This post is brought to you by my boyfriend Seth, a college professor, documentary-maker, avid bicyclist (yes, that’s largely why I got a bike), lover of cool things, and all-around improver of the quality of my life. I’ll let him take it from here. I’ve had lots of pocket knives, and maybe I like my Swiss Army knife best because I do not seem able to lose it (and I lose everything), and I always use it. I’ve misplaced it in cars, in my home, in clothes, and it always returns. The key to getting the right knife is to get one that does enough but not too much. This is the one given to me a long time ago and it’s always in my pocket, until I misplace it, and then it reappears.
I drink ice coffee all day, every day, everywhere. This handsome Zojirushi thermos is my besty, and it’s even better than it looks. Keeps everything hot and cold, opens with one hand, and locks, so it never opens on its own, and it’s thin enough to slide into most any bag. Get the 20-ounce version; the 16 is too small.
I take my lunch as well as my coffee with me, as much as I can. Here’s what I carry it in now; like the Zojirushi the Kayto’s thermal is the right profile to glide in and out of my pannier (see below). And if lunch requires a container, I dig this one, not only because of its cool and useful folding spoon, but because of its metal insert and overall perfect size.
When I worked in the Strand book store in the mid-1980s, I would every once in a while see the perfect satchel in beautiful leather, rugged and utilitarian as well as urbane. I would ask the patron where they got it and each time it was from the same guy, Fred Eisen, on Montague Street, a couple of blocks down from where my uncle lived, in Brooklyn Heights. That initial Mail Bag, the one with the single buckle, lasted me through grad school, which was a long time, and beyond. Years and years, almost two decades later, after working that thing to capacity, stuffed with books, day after day after day, I frantically searched for Fred and and found him…in Pennsylvania, where he still makes the mail bag as well as many other cool ones, including versions on his classic theme that can do different things. This is closer to what I use today.
I love pens, the real kind, and I have three main types: the first is this micro, one-hand-operated twisty that I keep in my pocket for quick, quotidian jots. At the other end of the spectrum are my fountain pens, which I use when I have dedicated time and place to write. I do all of my best thinking by hand, in ink. None of my fountain faves are still made, but the company that made my favorite is Namiki (mine is their Bamboo in black lacquer with an extra fine nib and, of course, ink from a bottle). My favorite ink these days, by the way, is Noodler’s blue-black. Finally, there is my in-between, everyday pen for serious scribbling and no worrying about leaks in transit, my Tombow Ultra stainless steel rollerball (pictured here) that feels substantial in my hand and writes beautifully (I like the extrafine cartridges, in black or blue).
A gregarious poet from Galway introduced me to Redbreast in a Dublin pub a few years ago, and I have not looked back (I don’t miss the peat at all in my favorite single malts); this single-pot 12-year old (that’s the one you want, 12 year old) Irish Whiskey is smooth and rich, and with a splash of still water it’s my winter tipple.
This handsome vest is ultra-practical: warm, thin, and you can wear it under anything and it looks good anywhere, any time of day, all winter long. Pockets, all the ones you need, side ones for your hands, and breast ones for your pads and pens. What else does one require?
I love my bags from Fred Eisen but I ride a bike every day to get everywhere, and I am always looking for the perfect bag to fit on my ride but convert into something I can carry with me and that can carry my stuff after I chain up. Nothing is perfect. But the best I have found is the Pack `n Pedal from Thule.
I also have a front carrier from Minoura on my bike, especially good if I don’t have my pannier with me. But it also balances things out if I do. Always useful to have a place to throw (more) things. The Gamoh is strong and looks imposing; its hardcore armor makes the cab that wants to play chicken with you think twice. Oh, and it has a bottle opener built into its front grill.
The best thing I discovered passing through Bremen: Hachez chocolate. I’m a dark chocolate fan and Hachez’s is great, and so are the various combinations they mix into their bars. Speaking of travel and chocolate, the best thing I discovered in Sicily was not chocolate from Modica, but chocolate from Modica is the best I’ve had. It’s an acquired taste, worth tasting. It’s made cold, following recipes that go back to the age of encounter, half a millennium ago, between the Americas and Europe. Its granular texture resembles Mexican chocolate. Its flavor is unforgettable, like the Baroque town that turns it out (from various makers, just pick one and if you like pistachios, go for it).