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.

Remnants . . .

Where was I?

More Palin Please

I knew that when Hillary Clinton threw her hat into the ring, she would have absolutely no problems holding her own with the big boys, so to speak. After all, this woman once worked for one of the biggest law firms in the country, out earning her governor husband by several zeros. She was already a proven speaker, and her knowledge of issues both domestic and abroad was as good if not better than many of the men she was running against. I also knew that the press would probably push her harder, expect more of her, and be less forgiving, forced largely in part by the public’s desire to test this woman who desired the highest office in the land. Hillary stood strong, and although I was an Obama supporter from the start, I was damned proud of Ms. Rodham Clinton and never doubted her ability to lead.

Which leads me to Sarah Palin, who has had two, count them two interviews, one with Fox news, so that one doesn’t even count. This is the woman who has the country “fired up” and “energized.” Explain to me exactly why. What has she said, on her own, in public, that has supported the idea that she could lead this country should something happen to John McCain if this duo were to win the White House. Even her own party won’t roll her out except for photo ops. There is something terribly wrong when the Republican party openly says that the press should treat Palin “deferentially” and there isn’t more of a hue and cry about it. Why should she be treated deferentially? Because she doesn’t wear pant suits? Because she is prettier and more stylish than Hillary? Because she wears lipstick? Excuse me but this is fucking bullshit. I want to know what this woman knows that makes her able to run this country, and I’m tired of waiting.

Putting Lipstick on a (pick your favorite animal)

Speaking of lipstick, I forgot to mention in my blog on obsessions that I am addicted to lipstick. I have to be wearing something on my lips, even at home. Okay, at home I don’t go around wearing Passion Red, but I do wear lip conditioner or chapstick.

I used to have very dry lips that were chapped all of the time because I didn’t intake enough fluids, and I had a very bad habit of biting the skin on my lips until they bled. I found that if I wore lipstick, that helped to keep me from biting my lips because most lipstick doesn’t really taste wonderful. I broke myself of the habit, and I also drink more fluids and more water. Now, I wear mostly glosses, but I don’t go out in public without something on my lips.

So when the whole issue of hockey moms and pigs and lipstick was raised in the campaign, I found it to be terribly insensitive to those of us with a lipstick addiction. I’m planning to write a letter of protest just as soon as I form the CLWASA (Compulsive Lipstick Wearers Anonymous Society of America). I’m hoping to get a grant, although, that may be a bit hard given the meltdown of last week.

By the way, one of my Jack Russells, Shakes, has a dark line around his mouth that gives him the appearance of wearing lipstick. I find it terribly endearing. The other one, Alfie, has one eye that looks like it has been outlined in black eyeliner. Makeup on my dogs and I didn’t even put it there.

The Todders

Perhaps someone should hire a stylist for Todd Palin. I remember Bush I’s big gaffe of wearing a short-sleeved shirt with a tie on the campaign trail. He was told never to do it again because he wouldn’t be taken seriously. Roll up your sleeves and look like a working man, but never wear a short-sleeved shirt with a tie because then you’ll just look like a sartorial idiot.

Todd Palin keeps showing up on camera behind the beauty queen in all manner of dress. If the Todders is hoping to keep his position as de facto chief of staff, he needs to put on dress shirts and learn how to wear a tie, kind of like Biden et al wore coordinating tie colors during the DNC. Very snazzy.

And Finally, a Word from Our Sponsor

It wouldn’t be fair of me to end my chat without mentioning John McCain, and so I have saved the best for last. Conservative columnist George Will of the Washington Post does not think that McCain has the right disposition to be president. In a recent column, Will compared McCain to the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland who went around saying “off with their heads” before knowing all of the facts. I never thought that I would be agreeing with a column by George Will, but it’s been a strange year, after all.

Obsessions, Compulsions and Possessions

I really hate the term obsessive/compulsive or OCD. Let me explain: I think that it’s fine as far as explain the need to repeatedly wash your hands or check the lights or pull back the covers to look for centipedes. But I don’t think that it goes far enough for some of us. I believe that all of us, whether we admit it or not, have our little quirks, our little obsessions.

