Even though I keep posting these distant dispatches, some folks are still
convinced that I'm lying about all these places I go to. I'm from "the internet," and everything on the internet is a lie. Some think I'm not even a real person, that I'm a "profile" created by a 14-year-old girl who just loves older men and meeting IRL for big fun. While all that would make things a lot less complicated, everything on this site is Real Actual Court-Quality Truth. This is my life.
For five months out of the year, my life fits in black bags. Not one
, not two, but four. The number and the size has changed over time, but since 2005 I've gone through trial and error to settle on rock-solid technique that allows me to stay on the road, efficient, ready for anything and not stopping at Wal-Mart every few hours for something I've forgotten. I'd like to share my skillz with you.
Let's start with my "gameday" bag, pictured above. I started carrying this around last November, because it's light, efficient, and is just a little bigger than a manpurse that folks might make fun of. Clockwise from top left we have my reporter Moleskine
that I take game notes in (120 blank unruled pages, so each is good for one season), then my softcover Moleskine 2009 planner that I keep all my daily chores and to-do lists organized in. I slip a Moleskine cahier
in the back so I can jot loose notes, plan out stories, etc.
Then there's the bag itself, an Incase 13" travel bag that I don't think they make anymore. It's got a velcro-enclosed pocket area in the front and a paper-sleeve in back, and neoprene inside. I wouldn't be able to carry all this other stuff in it without the extra space. Lower right is the MacBook Air, which I'm typing on right now. It's slow, hideously loud and its fan grinds like a lawnmower, and it's much more a fashion statement than a computer. I thought I could just use it as a writing laptop. The constantly spinning beachball says otherwise.
Also observe the power supply, a fantastic retractable mini-mouse
that I got from Buy.com, an iPod nano, and a four-port USB hub (the Air only has one USB connection available). Then there are four pens: Pilot G2 10 and 7, a Prismacolor .005 super-fineline (mostly for tooning), and a retractable pencil. I keep my business cards in a silver case I got from the 2007 Metro Atlantic championships... wherever I go, I take a little MAAC with me. Also you'll find a slimline voice recorder
(should probably take that sticker off) and a 320GB slimline hard drive. Finally, my Blackberry World Edition, which is easily the best phone I've ever toted around thee country, and a backup battery. Also there is a short USB cord, which I love because long USB cords are a pain.
The Sony Cybershot camera is not shown because I'm using it.
This is the bag I'd been carrying into arenas for the past two years, and now it's gone from Game Bag to Bag Two. It's one of the most awesome bags in the world, a Jansport discontinued model that can either be used over the shoulder or a backpack. And it's orange inside, like a basketball! Speaking of which, this has been Bally's usual home. The lower front panel is perfect for carrying two Moleskines (like my doodle book, upper left). Clockwise from there, it's my copy of David Berman's Actual Air
that has been with me on trips since the beginning
and will surely outlast my MacBook Air. Then there's my collection of various pens. I like having a lot of different pens around.
Below those are several sheets of industrial-strength Velcro. Velcro is a must-have on the road; my favorite use is fastening my XM radio to the dashboards of rental cars. Then there are some business cards, Bally and an Extra Strength 5-Hour Energy shot. If you haven't found this out, those things have staggered effects, like when you put extra coins in a dryer. Last Friday, I took three of them before the MAC tourney semifinals and found myself at 3 a.m. in a Cleveland IHOP asking the waitress if she had the reverse version of coffee.
Lastly, there's a first-generation iPod Touch, very necessary for long plane trips, and the basketball grain binder I got at the mock selection. Walking around with that under my arm makes me feel like an assistant coach.
This is an ArtBin paint box that I fill with tech junk and slip into the middle of Bag Two. It's got everything I need on a daily or weekly basis, just not all the time. From the top: a "lipstick" AA-battery iPod charger for when the battery runs down, a 32-in-1 USB card (I only use the MemoryStick slot), the cord that came with my camera, and an iPod touch cleaning cloth. Then there are some more of those great short USB cords, an iPod charging cable and a backup laptop power supply (when you lose it once on deadline, you never travel without a spare ever again).
