Gotta Serve Somebody

It’s coming up to the season where an old bag gets antsy, dreaming of past glories. Especially one who’s been cooped up in a garage all winter, except for – get this, a concert for the library. That’s been the extent of my professional life so far this year – no UK, no Texas –  one local gig just down the hill. A bag starts to wonder who the hell it even is anymore.

But I had this crazy idea, because by the sound of things the couple of the house aren’t going anywhere much this summer.  No more touring! she cries until her record and book are finished. He’s already got another one in the can. And hey, they’re the artists and you gotta respect that. But back to my idea.

Every now and then in this dank hole, I get a chance to look at a newspaper and I read a little while back that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are playing just up the hill at Mountain Jam in a week or two. I also saw that right around that same time, Wilco are on the other side of the river and up the road a ways at Solid Sound Festival. Now that’s a lot of music happening.

And when you break it down, that’s a hell of a lot of bags. Think about how many old Tom Petty himself must use. What I’m imagining and – hear me out, I know it sounds a little wacky but – Bag Fest. A chance for all the bands’ bags to kick back, chill out and just be bags together for a little while.

Now I’m not talking about those pro road cases, the flight cases of steel that get rolled out like a military operation. They’re a different type of professional. Let’s be honest, when you reach that level…do you even have a soul anymore? No, I mean the lesser in stature but equally important no-fixed-use bags. Call us the utility players. Where does Tom throw his yoga mat and hand weights? Mike Campbell probably hits a lot of yard sales when they’re out there, where does he stick those printed shirts he finds? Jeff Tweedy from Wilco must need a carry-all to stow all the merchandise from other bands he scoops up at festivals. Cables and strings when they’re all just sitting around the bus and the guitars come out. Listen, in addition to purely practical application, they need bags like us around to remember what it’s like to do time in a mangy van. We’d be a motley bunch, but I think it would be really fun. Fire up the barbq, no hierarchy or having to put on airs and graces – just really let our hair down. It’s going to be-

Oh wait. I just remembered who else is playing around here really soon: Dylan.

Shit. Dylan’s bag. We’ve got to invite him. I mean, it wouldn’t be right to leave him out, but –

What if he shows up?

True, he’s just a bag. But…he’s Dylan’s bag.

There’d be no getting around it. I can picture the scene, a bunch of us throwing a frisbee in the yard, cutting up, feeling free.

A shadow crosses the sun and – he’s here.

“Hey, you came!” one of the easy-going bags, probably Nels Cline or Ben Tench’s, would say and hand him a beer, which Dylan’s bag would politely decline. Everybody would sort of shuffle around awkwardly for a while, and then being Dylan’s bag, he’d say something inscrutable but hilarious that would break the ice. In no time we’d be comparing strap width and then the stories would roll out:

How much weed does Tom really smoke?

How do you fill the minutes during an epic two hour set – do you feel obligated to stand by the whole time?

Is John Stirratt opening a barbq place?

What do you do during the down season – do the Chicago bags stay put all winter? Any great recollections from trips to Japan or South America? (I mean basically it’s me asking a bunch of questions. But these bags have been doing this a long time, they know how to craft a tale). So it goes around the fire pit – of course we’re all arranged around the fire pit by now, the flames crackling and illuminating the craggy canvas folds of the veterans, the smooth nylon/Cordura of the rookie bags — until we reach Dylan’s bag.

He yawns a little bit. Cracks his buckles. Looks up at the stars in the sky and lets out a sigh.

Man – you just – we all just – feel that to the depths of our PVC linings. Deeper even.

Because we know he won’t say it, what we’re all thinking. But – we’re here. Together. Lucky to be doing this. Well me, I’m not doing anything much, but…I’m lucky anyway.

And over a hill somewhere, Bob’s going “where the heck is my bug spray? And my harmonica…Hey, has anybody seen my bag?”

And we’re all looking at Dylan’s bag and it’s clear like the night sky filled with stars.

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