Friday, July 9, 2010
Under Our Hats
From Songs and Letters, dated July 21, 2008:
If you pass by my window now and glance this way, you’ll see the top of the new straw hat I’m wearing. Why am I wearing it inside? Because it is new, and because hats should be worn. Because I’m nuts. Because every now and then I like to write with a hat on. Because I like hats. Because I’m partial to them. Because they remind me of other hats — my father’s, his father’s, my uncles’, my grandmother’s. Walt Whitman’s.
This particular hat cost seven dollars. About forty years ago, my father bought me one very much like it for eighty-nine cents at a little corner grocery store not far from where we lived. The store was owned by a man named Nakashima, whose wife once cut off the end of her finger while slicing baloney. I say once, but she could hardly have done it twice.
Ours was a farming community. The weather was hot. Hats were important and easy to come by. We lived under our hats. We dreamed under them, cursed under them, talked under them, planned under them, hurt under them, hoped under them, sighed under them, dozed under them, decided under them, quit under them, started under them, apologized under them, begged under them, lied under them, cheated under them, kissed our wives and girlfriends and children under them, disappointed each other under them, left home and never returned under them, listened to the birds in the trees under them, yelled under them, cried under them, got drunk under them, confessed under them, lost our minds under them, and some of us even died under them.
We also waited under them. We waited for trains, for buses, for airplanes, for loved ones, for insight, for babies alive and growing in the womb. We waited for the noon whistle and the Raisin Day Parade. We waited for rain, for wind, for any meaningful new sign. We waited for our pay. We waited for the war to end. We waited for things to change, but some never did.
We knocked on doors under them. Won’t you let me in?
A hat is a church, my friend.
In the Forum: a case of orange madness.