The Hat is not the critical part of this story although it hangs in the hall and my wife still wears it on occasion. It is old and dusty like we are and a reminder that silly times, fun and spontaneity can be had at "the drop of a hat"! LOL! I don't think you can find happiness alone. I can be as content as a cow in a spring meadow by myself but "happiness" is shared laughter, dancing always takes two.
I really wanted a good hat, well built and colorful as all of Spain, but practical, something to keep the sun out. I found the marketplace huge, crowded and full of vendors selling anything one could imagine. Isles and isles of food and clothes and radios, live chickens, dead chickens and cooked chickens, everything. I found the hats but they were very simple, very plain, designed to last the season and disappear. I asked everyone who could understand me where could I find a store that sold hats?
Jackelyn Kennedy, the President's wife bought her hats in Spain, in Barcelona in fact, at a
little hat boutique manufacturing shop called "Marti-Marti". I am sure it is still there. It is not
opulence at its worst to see it, maybe an eight foot tall entry door with huge brass handles. On either side of this door was a huge plate glass window maybe twelve feet in length and from the sidewalk to the top of the door in height. Each window displayed only three hats. Leather, fabric, straw, and maybe three other materials, certainly there were six distinct styles.
Remember how I was dressed? Logger's boots, short pants and a shirt, all dirty from hitch-hiking and I hadn't shaved in three days. In my heart I was a King and willing to pay a king's ransom for a hat! Free, illgotten money maybe (see earlier blog! are you following this story?)
and I would happily exchange it for a simple, well built and colorful hat.
This door lead me into a rather wide hallway with three doors on either side and a desk at the end. A receptionist was there eyeing me a bit as I came down the hall. I told her I was looking for a straw hat and she directed me to the marketplace. No, I had just come from there and was directed here. I was told you had the best hats.
She is on the phone in a flash and gibbering in Spanish far too fast for my ability to understand. Soon a man approaches, pauses midstride to gather himself I assume, walks right up to me and asks how he could be of help? This is the Spain I loved, friendly and helpful and smiling. He lead me down the hall into one of the rooms and offered my a brandy!
"We don't sell hats to men but maybe if you could describe the lady?" I am thinking I will see ten hats and choose one off the shelf and he is telling me that they are all custom made to order,
a particular style and color for a particular person, say Mrs Kennedy, for instance!
I am trying not to get his couch dirty. I am sitting on the biggest, softest, blackest leather couch I have even seen with brandy in hand, he offers me a cigar! A Havana, no less. I describe Jane as best as I can. We had only known each other three days. He wanted size, shape, complexion, height and hair color and he wrote all these things down. Next he is on the telephone, again so fast I am not catching a single word. Then six women appear, entering without knocking and each wearing the most beautiful straw hat that I had ever seen, striking colors and each a different style. Wow! I am just a 20 year old kid with a Cuban cigar and a glass of brandy trying my best not to screw this all up.
"Great, I'll take that one!" I said pointing at a girl looking much like Jane and wearing a straw hat slightly pulled down in front of her eyes. They all laughed including the man, at least I was entertaining them. These, it was explained to me, were not really hats. Not finished, not ready to sell, they were mock up models, approximations, an idea of a hat.
"Well, but of course, I knew that!" I said with little authority. How little I was about to find out because this process went on three more times. First they came back, all like runway models, all wearing what appears to be the same hat with subtle variations. Then there was color and I said orange would be beautiful. They returned, all wearing identical hats in six colors of orange. I didn't even know there were six colors of orange!
Finally I got the hat and it was put into a proper hat box, strong eneough to be used as a step stool and tied with a ribbon! He told me I had made an excellent choice and she would be beautiful while shopping along the Ramblas late at night. I told him we were hitching to Malagar tomorrow and she would appreciate the sun filtered from her eyes and keeping the dust out of her hair. He snatched the box right from my hands!
This is when I learned about Mrs Kennnedy and his other clients. You just don't do this to his hats, not "Marti-Marti" hats anyway. He untied the ribbon, removed the hat and gently with a letter opener on his desk, removed the lable from inside the hat! I could have the hat, he said, but I had to promise never to tell anyone where I had bought it.