It’s been 19 hours and 44 days
since United and SWISS lost my luggage in an overbooked flight between Denver and Chicago.
I have been trying not to be over dramatic about it and my incurable optimism has me thinking that it can still show up because it doesn’t really make any sense that a bag can just disappear without a trace.
The SWISS Baggage Service Team tells me that I have to wait. This is now high season, people are travelling everywhere for summer vacation and a lot of them are in the same situation or, maybe even worse, they got to the resort or city hotel where they planned to stay for a week or two and their bags didn’t get there, ruining their much needed and certainly deserved time away from the schedules of daily life.
At the SWISS Baggage Competence Centre, everyone is too busy to deal with me and my calls. Search will go on until approximately the 13th of July, someone wrote on the first email, and, as soon as we have news we will get in contact with you. They never did, so I called on the 15th and a very unpleasant and stressed out woman basically yelled at me for having the nerve to call about a carry on that, incidentally, I did not forget at some airport, but was actually lost because the flight was overbooked and I had to check it in at the gate because there was no space in the overhead compartments. How do you manage to lose a bag at the boarding gate is still a mystery to me.
The last emails I got from various people at the said baggage competence center, laconically informed me that [they] are sorry now it is by the end of July and that they will contact after the 31 July to advice you how to process for payment if bag not found. If the date is not changed again, I suppose August 1st will mark the beginning of yet another series of nonsensical electronic communication, since I do remember being told that I should be able to present receipts for the contents of my bag. Really? Do normal people actually keep receipts of everything they own and eventually pack? Or do they simply buy everything new before they travel and take care to keep a neat accounting file of source documents just in case their luggage disappears? I will not be able to present physical proof of the value of the contents of my bag. Does this mean that I will have no right to compensation? And then, after a business trip how does an airline compensate you for losing the results of your work? I suppose that’s not really their problem and all I am going to hear about it will probably be something along the lines of we really apologize and kind regards.
In the grand scheme of things, all this is, of course, very small and trivial, absolutely meaningless. I travel for work (mainly) and sometimes for fun. I am not forced to move by social, political or economic circumstances. I am not fleeing from wars and religious persecutions. I was not strip off by belongings and had to start from scratch rebuilding what has been taken away. No, an airline lost my luggage and I actually did not think that this would be possible since just about everything and everyone seems to be monitored and traceable.
I suppose, considering that evanescence does not seem feasible, my bag could, one day, be a minor star in “Baggage Battles” or just get bought in a low profile mystery luggage auction. I hope that this is what happens if I don’t get it back. I hope whoever gets it has the same fondness I had for my 70s DVF paisley print shirt dress. I hope he or she likes gold lurex tops and thinks that a pair on Armani black slacks are a foundation piece of every sensible wardrobe. I really hope that whoever gets my bag appreciates the silk tie I bought my dad as a present and mostly that he or she takes really good care of my favourite, battered beige studded leather jacket. Maybe he or she will even be kind enough to realize that my name and contact details are in there too.
The Things We Leave Behind
I’m standing at the entrance of the room checking Caetano Veloso get on stage for the technical rehearsal of this evening’s show. And this is actually happening. Tropicália, one of the founding songs of the movement, echoes in the empty room and Caetano’s voice seems to hold me in a hug.
I grew up listening to Brazilian music, not specifically to Caetano whose music I only discovered in my 20s, but to the amazing voices of Elis Regina, to the powerful words of Chico Buarque and the outrageous performances of Ney Matogrosso. That music, those words, have functioned as my citizenship, like a deeper connection to a language that even though it’s my native language, I have never managed to master in an elegant way but could, none the less, substitute my passport.
I was not born in 1967, my generation didn’t actually have to create a revolution, we were born in the aftermath of insurrection and before red carnations took to the streets.
