Now I am even more curious as to why no one in Havana would admit to knowing how to sing Una Paloma Banca. If YouTube is to be believed, it was a hit even in Finland!
The first pink hat was actually a pair, from a time long ago, when the kids were 11, and we were doing the grand tour of our nation’s capitol, staying at a friend’s house in Annapolis, and riding in on the train. Somewhere along the line, I had acquired two bright pink hats with the Pink Panther on them. I think they came free with insulation, and at that time in life, we were very well insulated. Now remember, this was in the days before cell phones and just slightly after the days in which we all felt pretty safe letting our kids run around with minimal supervision.
We did great with the hats, and I could spot the twins tearing around from a pretty good distance. We did great, that is, until we arrive at the National Zoo shortly before a busload of school kids arrived, all wearing, you know it, hot pink hats. Hundreds of them. Fortunately, my two skinny children and I did still find each other at the appointed spot and the appointed time, but since that trip, a pink hat reminds me of a special time in my life when “family” was the three of us with our over-sized glasses and over-sized vocabularies, and we were quite happy to explore just about anything together..
The next pink hat is one that I never actually owned, an opportunity lost when The Morning Guy one day went off to a ball game & left me a note saying to call if I wanted him to pick up anything. I couldn’t think of a thing. “Like what?” I scrawled on the note. Imagine my surprise when I later saw his immaculate tiny printing that said, “I thought you might have liked one of those pink hats.”
I was stunned. I hadn’t worn any kind of ball cap for years, just wide-brimmed girlie hats like Rene Russo in the movie Tin Cup, but had come to like the idea of a pink hat, free of team color and all that, but still definitely a treasure. I especially loved seeing more and more pink hats showing up at Spring Training, no matter what teams might be on the field. I did, in fact, want one of those hats.
Of course, you and I both know that was a one-time only offer. He will not make a similar suggestion again. He will, likely, make some other offer, and I will probably be obtuse enough to miss that one, too. In my mind, the pink ball cap would fit me perfectly, covering my ears just so, but there’s still the nagging doubt that it might have had the wrong team logo on it. I’ve been tempted, as you can imagine, to buy my own pink hat, possibly a Red Sox one, but even that will not fill the void of the gift not accepted. I can easily obtain the hat. It’s the gifting that I want.
Now, I could ramble on here about gifting for quite a long time, but I know you have other things to do, so let’s just move up to the present day, and even more hats.
I like to go to Miami once a year and meet up with some of my former colleagues to find out how they are doing. This year, I was delighted when some of the folks from New Zealand brought along some ball caps with their company logo on them. I was even more delighted when my Dutch friends said they could do better than that, and quickly produced a pink hat. Perfect, or almost perfect. A gift. Pink. I could add the Red Sox logo to it later.
This was all shortly before Little Peach and I headed south, lost our luggage, and began to tour The Island for four days in the same clothes. I wore white slacks, which grew less and less white, a yellow sleeveless golf shirt (which I eventually supplemented with a Cuban tee-shirt), walking shoes, and my pink hat.
As I’ve mentioned before, I wished I had know what to take to give away or trade with people, and now I really know: chiclets, fishnet hose, pads of paper, and pink hats. I would outfit the entire population of Havana with pink hats. But I would have to do it in a roundabout way. The gnarly old man who first took a liking to my hat was not, as it turned out, all that interested in the hat, but what he might get for it.
Is this how capitalism takes over? I don’t know. I had already given him more than enough in coin for the newspaper, but the hat was what drew him. I understood. I took it off and handed it over. He smiled. He kissed the hat. He walked away with it, and Little Peach and I watched him go. In fact, we continued to watch him from the tour bus, and we saw the next exchange take place, the pink hat moving right along for a few coins.
And then we watched as the vendor who bought it examined it, checked it all out, and examined it again. As he did that, a new customer came appeared and made an offer. It must have been a good one, since before we knew it, the hat was being slipped into a bag and the transaction was done.
I’m curious about the bag, though. That means whoever bought it did not plan to wear it. Perhaps a gift, perhaps one that was absolutely perfect.
One of the great pleasures of my recent trip with Little Peach to the land south of Key West was meeting The Philosopher Detective, traveling on his own while his dear partner Maggie was off for a reunion with some long-time chums. We went through the usual tour-bus chat, which was laced with those wonderfully dry remarks that some people, perhaps, just don’t get. For example, when I said I was an American, he said, “Someone has to be. Might as well be you.” Yes, a philosopher.
Little Peach and I hit it off with him quite well, and the conversation flowed, in part — I think — because I no longer have to explain the incomprehensible nature of my former employment anymore. I did have brief visit down that road, but The Philosopher Detective quickly pointed out my mistake by saying, “Quite a conversation stopper, that one.” Yes, indeed. It is such a delight these days to be able to say to people, who care to ask ‘What do you do?” that I own a pie shop. And a driving range. I tell you, there are damn few people who don’t like one or the other.
Now, see how these Cuban boys reacted after I told them that I own a pie shop: