For almost every day for the past eleven years, I’ve carried the same, large leather bag. It has accompanied me to 14 countries, crossing borders, oceans, continents, and times zones. My constant companion, weathering the love and loss of friends and lovers, it looks no worse for wear.
When I recently met an ex-fiancé for coffee, the first words out of his mouth were: “Are you still carrying that bag?”
“Yep!” I replied. “It has proven to be a much better investment than most boyfriends, and it has certainly lasted longer!”
Eleven years ago I was young and broke in New York City. Lauren, my street-savvy friend from the Upper Eastside took to me to Greenwich where we chanced upon a leather bag store: The Village Tannery. The place smelled of leather and oil and tannins. Bags of all sizes, shapes, and colors hung from the ceiling.
I fell head-over-heels in love with one of the large, leather bags. This bag was exactly how I liked my men: strong, durable, flexible, classy, and able to withstand the hard knocks of life. Plus, it had a lifetime guarantee: what more could a gal ask? But, it was too expensive for an underpaid English teacher. Lauren whispered in my ear (like one of the Bad Idea Bears who tries to convince people to do irresponsible things) “Charge it! You won’t regret it!”.
So I did. That purchase, made over eleven years ago, turned out to be a great investment. My big, leather bag has served as a pillow in airport waiting lounges, a foot rest in trans-continental flights, and a carrier of documents, insect spray, laptops, passports, lipstick, owl talons, flashlights, tent pegs, antique jewelry, journals, and research papers.
Over the years, strangers on planes, trains, and buses have asked me where I got my fab bag. Business men, matrons with bad perms, bohemian teens, and art gallery owners have complemented me on the leather, briefcase-esque bag slung over my shoulder.
Imagine my horror when I realized my beloved, faithful bag (the one that has withstood the monsoon rains, the Southeast Asian sea air, the frigid temperatures of the Andes and Prague, and the tropical sun of the Amazon) was starting to fall apart . The stitching was frayed, the leather around the brass buckle was worn thin, and the corners were in danger of splitting open.
My bag needed a makeover, so after googling the shop to see if it still existed, Miss Mary Mac and I took the subway from Manhatten to Greenwich Village.
It was just as I remembered it: a small shop, still smelling of leather, oils, and tannins, and still offering a grand selection of leather bags. Sehmi, the shopkeeper, gave us cups of hot, Turkish tea. He sent my bag over to the nearby workshop off of Broadway and Great Jones to be re-stitched. It came back, good as new, and ready for another eleven years.
If you ever get to Greenwich Village, stop by the Village Tannery on Bleecker Street for a fine selection of leather bags, great service, and a product that lasts longer than most modern relationships.
(photos by shamash)