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Posts Tagged ‘Italian-American’

I’m a hat guy. I don’t know why. Throughout my life, I have collected and worn hats. Every five years or so my hat collections have disappeared like all the other things I have collected whenever in a fit of despair or of some other absurdly irrational emotion, I have abandoned, given away or sold them all.

I have also worn many different kinds of hats from the elegant black Homburgs I wore 50 years or so ago whenever I would go to court on the day I was to sum up my case to the jury, to ascot caps, Australian bush hats, balaclavas, beanies, berets, boaters, bowlers, coonskin caps, deerstalkers, turbans, fedoras, ghutrahs, yarmulkes, Panama’s, Stetson’s, pith helmets, Santa hats, sombreros, Toques, Trilbys, and many others.

I should not have been surprised then when 14-year-old Hayden began wearing a hat regularly. It did begin to worry me, however, when this began to seem like the beginning of an obsession like mine.

It all began a few weeks ago. The early summer heat settled on the Great Valley. The morning’s springtime breezes began slowing beneath the light caress of the warming sun. It is a fine day. I was looking forward to a day of blissful indolence when I received a message from Hayden insisting I pick him up at the skatepark after school.

I became worried. He rarely demands my assistance. So, I drove off into the Golden Hills to find out what was going on.

On the way, I  stopped for lunch at an upscale Italian restaurant near Town Center that I had wanted to try for some time now. Its interior reeked of suburban elegance. and its menu was limited but expensive. The wine list, however, was extensive but overpriced. I ordered gnocchi in a squash and butter cream sauce along with a glass of prosecco. The meal was tasty but too heavy for my liking.

After lunch, I drove to the skatepark picked up Hayden along with his friends Jake and Caleb. As he was getting into the car, I asked him what was so urgent. He said, “I want to buy a hat for my trip this summer to Cozumel with Jake and his family. I picked one out at Tilly’s in Folsom.” 

So, off we drove to Tilly’s in Folsom to buy the hat. following which I drove them back to Dick’s house where, after warning them not to get into too much trouble, I drove out of the foothills and back to the Enchanted Forest.

Here is a photograph of Hayden in that hat:

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A few weeks later, I drove once again into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM after school and drive him home. It was the first day in about a week that the sky was neither mostly overcast nor actually raining. Instead, the sky was filled with big giant cottony battleships of clouds, floating on a sea of bright blue. It was warm — not the warmth of late spring, light and with a promise of warmth, but more like the warmth of autumn, sharp-edged and resisting the march of winter cold.

As he entered the car he told me he had ordered a new hat and was waiting for it to arrive.

“I thought you bought a hat when I drove you to Tilly’s last week,” I said.

“I did,” he responded, “But I wanted another one also.”

When we arrived at the house, we saw a package leaning against the front door. Hayden eagerly tore open the box and pulled out his new hat. Here it is:

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Being a hat guy myself, I liked it.

I pondered over H’s emerging fondness for hats and recalled several years ago when he was five or six years old, I had promised him that we would write a short comic book together entitled “Hayden Without a Hat.” Each evening thereafter he asked me if I was ready to write the story with him and each night I gave some excuse or another. Finally, being tired of my evasions and convinced I would never get around to it, he decided to write the store himself in a notebook and one evening instead of asking me again he handed it to me. The notebook contained the following (everything is as he wrote it including the punctuation, except for the quotation marks which I added). I promised him I would “publish” it. So here it is:

“Story for little boys, girls!

Hayden Without a Hat
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Hayden Without a Hat.

“Oh, no!” says Grandpa Pooky. “Oh no!!!” Grandpa Pooky says “You need a hat.”

“A hat…” says Hayden, “a hat.” “Let me think. Hmmm, ok” Hayden says. “I do need a hat!!!! “Hey, we can go to the hat store.”

So Hayden picked out his favorite hat. It was just like Grandpa Pooky’s hat.

Remember kids always have a hat!!! And mom’s and dad’s.”

For those who may have some interest in the various head coverings I have chosen to wear recently, here are a few:

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And one not so recent:

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Prince Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy, Prince of Naples pretender to the crown of Italy.

 

Dick just returned from a ten day trip to Italy. I spoke to him a few days after he arrived back in EDH. Among other places, he spent a few days in Florence which he enjoyed a lot. That reminded me of one on the many times I visited that city.

It was about fifteen years ago and I was driving along the Lungarno on my way to The Hotel Principessa something or other.  I usually stayed there whenever I visited Florence because of its wonderful view of the Ponte Vecchio and the Boboli Gardens that rise up behind the Pitti Palace.  While passing a small plaza on the way to the hotel, I noticed a crowd milling about in front of an elegant old hotel (I no longer remember its name). There also were television cameras sent up in the plaza. I suggested to the woman I was traveling with that we stop and find out what it was all about. We parked and got out of the car and walked over to the crowd.  I asked one of the cameramen what was happening. He told me that the son of the deposed King of Italy had just married some Italian heiress and they, the King himself and his court were staying at the hotel. Everyone was waiting for the happy couple and the King to arrive.

Now, at that time the King who lived in Spain was prohibited from visiting Italy, but the prohibition was waived for the wedding and everyone there was eager to get a glimpse of him. So, we decided to stay also.

