Dafoe’s character Elias is killed is so gut-wrenching that I still find myself holding my breath when I watch it, even though I know that his arms being thrown towards the heavens are his body’s death paroxysms from sprays of bullets to his back.

But Oliver Stone’s masterpiece about the Viet Nam war is made all the more real by setting this homage to human brutality to one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed: Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” And so, as Charlie Sheen’s Chris is being airlifted out in the closing scenes, Barber’s Adagio is hauntingly ripping at what is left of your last tenuous semblance of composure.

And then, because I was already an emotional wreck, I thought I would watch Babel. I didn’t make it past the first hour.

But I am reminded of the movie’s tag line: “The first casualty of war is innocence.” And this brings to mind a startling statistic of which I was not fully aware until just recently: We have been fighting in Iraq longer than the U.S. fought in either WWI or WWII. World War I lasted 4 years and just under 5 months. The U.S. role in World War II started in December of 1941; it ended with the Japanese surrender in 1945. However, the U.S. was involved in Viet Nam over a decade.

Granted, wars are different now, and the Iraqi war is not Viet Nam. But we continue to lose troops. And we continue to bring troops home who are not the same as when they left. And John McCain’s voting record for veterans is abysmal. Go here if you want details http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-89976.

My dad was a veteran of three wars, and if I could only vote on one issue to decide who gets to be the next president of the United States, it would be how this person would treat the men and women who fight, and die, and sacrifice almost everything for the rest of us, not just when they are giving up everything in a foreign land thousands of miles away, but when they come home and ask for something more than due them in return.

The first casualty of war may be innocence. But the last casualty of war should not be its veterans.

Reflections on the Great Debate (part 1)

What The Candidates Had to Say (or not say)

And McCain Said:

“I just don’t think Sebator Obama (fill in the blank) understands, has enough experience, etc….” Yes, John, but after suspending your campaign, even though most of your precincts were unaware of this suspension, to play politics in D.C., i.e., put your campaign right in the middle of the supposed bailout negotiations and try to get more Congressional Republican support behind your campaign, we’re just glad that you bothered to show up for the debate.

Senators McCain and Obama

However, what’s with the obvious body language problem, starting with the initial handshake during which you did not make eye contact with Senator Obama, and continuing throughout the entire debate? McCain was turned a clear 45 degrees away from his opponent, never made eye contact, never even acknowledged Obama as being in the same room with him physically. Some have said it was to control his temper; others have posited that McCain just wanted to stay focused. But in a visual world, a world in which just about everyone from grade school on has been trained about body language and its effects, I saw the turned back as a turned back, as in, “I do not acknowledge your presence on this stage as my equal.” It was disrespectful and just plain ugly, and while McCain did not lose his famous temper audibly, his body spoke volumes.

What Obama Said Too Often

“I agree with John . . . Senator McCain is absolutely correct . . .” How many times did Obama use this gentlemanly phrase to preamble his response? Whatever the final count, it was too many. I’ll admit that I was a bit worried about Obama’s ability to hold his own with McCain on foreign affairs, the elder statesman’s supposed strength, but I need not have worried. Obama was well-prepped and as usual articulate. But he disappointed me in his delivery. Too often he let McCain get away with too much.

While they were talking about our tanking economy, why didn’t Obama smack McCain more forcefully about the country’s current state of affairs, as in unemployment figures, rising numbers of home foreclosures and small business failures because of the inability to secure loans and insurance? Why didn’t he confront McCain about his staffers: Rick Davis receiving $15,000 a month from Davis Manafort until this past August contrary to what McCain had previously stated, or Carly Fiorino, former CEO of HP and her notorious multi-million golden parachute.

These were opportunities passed by, and I’m not sure why. I wanted to see a more aggressive Obama and a less deferential one. I understand that Obama is wired differently as a speaker. He is not McCain, and that’s one of the reasons we like him. But to fight McCain, he does need to get he hands a little dirty. Or, he can take the Ronald Reagan tack and use more anecdotes. Obama has worked as a community organizer; he has been among the disenfranchised. He needs to bring more of that to the American people, more stories about the people without jobs, without healthcare. Humanize the problems he wants to fix. I was not a Reagan fan, but the man always had a story, and it worked. The man who fell asleep in front of the Pope went down in history as the “great communicator” for a reason. Obama has it in him; he needs to use it.

And Now for Palin/Biden

Can I just say that I cannot wait for Thursday night, or rather, I cannot wait to see how the McCain campaign tries to find a crisis in Alaska that calls for Governor Palin’s immediate return to the state, which will make her, unfortunately, unavailable to debate Senator Biden. Or maybe she will take the advice of Kathleen Parker of the National Review and drop out of the race before she embarasses her party any more. You have been watching what passes for an interview according to Sarah Palin haven’t you, the latest being with Katie Couric? Even I had to cringe, and I can’t stand the woman. It was just plain painful. According to Parker, “Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself, except for the earnest, confident part.