Memorial Day 2019
Stuff in My Backpack
By Big Daddy Graham
I once wrote an article for this paper about the “stuff” that we decide we need to bring down the shore for the weekend. Bicycles, music, pills, toiletries (a word I never use in real life), clothes, among many other items. It was based on a classic George Carlin routine titled “A Place for My Stuff.” Lord knows we have all posed this question to ourselves, “Damn, I forgot to bring sunscreen down and I just bought a tube of it last week!” (You left it on your deck at home.)
However, what you decide to bring down to the beach involves just as much thought. Beachgoers now routinely haul shopping carts the size of tanks loaded with an umbrella, boogie boards, coolers, giant thermoses, some new style form of tent, chairs, and Uncle Fred (who’s not sick, just lazy).
I don’t bother with the cart. I walk to the beach with a chair and whatever will fit into my backpack. That’s it. So, let’s discuss both.
Let’s start with the chair. It’s the single most important decision of your beachgoing life. Like choosing a spouse or school district. (In fact, there’s a woman who sits on my beach who has gone through two husbands while using the same chair.)
After decades of trying out many different variations of “the chair,” I settled on a simple, not-too-low-to-the-ground chair with a built-in roof. So there goes the need for the umbrella. It must have pockets on each arm: one for my cellphone and one for my personal water bottle.
Let’s get to the backpack. It’s a red model that says “Denver RTC Conference 2007” on it. Someone left it at my house 10 years ago and I’ve used it ever since. I have no idea what RTC stands for. No one ever came back to claim it, but what’s that matter? You know the rules if you own digs down the shore. If you’re kind enough to let people stay at your house and they leave something behind? Tough turkey. It’s yours now!
And it’s the perfect backpack. It’s plenty big but not one of those insanely large packs that hikers use. It has only two outer pockets and two mesh side pockets as well as the huge inside “hole,” which has an inner pocket as well. It’s perfect. I can’t stand these backpacks with a thousand pockets because I can never remember what pocket something might be in with so many choices.
So, here’s what goes in it. Let’s start with the side mesh pockets. Perfect for a sunscreen tube in one and water bottle in the other. Once the sunscreen goes in the one pocket, it stays there until it runs out. So I always know where it is.
As for the smaller zipped pocket, that’s where my cash goes. Although I have never had a backpack stolen off me, I try to keep that cash to around $75 so I’m always prepared for the impromptu lunch or trip to a bar for a “No Shower Happy Hour.”
The other front pocket is where I store my pens, pencils (for crossword puzzles) and highlight markers. You see, I’m the guy who actually still reads physical newspapers and magazines. Now, I’ll admit to you because of my job as host at 94WIP, I get all that for free. But if I didn’t, I would still buy them because unless you are reading a book on Kindle, I still have a hard time reading screens (particularly on my phone) in the blazing sun.
And where does all this reading material go? In the most important part of the backpack, the giant zipped pocket that makes up the bulk of the pack. What do you call that? The Giant Pocket? The Big Hole? The Well?
So, here’s what goes in it before I leave for the surf besides papers and mags. I throw in a paperback for when I’ve run through the papers and mags. (By the way, I never read either without a highlight marker. If I come upon something interesting that I can use either for my standup, talk show, or a Quizzo night, I highlight it.) The book is a copy of whatever I am reading at the time or a small paperback of J.D. Salinger’s “Nine Stories.” That pocket on the back of a chair is where I store mags and papers that I’ve finished reading and then I throw them in the trash can when I’m leaving.
I also make sure that I always have a copy of “New York” magazine because it has an excellent crossword puzzle that I have never managed to completely finish, but it’s not too difficult where I don’t get a lot of answers so I don’t feel like a total moron. That puzzle is usually good for a week till I get the new issue.
Then I throw in a notebook that I use to write on, and I have written many an article for this paper while on the beach. I use a spiral notebook so I can rip out pages when I’m done transferring them to my laptop back at the pad.
Here’s an item that’s in the pack for the duration of the summer: my binoculars. Years ago, my wife bought me a $60 set and I’ve been using them ever since. Binoculars are so much fun for checking out boats, surfers and the “sights.” (Just be prepared to claim you’re checking out some Grady White boat if you get busted.) Additionally, my iPhone supplies me with my music, a camera and I have a $60 set of headphones that never leave the bag for the entire summer.
The beach tag goes on my backpack as well. Since I never go to the beach without my backpack, I never have to worry whether the tag is on the wrong shorts or shirt. Throw in a sandwich and some Golden Oreos and a towel around my neck and it’s off to the beach I go. No muss, no fuss. I even end up with a free hand, as all I have to carry that’s not on my back is the chair.
See you at the beach, and the last one in the water is a rotten egg!