A few minutes later, two large limousines and several other cars drove into the plaza and parked. From the back of the first car the bridegroom, (the Prince), and the bride (the heiress) exited. The Prince, who was reputed to be gay, scurried quickly into the hotel. His wife, the heiress, who I had learned could be quite demanding, began loudly ordering some of the people from the other cars about the luggage.

From the front of the limousine from which the bride and groom decamped, a tall grey-haired man wearing a blue blazer and a shirt without a tie exited and stood by us watching the activity. Believing him to be the chauffeur, we began talking with him. He spoke English quite well. I thought it would be fun for us to stay in this hotel with the royal family. It certainly would make a good story.

The old gentleman urged us to do so and volunteered to help us get a room. So, in we went and after a few whispers to the man at the desk we had a room. It was then one of the harried retainers approached our new friend and humbly said, “Your Excellency, your room is ready.” And that was when we realized that he was not the chauffeur but the King pretender himself.

Anyway, we checked into our room, a rather large lovely old elegant room. The room was directly above the newlywed’s suite. While standing on the balcony we could hear the bride shouting at someone for a while.

That evening we went to dinner in the hotel. The newlyweds had left for a party in their honor somewhere else. The King and his court, however, did not join them but instead sat at a large table in the center of the dining room. We were placed at a table near them. We ate a fabulous meal while the King shamelessly flirted with my date.

The next morning we left having thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and with a story as well.

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On Wednesday, I left the golden hills for the Bay Area to meet with the trustee of some coastal property in order to advise him about options available to the trust. We met for lunch in a building that survived the ’06 earthquake. The building was the home of a men’s club established in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century.
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Club membership includes the captains of industry and commerce in the area. About 50 years ago many doctors and dentists were also allowed to join, as well as some Italian-Americans. I recall that when I was growing up the emphasis was exclusively on the word before the hyphen. Then, through the efforts of some of the least ethical and most dourly aggressive and greedy members of our community, some of us gained enough wealth that American began to gain prominence in our minds and in the minds of many of those exclusively pale hyphenated Americans whose ancestry did not include the word Native.

I remember when the darkness was bleached from my soul and I simply could call myself an American and look down in sadness at the dark souls of members of other hyphenated communities who had not yet received the miracle of the Blessed Bleach. I remember fondly that day when I noticed that my skin had gotten two shades lighter than it was the day before

In all likelihood, there are only one or two members of the club that are Democrats. On the other hand, most of the staff are.

I learned that many of the members also belong to an organization called the Greco-Roman Dentists’ Fishing Society (truly, it was organized by the Greek and Italian dentist in the club). They gather once a year somewhere in the northeastern part of the state for a weekend of fishing and other things.

Since I was to sleep that night in one of the club’s guest rooms, I ate dinner there and met a few of members. One guy was referred to at the “Corn King,” another owned a string of radio stations. He was forced to sell because Rush Limbaugh was not pulling in the listeners like he used to. I had a pleasant conversation with a man whose parents came from Genoa. Like many of the club members, he had a few vacation homes. One was on the beach in the Italian Riviera.

I met the manager of the club. He used to manage the well-known men’s club in Sacramento. When I worked in that city, I received some minor notoriety by refusing to attend meetings and conferences there because of their policy on women members. Of course, I would periodically slip in there for lunch. My moral standards permit minor acts of hypocrisy and one or two large ones now and then.

All the governors that I was familiar with had been members and used the clubs facilities extensively — except Jerry Brown who refused to step foot into the place. Apparently, Governor Arnold used to impress the club members by carrying a large marble chess table from room to room. The members were not so thrilled when the same immigrant governor placed armed guards at the elevator and prevented the members from using the floors where he lounged about — relaxing, I assume, between feats of strength. The members told the muscled one that, if he ever did that again, he would be publicly thrown out of the club.

That night after dinner we played poker. I also thought it would be appropriate to celebrate the recent diagnosis clearing me of lung cancer by smoking a cigar. At the table with me were the Corn King, the Media Lord, a dentist, a retired gynecologist and a few others whose professions I did not know.

Now, as a rule, I do not like gambling and avoid it whenever possible. It was one of my father’s most appalling vices. However, when I do play poker, I have a few rules:

1. It is always preferable for the other players to believe you do not know what you are doing.
2. Fold early and fold often. Unless by the first bet you know you have the best hand on the table, fold. Hoping to improve your hand is as worthless as drawing to an inside straight.
3. Never raise someone else’s bet.
4. If the game chosen by the dealer allows wild cards, quietly fold before the first bet.
5. Never forget that it is not how much you win that counts but how little you lose.

The retired gynecologist was the big winner followed by the Corn King. I was the only other winner.

That night I spent in the club’s guest room. For some reason, I was unable to sleep well and woke up muzzy. After breakfast, I headed back to the golden hills. Because I was so out of it, I kept taking the wrong turns and ended up in Stockton by way of the Delta. Normally I would enjoy a ride through the Delta, but not today. I was lost. This being California I knew that as long as you do not drive around in circles you will eventually cross a freeway. And so I did, except the on-ramp was closed for construction. So I continued east and eventually found another freeway and wound my way home, where I immediately went to bed and slept the rest of the day.

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