If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the hand sanitizer and the electric toothbrush. We asked potential Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg, author of Shortest Way Home, about the boot socks, beef jerky, and backpack he can’t live without.
I was on my way to Afghanistan, so I wrote a friend who had already deployed for some advice, and he told me to make sure these socks were on my list. I asked him, “What about the standard socks?” and he said just wait. You need good boot socks when you’re out there, and you get these Army-issue socks that are whatever. I’d only gotten three pairs of these, and my day always went better when I wore them. If I’m on a red-eye now or if I’m doing anything where I’d care about my socks, I wear them. I actually still have the same pairs I first got five years ago. I’d recommend them to anyone deploying but also just anyone in the general public.
This is the best stuff. It’s really dry so you gotta chew on it for a while, which lets the flavor really soak in while you chew. It’s not the stuff that’s sweetened to make it all chewy and mushy — instead it almost breaks up in your mouth. I first had it when I would go on road trips through New Mexico with my family to visit my grandmother in El Paso.
Eagle Creek makes this backpack that comes with a roller board — you can stick them together or you can use them separately. I’m obviously on the road a lot and I’m not going over very rough terrain as often now, but it’s nice to have something that can handle everything. It’s the same backpack I had from my deployment. My backpack now always has my computer, some snacks, and something to read. Right now I’m reading Armageddon Averted, a really good book abut the collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s not new, but I think this is a moment we have to think about how Russia got to where it is now. I also am reading Jill Lepore’s book These Truths about Americanism as a different kind of nationalism.
When I was a student, I always used a very fine-point black pen but now there’s mostly a lot more signing and circling things, so it makes more sense to use something else. The one I always have on me is the Flair in blue — it’s great for thank-you notes and signing books and marking up memos. I like the blue because black makes it too hard to tell if my hand’s been on something and red is too stressful.
I use this mostly as a to-do list or journal throughout the day; I’ll stick business cards in the back of them. I’ll write the date I started recording my day and the date I’ve finished the last page on each of these, and at this point I’ve gone through dozens of them. They fit perfectly in my jacket pocket, too.
When I was at Oxford there was a student-run bar, and I became the self-appointed whiskey curator. And when somebody traveled around Europe on some cheap trip, which happened often enough, I’d make them buy a bottle at duty-free and then I’d sell it at the bar (a lot of it I’d buy myself). My favorite is the Lagavulin, but I also like the Talisker, which is a little less smoky and a little chewy. For me, though, the smokier the better.
So this tool is sort of like a Swiss Army knife. I had it in Afghanistan, and it has a carabiner-style clip and a nail file and unfortunately it also has a knife so you can’t take it on a plane with you. But in Afghanistan, it was on key ring along with my little flashlight, and I never went anywhere without it.
It doesn’t go with me everywhere I go, but it’s so full of stuff that you could be busy with it for the rest of your life. I first read it in college because my father was a Joyce scholar so there was always a little Joyce in my blood. I think about it as the basis for my politics too because it’s sophisticated but also a day in the life of a fairly middle-class guy in Dublin. It’s about bigger ideas but also about everyday life. Every now and then I will dip in it, but it’s not something you read so much as something you study.
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