Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In my bag

A few days ago, I cleaned out my bag.

The back pack I carry is especially large and heavy, stuffed with 25 lbs. worth of paper, CDs, movies, books, a shirt-maybe, my laptop, about 40 receipts for coffee and water, pens, etc. It all seems necessary. I have lengths to travel during the day, and it's impossible for me to make a quick trip home to retrieve any forgotten materials.

The unfortunate side effect is that my bag becomes a repository for any piece of refuse I can't readily find a place for (Hence the 40 receipts for coffee and water.). With clutter comes paranoia. Scraps of paper, bottles, envelopes tucked into regions unseen. What's lurking in there that I forgot about?

No matter how I might try, though, I still go through periods of insane mess when busy or tired...all the usual obstacles to enjoying a clutter free life. (That's never going to happen, is it? The Clutter Free Life? We can try and hide the clutter, organize it to stacks and boxes, toss out coupons from 4 years ago, trash treasures found on the sidewalk that we were convinced we'd "make into art". It will never go away. There will always be more coupons. More precious treasures. And we will continue to drive ourselves into a frenzy over whether or not we can contain it all. But there is healthy clutter to be had. It's when the stacks of newspapers threaten to crush you that you should call Oprah or some other celebrity make-over super hero.)

So, a couple of days ago, I took a few minutes to clear out the refuse, most of which, found its way into the garbage. Three items, however, came out, and then went right back in.

1. A set of fused-at-the-bottom fast food chopsticks. I keep these with me in case I ever want to eat Pan-Asian take out, but haven't got the utensils. (Come to think of it, it doesn't even have to be Pan-Asian at all, does it. Any take out will do, really. I wonder why we feel compelled to eat with chopsticks only when consuming Pad Thai or Lard Nar. I love chopsticks. Maybe I'll give way to using them when I get a burrito or pizza next time.)

Doesn't having the option of chopsticks make carry out more of a treat and less of a foray into unsatisfying pseudo-food?

2. A copy of The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker. This is embarrassing. I've had this book in my bag for about 6 years. Literally, 6 years. My friend NotNits loaned it to me, knowing how I'd enjoy it. He was right. I love this book. The problem is that reading it is like being trapped in my own friggin' mind. It goes off on parentheticals and footnotes, which send my inner voice into a tailspin of tangential thought and contemplation. I'd probably get through the BIBLE faster than this thing.

Oh, and it's 133 pages.

But now it's a real issue. 6 years, man. It has gone beyond a mere book, at this point, and has evolved into a Magic Feather. The Mezzanine has been with me on every flight over the last 6 years.Magical Thinking takes over my brain when faced with air travel...I KNOW the second I leave this book at home, the giant aluminum bird will come crashing down to Earth.

It has made it, dog-eared and worn with the laminant curling up at the edges of the cover, into every new bag I move on to. At one point I made the joke to NotNits that the day I give him back this book, our friendship will be over.

Now, I secretly believe that to be the case.

Sorry, NotNits. You're not getting this book back. You probably knew that already.

3. A human finger bone. When traveling on their honeymoon, my friends S. and V. went to a place that sold and displayed human bones.

They thought of me and brought one back. I was not disturbed, but delighted.

At one point, I thought I had lost it. It was gone for over a year, when - quite by accident - I found it under a bunch of towels in a trunk.

I won't ever be without it again.

To this day it is one of the best presents I have ever been given.


NotNits said...

I will break expectations by commenting on #1.

In an effort to be environmentally decent, I have taken to keeping a bunch of plastic utensils in my office. But there is no kitchen sink on the 14th floor, so I have to wash them in the bathroom with hand soap and my fingers, which feels kind of dumb. I haven't been able to get myself to wash more than one at a time for weeks.

So I've had a bunch of dirty plastic forks bristling out of a dirty coffee cup on my desk.

I took them home yesterday to wash them, thinking it would be easier to do it with an actual sponge and actual dishwashing liquid in the comfort of my kitchen. As of right now, they remain in my sink.

Today I got some Asian noodles for lunch and didn't bother taking a plastic fork from the restaurant. "Surely," I thought, "surely I left a single clean plastic fork in my office. Right?"

I hadn't. So now I had forkable food and no forks, dirty or otherwise.

I pawed through some drawers in hopes of finding a stray one, but there wasn't one to be had.

But what's this?

Chopsticks. Unused in their paper sleeve, splintery conjoined twins ready to save the day. I must have tossed them into a drawer with the misguided optimism that someday I would find myself in need of them

But do you know what?

That optimism was not misguided after all. Not a jot.

Long story short, give me back that fucking book.

-j-j- said...


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