Ode to a Rucksack

Wednesday, September 13, 2006 | 13 comment(s)

Pablo Neruda
Some worthwhile Odes:Now that man could write an ode!

I am not, so this ain't poetry (sorry).

We are diabetics; we come with baggage (physically, emotionally, and literally). I've always known this about myself, and I've kinda had a hunch that it was true of others with diabetes, too, but have never known for sure. Reading a few blogs in the OC has confirmed it for me. Birdie over at "aiming for grace" craves more sassy satchels to carry her gear in, and Beth over at "In Search of Balance" is looking forward to no longer having to carry that extra 10 pounds worth of supplies everywhere she goes.

In addition to some (more) insights to my neuroses, I completely realize that this is practically a commercial.

I want to tell you about my backpack. Actually, I want to write a paean and sing hosannas about it too (okay, so perhaps I am feeling a little poetic). Perhaps a rock opera would suffice.

I have a green, L.L. Bean Continental Rucksack that I have worn almost everyday for the past 15 years. I purchased this backpack in Sept. 1991 as I was starting college.

It has carried books through school, clothes on trips (to England, Japan, Guatemala, & Costa Rica, to Utah, New Mexico, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Florida, Texas, & North Carolina), lunches to work, beer & wine to parties, supplies to camping, and climbing gear to cliffs.

I love my backpack.

In addition, to all of the various tasks I put it through, there are a few things that are always in it:
  • The left side pocket holds about a week's supply of granola bars
  • Also in the right side pocket is a ratty, lamenated, mildewed, DC City map
  • The left side pocket holds my non-ipod, 40 gig mp3 player/portable hard drive, and my cell phone, and a serious tangle of earbuds for both devices
  • The center zippered pocket carries has in it:
    • A glucometer
    • A glucagon kit
    • A Swiss Army knife (except when flying)
    • A small spoon (don't ask)
    • Miscellaneous pens and pencils
    • A vial of "Keto-Diastix"
    • Usually a spare canister (or two or three) of test strips
    • A compass
    • A 128 Mb data fob
    • A pack of gum
    • Calorie King's "Calorie, FAT, & Carb Counter"
    • And a spare tube of glucose tabs.
    (In short it's a truly miraculous bottom-less pocket).
  • And the main compartment almost always has a mini umbrella in it (Like my Dad has taught me: "Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it").

I wear this backpack to work everyday.

In addition to all the "regular" items I carry in it, I usually also have my lunch in it, a magazine I'm reading (e.g., Diabetes Self-Management, Countdown, Forecast, Harpers, Atlantic Monthly) or a book I'm currently reading, and clothes to change into or out of when biking to work. It gets heavy sometimes.

It gets wet from the sweat while biking or when I'm caught in the rain (that mini umbrella doesn't really cover me AND my backpack). I've had soda bottles and wine bottles explode inside of it. I think I've only washed a few times. At this point, I'm afraid it would fall apart if I were to put it in a washing machine.

It is my security blanket. I would be naked
In fact
My friend Lee once exclaimed: "Kevin! You're Naked!" when she saw me without my backpack on for the first time.

without it. Devastated.

If I'm not actually wearing my backpack, it is in the office drawer next to me, or by my bedside table, or in the car seat next to me, or in the closet of a house I'm visiting, or under the table at a restaurant I'm eating at. I've worn it with a suit at a professional conference once.
But I don't do that anymore
I was mocked a little by someone on the panel and I have since bought a slightly more professional side bag (also made by L.L. Bean) that I use when I'm going some where "professional."


Probably five years ago, I thought it was dead. Every buckle and zipper on it was broken. I even bought a new backpack from L.L. Bean. Unfortunately, they had discontinued the Continental Rucksack for a few years (thankfully they have brought it back, though I think it's slightly smaller) so I couldn't buy another one *just* like it at the time. But I found out that I was able to send the bag to L.L. Bean and they replaced all the buckles and the busted zipper for something like $17! It was almost like new. It had a new lease on life. I was overjoyed.

I know that it is somewhat unnatural to have some much affection for an inanimate object, but I can't help it. It's starting to show more significant signs of wear and tear around several stitches and I'm nervous about how much longer it will last. I am going to be a very sad camper (pun intended) when this backpack dies.

13 Comment(s):

Anonymous Anonymous said...


We work like a horse.
We eat like a pig.
We like to play chicken.
You can get someone's goat.
We can be as slippery as a snake.
We get dog tired.
We can be as quiet as a mouse.
We can be as quick as a cat.
Some of us are as strong as an ox.
People try to buffalo others.
Some are as ugly as a toad.
We can be as gentle as a lamb.
Sometimes we are as happy as a lark.
Some of us drink like a fish.
We can be as proud as a peacock.
A few of us are as hairy as a gorilla.
You can get a frog in your throat.
We can be a lone wolf.
But I'm having a whale of a time!

You have a riveting web log
and undoubtedly must have
atypical & quiescent potential
for your intended readership.
May I suggest that you do
everything in your power to
honor your encyclopedic/omniscient
Designer/Architect as well
as your revering audience.
As soon as we acknowledge
this Supreme Designer/Architect,
Who has erected the beauteous
fabric of the universe, our minds
must necessarily be ravished with
wonder at this infinate goodness,
wisdom and power.

Please remember to never
restrict anyone's opportunities
for ascertaining uninterrupted
existence for their quintessence.

There is a time for everything,
a season for every activity
under heaven. A time to be
born and a time to die. A
time to plant and a time to
harvest. A time to kill and
a time to heal. A time to
tear down and a time to
rebuild. A time to cry and
a time to laugh. A time to
grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones
and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a
time to turn away. A time to
search and a time to lose.
A time to keep and a time to
throw away. A time to tear
and a time to mend. A time
to be quiet and a time to
speak up. A time to love
and a time to hate. A time
for war and a time for peace.

Best wishes for continued ascendancy,
Dr. Whoami

P.S. One thing of which I am sure is
that the common culture of my youth
is gone for good. It was hollowed out
by the rise of ethnic "identity politics,"
then splintered beyond hope of repair
by the emergence of the web-based
technologies that so maximized and
facilitated cultural choice as to make
the broad-based offerings of the old
mass media look bland and unchallenging
by comparison."

Blogger Kevin said...

That's obviously spam, but holy shit, that's some funny stuff! I'll definately think twice about mentioning the word "poetry" in a blog post ever again!

Blogger art-sweet said...

Yeah for avoiding the tyranny of the ipod!

Also, I have the calorie king database on my palm pilot. I love it. Removes a few ounces from the Bag O' Diabetic Crap.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, your bag sounds sooo much better than mine. I'm jealous. I've had a few bags that I really loved, that succumbed to the weight of the supplies and got holey and weak, and I had a hard time giving them up. My current bag I am not attached to and can't wait until it dies, and so, of course, it won't.

Good luck keeping that thing as long as you can. You should frame it when its time finally comes...

Blogger mel said...

"A small spoon (don't ask)"

yeah, I'm asking.

Blogger Kevin said...

Ahh, the little spoon....

I really have no idea where it came from or how it came to live in my backpack. But it has stayed.

It's smaller than a teaspoon, but larger than a baby spoon. It would be appropriate perhaps for a toddler. It's got a small hole through the handle as if it should be teathered to your body while in use. And the head of the spoon is oddly squarish.

I've used it only a handful of times to eat a yogurt or steal a bit of someone's ice cream.

So there you have it. My little spoon. It lives in my backpack.

Blogger Minnesota Nice said...

Kev, even though I also carry a "ton of stuff" I seem to always be losing what I need - like it just falls out or something. On Monday I had lost my lancing device, and couldn't even find a lone spare lancet floating around. I was sure I'd be able to find something when I got to work, and contemplated: a needle from my little sewing kit, a box cutter from the mail room, a corkscrew from the office "party supply" drawer and nothing fit the bill. I even thought about inflicting a papercut on my thumb to draw blood. (Ended up taking a bit of a hike to Walgreens instead). It pays to be prepard.

Blogger Kevin said...


Losing lancet devices is something that I'm pretty skilled at too. I keep mine in my pocket, and it is always falling out.

Twice in the past month I've had to sheepishly call friends and ask them to check their couch cushions where I was sitting the night before for my lancet device. Both times, it was found.

But I've also found that there's an upside to testing my blood sugar close to twenty times a day and only on 3 fingers. I can basically bring up a constellation of tiny blood droplets at any given time just by squeezing hard enough. No lancing device (or sewing needle, or box cutter, or paper cut) required.

Cool party trick, huh?

Blogger Minnesota Nice said...

Necessity is the mother of invention - what a resourceful idea. (So here I am at my desk, pinching all of my fingers, trying to see if it would also work for me.........no luck so far, but I'll let you know.

Blogger MileMasterSarah said...

I have a small backpack that partners with my small purse for all of my things. It is a Walmart backpack and all the zippers are now broken. I am not even sure what I am going to do to replace this, I can’t seem to part with it. For now, Im just using a broken, ratty, ripped up slightly greenish looking backpack, probably until a strap falls off!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sassy is as sassy does. Your backpack sounds pretty groovy to me. And I understand the security blanket aspect of it. Maybe once it actually does fall apart, you could have a skilled sewer build you a new one using the old one as a pattern. Sounds a bit drastic but if you can't find the "perfect" replacement, it might be an option.

And thanks for the kind call out.

Blogger Scott K. Johnson said...

Funny stuff Kevin - in a practical and totally understood kind of way. I chuckled out loud about the spoon (WTF man? I mean, it's a spoon! Do you wash it, or just lick it clean and stick it back in there? hehe!)

It says a lot of LL Bean that they replaced the buckles & zippers for you - and for a respectable price too! You've definitely gotten your moneys worth out of that sack!

Blogger Kevin said...

Lick it clean and put it back.

I wouldn't want my antibodies to think they're on vacation, now would I?!

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