I spent everything I had for this hat

Finding myself at the Surfside Pier this afternoon, and having forgotten to bring a hat (having the sun glaring down in the gap over my shades drives me nuts), it occurred to me that I had never, in all these years, bought a hat that said "Surfside Beach."

And "all these years" is a lot of years. My grandfather bought two lots down here in about 1957. He built a little cottage on one of them. In about 1968, he built a house on the other lot, which is on a freshwater lake about two blocks from the ocean. He sold the other one to a friend of the family, and the lady lived there for about the next 30 years. Then it was sold and torn down to make way for TWO houses of the tall, skinny, stilted variety that started cropping up around here about 15 years ago. Here's a coincidence for you — Tim Kelly has stayed in one of those houses, which are right across the street from the "new" house. Very small world.

Anyway, needing a hat, I spotted this beauty. I hope you like it, because it cost $8.99 plus tax (see the price tag still on it, my little tribute to Minnie Pearl), and I only had a sawbuck in my wallet.

In fact, I had to take $2 out of my wife's purse to buy coffee at this coffee shop so I could come post this. I didn't want the coffee, but you have to have cover. Speaking of cover, as I've mentioned before, this coffee shop is actually sort of a front. The real business is a commercial bakery in the back. Zoning rules required that it be a retail business, so they put in the coffee shop as a sort of retail fig leaf. A few minutes ago, the young counterwoman said she was leaving, but I didn't have to leave; I should just let the guy in the back know when I leave. Very casual. I'm glad I'm not keeping her, the way the old man did the waiter in "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place." She had enough on her mind because she was trying to keep tabs on a little boy out in front of the cafe, in the bright sunlight. She had to keep telling him to get out of the street. She had been sitting in the sun in front of the place when I arrived, and it was easier to keep track of the boy that way, so I felt bad that she had to come in on my account. I felt worse that she had to brew decaf for me. She said she didn't mind. But it occurs to me that she would have been perfectly happy if I had just come in to use the internet connection rather than insisting on buying something. Since the main business is in the back and all.

She's getting married soon, so I congratulated her.

By the way, I didn't really come in just to post this. I came in to get my column ready to post tomorrow. What, you think I don't have better things to do?

8 thoughts on “I spent everything I had for this hat

  1. Norm Ivey

    Nice hat, Brad.
    Thanks for referencing A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. It’s one of those stories I had to read in college that has stuck with me for all these years, though I’m not sure I could ever explain why. It might be just the image created by the title itself, which I have always thought would be a great name for a coffee shop or neighborhood tavern. I enjoyed revisiting it. I hope I can find such a place when I am old.
    Another short story (in a very different vein) that has stuck with me is Poe’s Never Bet the Devil Your Head, a bit of black comedy in which Poe himself serves as the narrator of the tale of his friend Toby Dammit.

  2. Brad Warthen

    By the way, my Mom says my family history is wrong. Just today, she told my oldest granddaughter that my grandfather bought the first house in 1960. I said I had thought it was 1957, and that he built the house. She said maybe it was 59, but no earlier, and that the exterior of the house was built when he bought it, but he finished the inside after buying it.
    Anyway, what do you expect? I was just a little kid back then — I was born in October of ’53 — so my memory of these details is bound to be imperfect.
    I have a deadly accurate memory of the sequence of events after I started school, but only about the things that happened during the school year. The summers I spent in Bennettsville and at the beach have a sameness that runs together sometimes. But I can remember for sure when a certain song or movie or whatever came out, or what happened in current events, by where I was going to school that year, since we moved more or less annually… Can’t say the same from the days before school, though.

  3. bud

    I thought proper edicate requires congratulating the groom and giving best wishes to the bride. Congratulating the bride was supposed to be bad manners. Or am I wrong?

  4. KP

    Well, I just want to say thank God for grandparents, whatever year they had the foresight to buy. My grandmother bought a place at North Litchfield in 1957 (really, that year, not 1960; and I think from a door-to-door salesman), back when there were only two or three houses on the beach. All us kids feel very fortunate (although my dad says don’t be so happy, we buy it again every year).
    Very little in my life has approached the joy that small slice of beach has given me. Glad you had a good weekend.

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