I saw the mail truck stop at our box and instead of Mo putting something in and driving on down the block, she got out, walked around to the back, opened it, and rummaged around for a while. I watched her with fascination—I’ve set up my office in the front of the house, what used to be the living room before they built the addition on the back (I’ve walled it off with bookcases back to back sticking out from the interior wall towards the front wall, but I’ve got half the books sitting on the floor until I can get around to putting a couple of screwjacks in the cellar to hold up the office floor, which was never built to take that kind of concentrated load), so I see everything that goes on in the street. After a while she walked down the driveway and over to the front door, carrying a catalog and a large package. When she handed it over to me, I realized it was amazingly light and wondered what on earth it could be. I got the boxcutter, opened it up, and found a gorgeous, pristine white hat, something like this but with the crown slanted down sharply towards the front and deeply indented. It was made in Mexico and bore the label D’Avila Hats on one side of the band and “La Providencia” and a phone number on the other. It fit perfectly.
It turned out to be from my old buddy the Growling Wolf, who’d found a good deal on eBay and gotten one for each of us; in an e-mail responding to my thank-you, he said “the guy told me these hats were made in only certain parts of Mexico — and they are made from a special grass and they are made by women who go into caves and weave these hats so the straw doesn’t dry out — they have to keep it soft and evidently the air in these caves is perfect for this… You can smell the straw in these babies.” My wife calls me Don Magnifico when I wear it.
As it happens, the Growler is in the midst of a long saga called One Spring Morning Off Spring Street, that starts with being rudely awakened on “a spring morning when I lived on Greenwich Street in a 2nd-floor loft in a building that had been, and I loved the fact, a butter and egg wholesale house” and continues via many a commodious vicus of recirculation to an epic attempt to use a weekend pass to get from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, to East Lansing, Michigan, and back before Monday morning formation at 6 o’clock. If you had no problem with my mildly discursive first paragraph, you might try riding the bucking bronco of the Growler’s wild-eyed, intoxicatory prose style; the saga starts at 1 (with a history of the Ear Inn) and continues with 2 (“being awakened by an earthquake that turned out to be Bobby Fuller’s ‘I Fought the Law and the Law Won’ being played by such a wild uneven unthoughtout racous almost jackhammer-bothersome in its incessant bad drumming whingding POW on the 2 and 4”), 3 (mafficking at the Ear Inn—warning, Not Safe For Work or delicate sensibilities), 4 (the formation of a great blues band, with more raunch), 5 (writing, lusting after Tuesday Weld, getting beat out by Joyce Carol Oates), 6 (the epic journey begins: “The first time I was in Detroit…OK, I start swimming back into some murkier waters of my past times, those times when I was in the U.S. Army and stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, outside the town of Rollo, Missouri…”), 7 (“So the Chicagoans and Big Bad John and I got on the military bus to the post main gate and there we caught the Trailways into Saint Louis, where we were gonna book on the Rock Island or the Burlington or the Illinois Central, one of those railroads and then head up to Chicago a couple’a hundred miles north and then after that–whatever, we had a horrible schedule to beat…”), and 8 (stewardesses and Lake Michigan, plus a joyous yawp about the Yankees—the Growler is a serious Yankee fan). If you like it, there’s more to come.