“My advice to young people is to like hats but not love them.” (Aaron Belz)

Griff's in the foggy sunrise.

Griff’s in the foggy sunrise.

Griff’s on the Dock is the premier seafood restaurant in Port Orford, Oregon. When I spend a summer week or two in Port Orford, I stay at the Castaway Motel. When the weather is clear at sunrise looking east, I can watch a small spit of land reaching out to an Oregonian rock formation emerge from the dark, and beyond that, Mount Humbug.

To the west, the town dock slowly lightens, and Griff’s restaurant comes into view.

I own several baseball caps. My favorite cap is from Griff’s. It’s off-white with blue printing and a curved bill, the kind I like because it keeps sun off my rosacea-marked face. I’ve been wearing that cap often for the past couple of years.

Another of my favorites is the black-with-white-writing cap I got in Washington, D.C.

photo(1)I don’t like my appearance wearing a baseball cap. My head is too big or too round or something. I don’t look cool. I look like a plump old man trying to be young and sporty in a baseball cap. But they are practical.

Last week I was in Baton Rouge visiting my brother and sister-in-law for Thanksgiving. I had the Griff’s hat in my duffle bag. However, when we went out for the day on Black Friday (to a mall?—on the day after Thanksgiving?), I forgot to wear the cap, and I needed sun protection. I can’t allow my almost-shaved, almost-bald head to get sunburned or my reddened cheeks to be exposed.

My brother knew of a cap shop in the mall called “Lids.” It’s mainly stocked in caps with the logos of professional sports teams I don’t want on my head. But—what fun!—they have a machine on which they can embroider any words the customer wants. I wanted a “Baton Rouge” cap, and I had it in about 10 minutes. Tan with red lettering.

On Saturday we went back to the almost-deserted mall. I don’t remember the main purpose, but my purpose was to get another lid—dark blue with bright blue lettering, “OG Harold.” That’s right, Original Gangsta—my name to some college young men I know. They produced my one-of-kind lid.

The next day we went to Laura Plantation a little south on the Mississippi. Once again I left my cap—I had three to choose from—at the house, so I had to buy a cap in the gift shop—light blue with gold lettering.

I arrived home in Dallas with 4 caps instead of one. The temperature was 37, and I needed my stocking cap, not the “OG Harold” cap.photo-002 - Copy-001

I have written a great deal about my time(s) at the Oregon coast. They are not simply times away, or R&R. My being on the beach at Port Orford—here comes the hyperbole—has been some of the most “spiritual” time of my adult life. I do not like the word “spiritual” because people toss it around to mean whatever they want it to mean. The fact is that my experiences that some might call “spiritual” are the farthest thing from other-worldly or spooky or religious or any of those things. My experiences are the closest to “reality” I ever feel.

I don’t want anyone to tell me that I’m being “spiritual.”

I have written about this heightened sense of reality many times. My personal favorite—the one that comes closest to saying what I think and feel—is about my experience at Paradise Beach near Port Orford in 2009. Not surprisingly, several of those writings have to do with sunrises and sunsets.

I don’t need to try to replicate that writing or expand on the experience here. When I walk(ed) on the Oregon beach, it is (was) necessary to wear a cap even though it may be cloudy, foggy, dreary. I learned the hard way once that the sun is not hidden in those conditions. I posted a picture of myself wearing a favorite cap on July 15, 2011.

DSC01639I don’t remember which pictures of myself at the beach I took with the “time-release” on my camera and which I commandeered one of the other two or three beach walkers to take for me.

A kindly surf-boarder headed down to the water took the heading photo of my Sumnonrabidus blog. My cap is, of course, the important focal point of the picture. It was a Port Orford cap, and it blew off my head and far away in a downtown Dallas wind a couple of years ago.

My memory doesn’t play tricks on me. It simply pulls strands of this experience and that experience together, experiences that have nothing to do with each other.

Caps and oceans. Caps and the Library of Congress. Caps and football, Nebraska or SMU. Caps and nicknames. Caps and family time that becomes more gracious and important every day.

I never wore caps until this century.

My brother wears floppy hats in the safari style. My friend wears baseball caps like mine. Most gay men don’t wear baseball caps. I don’t know why. Another friend always wears her new elegant hat on Easter. Everyone wears hats when it’s cold. Stocking is preferred. “The problem with the love-hat relationship is that it is superficial. You don’t necessarily even know the other person.”

I’m thinking about what my various hats say to other people about me. I’m thinking that hats as reminders of memories are lovely. Especially if the memory is shared with a loved one.

