My Favorite Hat

Over the years, I’ve worn many hats. I know people who wear more, but I sometimes have doubts about how to deal with the random lids I’m wearing at the time. Last year, I wore the “performer” and “activist” hat, as well as the “photographer” and “writer” ones. I also got to wear the “production” hat and the “artist” hat a few times as well. As you can easily see, sometimes I have a hard time juggling all those hats around.

Since my job ended in November, I’ve gone into what I call “recharge” mode. This means that I’ve taken a hiatus from what was driving me over the past, and am taking a good look at my future. Near future entails finding a job, keeping the carny chops up, and hopefully wearing a few other hats. Far future looks a lot different, including a desire to slow down and completely change my life’s focus.

I’ve really slowed down this winter. A perfect time to hibernate and think about new accessories. San Francisco’s cold and wet weather has added to this slower pace. So has my deepening relationship with Laura. Nevertheless, I’m about to put on my favorite hat. One way to describe this hat is that which I wear when I don’t belong.

I speak of the “traveling” hat. An item I’ve adored since I was a small child, wandering somewhere has always kept me awake, excited, and driven. As early as I could, I wrangled my parents into letting me go “somewhere else,” usually for a concert in a larger city than my own.

Traveling seems like a part of the times in San Francisco. Being a truly diverse city, most of us go somewhere else as often as possible. Years ago, in a journal, I wrote “I want to die somewhere else,” thinking that the most romantic way to snuff it would be in a different culture where I didn’t belong. The one thing that I enjoy about going somewhere else is that I am not part of their culture. San Francisco, much like my childhood home, keeps that alienated, yet connected vibe, flowing. I say connected as well because I really feel human when I’m visiting another country. My empathy for the other grows, because I am the other in that other place.

Leopold Bloom, one of my favorite literary others, walked among the Dubliners as if he were invisible. Yet, Joyce makes the reader see that he is in fact the hero of the times, surviving as best as he can, a Jew among Gentiles, a wanderer among a culture he doesn’t understand. Like Leopold, I put on my travel hat, and see how others live through my own eyes, speeding my heart beat.

So, with a metaphorical kidney in my pocket, and a well-worn cap on my head, I walk nose-first into the mists of other continents. I’ll write, but I don’t know if I’ll post anything until I get back. I’ll photograph, but you’ll all see it later. I’ll reach out to artists and performers, and you’ll get the stories.

I’ll see the poverty and despair everywhere, but it won’t be home. I’ll feel the anger, see the guns, cameras, and security fences, but they currently seem so distant. I’ll see the worship, the smiles, and the reverence, but will mostly appreciate it from afar. And I’ll find the history and the suffering, the ancient civilizations, and I’ll see the remnants of it all in this upcoming moment. From my own senses.

You’ll all be there with me, with all your hats stacked on your head like mine are. But my favorite, our travel caps, will be the ones at the bottom.