To Pack and Wear/Carry:


2 skirts

2 jerseys or leotards

1 pullover sweater

2 pair shoes



nightgown, robe, slippers



bag with:


toothbrush and paste

Basis soap

razor, deodorant

aspirin, prescriptions, Tampax

face cream, powder, baby oil


mohair throw


2 legal pads and pens


house key

This is a list which was taped inside my closet door in Hollywood during those years when I was reporting more or less steadily.  The list enabled me to pack, without thinking, for any piece I was likely to do.  Notice the deliberate anonymity of costume: in a skirt, a leotard, and stockings, I could pass on either side of the culture.  Notice the mohair throw for trunk-line flights (i.e., no blankets) and for the motel room in which the air conditioning could not be turned off.  Notice the bourbon for the same motel room.  Notice the typewriter for the airport, coming home: the idea was to turn in the Hertz car, check in, find an empty bench, and start typing the day’s notes.

“It should be clear that this was a list made by someone who prized control, yearned after momentum, someone determined to play her role as if she had the script, heard her cues, knew the narrative.  There is on this list one significant omission, one article I needed and never had: a watch.  I needed a watch not during the day, when I could turn on the car radio or ask someone, but at night, in the motel.  Quite often I would ask the desk for the time every half hour or so, until finally, embarrassed to ask again, I would call Los Angeles and ask my husband.  In other words I had skirts, jerseys, leotards, pullover sweater, shoes, stockings, bra, nightgown, robe, slippers, cigarettes, bourbon, shampoo, toothbrush and paste, Basis soap, razor, deodorant, aspirin, prescriptions, Tampax, face cream, powder, baby oil, ,mohair throw, typewriter, legal pads, pens, files and a house key, but I didn’t know what time it was.  This may be a parable, either of my life as a reporter during the period or of the period itself.”

~ Joan Didion, “The White Album”

2 Responses to “To Pack and Wear/Carry:”

  1. marisa Says:

    i knew this list sounded familiar! How does she manage to make a mundane list sound so satisfying??

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: