Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bag Lady

I got a new purse.

If this seems like non-news to you, then you probably don't know me in real life. I got a new purse. It's epic. This is it:

By Kipling USA via Zappos

OK, OK, Martha, it's really a bag and not a purse. Fine. I'm fine with that. And I definitely got rid of that stupid gorilla immediately (Maggie loves it). I get that the monkey is probably an indication that this purse bag is being marketed to preteens and not 40-year-old women, and I'm fine with that, too. It's a little smaller than what I'm used to, but it works. And, most importantly, it is an actual, legit purse bag. Aww, I'm growing up. (Sort of. There was a monkey on my purse bag.)

I see you scratching your head about this. Why am I writing an entire post about this perfectly normal, not particularly amazing purse bag? Well, because I haven't actually carried anything that so closely resembled a purse in more than a decade! Can you believe that?! Weird. I'm weird, I know. I'm fine with that, too.

I have carried a City Lights Bookstore book bag as a purse for the last fourteen years. Fourteen years.

Just like this one.

Back in the summer of 1999 (2000? Memory does not serve, that's how long it's been), I was (still, again) in college and my parents took me and my brother to San Francisco on a family vacation. We OF COURSE went to the City Lights Bookstore, and I bought what would become the first in a string of black canvas book bags.

City Lights was opened in 1953 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a beat poet and small publisher. He and the store gained huge fame in 1957 after the City Lights Publishers Pocket Poets Series published Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems and became embroiled in an obscenity case. The case was precedent-setting as Ferlinghetti was exonerated and the court decreed that any work with "the slightest redeeming social importance" should be protected under the First Amendment's free speech clause.

In the 50s, the Beats hung out at City Lights, and later, many of the primary characters of San Francisco's counterculture used the bookstore as a gathering place.

Bob Donlin, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Lavigne, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1955.
Photo by Peter Orlovsky, c/o Allen Ginsberg's estate.

Beats and other artists at City Lights in 1965,

Robbie Roberston, Michael McClure, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg at City Lights, 1965

When my purse was stolen from the university library and recovered in a nearby ditch, it was that City Lights bag (I was more glad to get the bag back than my wallet. The money and bank card were gone anyway). When I was a school teacher in Oklahoma, I carried that bag. When we moved to Boston - well maybe by then I was on the second, replacement bag after the first one faded and got holes in the bottom corners. When the girls were babies, I carried extra wipes and diapers and then extra pairs of underpants in the third replacement bag. When the straps broke from the abuse, I just used a safety pin to hold them together - so punk rock!

But the third bag has finally reached the point of looking like it belongs to a homeless person. It's been safety pinned twice and the holes are getting too big to hold in all the gum, loose change, and random hair barrettes in the bottom of my bag. It is, truly, beat.

Perhaps it's time to move on. I have grey hairs and children and a mortgage. I probably should at least have a bag with a zipper instead of a Velcro strip to close it. Maybe I'm fooling myself and my safety pin is more pitiful than punk. Can you be too old to be punk? I don't know, let's ask Iggy Pop. He, too, is looking pretty gnarly lately.

So, I got online and bought myself a purse bag. I have mixed feelings about it. But you know what? I'm not the only one. For Mothers' Day, Mike ordered me another City Lights book bag online. He says it's part of me and it just doesn't feel right for me to not have one, even if I don't carry it all the time. I think he's just glad I'm not the kind of woman who needs a closet full of pricey Coach bags. He says I can have all the Converse and book bags I want!

It's heaven to be married to someone who gets you.

Can I be anti-consumer culture and still want to buy this shirt?


  1. "It is, truly, beat." Best. Line. Ever.

  2. Sorry, Mom. I was trying to delete a spam comment when I accidentally deleted yours, and now I can't get it back. But you're right, Martha, I think it was me who originally referred to it as a "handbag." :)

  3. Its a got a purse/bag. And actually, I want that t-shirt too.


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