on lists

One of my favorite things in this life is finding others’ grocery lists abandoned in their shopping carts.

eggs
bread
milk
carrots
parsley
chicken
coffee

So, I suspect we are all now pretty well acquainted with Joan Didion’s effortless, graceful little packing list.

TO PACK AND WEAR:
2 skirts
2 jerseys or leotards
1 pullover sweater
2 pair shoes
stockings
bra
nightgown, robe, slippers
cigarettes
bourbon

bag with:
shampoo
toothbrush and paste
Basis soap, razor
deodorant
aspirin
prescriptions
Tampax
face cream
powder
baby oil

TO CARRY:
mohair throw
typewriter
2 legal pads and pens
files
house key

image
I suspect part of a longstanding literary and aesthetic fascination with this, of all lists, stems from how elegantly tomboyish and pluckily gamine it is. How curated–how thoughtful. She is just the type to rely simply on jersey: so svelte and puckish.

That type of look is not what we should all aspire to; in fact, that is entirely against the point. The point is, a well-composed list gets to the heart of the matter. It speaks to the list-writer’s essence. Don’t aspire to Didion’s list, but to her list-writing skill.

What would a packing list entail for me?

red lipstick
blue jeans
black & white cotton tees
a pullover
a cardigan
a scarf
hairbrush
flats
boots
amber oil
cigarettes
a book
a magazine

Perhaps. Right now I want only for clogs and a matte nude lip and kohl-lined eyes. And blue jeans, amber oil, a hairbrush, cotton tees, a pullover.

My lists, as may be expected, are subject to change. Sometimes I live off avocado, cold roast chicken and apples and sometimes I cook; I make a big batch of ribollita and make a list including cranberry beans, thyme, garlic, carrots, kale, 2 cans whole peeled san marzano tomatoes to be crushed by hand, olive oil. Crusty bread for dunking into one’s soup.

That’s the thing about lists, and how & why they deal in essences: they streamline and concentrate the complex. They create a mood based on associations and presuppositions and sentimentalities.

Nifty.

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