October weather arrived right on time in New York yesterday, with all of its attendant rain and gloom. And so I went digging in the closet for the most weatherproof bag I could find to transport my laptop around the corner to the cafe where I sometimes go to write, and came up with this Sandqvist messenger bag, which I purchased right before I went to Europe in June. I hadn’t used it since I’d returned home, and the interior was a nice little trip back in time: various denominations of Euros and big red tablets of French aspirin littered the bottom of the bag, along with the boarding pass for my flight home, and a card from the Paris boutique L’Ecalaireur that I’d saved because the logo was so cool. (Don’t you kind of love when you grab a bag you haven’t used in ages and encounter a mini-time capsule when you open it? Ticket stubs from a movie you went to on a first date? A lipstick you’d loved and lost? A wedding shower invitation for a close friend currently in couple’s therapy? Even just a half-consumed, long-forgotten container of Tic-Tacs can send me into a torpor of nostalgia.)
I love this Sandqvist bag—and not only because it got me through the trip so well, working not only as an excellent carry-on, but as my daily schlep-around-the-city carryall. But also because it reminded me of the Danish Schoolbags that my college roommate Margaret—and all the other cool private school girls from New York —showed up with my freshman year at Oberlin. It had exterior pockets and a big outside zipper that made it expandable enough to carry all of one’s books. Suddenly my backpack—which was standard issue for the kids at my hippie-preppy New England boarding school—felt shamefully uncool. The Danish Schoolbag wasn’t insanely expensive—like $90 if I recall correctly—but the status it conferred was sterling. The first morning of my first fall break in the city, I took off like a shot to Chocolate Soup, the (long gone) Upper East Side children’s store that had the city’s Danish Schoolbag monopoly. I bought a blue one and carried it until it was worn into the ground.
You can not find Danish Schoolbags anywhere anymore,* and they are mourned by many (here is a very sweet piece that ran in the LA times in 2002). And yet they still appear to be produced. It’s all quite puzzling. I tracked down the Dutch company that makes them to look into the matter, but I’m keeping my expectations well-managed. And also considering whether what I miss most might not actually be the bag, but 1983.
••There is an American Danish Souperbag website but it isn’t official and is, sadly, somewhat of a boondoggle.
UPDATE! UPDATE! UPDATE! Commenter heathmitch has tracked down a store in Germany called Scandinavian Objects that sells Danish Schoolbags in black and grey. This is very exciting. I have the best commenters.
UPDATE OF THE UPDATE: Scandinavian Objects is sold out. We soldier on.