There’s something about bags that gets me. It might be that I have an addiction or fetish, but I think it’s really just that I like to carry stuff, and I’m fascinated with all the different modes and manners in which this can be done. In almost any context, it’s a good bet that I’ll be carrying something on my back or over my shoulder, so I suppose it’s no wonder that I’m excited by containers and compartments, straps and buckles.


Just this weekend I received my new favorite-bag-ever. I just spent an hour loading it with more than I should be carrying, arranging the pens into the back pockets and the laptop into the padded sleeve. The magnetic closures give a delightful clap as the tweed cover drapes the main opening and the two parallel compartments that hold my journal on one side, odds and ends in the other. It stands upright on a squared footprint. Mesh pockets on either side are big enough for my coffee thermos or, as it’s now displaying for me, the collection of plastic test tubes and pipettes that I need to bring back to the classroom. The strap lengthens and tightens with the pull of fob right at my chest. It’s made in a little shop in San Francisco, built to order.

As I write even this much, I realize that I don’t really have the way I’d hoped to express my love for these things. “Look, it has pockets!” I tell you. And you’d rightly point out to me that this feature is just like any of my other bags. The leather satchel I carry around campus; the black lumbar pack* I take on take hikes or skiing; the form fitting backpack I’ll take on longer outings or occasionally to school; the other messenger bags I’ve had over the years; the lightweight backpack for shorter trips or carrying extra gear; the expedition backpack that fits like a glove, even with 60 pounds of food and gear. And there are others I’m forgetting or simply not counting. And even then I’ll still walk through the aisles at a favorite gear store and inspect this year’s new models of daypacks, briefcases, and the like. When we wondered whether to have children I’m not sure that I didn’t factor into the decision the idea that I’d need a new way to carry gear — and I was especially delighted about the backpack that carried the kids themselves. I loved that thing, dearly, and kids could go along on long walks, hikes, and snowshoe outings, secured to my shoulders and hips.

The therapist might find this all to be groundbreaking information. This could all be a peek into my innermost psyche. Why the need to carry so much? Why does he need to delight in finding the right compartments for the odds and ends? What’s the story with all the bags for all the different occasions — couldn’t he use the daypack in lieu of either a messenger bag, briefcase, or smaller lumbar pack? I wish I could tell you that any of this meant something. Perhaps I like the control, the ability to keep things close at hand and securely contained. Maybe I like to displace psychological weight with physical weight. Or, maybe I just love to be able to be so mobile, or to have a different bag for each different identity, or to feel prepared for every possible scenario. Maybe none of these or all of them. Probably, though, I just like bags in the way that someone else likes shoes or yarn or those little pewter things that sit in need of dusting on your shelves. We all have these fetishes. It just so happens that I can carry all of yours within mine.


* “Lumbar pack” is the appropriate name for it. You might call it a “fanny pack,” but this would be entirely inappropriate. Of course, that’s what the rest of my family calls it, even as I carry their snacks and first aide.


2 thoughts on “baggage

  1. It could be that you are a crass materialist, desperately filling holes in your psyche with increasingly fancier bags. Frank Turner, as you may recall, had a deeply seated reason for loving bags. If it’s a sickness, you are in good company:

    Ever since my childhood I’ve been scared I’ve been afraid
    Of being trapped by circumstance and staying in one place
    So I always keep a small bag full of clothes carefully stored
    Somewhere secret somewhere safe
    And somewhere close to the door.

  2. I’m pleased to be in such good company… but then there’s the potentially disturbing image of needing so many multiple bags in order to find escape from multiple lives I may feel trapped within. Instead, I’ll couch this as a readiness for anything, a backpack with tent and camping stove in one corner, a briefcase with laptop and journal in another. “The horizon is my home,” as Frank suggests, but so is the space within the little stucco house, or a classroom, or …

    (Particularly good performance of this song — thanks for sharing.)

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