Sunday, January 17, 2010

What's in the Bag, Lady?

Valerie says:
The older I get, the less I want to carry around with me. I have a very mild case of scoliosis, and in my youth it was no big deal, but now that my muscle tone is, well, tone deaf, extra weight takes its toll on me, so it’s in my interest to minimize what I carry. That means, for example, that I no longer wear my much loved mouton coat, I no longer buy oversized leather bags, regardless of their price or the irresistible buttery quality of their leather, I gave away four pairs of Japanese leather pants because they weighed down my hips (AND they took up four precious inches of hanger space), and I no longer travel around town with large books, or even large magazines.

That also means that I now carry a strictly utilitarian bag. John, my lovely fashion photographer friend, scoffed at this humble, self-effacing bag, but I don’t care. Let him buy me the $400 woven leather bags he thinks I should haul around and pay my chiropractic bills. Then he can tell me what bag to wear. In the meantime, my near weightless crushable black parachute nylon Le Sportsac, about 15 inches wide, 10 inches high and 6 inches deep at the base, with 5 zipped and 4 velcroed pockets, is my very close friend.

In the days of my youth, my bag might have held lots of things or next to nothing, but today there is a list of things my bag must hold, very little of which will fit into the charming little artsy bags I carried as a teenager. For today’s blog, Jean and I took inventory of the contents of our bags. Here’s what I carry around with me:

* Agenda
* Pen
* Business cards
* Toiletries
* Camera
* Odd STUFF that needs to get weeded out periodically
[Notably missing from the bag: house keys and Metrocard, which I carry in my hip pockets as a precaution.]

This sounds very reasonable, but it’s misleading. The wallet is big as a house, not because I have so much money, but because I carry so much plastic, including my health insurance card and now my flex spending card. If so inclined, I could carry six additional gift cards I haven’t used up yet, and if I ever knuckled under, I would be carrying plastic cards for the pet store, grocery stores and drug stores I frequent. Because I refuse to subscribe to these silly systems, I do carry less plastic, but in the end I also wind up with less money. Oh, well.

The agenda, pen and business cards take up little room, and no bag would be complete without them. The camera has a little heft, but I can’t be an Idiosyncratic Blogger without it, and I chalk it up to the cost of doing business. (At least it's not a Hasselblad!) The toiletries are the killer, though. In the little matching Le Sportsac pouch that came with the bag (8 x 6.5 inches), I carry – every day – a toothbrush and toothpaste, dental floss, a metal toothpick, generic aspirin and Aleve, cough drops, chewing gum, Blistex, lipstick, foundation (transplanted from its hefty glass bottle to trial size plastic face cream jar), Vaseline Intensive Care, antibacterial wipes, tissues, and a combination brush and mirror case, all in travel size.

To explain (in order): sometime after lunch I WILL want to brush my teeth, and if I can’t, I’ll drive myself crazy. I may not need floss or a toothpick while in transit for days or even weeks, but if I need them one day and don’t have them, I’ll drive myself crazy sticking my tongue around my teeth and making funny sucking noises in public. If I get a headache, it won’t go away till I’ve taken aspirin. And sometimes my old football injury acts up, so I keep Aleve handy. (Actually, it’s my old cycling injury. It’s my knee, and Aleve works wonders.) I’m prone to catching colds, which means I’m also prone to getting sore throats. With the wisdom that comes from years of misery – uh, I mean experience – I’ve learned that if I start sucking on any variety of mentholyptus cough drops at the first sign of trouble, I save myself DAYS of grief. They taste awful, but they’re worth it.

I carry chewing gum (following Jean’s good example) because (as we know from the old Dentyne commercial) sometimes you’re in a place where you just can’t whip out your toothbrush. Blistex is a great lip salve, and tastes so awful it keeps me from chewing on my lips. I carry lipstick and foundation for the same reasons every other woman carries them.

The Vaseline Intensive Care might go untouched for a month, but if my hands are chapped or my face feels dry, and I don’t have it the moment I need it, I’ll drive myself crazy. Did you know you can refill the little portable tubes, so you don’t have to keep buying them? I keep a large container at home, and when the small tube is nearly empty, I unscrew the lid of the large container, cover the opening of the tube with the opening of the container, force all the air out of the tube, turn the container upside down (carefully!), then let the tube fill via suction. When the tube is almost full, turn the container back right-side up, and put the covers back. This is not only greener, it also saves the irritation of scouting the shops for the kind of lotion you want (speaking from frustrating experience) because it’s always at home in the economy size.

