Her Ladyship

Notes from the gutter.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Back in the saddle(bag) again

When I went to grad school in Italy, it was my first time traveling abroad. I was very worried about standing out as an American so I made sure to get the most sedate, boring Jansport backpack I could find. I shouldn't have bothered - Italians at that point were in lurrrve with Invicta backpacks, which came in every fluorescent color of the rainbow.  So if you couldn't blind people with your backpack, you clearly weren't Italian.

During spring break of the year I was in Italy, I had some friends come visit me from the States.  We traveled up and down Italy and managed to make it to Florence on the weekend when its leather market was open. Florence's leather market is spectacular, and I think every student in my program bought at least one or two things from there. We all saw the drill about how you can tell a good piece of leather (doesn't scratch easily, can be lit with a flame and not burn) and bought into the hype.  So when my backpack exploded while crossing the Tiber River in Rome a few days before we were in Florence, I thought - score, I'll buy a new bag in Florence and it will be my grown-up bag. After much, much, much shopping and agonizing, I bought a black saddlebag that cost me the princely sum of $100 (hey, for a student, it was a lot of money). I justified it with the excuse that I would use it for years.

Boy, did I. I stuffed that poor bag full and kept ripping the shoulder strap out and bursting the bottom seams, but I kept getting it fixed and resewn.  Finally, I knew that the end was nigh when the fixes wouldn't last and when the bag was so beat up that the repair person thought it started off life as a brown bag.  This was after 15 years of love and abuse.  I still couldn't bear to part with the bag so I stowed in my closet in the hopes that technology will advance at some point in the future to where it can be revived. 

I thought, okay, maybe this can be my thing: I'll buy a bag when I go overseas and it will be a nice souvenir and an unusual bag.  Imagine my excitement when I found out in India that Agra is known for its leather goods; imagine my frustration when I found that out the day after I'd been in Agra and was in Jaipur instead. Still, my tour guide gamely took me to a bag shop where I had the option of looking at an elephant ear bag (the salesguy assured me that elephants were sacred and so the one who donated the leather for my bag had died of natural causes). I ended up getting one made out of camel, which I'm sure also died of natural causes, ahem. 

It was a beautiful bag but weird in that it repelled zipper heads. Like, literally. I would get them replaced and within 24 hours, they would spring themselves free without anyone touching them.  After having spent probably the equivalent of the bag on zipper heads, I decided that perhaps that bag wasn't working out.

So I bought another bag on another trip. This time, this was during a trip to Japan and I bought a purple pleather Hello Kitty purse.  It was fabulous because it looked like it was an imprinted Chanel bag but when you got close, it was printed with Hello Kitty's.  I got more compliments on that bag.  Unfortunately, pleather doesn't have a hugely long lifespan. I took it to my repair guy who threw his hands up at the thought of working on pleather. I begged him to do what he could and he did with the caveat that the bag was on its last legs. It made it two more months and then died, again, spectacularly (sensing a trend here?) while on a trip to Korea this spring.

At that point, I added up what I'd spent on bags in the two years since retiring my Italian saddlebag and decided enough was enough.  I would just suck it up, spend the money to get a really good quality bag, and that way it would last for years and years without my having to invest more money into it. The Texan found me a gorgeous bag online from a group that promised a 100-year warranty.  We ordered it, it arrived and was even more beautiful and sturdier than we'd thought, and I set off happily using it, safe under the assumption that this bag was guaranteed for 100 years so there was very little I could do to harm it. It had no moving parts (like zippers or snaps) and was double-stitched. 

Of course, you know where this is going.  Within one month of receiving that bag, I'd managed to somehow pop a rivet.  The company gamely agreed to fix it for free and even paid for shipping. It came back from the shop this week and I've been using it but am a little less confident in its ability to last 100 years. We shall see. 


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