Brazil, a country I traveled to for the first time when I was 9, meant as a cliché, samba, beach and a carefree existence. Caetano’s songs showed me something else. A country that can hold the entire world in both its glory and its misery. I started paying attention to the music that makes you want to get up and celebrate life through dancing and to the words that make you stand still and think. Last time I was in Brazil was in 2000 while the celebrations for its 500 years of postcolonial history were underway. Walking through the streets of Salvador all the way up to a candomblé house made me feel thankful for paying attention. That’s where the music materialized itself, in the Roma Negra.
From Porto Seguro and Salvador, the journey ended in Rio de Janeiro and I could still hear the words, who hasn’t felt the swing of Henri Salvador. We were staying in Copacabana and took the bus to the Flamengo neighborhood to see the Carmen Miranda Museum on an amazing journey through scandalous platform shoes and outrageous costumes and jewelry. A dream closet. In all her esthetic exaggeration, the adopted icon of tropicalism was a true precursor, taking it all in, who she was, who others thought she was, Europe, America and the tropics in one flamboyant persona.
Oswald’s anthropophagy, the solution to the problem of identity, the antidote to having your mind chained to labels and to grim values of behavior and morality. Thoroughly thought anarchy and cultural eclecticism, helas, flamboyance as a beautiful form of resistance.
Movements become dated and even our music heroes get old but this evening, the Coliseu sang Tieta to the ones that still shine brighter than a million suns and Gilberto Gil, all dressed in white, danced. And I have no films, photos or recordings and yet it will be registered forever.
Photo cover to Tropicália ou Panis et Circencis by Mário de Andrade
Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
My favorite travel souvenirs are vintage clothes. Every time I travel I try to make a list of vintage stores to check in the city I’m visiting.
This House of Branell dress was not bought on a trip but because of a trip. Mainly. I also have a soft spot for gold lurex and could not resist the fact that I could own a dress by the same designer house responsible for Grace Kelly’s engagement dress. I used to be a big fan of Princess Grace when I was a kid, I still recall my eleven year old self writing a diary entry on the car crash that killed her because I felt truly sad about her death.
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Buy Royally Engaged – 1970s gold lurex shirt dress by House of Branell
The main reason why I bought this dress was that this is a House of Branell for Gus Mayer dress. Founded in 1900, the original Gus Mayer department store was located on the corner of Canal and Carandolet Streets in New Orleans. I think the building now houses a CVS pharmacy where I bought a purple umbrella in August 2012.
New Orleans was one of those “bucket lists” trips; I dreamt of going, I fantasized about living there and riding streetcars up and down said Canal Street and finally made it there on a spur of the moment unplanned week long vacation thanks to last minute deals on airfares and booking.com. I still have to make it both to Mardi Gras and the Jazz Festival ( my bucket lists keep growing).
I was in New Orleans in August and that probably explains why I managed to stay at the Royal Sonesta for a fraction of the normal price; not everyone enjoys extreme heat and humidity which seems to be my favorite kind of weather. Still, for a week, I enjoyed New Orleans on my own, which undoubtedly contributed to a very intense and emotional experience of the city, I was even serenaded by Jay-Ray & Gee who sang Chuck Berry’s Nadine to me on Royal Street in the rain, just after I bought the purple umbrella.
Everything I experienced during that week, from daydreaming at Maskarade, to walking the corridor to Preservation Hall, to the aftermaths of Katrina in the form of an exhibition at The Presbytère, to entering William Faulkner’s house, to the beignets at Café du Monde, to the cooking lesson and cemetery tour and the very special music tour with a group of tour guides, to the delightful accent and politeness of everyone I met to the simple fact that “going home” for a whole week meant heading to 300 Bourbon Street, all this made me buy a gold lurex dress.
In a way, it embodies all the feelings of longing to go back and the wild plans of ditching normal life and reinventing myself as an apprentice voodoo priestess or a sultry Jazz singer and having my own luxurious fern covered balcony.
Time to let it go because, as with so many of my errors, it does not fit me as gloriously as it will a curvier lady.
Gus Mayer photo via Louisiana Digital Library; all other photos are my own