I have picked my NEDERLAND hat to write about first. If you are wondering what I am referring too, go and read “Hats and T-shirts.” I should also start by saying that this is the 2nd Nederland hat that I have purchased, I of course lost the first one. Five years ago, a group of my college buddies and I started to take a long weekend guys trip to Colorado to see Dead and Company and spend time outdoors. These are two of the things that we enjoyed together as college kids and we still enjoy jammin’ together for a few select days every Summer. The Summer of 2018 guys trip was a bit different for me. Wifey and I had arrived at a place in our marriage where we needed to do a hard reset separation. From Memorial Day to Labor Day of 2018, wifey moved to a short term rental and I stayed in our home with the dogs. This was without a doubt the toughest thing I have worked through in my life. It was during this span of time that I really took “my process” and brought it inti high def. I am not going to get into the whole process/Summer 2018 right now, there is a lot there and I want to focus on the hat and the memories associated with this lid.
When I make my flight reservations for this trip, I usually head out on a Wednesday and come back late on Sunday or super early on Monday morning. I like to stretch it out as long as possible. Of course wifey encourages me to stay as long as I like… she knows how good it is for this bipolar bear to be in nature as much as possible. I appreciate that I don’t have a nagging wife, it makes a world of difference. This year however, I decided to make it an even longer expedition. I went out a full week in advance and was able to get in some fucking amazing “me time.” Like a tiger in a cage that circles and circles trying to calm their mind, I did nothing but walk for the first two days. In those first two days, I walked, alone, over 20 miles. With no destination in mind just walking and sweating and thinking and running the ruminations out of my head. You really can walk out the crazy. The first couple days I was in town were very sunny. I normally don’t wear a hat on sunny days as I like to soak up as much vitamin D as possible, it really is good for you. After a couple days though, my fair Nordic complexion asks for a break. I am not a big fan of the chemicals that they put in sunscreen, so I wear a hat. On day two, I had walked an out and back route to the end of the reservoir on the edge of town. This was a total of about 12 miles round trip. When I returned to town, I felt as though I had settled in and could take in the beauty surrounding me rather than ruminate about all the other issues that are my life. I was then able to let go and be in the moment. My first stop as I meandered into town was the local cutesy, artsy, fartsy, place. I had been in the prior Summer and I knew they were likely to have the hat I wanted.
Hats and Tee shirts are tribal. They broadcast to the world who we are and what assumptions we want people to make when making their first impression. When I see a guy wearing a Masters visor, I know that he is really proud of having been one of the few that have gotten to either see the tournament in person or even be blessed enough to have played the course itself. He is broadcasting to the world, “I am a golfer, probably a rich one, that likes to play and see nice courses.” Funny thing is, golf visors are where my affinity for ball caps started.
When I was a kid, the PGA tour played a pretty major tournament at a golf club my grandfather belonged to in Oak Brook Illinois. Now being the grandson of one of the members, allowed me access to the clubhouse and therefore the players that none of my contemporaries had. Every year during tournament week, I would get a new Western Open golf visor and a sharpie marker. Mom would drop me off at the front door of the clubhouse and I would spend the next couple hours wandering around the clubhouse and locker room asking the golfers for their autographs, this was one of the biggest weeks of my summer every year. By the end of the week, my visor was completely full of the autographs of some of the best golfers ever to have played. Coming from a golfing family and being a good golfer myself, this was a really fun way to discover who I am and what I enjoy doing and with whom. I will tell you that while I no longer collect visors and professional golfer autographs, I do still let the cap on my head broadcast to the world how I see myself.
Fast forward 35 years and there I am still buying a new ball cap in the summer time wanting to let the world know who I am. I have replaced visors and 18 holes with rounded rim ball caps and 14 bagger mountain tops. I have always enjoyed the outdoors, I have just discovered my own way to spend 4-5 hours enjoying God’s good bounty. My hats have always been a part of that story.
When I choose to put on my Nederland hat then, not only am I reminded of all the parts of my life I just shared, but also all the little moments that have become a part of my story since buying the hat. I lose shit a lot. I have accepted this about myself and is one of the reasons I don’t pay a lot for high end goods…. I am the king of gas station sunglasses. When I lose a hat, I get sad. I think of the friends that were with me when I was in Colorado that summer and the time I was able to spend walking alone working on myself and my marriage. Losing the Nederland hat would get me thinking about the long weekend I spent in “The Ned” with my middle daughter for a ski trip. We both had a great time and it is one of our favorite memories together. I really try not to lose my hats, but it does happen. There is also a lesson in losing a hat as well. Living with emotional and material detachment is important for me. While it will make me sad and takes me on a great trip down memory lane, losing a hat does not erase the memory. When a friend decides they don’t want to be friends any longer, that does not discount all the good times that the two of us shared in the past. The hat is just a hat and people will always let me down. Our experiences are the only thing that cannot be taken from us. My ball caps have taught me to accept this fact, and it’s had a huge improvement on my life. All we have is the moment, tomorrow is only a promise, not a guarantee.
You can learn a lot about a man from his hat stories.