Below the charger is my XM radio, a MyFi model that's held up pretty well for three years. There's also the short antenna
built for motorcycles (also works great in rental cars, I just throw it onto the dashboard) -- the standard antenna's cord is about 30 feet long. And there's the XM 5V car charger too. To the left of the XM stuff is my Jabra Bluetooth headset, its charger, and a USB wall charger.
Bottom row, left to right: three pairs of earbuds (I'm always losing them), a phono-to-phono jack connector for iPods or XM (most cars have auxiliary jacks now), and a camera tripod. Then there's the BlackBerry car charger, a power converter for plugging in 110V devices into a cigarette adapter (absolutely essential when writing in the car), a spare camera battery, and the bulky camera battery charger that I bought yesterday at a Best Buy. I have no luck with those, I think I've gone through five of those in the last two years. I keep forgetting them at Starbucks.
Two bags down, two to go. This is my suitcase, which comes from the same JanSport line as Bag Two. It has tons of pockets, and I love pockets. Up and to the right is my JanSport toiletry bag (chosen for its many pockets). Below that is HandySaks, a roll of packing tape, my Bag of Ties, some one-shot concentrated Tide travel-size things, Downy wrinkle remover, and Pledge all-surface wipes, which can clean up anything. Then there's my comic strip storyboard pad, with its great 150-lb. sheets. That's where I draw Bally! Also see the bunch of freezer bags in the lower right; they're great for organizing stuff on the road.
Then there's my Redneck Bag. The Redneck Bag is a legendary part of the Mid-Majority canon and must finally have its moment of glory. I bought it in Clarksville, Tenn. during the 100 Games Project during Season 1, back on the Red State Basketball Goodwill Tour. It has carried my toiletries and a change of clothes into hundreds of truck stops since, allowing a Yankee infidel to fit in down south without a fuss. When I go to the desk and ask for a shower in my strange accent, they sort of look at me quizzically, then down at my Redneck Bag. When they see that Realtree pattern, they know I'm one of them. A real bad mothertrucker who likes to hunt. They nod and throw me the key. "Here you go, big guy," they say. Well, it doesn't always go like that, but you get the picture.
The only clothes pictured here are the socks and red boxers in the front section of the suitcase. That's because I was doing laundry today. But it's a pretty simple approach: four pairs of socks, four pairs of underwear, three dress shirts (white, gray and blue), two t-shirts, a zip-up sweatshirt, a flannel longsleeve, shorts and a polyester top for working out, a sweater, jeans, and corduroys. For shoes, it's a pair of Timberland low-cut leathers and the silver game day NIkes.
Finally, there's the garment bag. I like to make sure I dress nice for games, because I think it's important for journalists to show respect towards what they're covering. At least I think so, as do several thousand journalists who are retired or dead. I have three suits that I bring with me on the road, the standard navy-black-grey trio. The front section of the garment bag has room for a large-sized atlas, a 2009 Final Four cap I got at the mock selection, and an extension cord that I use at the Bread Restaurant or Starbucks whenever I can't get a seat directly next to a plug.
And then there's Dryel. When you're in one place for eight hours like I usually am, there's no time to drop off your dry cleaning. Dryel isn't perfect, but it keeps suits fresh and not smelling like crotch, which is very important. I just throw suit separates or white shirts in that bag, toss in one of those weird sheets, and throw that into a truck-stop dryer for an hour... mmmm, hmmm, fresh.
Also at the close of this, a word about overage. My packing stays lean and mean because of what's not let in the bags at all. Most of the material not pictured at all consists of media guides -- I pick up about 150 a year, and stack them for important summer research. Those things are heavy, especially when it's conference tourney time and I'm picking up 10 a day. Any extra clothes or gifts or any ephemera from games gets put in a box, which gets sent out the day before I jump on a plane for another area of the country.
My strategy in the past has been to take boxes to the post office and send it fourth class, or "media mail," or "book rate." You can get some serious tonnage sent for under ten bucks that way. But they keep threatening to cut the boxes open and hold them in a dead letter office if there's just one single non-printed item in there, so I've gone elsewhere. There are UPS Stores pretty much everywhere now, and it's easy to roll past a strip mall, throw everything from the backseat into a box and send it home for about 20 bucks. And I do, every week.
So there you have it -- next time, we'll talk about food. It's not easy to live out here on the road and not pick up a few pounds. Or 30.