Like all other reminders—symbols—one must be careful when attaching meaning. A cap is a pretty trivial way into the heart of another person.

Like so many of the ways we judge each other.

“The Love-Hat Relationship,” by Aaron Belz (b. 1971)
I have been thinking about the love-hat relationship.
It is the relationship based on love of one another’s hats.
The problem with the love-hat relationship is that it is superficial.
You don’t necessarily even know the other person.
Also it is too dependent on whether the other person
is even wearing the favored hat. We all enjoy hats,
but they’re not something to build an entire relationship on.
My advice to young people is to like hats but not love them.
Try having like-hat relationships with one another.
See if you can find something interesting about
the personality of the person whose hat you like.

Aaron Belz is the author of The Bird Hoverer (2007) and Lovely, Raspberry (2010). He earned an MA in creative writing from New York University, and a PhD in English from Saint Louis University. He has taught English and Creative Writing at Fontbonne University, Saint Louis University, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and Providence Christian College.

A kindly surfboarder.

A kindly surfboarder.

“. . .no Notice — no Dissent No Universe — no laws —. . .”

snow day
A student asked me the other day why my writing has so many dashes—if that’s a good way to write. I told him, no, it’s not. Unless you’re Emily Dickinson.

Great Streets of silence led away
To Neighborhoods of Pause

Here was no Notice no Dissent
No Universe
no laws

By Clocks, ’twas Morning, and for Night
The Bells at Distance called —
But Epoch had no basis here
For Period exhaled

Otherwise, too many dashes can—and most probably will—confuse your reader.

I woke up this morning with the ceiling fan in my inamorato’s bedroom on my mind. Nearly every night when I am here, I go to sleep with the image of the mystery fan in my mind. Five shadows, four blades.

Of course, I know it isn’t so—the fan does have five blades. But one disappears into the ceiling. The colors, at the direction of the interior decorator, of ceiling and fan are identical, of course. Here are no notice, no dissent, no universe, no laws.

In December of 2004, I planted a tree in memory of my partner who had died but a month before—planted it in the front lawn of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Farmers Branch, Texas, with the help of many friends and the blessing of the pastor. A place for a tree to grow for years, decades, for as long as I would be around. I was organist of the church.

A book I know well says, “We will not regret the past, nor wish to close the door on it.” I have tried for years to come to terms with that concept. To make it part of my self-perception. Internalizing the idea is pretty difficult for me because much in my past I wish had been otherwise than it was.

I know, I know. Everyone can say that—and would if she were being unabashedly honest. But whether wishing it were not so is the same as regretting, I’ll let keener minds than mine decide. My distinction is that I can regret only those choices I made consciously and willingly, while I can wish experiences over which I had little or no control had not happened.

In the winter of 2010, it snowed in Dallas—a not unheard-of event, but unusual because it was real snow, three inches deep. On that day the pastor of St. Paul took a picture of me in front of the memorial tree. It is, and always will be, the only picture I have of the tree. The church closed and the city of Farmers Branch, without ceremony—and probably without the awareness of any city father or mother—uprooted my tree as they tore down the building to erect a new fire station.'fan-1

I could—and in some iteration of my life would—have been devastated by the destruction of the tree. It saddened me, but I am too old (but not too wise) to be devastated by such things.  Partly because the summer before I discovered Paradise Point at Port Orford, Oregon. I love the beaches around Port Orford because even in summer they are too misty and cool for Americans’ taste—no danger of melanoma (which is what took my late partner) there. But you can walk for miles and not see another person. In the beauty. In the spectacular beauty. My students understand this less clearly than they understand writing with dashes.

A morning meditation I read daily (for reasons I can’t explain because I believe less and less in either the efficacy of or the need for such things), today tells me that “. . .we need our own personal definition of spirituality—something that will work for us. . .” The writer says his/her “definition involves being positive and creative because I believe in a positive and creative force in the universe.”

Why I should be positive and creative because the universe is escapes me. Why I should try to be anything escapes me. The universe—it seems to me—is what it is. Trees grow and are cut down. We love, and our beloved die. We find solace and joy walking the beach, and then we find solace and joy having found again a beloved. All while we have a private view of absurdity—a shadow cannot be made by nothing or a sentence by a dash—unless, of course we understand that
By Clocks, ’twas Morning, and for Night
The Bells at Distance called

But Epoch had no basis here
For Period exhaled

Paradise Point,Port Orford, Oregon

Paradise Point, Sunset
Port Orford, Oregon

I just discovered this blog about Port Orford. It’s worth a read.