Antibacterial wipes are just a good thing to have around nowadays. I always carry tissues with me because I don’t want to be the person making nasty moose calls every 30 seconds, whom everyone casts disdainful sidelong glances at. I myself have been known to offer my pack of tissues to people who seem not to know that this modcon was invented more than 40 years ago. Not to mention, if you ever find yourself in a rest room, face to face with a cardboard tube and no toilet paper (remember Elaine in Seinfeld asking the person in the next stall "Can you spare a square?"), you'll pat yourself on the back for your foresight.

Lastly, I never go anywhere without my pocket mirror. I think the brush is nice from the design standpoint, but I don’t need it with the amount of hair I have. I have the mirror because many years ago I had, over the course of two years living in the boondocks of Japan, many occasions to bicycle through clouds of gnats, and several occasions to get a gnat in my eye. I wound up with several sties in my eyes from poking about blindly. After I got a pocket mirror, I could always find whatever was in my eye, and learned to scoop it out deftly with my knuckle (NOT my fingertip!). I haven’t had any sties since then. I don’t find the mirror very useful for applying lipstick, but I never worry about getting anything my eyes. (I’d drive myself crazy.)

Here you can see absolutely everything that was in the bag today.

Miscellaneous: If you look carefully (click on the photo for a larger view), you can see a grocery store receipt, several business cards collected over the course of a week (as well as the much sought after Idiosyncratic Fashionistas business cards), a ticket for Wishful Drinking (it was great!), a plastic fork wrapped in paper, and a number of cat food labels. The last two might not be self explanatory. Every week I take five forks to work with me, and every day I bring one home, wrapped in a paper napkin. Dismayed by the number of plastic utensils I received with my daily lunch, and how many I threw away, I saved a week’s worth, and now wash and reuse them. When I buy my lunch, my favorite take-out places know not to give me utensils. I carry the cat food labels with me everywhere because I can never remember what my cats deign to eat and can’t predict when I’ll go to the pet store where I buy their outrageously expensive food. (My two cats eat more meat than I do.) So I carry the labels, all stapled together, and refill the larder according to the labels. Heaven help me if my bag ever gets lost or stolen. I would get new credit cards in days, but it would take me months of trial and error to rebuild my list of foods the cats like. (I would drive myself – well, you know…)

Lastly, I should mention this fabulous little gadget that Jean brought back from one of her many jaunts. It's a Purse Brite light, something that most people can only get on television, and then only if they don't delay and pay shipping and handling fees. Jean, however, shops at all the right places, and gets things like these without ever having to go to to her phone or wait patiently for the mail to come. When you clip it on your bag, it allows you to see what's inside even in the dark, where I took this photo. A MARVELOUS idea, less than 2" x 1.5", and probably two ounces!

Jean says:

They say that "you can always tell a gentleman by his shoes, and a lady by her handbag." If that's true, I wonder what type of "lady" carries a handbag embossed with skull and crossbones, lightning bolts, crowns and hearts. My favorite bag by an LA company called Lounge Fly has all of those embellishments in black on black faux patent leather.

Valerie has a very Bauhaus approach to bags: "Less is more." In my opinion, however, size does matter! My favorite bag is large, to say the least, and wonderful! It holds everything I need for life in the big city. Since a "normal" work day can easily run 10 to 12 hours, I tote all the necessities for life away from home, with lots of room for add-ons for travel or special occasions (extra shoes, jewelry, hat, scarf and makeup) or bad weather (rain poncho and gloves). It is the "mother ship." On nights that I leave from the office to go to a museum or gallery opening or dinner, it is my launching pad. Many an evening's blast off starts in the belly of the beast, so to speak.

