A Herschel Backpack Changed My Life

By: Charles Stayton

I bought a Herschel backpack the other day and it changed my life. I was pretty sure that good things were going to happen (I’d been seeing the chambray-clad Herschel type crushing it in reclaimed wood coffee shops all over my television), but I had no idea how dramatic the change would be.

As soon as I put the backpack on, I got this feeling that I should go to my kitchen. Somehow my body (or the bag) took over and I was frothing milk on the stove and drawing a perfect portrait of Albert Camus in my coffee. I didn’t figure out who I had drawn until I posted a picture on Instagram and my followers shot up to 1.3 million, all gushing about what quickly became known as the “Cam-Moo.” Soon the “Whitney” people messaged me to offer an independent study based on my portrait.

Slightly confused about why Whitney Houston, or Whitney Houston’s people (is she still alive?) would be offering me an art gig, I happened to glance back over my shoulder. Something weird had happened in the kitchen. All the dishes were clean and back in the cabinets like I had never been there. My linoleum had turned to granite, my pantry had been replaced by cool industrial racks with glass containers, I counted six different varieties of kale chips, the wall was now exposed brick, and my coffeemaker had been replaced by something called a Chemex that I’d only ever seen dangling from the waist of a “drunken fist” character on Mortal Kombat. “Neat!” I thought.

I decided to go for a walk because a) I now had solid storage on my back in case I came across anything I wanted, and b) cool shit was happening to me in my apartment, so I could only imagine what would happen out in the world. Right outside my apartment, a hip group of ethnically ambiguous and ethnically diverse kids around my age waved me over to their stoop. It was the kind of group that normally would have intimidated me as a white kid with no friends, but I had my Herschel, so I went for it. Plus, I felt safe because a few of the girls were wearing those hats that look like Kung Lao’s from Mortal Kombat. Only theirs were semi-floppy and sweet-looking, like Kung Lao’s hat took a few Valium and a juice cleanse.

They invited me to join, so I sat down on the lowest step. For the next hour or so, we didn’t really talk, but we sure did laugh and point a lot. I had this one hilarious gesture where I would point at my boy with one hand, while touching my chest with the other — like one hand was Southern and kept saying, “Oh goodness, me” and the other (the pointing one) was like, “You know you’re my boy.” I think it was the juxtaposition that got them. We also laughed just because the McDonald’s sandwiches we were eating were really delicious and they made us so happy.

At some point a brand new Subaru Forester power slid to a halt in the street in front of us, causing a pile of fall leaves to cascade up through the dusk sunlight and trickle down in slow motion. I knew I was supposed to get in, and also that I wasn’t supposed to worry about my McDonald’s trash (“Herschel people don’t produce waste,” the bag whispered to me). My new friends followed with accessories that materialized for our journey through the empty city streets.

My man Long Shirt/Little Glasses had a ukulele; Jordans/Mumu tossed a surfboard up on the roof rack; the Sensible Tats Twins threw a few $10,000 fixed gear bikes on the back; and Beardie hooked up a parasail to the bumper and slapped the hatchback like it was a stallion. As we rode off toward a well-lived life full of EXPERIENCES, Beardie guffawing away above us, I thought to myself, “Don’t you even start to question this. You deserve to be happy. You had the good taste to pick that backpack after all.”

I am happy to say that I took my advice and haven’t looked back. My little troop from the stoop is still together. We’re on break from our group teaching post at Swarthmore where we guide pop-up, experiential learning experiences where students experience different learning material – like really experience and learn. The emphasis is definitely on experience, but there is plenty of learning that happens as well. Usually the learning happens much later on after students have more life experience and can look back on the learning experience and say: “Huh! That’s what I learned. Neat!”

I have also pitched a class for the fall on gender performance in Mortal Kombat. That will mostly be experiential as well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *