A post about my adoration of a certain valise might seem odd. But this isn’t just any bag. This is a valise containing my magical memories therein. This story begins in Christmas ’85. Dab in the middle of my salad days. The world was my oyster. Untouchable and carefree. Mix tapes. Fashion. Dance clubs. Oh, and a bit of university. I was between autumn and winter terms and stopped home to visit family. Upon viewing my cashmere trench coat Teddy Boy attire my father offered a marvelously patinaed leather Bond Street valise to me. He bought it in London but found it too haughty for his work needs relegating it to a storage cupboard in the basement. One step before the bin.
The moment I lay eyes upon it I was besotted. It fit me perfectly. British. Bond Street. And the russet coloured leather complimented everything I paired it with hand in glove. Ridding myself of the old outdoorsman styled nylon blue ruck I used previously, I now cruised BYU with my stylin’ valise, as envied as the tuckered out duck boots I wore to defeat snowy winter days since 1983.
Six months gone by. Six marvelously insane months. Winter semester waned. Dormitory
life and a lot of dear friends went with it as the normal school semesters ended and many friendships set in stone during the school year were scattered to the wind never really to be cemented again. Spring term began. The madness that would become a legendary summer of ’86. For me this was the height of everything 80’s overspill was about. Spring in Utah is a dream. The weather fine and warm. The campus green and lush. The mountain surrounding the campus full of wild flowers. I moved from the dormitories to an apartment in The Enclave. Just a few streets south of campus, it was the newest and most happening place to live that summer. Pool life everyday after class. Life was perfect in that moment.
Monday, June 2nd 1986
Another morning at BYU. The usual school day attire. Shorts were taboo—Union Bay chinos, white untucked Generra oxford shirt, white socks and Stan Smith tennis shoes, obligatory sun tan, tortoise Wayfarers and of course my leather valise. Once a week I would bust out the brown leather boot polish and give it a polish. The leather shining like new. Inside I carried a copy of ‘A View From The Aft,’ a play I was preparing for a playwriting course that term and an Aiwa walkman tucked beside it playing my latest Mix Tape—John Taylor I Do What I Do, Pete Townsend Face to Face and the 12” inch version of Cabaret Voltaire’s Ghost Talk amongst other tunes. Stuffed into a side pocket was a 64 ounce Crest cup containing enough Diet-Pepsi to get me through a day of classes.
Leaving The Enclave I walked along 200 East towards campus. The morning sun rising over Y Mountain to the East, the high altitude morning air still cool before the days heat. Sunshine, blue skies, the
spring flowers blooming everywhere, the trees filled with their summer plumage. It is so nice to live a short distance just from campus. On the walk “up the hill” I often see faces familiar. Such is the atmosphere of spring term at BYU. Many of the usual suspects remain on campus, but in more relaxed environment conducive more to mischief than higher learning. A sign at the entrance to the campus reads “The World is Our Campus.” During the spring and summer terms the campus becomes our world. Six weeks of morning classes, deli lunches up at Sundance’s Tree Room then sunbathing by the pool. Evenings are taken up with a soak in the jacuzzi and later in the evening dancing at Sil’s Ivy Tower.
As I approached 800 North and the Harrison Arboretum the soundtrack to my life that summer began to slow. At first I thought the newly recharged batteries in my Aiwa walkman were packing it in. Examining my bag I saw Pepsi dripping from a bottom corner of my valise. Looking inside—to my horror—I realized the bottom of the waxed paper cup had softened to the point it fell out, dumping 64 ounces of Pepsi inside my beloved bag. Aghast, I drained the Pepsi from the bag and ran up to campus. The closest building was the testing center. I went into the first bathroom I found and removed the contents of my bag. Everything was soaked with Pepsi. My school book and papers saturated, the Aiwa walkman ruined, the mix tape within toast. Worse still, my suede lined valise had a big wet stain on the exterior leather. I promptly put the nozzle of a hand dryer inside the bag and turned on the dryer. After several minutes of pumping warm air into the bag it was dry, but the stain on the leather remained. My Aiwa walkman was cooked. I binned it right then and there along with the mix tape in it. My other TDK cassettes were safe and dry in their plastic cases.
My valise soldiered on the rest of the summer and into the autumn ’86 semester. Soon enough the stitching rotted out and the bag fell apart. I tried to salvage it, but it began to look quite tatty. I couldn’t find another to match it and it was thrown into the dustbin of history.
The 80’s were left behind. Then the 90’s. 2000’s. I though about that old valise for years. How smart I looked carrying it about. How it gave me a sense of confidence. How I could never find a replacement that was just right.
Summer 2018. Was having great success locating bits & bobs on the eBay. Took a shot and went for a scrounge. Vintage Bond Street Leather Briefcase w/ Detachable Strap. As new. With Tags. There it was. I found it. My quest at its end. Not only did I find it. I found four.
And bought them all.
In two days time the first arrived. Opening the box was tapping into a time machine. Somewhere I heard the opening refrains of Robert Plant’s In The Mood. The first valise was far from pristine. In fact it was restitched several times and the brass buttons were far from correct. Nevermind then. The next day another arrived. And it was perfect. As were the two additional Bond Street valise’s arriving in quick succession. I had found an old friend. One who had accompanied me so many mornings. I began carrying them. Each time I take it up to go out the door I feel calm and complete. Classic style. Well worth the 33 years without it before finding it again.
A silly story really. But it’s the little things that make us happy. Right? As always. May the road rise with you.