Letter From Milo: Bag Man

October 6th, 2019

A few years ago I started carrying a shoulder bag. I had been considering getting a shoulder bag for a long time, but there was something keeping me from getting one. That something was stupidity.

You see, I always thought that carrying a shoulder bag was an affectation, something a real man would never do. A shoulder bag, it seemed to me, was a sure sign of effeminacy. I mean, how much shit did a person have to haul around? You had your wallet, keys, cash, cigarettes and lighter, half pint of whiskey, extra-large, industrial strength condoms, and perhaps a concealed weapon, generally a straight razor or snub-nosed pistol.

All of those things could easily fit into the four pockets that traditionally come with a pair of pants in the Western World. Anything else was just extraneous bullshit.

But as time went on and life got more complicated, I found that four pockets were no longer enough to contain the things I had to carry around on a daily basis.

For example, when I got hired by Big Mike, the Barn Boss of the scabby, hygienically challenged crew that writes for The Third City, I had to start carrying notebooks and pens to write down the great thoughts that occur to me on a regular basis. And how was I supposed to haul around my paperback books, crossword puzzle books, sunglasses, vials of uppers and downers, bags of weed and other necessities of life? There was no way all of that crap could fit in my pockets.

As much as I hated to do it, it was time to get a shoulder bag.

The first bag I got was a funky old canvas bag that I found at a thrift shop on Roscoe Avenue. It cost about three bucks and served my purposes admirably. The problem was that it was an ugly old thing, covered with stains and falling apart at the seams. When my wife, the lovely Mrs. Milo, saw it she started laughing.

“Do think you could have gotten a nastier looking bag?”

“What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s covered with spaghetti stains.”

“I’ll throw it in the washer.”

“It stinks, too. Smells like a cat peed on it.”

“That should wash out, too.”

“Honey, you can’t wash out ugly.”

A few weeks later, Mrs. Milo came home and presented me with a brand new, black leather shoulder bag.

It was beautiful. The bag was made of deep, rich cowhide that shone like patent leather. It smelled like the interior of a brand new Buick Electra 225. It had shiny snaps and buckles and it was roomy enough to carry all of my essentials. Best of all, it was a manly looking bag. There was not a hint of effeminacy about it.

I’ve never cared about fashion. To quote the great Howlin’ Wolf, “I dress for comfort, baby, I don’t dress for speed.” I always considered people who made a fetish of fashion to be shallow, frivolous individuals. With so many problems in this world, with so many evils and injustices to contend with, spending time thinking about what to wear is a huge waste of time. Spending great amounts of money on clothes strikes me as the height of irresponsibility.

That said, my new shoulder bag affected me in ways I would never have imagined. I started paying more attention to what I wore. I started paying attention to what other people wore. And if I saw someone carrying a shoulder bag, I immediately compared it to mine. I wasn’t turning into a fop, by any means, but I will admit that the potential was there. I was becoming a changed person, a Milo 2.0.

But some things never change. The other day my youngest daughter asked if I had a pen. I told her to look in my shoulder bag. After looking through the bag, she asked:

“Dad, why do you carry that ugly knife in your bag?”

“Well, honey, “I explained, “if you ever need to cut somebody up, a knife is a good thing to have.”

“I see,” she said, nodding in understanding. “By the way, Dad, can I have some money? I need to buy some new clothes.”

“Sure, sweetie. That’s money well spent. How much do you need?”

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