For example, one of my best friends in the world, Jammi, is completely obsessed with her hair. I happen to think that she has wonderful hair in its natural state, which is dark brown and wavy. But Jammi spends money to have her hair straightened. Or when she doesn’t have it chemically straightened, she blow dries it until its straight. She hates her hair in its natural state, absolutely hates it, and she is obsessed with having it any other way. I used to joke with her and tell her that a lot of women pay a lot of money to have their hair look the way her hair looks naturally, but no matter. She won’t be swayed because she is convinced that her natural hair is not natural for her. So her hair is her obsession. It doesn’t matter. She’s one of those naturally attractive women no matter what she does with her hair, and I’ve gotten over being jealous of her for that.

I have a former colleague who was completely obsessed with her weight, to the point that she almost starved herself to death—truly. The last time I saw her she weighed 85 pounds. It was a hard thing to watch, but it was one of those things that no one could do anything about. For a while, it began to affect me. I started to count every calorie that went into my mouth. I was down to 1000 calories a day. I began to skip meals. I started to lose weight. I started to obsess. But then my back problems began and fate intervened. I wonder what would have happened if fate hadn’t stepped in, if I would have become as obsessive with my weight. I don’t think so because she had so many other problems contributing to her weight obsession, but who really knows. Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in someone else’s obsessions and make them your own.

Believe it or not, I used to be obsessive about cleaning. Every Saturday morning, I would clean my entire house from top to bottom: polish all of the furniture, clean all of the glass, mop the floors, scrub the bathroom top to bottom, change the sheets, do the laundry, vacuum all of the carpets. Every surface that could be touched was cleaned. If someone came over during the middle of the week, there were never any excuses about the way my house looked because it always looked good. Early in my first marriage, our apartment was broken into and robbed. My ex-husband got home before I did and spoke to the police. He was able to tell the police exactly what was touched and what was missing. The officer who spoke with him asked him how he could be so sure about everything. My ex-husband said, “You don’t know my wife. Those closet doors are closed every morning before we leave. That bed is made. Those drawers are always closed.” If we were robbed today, it might take me years before I knew what was missing.

When I was a child of about 9 or so, every night I would lift the covers of my bed all the way to the bottom to make sure there were no centipedes under the covers. I have no idea where this compulsion came from, but to this day, I cannot abide centipedes. Another quirk of mine is that I have to sleep on the side of the bed nearest the door, whether it is the right or the left, it must be nearest the door. I also went through this phase of being obsessive about exercising. I got up every morning before work and did 200 crunches and some light weights. Now that was a good obsession, I believe, but crunches are a thing of the past. I was in the best shape of my life. Then there was the phase when I had to check to make sure I’d unplugged the iron before I left for work. I would do this at least twice, and sometimes I would get out of the car and go back in the house to check again. I now have an iron that shuts off automatically.

Corey is obsessed with Q-tips. He uses four a day. Even though I’ve shown him articles about how Q-tips are actually not supposed to be inserted into the ear, he insists that this be part of his daily routine. It’s a carryover from his childhood. He is also obsessed with his hair; it’s what earned him the moniker Captain Hollywood on one of the boats that he was crewing. But what is so ironic is that he went from very short military hair in the Coast Guard to long hair that he was always messing with (a la Capt. Hollywood) and then back to very short military length. Personally, I like his hair shorter, but not so short, but he freaks if it gets just a little bit long (as in nearing a hair’s breadth of his collar) and insists that it needs to be cut posthaste.

And then there are the obsessions that lead to possessions: I won’t write with anything but #1 pencils if I’m using pencils. I have to have a certain kind of pen, at least medium point gel ink, and I write on graph paper. Maybe that’s my attempt at order. My friend Mari got me addicted to expensive, squishy leather purses so that now I just cannot carry anything but good leather. I love Kenneth Cole wallets, and even though most women wear smaller, metal watches, I still love larger-faced Fossil watches with leather straps, but they are hard to find now. I’ve mentioned my obsession with black boots before, as in I don’t believe that you can ever own enough of them, and the same goes for black leather coats.

And then there is perhaps my worst obsession/possession of all: black carryall bags. This is in addition to the purse. I am the original bag lady. No matter what job I have had, I have always carried two bags—my purse, and my carryall. I think that I will save the discussion on the necessity of the carryall for another entry because that is a page unto itself.

I suppose that our obsessions are what make us individuals. They can be innocuous, like Corey’s Q-tips or my side of the bed choice. They can be a pain in the butt, like my insistence on certain pen choices. Or they can be harmful, like my colleague’s eating disorder. And then sometimes, obsessions can be a whole other class, as in when they take on a life of their own, when the obsession becomes the person we cannot have, or the single-minded need to destroy another person’s career, or in the scariest cases, the desire to destroy another individual completely. Then obsession ceases to be just a quirk and becomes a pathology, and that, my friends, is another animal indeed.

Notes From the Road (if I were on the road)

And what a week it was:

McCain’s Week From Hell

First McCain said that the economy was “fundamentally strong.” Then he said that he would fire the head of the SEC if he were president. Then someone gave him a civics lesson, so he decided to call for the resignation of the head of the FEC by the end of the week. He wouldn’t bail out AIG, but then he agreed with the bailout. And, drum roll please, the best Freudian slip of the campaign yet:

Sarah Palin says that that’s how it would be in a “Palin/McCain administration.”

Give the woman some props. She’s actually ready for this VEEP stuff after all. Seems she’s been studying the Cheney playbook and knows exactly how to be vice president in a Bush-like White house.

What’s The Tip on Half a Trillion Dollars?

So, at last count, the bailout of AIG and the rest, added to the national deficit could top us out at $700 billion dollars. That’s a lot of black boots in my closet. Am I being irreverent? No. I just cannot comprehend that many zeroes. But I can say that I am not at all surprised by the housing bust. Sub-prime loans to put people in McMansions that they couldn’t really afford? We’re surprised by this? Really?

When I was working for a realty company, I watched the home values skyrocket. People were begging to pay $100,000 more for a house with vinyl siding and no yard that they wouldn’t have looked twice at a year before. It was as if you couldn’t build and sell fugly houses quickly enough. No one stopped to consider what would happen three, four, five years down the road. It was almost like the 80’s had returned. Sell, baby sell.

So who do I make out my bad check to for my share of Paulson’s plan?

Where’s Waldo?

By the way, before this past week, I thought that perhaps Cheney had finally succeeded in packing up W for the duration. Anyone but me notice that the incredible shrinking president hasn’t been sighted since the opening of the Republican convention?

Obama the Comedian

Seems that Barack Obama might be feeling the pressure a little more. At least that’s what I’m attributing his recent bursts of sarcasm to and not a latent streak of McCain meanness. I can understand Obama wanting to get a few jabs in this week. I mean, how could the man resist? But I would like for him to go back to the high road. It’s what has separated him all along from the fray, and it’s what marks him as a man of conscience in my book. I’m not a starry idealist—we all know that. But this man is different; he doesn’t need to resort to the politics as usual playing field.

And Now, a Word From Our Sponsor

Last night, I had an uber cool dream. I was covering the campaign trail as a reporter for the local newspaper. I was on the phone, trying to get a quote for a story that I was working on. I knew that this story was the one that was going to get me noticed, finally noticed. I don’t remember if I got the quote, but it was a great dream nevertheless.

Robert Kennedy on the Campaign Trail

I think my dream may have been an offshoot of watching the movie “Bobby” earlier in the evening. I’ve put off watching this movie for a while. The movie itself is not bad. It’s written and produced by Emilio Estevez (son of Martin Sheen, brother of Charlie Sheen, hard acts to follow, seriously under appreciated). It’s a series of characters at the Ambassador Hotel on the day and night of Bobby Kennedy’s California primary, on the night that he is assassinated. The stories themselves are really not that touching, with the exception perhaps of the illegal alien who works in the kitchen, but the movie got to me as I knew that it would. Kennedy’s speech is interwoven into the end of the movie, and his shooting is dramatized. That shooting changed so much in American history, maybe even more so than JFK’s assassination. As a result of RFK’s death, the democrat’s were derailed, and Richard Nixon won the election. We had Cambodia, Kissinger, and Watergate. Everything changed. Socially. so much changed. And so, at the end of the movie, I cried. Not for the movie.

I cried for lost dreams. Lost hopes. Lost chances. Lost choices. And ultimately, the lost generation that followed.