I had a hat once.
It was an Indiana Jones hat given to me by my friend Rob Malone.
Rob was a cool guy, the sort of guy who if I had known him in high school I would have really looked up to. But, then again, Rob’s from PA and if he wasn’t from PA he wouldn’t be who he is.
And what he is is a crazy experimental filmmaker who makes political/psychotic-fantasy films about love, death, cyborgs, the Kennedy assasinations and breakfast. His was a style I respected very highly at New York University, because as I learned more and more about filmmaking, the limits of what I could do expanded but also became more defined.
I’d never be a great Director of Photography with my color-blindness and lack of depth perception, my hearing loss and addiction cell phones made me a poor man for Sound. I found I could scrap something together that was roughly autobiographical, but found trouble talking extensively about things I didn’t know or love.
I think that grappling for one’s limits is one of the joys of any art education and offers the opportunity then to be genuinely impressed when you discover someone who can do something outside your limits.
My friend Beamer could write dark-as-hell comedies where the laughs came as much from randomness as the insecurity of the human psyche.
My friend Lauren could write a television script with such craft that her episodes would be better than what’d you see produced, but not so much better as to offend the writers or be unrecognizable within the show’s world.
Rob could edit a film using material that came from every-which-way and a story that seemed both absurd, with its cyborgs, wheelchairs and gun-fetishes, but also strangely real to the way that people process information. He had a post-modern sensibility that was funny with a touch of interesting.
Most importantly, though, when you saw a “Rob Malone film” one thing was clear amidst the jumble: no one else could do this, it was something new.
Rob himself was striking too, the reason I’d look up to him in High School. He had a look and a style, a certain unpredictability of how he held himself that made him seem pretty awesome. He was one of those guys with a cultivated beard, neither an Alan Moore bonanza nor a soul-patchy-cling-to-the-face affair. No, his was form fitted, sandy-blond, replete with cultivated stash and mane.
He would constantly reference terrible 70s/80s action films, of which he had an encyclopedic knowledge, dropping “The Last Boy Scout” or “Conan the Barbarian” into a conversation as if he was talking about “Raging Bull” or (god help me) “Twilight”, another film he loved.
Not only that, but in addition he would speak in nonsensical turns, spouting off Kennedy conspiracy theory, items about PA, or random tangents that would go to crazy lengths, often also combining the Kennedy assassinations and/or bad movie references.
For instance, it might go something like:
“Oh, we’re hanging out with Dan today? He looks like Lee Harvey Oswald, a crusader for justice. Yeah, he was just the pin-up guy, which is why the CIA kidnapped his family afterwards. I wanted to make a movie about that but Dan wasn’t available to go down to PA. Mark Dickerson and I made this movie about aliens down there, which also could be involved in the Kennedy assasination, given Area 51’s unsecured status at the time, but then we decided later it would be too much like the ne Indiana Jones movie. I don’t think that really works with the refrigerator…”
And so on.
Anyway, he gave me a hat, an Indiana Jones hat which he found on the street.
He was in the room wearing it when I went to visit him editing, but as we chatted on the aforementioned subjects, he put it on my head, one of his quick asides.
“Here, it looks better on you than it does on me.”
Because I hear so infrequently that anything looks good on me, I started wearing it like a badge of pride, to some people’s interest and other’s chagrin. Often I couldn’t tell the difference, since when my Judo teacher complimented me on it, I assumed it was yet another jab after the repeated ass-kicking of that evening.
I looked a little ridiculous in the hat, my fro-ing red hair spilling out from underneath its sides. It was too small, but I felt cool in it. It was a topic starter, especially after my other friend/clif-bar-nemesis Dan Pleck put a pin with a picture of a saucy redhead on it, a souvenir from the computer lab where he works.
It wasn’t much good for practical hat things.
When it rained, the hat warped and never came back. When it was cold, I was better off wearing my hood. When it was windy–and it is ALWAYS windy in Lower Manhattan–it would fly off my head unless I caught it hard tight to my skull, otherwise I’d be left running down the street.
Still, it felt good to have an accoutrement like that, something Indiana Jones-y, even if the last movie sucked.
It did cause my grandmother to give me an assortment of my dead grandfather’s hats, which I accepted with extreme reluctance.
But a hat is a hat, superfluous at times, and one day in class I left it under a chair in class and it disappeared for good.
It’s strange looking back to think I wore such a thing for such a long time. I love my hair and, having many bald men in my family, want to celebrate it and show it for as long as possible.
Yet there was something about the hat, whether I wanted Rob’s zany charm, or something to talk about, or a challenge as I walked down windy Houston St. Even my nerdy friends liked it, especially Miles “The Mexican” Rodriguez who, when he tried it on, we then dubbed “Indiana Gomez”.
But maybe it’s just one of those things you leave behind sometimes as you go with your life.
Or maybe it was just a fucking hat.
I did like it, though.