In the midst of a conversation with a friend the other day, I got to thinking
about baggage. The conversation dealt strictly with emotional and psychological
baggage, but I began to wonder about physical things as well.
Baggage, as a pseudo-clinical term, is fraught with negative connotations.
But is it necessarily bad? I know my physical baggage has lots of emotional
baggage attached (and without a weight penalty at customs), but is it uniformly
positive or negative?
What can you learn about a person from what he carries daily?
I don't know that you can learn anything. But I'm curious, and so I decided
to make a list of the things that, on any given day or today specifically,
will be found with me.
Pipe case, blue ripstop nylon with black trim, made by Russell
Scottish Imports, sold to me by Celtworks two summers ago. A lovely
semi-hard case for my pipes. It's got padding and pockets and a shoulder
strap, and I love it.
- Assorted clothing to fit the weather and purpose of the day,
- Timex Expedition Combo watch, on the left wrist, pointed up, the
way that nurses don't wear them.
- A tin of Burt's Bees beeswax lip balm, which is fantabulous and you
should use it.
- Napiershall keys (3). One for each of door to the close, door
to the flat, and door to the bikeshed, so I can store my nonexistent bike.
Came with a blue-and-teal Miller Homes keychain, which reads "the place to be"
on the back.
- Part of a Swat keychain, from freshman orientation when my parents
bought it for me. It's the one with the clip that unhooks and goes around
your neck. The neck bit is at home in a box, but the smaller keychain is
here. Oddly, even though I kept it in my pocket, I left the neck part on for
more than two years at Swat.
- Lockback pocket knife, made by Imperial. Purchased as soon as my
parents said I was old enough, for about $12 Canadian, from a J.A. Henckels
shop in the Centre Rideau in Ottawa, Ontario. It's been lost several times
but has, thus far, always come home to me.
- A bandana, currently turquoise, folded in my back pocket for wiping
sweat from my brow. The first bandana to fill this role was a gift from
Kyla, when we were still dating; I keep it still. This one's new, though.
- Wallet, purple, made by Rainbow of California. Purchased when I was
about 10, from the St. Lawrence University Bookstore. Either the first or
second wallet I ever bought. The first was a leather one, from The Leather
Artisan in Childwold, NY. I was afraid of hurting it, and it was a bit too
big for my pockets. The current wallet is purple and black ballistic and
ripstop nylon, though it's been used for so long that the ripstop nylon is
beginning to fray through.
International Youth Travel Card, with an interesting photo of me.
- Global Reach ID, as required by the Watson Foundation.
- NY Government Employee Benefit Card, now defunct.
- Nectar loyalty card for Sainsbury's here in Glasgow.
- Swarthmore College ID, my second one. The first snapped in half
when a Public Safety officer punched a hole through it to let me into the
darkroom. But the officer did it poorly, and the hole intersected the edge of
the card. It snapped soon after, during my freshman year, and I received the
current card. Tattered, torn, but well loved.
- Assorted business cards
- Assorted debit and credit cards
- NY driver license, the newer one, that says I'm 21+ and doesn't have
the shaggy picture of me.
- Glasgow Subway 20-journey pass, 18 journeys remaining.
- Psalm 91, printed on a sheet of paper. This entered my wallet during
my senior year of high school, when I was doing independent research on
pyrotechnics. Pyrotechnics tends to inspire religious devotion among its
practitioners, because the compositions are quite dangerous even when handled
correctly, and perfect technique does not guarantee safety. One of the authors
I read wrote that the pyrotechnics company for which he worked included a print
copy of Psalm 91 in every box of fireworks they shipped, and that each worker
carried it while on the job. At the time of writing, they were among the few
pyrotechnics shops to have had no on-the-job accidents. It seemed like a good
idea, and I've kept it there since.
- Thomas J. Watson Foundation ID, with a semi-horrid picture of me.
This ID is also slightly too large, which is unfortunate because it doesn't
fit well in the wallet.
- Random scraps of paper with phone numbers and contact info. One is
for my grandparents; another from a trip Eliz and I made to NYC when she was
- Fortunes from fortune cookies. For some reason, I obsessively
save fortune cookies fortunes, and any given glance through my wallet turns
up a few.
- Icelandair loyalty card from my first trip to Scotland.
- £37.11 in UK pounds
Backpack, L.L. Bean, navy blue. Old, battered, beaten, but
indomitable. Sometimes with me, sometimes not. It has stuff in it that I
won't catalog right now.
- My plastic paper-protector strappy thing, containing: band music;
solo music; half-finished letters to several people; photos of friends, family,
and loved ones; Watson information packets; blank paper and envelopes.
- My paper diary and ubiquitous pencil. I rarely write with pens
unless I'm writing a letter or an archival note.
- Blue plastic tag from the Travel Safety Administration showing that
my duffel bag was inspected for drugs, sex, rock and roll, and other threats
to national security when I checked it at Syracuse International Airport on
14 August 2003.
- Musician's ear plugs, specially made and fitted to my ear canals.
They're flatfall filters, which are neato and give the same sound balance as
unimpeded hearing, but with less sound pressure. Normal (inexpensive) earplugs
attenuate high frequencies a lot more, which makes tuning an instrument
- Rubber stoppers for bag stocks and drone bells.
- Chanter rubbers. And you thought bagpipers never had any fun.
Soft rubber tubing to go over your blowstick to keep your teeth from digging
in (and you thought bagpipers never had any fun. Our rubber-covered blowsticks
are great fun, thank you. Pipers in Scotland are a much more bawdy lot than
the ones at home.)
- Fine-tip Sharpie
- Assorted knives for reed maintenance, general dastardly deed-doing,
- Boxes of chanter reeds. Chanter reeds are like people you might
want to date. To quote a friend, "you've got to kiss a lot of toads to find a
- Three different kinds of a hemp: plain, yellow waxed, and black
waxed. Between these, the knives, the reed mandrel, and the chanter rubbers,
I'm surprised they let me into the country, even though they were checked in
- Practice chanter. An old friend. Given to me by someone, probably
my parents, as part of a "Learn To Play The Bagpipe" kit. Also included
Bob Shepherd's (rather terrible) tutor book. But then, people selling
self-tutor books are perpetrating crimes against their buyers anyway. Maybe
self-teaching works for people who are smarter than I am. But the chanter's a
fine long Dunbar-Eller polypenco, an early model from the days when Jack
Dunbar and Ken Eller were still business partners. It amused me that I later
bought a set of Dunbar pipes.
- Bagpipes, made by Jack Dunbar of St. Catharines Ontario. Polypenco
mounted with nickel and imitation ivory. I should have saved my money and
gotten a set of blackwood pipes, in retrospect. On the other hand, many things
would have been different had I done so. Things are okay now--maybe I made
the right choice. I got my pipes a year earlier than I could have afforded
blackwood pipes. Currently I've got a Ross canister bag tied on; I'm playing
a Megarity-Ross chanter reed and Achiltibuie drone reeds.
- Raincoat, green, from EMS.
- Nalgene bottle, turquoise. I got it before they became all the
rage--sniff--on the way to Pinewoods dance camp my sophomore year of college.
It's been to basically every gig I've played since then, and a lot of other
- Chamois cloth, a big yellow. Padding and scratch-preventer for
What does this say about me, other than the obvious things like "American",
"plays bagpipes", or "has too much spare time for writing"? Do write to me and