When Paul Newman steps out of a helicopter in the opening minutes of Irwin Allen‘s The Towering Inferno, he’s carrying a beautiful, Italian-crafted brown leather bag. I fell in love with the sight of it. Fast forward three years, at which time I was living in a rental off South Compo Road in Westport, CT. Sometime in the summer of ’77 or thereabouts I heard that Newman, a Westport resident since the ’50s, had bought the leather bag at Ed Mitchell’s (now just called plain old Mitchell’s), a respected retailer located on the corner of the Post Road and South Compo. Lo and behold I went into Ed’s one day and there it was, the exact same honey bag. It felt like heaven in my hands. I couldn’t afford it but I bought it anyway and carried it proudly for three and half years.

Paul Newman, William Holden in Irwin Allen’s The Towering Inferno.

Then came a semi-drunken moment on the London subway in December of ’80. It was an hour or so after midnight and I’d had a few. I had the luscious brown bag with me but for some no-account reason I left the car without it. I quickly realized my error, turned around and the doors closed. I shrieked like Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice. Old brownie, jammed with nice clothing that cost me at least $1500 or more in 1980 dollars, left the station on its way to North London. Oh what a gift that was for some lucky bloke. That’s alcohol for you, and one more reason why I’m delighted I no longer drink. My five-years-sober anniversary will be on 3.20.17.