This picture illustrates not only the bag's spacious interior but also the #1 reason I could never own a really good bag (like a $7,000 genuine Hermes Kelly bag): the pet factor!! As a volunteer at an animal shelter and owner of DeeDee, a rescue cat, I am very aware that my bags exist in a high risk environment. DeeDee loves to chew the zipper pulls and climbs inside at every opportunity. Spending a lot of money on a bag that is subjected to mock (and real) attacks on a regular basis just tempts the hands of fate. In the photo, Ferret Beuller (courtesy of Social Tees Animal Rescue) tries my bag on for size.

The bag is from ENZ, a fabulous East Village store (2nd Avenue between 5th and 6th Streets) and was a 2008 Christmas present from designer Jodi Head. It has appeared numerous times in blog postings, most notably on September 13 (Fashion's Night Out with Norma Kamali), September 25 (Guggenheim Museum Kandinsky Show) and November 22, 2009 (Glenda Bailey at FIT with Isabel Toledo). Here's a bird's eye view of the contents of my bag today. (In the spirit of full disclosure, it does not contain my black SWAT poncho which I wore to brunch at B Bar, because the poncho is still drying out after an afternoon soaking!) Visible in the upper left are my black chenille gloves (one on top of the other).

Close-up of half of the contents (from the top) :B Bar chocolate, Lounge Fly logo chain, tiki bar drink parasol, extra batteries for camera, Ace plastic comb and "Gother than Thou" pin from an admirer. Pens include: yellow highlighter, Tide to Go instant stain remover pen, two plastic faux cigarette pens (for possible use in deco bakelite cigarette holders), Bic super-fine tip roller ball pen, black and white skull pencil, red enamel ballpoint pen (from my favorite stationery store in Milan) and computer flash drive (personalized with white-out polka dots for easy identification). The Tide pen comes from my inner Girl Scout: Although my largely black wardrobe is impervious to most stains, I often dine or travel with people wearing light colored clothing. Like some loony St. Bernard, I'm ready to spring into action after that inevitable spill, dropped olive, flying onion!

The Lounge Fly wallet has the same graphic black on black images as the bag, but on a smaller scale.

The interior contains three sets of pockets for stowing credit cards, driver's license, business cards, stamps, etc., two billfold compartments for cash and a checkbook, and a zippered compartment for change.

Autopsy (Bagtopsy?) Part II: From top left: Lounge Fly matching checkbook and wallet (a 2009 Christmas present from Jodi), inhaler, Walker brand black mesh makeup bag, black felt skull bag by Habla and Cannondale camera bag. From top right: Classic Hardware from Tokyo Boy black patent coin purse with red flying heart on silver metal heart chain (also from ENZ), Blackberrry in red rubber case, black cat mint tin (with hysterically funny little bone-shaped mints!), plastic business card case, Sniff leopard tissues and Missoni glasses case.

Here's a close-up of the the black felt zippered bag by Habla.

Contents of the Habla bag include change, nail clipper, scissors and commemorative pin.

Close up of Classic Hardware by Tokyo Boy coin purse. Although it is usually tethered to the outside of the mother ship, it often makes solo flights holding my cell phone and Metrocard.

Glimpse of interior and contents of Tokyo Boy bag: cash and keys.

Valerie and Jean say: Stick around, kiddies! In the near future, we'll tackle (no, not cackle) the issue of why we own and cannot part with many beautiful bags, purses, pocket books which we never (or rarely ever) use. Dear readers, do share your own take on handbags. Reveal your inner handbag tales.

Dee Dee interrupts the shot to pounce on both of the Lounge Fly bags, further proving my earlier point about the "cost to disaster ratio" (the higher the cost of the handbag, the more likely the risk of gnawing, clawing and scratching)!

While we're on the topic of wallets: Open yours! Social Tees Animal Rescue ( is located at 124 E. 4th St., NYC 10003 212-614-9653. Please keep your local animal shelters and pet rescues in mind for donating (money, food, litter, blankets, toys, leashes and collars), fostering, volunteering and adopting! In the weeks ahead in Haiti, as in the Katrina aftermath, after the human relief effort has kicked in, attention will turn to the animals - pets and livestock - who have also been subjected to the earthquake's fury. Keep all the victims, large and small, in your thoughts (and, if appropriate, your prayers) and in your charitable donations.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you on that war! No more bags with tons of stuffs we don't need... Altough i love oversize bags and i can't stop using them!