My grandfather was a sharp dresser. He would go to court or his law office in off-white linen suits and a hat, and when he came home for his lunch and “siesta” he would pen notes in flowing handwriting at his desk, using one of several incredible fountain pens. See Lolo’s penmanship in this 50 year old passport. He also had a pretty cool leather attache case, if I recall correctly. And several flip top pocket watches on chains. My father was far less adept in the clothing department, but he kept up the tradition of fountain pens and beautiful penmanship. He also seemed to have a fantastic selection of small leather goods — agendas, notepads, billfolds or wallets and an insanely large collection of attache cases. So maybe you could say this affinity for the finer things is somewhat genetic. While I don’t wear linen suits these days, I have a huge number of linen shirts ad pants, several panama hats (that aren’t worn as much as they should be), a few nice pens, and a lot of small leather accessories.
When we go on family vacations, or extended trips, the small leather goods almost always come along for the journey. They are very well travelled doodads. If you are an animal activist and upset by exotic skins, leave this post now! So what are you likely to find in Marketman’s carry on bag? The large dark green zippered leather travel organizer on the left holds tickets, airline frequent flier cards and currency. On top of it, a blue ostrich skin passport cover keeps my three stapled passports together. To the right, my favorite notepad on which I jot travel expenses and keep track of remaining funds. It was a birthday present from Mrs. MM over 10 years ago and sports a dark blue leather outer cover with green stitching and inside, the leather is green. Despite dozens and dozens of trips, it still looks as good as new. I got Mrs. MM the same notepad with different colors of leather and she loves it too. On top of that in a light shade of blue is a leather picture frame, also a gift from Mrs. MM. It has a picture of her and one of the Teen, and they come with me everywhere. This was particularly wonderful when I used to travel for weeks on end for work. To the right of those pieces, is a medium-sized orange leather cover that houses cheap but functional notebooks from Muji or other paper suppliers. I tend to use one notebook for each trip to jot down notes for the blog and future food experiments. When I get home, I then have the notes in one place, though I have to admit I am less organized than that makes it sound. I often forget to jot notes for days on end! On top of that, a smaller black wallet in lizard skin. I only take essential cards and identification on long trips so I don’t need a large wallet. Below that in the photo is a long black leather chequebook case. On top of that, another notepad and credit card/calling card case in dark green crocodile from Florence, a Father’s Day gift three years ago from Mrs. MM and the Teen. Crocodile leather is the pinnacle of exotic skins for me, and I don’t fret because they are farm raised. To the right is another, bulkier notebook or sketch pad. On super long trips I bring both the orange notebook and this one. This one is in dark blue and with very supple thin leather, smooth on the outside and suede finish on the inside. The sketch pad is made of almost onion skin thin paper and I like to jot recipes, notes, etc. on that as well. Finally, on top of that, a nearly 20 year old dark caramel colored lizard skin pen case from Paris which protects a fountain pen that my mom gave me as a graduation present from college nearly 25 years ago… Just in case you haven’t started flailing your arms in the air screeching about political incorrectness, I also have tucked away somewhere a deerskin wallet (SO supple), pigskin cufflinks cases, shagreen watch boxes, etc. :)
Also in my hand carry bag are the following: several clear plastic folders that neatly organize travel itineraries, hotel reservations, email confirmations, etc. An international driver’s license. Sunglasses, don’t forget the sunglasses. A recent issue of Saveur, this one “The Market Issue” — can’t get more appropriate than that. My spicy sampaloc and champoy are also a must. A zip up case to stuff all of the receipts and paperwork as the trip progresses. And a brainless paperback novel for long legs of transpacific or transatlantic flights. Not pictured, but also essential are my camera, laptop, tape measure and cut out shapes of people’s feet who have made bilin shoes… :)
Finally, I am probably one of the last holdouts for a non-wheeled carry-on bag… Despite the weight and bother required to go long trips while lugging some 12+ pounds of hand carried baggage around, I still prefer my old-fashioned style bag to the new-fangled, retractable-handled, multi- wheeled monstrosities that are extremely common these days. No offense to the practical readers/travelers among you, but this is just my personal opinion. Oh, and a note on extravagance, luxury and durability. Unlike cellphones, ipods and laptops today that have a built-in obsolescence of about 2 years, my leather goods above will easily last 15+ years on average. They represent a dying breed of craftsmanship, fine materials, supple hand-feel that modern day gadgets (even the stunning looking new iphone4) just don’t possess for me. And better yet, each one has a memorable story of where it was acquired, who gave it as a present, and which places on the planet it has managed to visit. I hope the Teen will carry on the family “tradition” for such essential non-essentials… :)