December 16, 2001

The Contents of My Bag

my bag
photo: Pamela Cobb

Four general points before we begin:

  1. I bring my bag everywhere, without exception. Too many times I’ve left it behind and regretted the decision. An ancillary advantage to this policy is that I never need wonder if I should bring my bag on any particular occasion; the answer is always yes.
  2. In contrast with my girlfriend, who only carries what she thinks she will need on a given excursion, I always carry the same items, all of which pass a certain informal test for combined usefulness and compactness.
  3. I am a practical person concerned with practical matters. Everything in my bag is there for a practical reason.
  4. My bag is insanely sexy.

Inner Front Mesh Pocket

Bee sting kit

My father, a pharmacist, once warned me that I would die if I was ever stung by a bee and didn’t receive medical attention in twenty-four hours. Crazy as this sounds, it’s probably true, since the one time I was stung, my arm expanded to twice its size, my eyes watered like mad, and I struggled to breath. Scary stuff.

Swiss Army knife

What am I going to do the next time I fly? In the past I’ve always carried my Swiss Army knife onto the plane as a result of carrying my bag onto the plane. Post 9/11, this is no longer possible.

Rachel’s keys

We’ve been together nearly eight months, and the apartment key exchange happened at about the four-month mark. However I still prefer ringing her buzzer and having her come downstairs to let me in, since this is less intrusive.

Work key

Although I only work there one day a week, I was given an office key. I haven’t actually used it yet, except for the time I was the last one to leave and realized in the hall that I had forgotten my sweater.

Pen Slot

Two pens

It’s maddening how these Uniball 2mm pens, which I otherwise love, run out of ink in the exact amount of time established by the fuckers at Sanford as the shortest amount of time a pen will last and still not seem like a total rip-off.

Yellow highlighter

Highlighters should be yellow. Other colors are wrong.

Inner Front Compartment

Small collapsible umbrella

Given to me by my mother, who I have hurt again and again for not liking or not using (and in fact often discarding) her gifts.

Water bottle

The heaviest item in the bag, but well worth it. It not only saves me from buying bottled water but ensures I have something to drink on the subway.

Two canvas shopping bags

Given to me by my ex-girlfriend, who bought them in Germany for something like fifty cents each. Never fails to impress the cashiers at Prana Foods.

Main Compartment

Current issue of TimeOut

The only publication I subscribe to. Finding a weekly magazine with comprehensive, well-organized movie listings transformed my experience of living in New York.

8.5″ by 11″ notepad in plastic notepad holder

I purchased the notepad holder, if that’s what it’s called, at Staples. I hate the cover, which is over-designed, but I love how light and sturdy it is.

Front Flap Pocket

Two zip disks

One PC, one Mac. Be prepared.

One floppy disk

Formatted for PC, since this works on both platforms.


No money here; I keep that in the front left pocket of my pants (right front pocket is for credit card, driver’s license, and subway pass). Wallet instead holds business cards along with various membership cards and IDs. Also, in a little zippered compartment intended for coins, a fingernail clipper.

Work ID

Worn on a chain around my neck. Nuff said.


I keep checks to deposit under the top flap, folded. Whenever I withdraw money, I look there to see if there are any checks to deposit. This eliminates having to think about going to the bank to deposit checks. Most of my systems exist to save me from having to think about something. I am a lunatic.



Yellow = outside downstairs (think: caution, you may be mugged)
Blue = inside downstairs (think: freedom, you were not mugged)
Green = apartment (think: growth, prosperity)
Red = bathroom (think: emergency)

Back Pocket

NYC subway map

I love this map, not only because it shows the entire New York subway system but because it’s laminated. Everything precious should be laminated.

Assorted maps and schedules

Manhattan and Brooklyn bus schedules. New York street map. Philadelphia commuter train timetable (my mom lives in Philadelphia).

5″ by 7″ three-ring binder

Address book info (name, address, phone number) printed from a Word Doc; print-out of email addresses; list of all the places I’ve ever lived; in back flop, soft cloth for cleaning glasses.

The Loser, by Thomas Bernhard

The only book I read. I am a lunatic.

Secret Hidden Inner Front Pocket

Rolling papers

A godsend when needed.


An assortment of male and female types. The female type, in case you haven’t tried or don’t know, fit into a woman the way a trash can liner fits into a trash can (no offense meant, truly), particularly in how the open end, which has a flexible ring embedded in it, encircles the outside of the rim.