Nov 22

No, not a gun. A suitcase.

It’s a big suitcase, but there’s a bigger pile of things. How can I know what to bring? How can I make all the right decisions? I can’t, and I wont.

  pat_nordam-blog.jpgInstead, I will experience the The Eleven Stages of Packing.
Yes, I know, grieving has only seven stages, but this is more complicated.

Stage 1: Regret: Why Am I Taking This Trip? Why? Because it’s a cruise on the Queen Mary 2, that’s why, and it leaves from Brooklyn, a mere cab ride away. No plane! No expensive tickets! No security lines! No being trapped in a flying sardine can with people who mess up the bathroom in unspeakable ways!

Just sailing to the Caribbean, with all the comforts of home, a home I can only imagine, not being to the manner (or is it “manor?”) born. You get my drift.

In view of all this luxury, it does seem pretty petty to complain about having to pack. But for me, packing has always been traumatic . . .

Stage 2: “Oh come on, it can’t be that hard !” In Mad Men this season, Betty accompanied Dan to Rome at the last minute, and arrived looking as if she had just stepped out of a “beauty parlor,” with a stunning outfit for every occasion.

In Look Back In Anger, a film I pretty much do (Look. Back On. In Anger.) when Isabel decides to go home to Mummy, Daddy picks her up in a swell car with lots of room for luggage, although she has one teeny suitcase with “all her things.” Characters in fiction tend to have little luggage and unlimited wardrobes, and spend mere minutes throwing things in a suitcase and getting on with it.

It’s true that Carrie, leaving for a spree in Paris in a break from Sex and The City,  agonizes and organizes (how does a girl chose between all those Manolo Blahniks?) and ends up with a lot of luggage. But all the ultra-chic and sometimes voluminous outfits she wears couldn’t possibly fit in those suitcases (in all the suitcases in Bloomingdales) or on the plane itself — even if all the other passengers gave her their spaces.

Stage 3: Panic I realize that this is The Real World, not TV or the movies, and it IS that hard. pat_travels.jpg

Stage 4: The making of the lists. This calms me down because I realize I already have most of what I need. But it also sends me back to Stage 3, thinking of having to shop for rest of it.

Stage 5: The shopping The first thing I buy, crepe cream pants so that I won’t be in black every single evening, turn out to be the last thing, because department stores are just too confusing. I did get those black stretchy pants from Doncasters www.doncaster.com, not for the trip but because they were Simply Too Good To Pass Up, but I think I will take them along. Then there’s cosmetics and all the drug store stuff, which have lists of their own and will be gotten at the last minute. See Stages 3 and 4. See also Trouble in Paradise: The Indignities of Travel.

Stage 6: Asking for advice People give you well-meaning but somewhat contradictory opinions like: Don’t bring too much. But yes, you must take that smashing vintage Vittadini red dress even though you will only wear it once.

Stage 7: Being taken to the cleaners I remember that whatever I bring had better be clean, so I sort out stuff to wash or send to the cleaners, and this gives me a false sense of security, of Having Gotten Something Done. But this quickly dissolves into . . .

Stage 8: Whoops! I forgot about that! This is when I realize that I’ve forgotten something significant, like the swimming pool on board, which requires bathing suits (oh nooo), a cover up, and flip flops. Where did I put those things?

Stage 9: My Life (Or At The Very Least My Apartment) is A Mess
Packing forces me to face the fact that my closets are a disaster, and that to find something in the apartment will take all the detectives of Law & Order and then some. (I Lost It) It also forces me to admit that I can’t wear 90% of the cute shoes in those disorganized closets because I can’t walk in them. On land, much less on sea.

Stage 10: The Moment of Truth I have to pack because I’m leaving tomorrow, and nobody else is going to do it for me. Now I am a whirling dervish of activity, laying out everything on the bed, picking and choosing, putting the things that don’t make the cut into shopping bags to be dealt with “later,” and somehow, packing it all in, literally.

The case is closed, so to speak. Between now and the minute it goes out the door, there will be doubts, additions, subtractions, and substitutions. But once I’m in the taxi, it’s like sitting down to take a test. You’ve done everything you can, now let it rip.

Stage 11: I did the best I could
Leaving my building, I ponder mistakes I’ve made. Why didn’t I bring those new sandals, even though they hurt, and why did I take that extra shawl, which I will end up wearing every night.

pat_red_dress-blog001.jpgBut it’s too late. It’s a fait accompli. I’ve probably made a few reckless choices, packed too much of some things, too little of others, but will have pretty much what I need. And what I’ve forgotten, I’ll either do without or buy on the ship.

I sometimes think that it would be easier to be packing a gun instead of a suitcase, like if I were a cop or a Mafia wife or something. But wait! These people have to pack suitcases, too. With guns in them, maybe. And get through Security Gates. To go to places they’d rather not be in.

Forgettabout it. I’m packing my red dress and taking my chances on the Mary. Whatever happens it’ll be a trip.


Photos by Lou Chisena, including “The Red Dress,” before it —or I — was vintage.

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