The Curious Case of the Floating Cowboy Hat

“Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable.” 

-Albert Camus

I know this sensation: a propulsion within my rib cage, impelled by dissentient emotions — mostly anger and joy. The anger brought on by thoughts like gathering bacteria; at first, one solitary thought — “I’m not doing anything worthwhile right now” — made bigger by disparaging conjunctions — “I’m not doing anything worthwhile right now because I’ve nothing to offer to the world by writing or sketching or singing or, for fuck’s sake, talking” — until that one little annoying thought is suddenly an archipelago of sickening notions, a “Choose-Your-Own-Pathetic-Adventure”, if you will: “I’m not doing anything worthwhile right now because [A. I’ve nothing to offer the world by writing or sketching or singing or, for fuck’s sake, talking; or B. Even if I try to do something worthwhile right now, I’ll royally fuck it up.

If you choose A, go to the bathroom and stare at your forlorn face for 6 minutes. If you choose B, continue your hapless, pitiful dwelling.]

But, mind you, this sensation, this propulsion, is also impelled by joy. Joy brought on by small victories — “I paid my cell phone bill on time for the 15th month in a row!”

Or by funny memories, like the following:

When I was four, I was on a children’s television show, “The Uncle Al Show”, that ran on a public network channel in the Indiana/Ohio/Kentucky tri-state area. Little kids would gather around Uncle Al on a set that resembled a barnyard — dangerously precarious cardboard cutouts of cows, pigs, red barns strewn about, a talking puppet rooster, and a child-sized carousel that stood like some misplaced prop for a different TV show. Uncle Al would play his accordion and sing enthusiastic songs to the kids. The day on which my brother and I were set to appear, my mom had dressed me in red overalls, a bright yellow shirt, and an oversized cowboy hat. She’d also lied and told the show’s producers that both my brother and I were celebrating our birthdays — “Yes, both of their birthdays! On the same day! That being today! Imagine that!” — though, judging by our difference in size, we were obviously not twins, and judging by my mom’s hands cupped tight across both of our mouths, we had no say in the matter regardless. This little fib afforded my brother and I the opportunity to ride on that rickety carousel and tell the cameraman how old we were. I was four fingers old. My little brother was somewhere between one and three fingers old; he couldn’t decide. When the show actually aired, I was, for the most part, not visible in the group scenes. I played the part of The Cowboy Hat That Occasionally Floated Across The Bottom of the Screen. At one point, mid-sing-along, Cowboy Hat darts furiously out of sight. This is because I’d noticed my shoe was untied and had decided to run, panicked, to my mother in the studio audience, shouting, “Mom! My shoelace! My shoelace!”

This memory makes me laugh, long enough to wash the dishes or clean my room.

Because I so often divulge these inner-workings of my mind, I fear that members of my vast readership (that was an intentional over-statement) might think me crazy. A nutjob, if you will. And if I sit and agonize over that concern long enough, the propulsion in my ribcage will intensify and — uh oh — I’ll be haunted once again by those damn conjunctions. I’ll go from “I reveal so much that I bet people think I’m absolutely bonkers” to “I reveal so much that I bet people think I’m absolutely bonkers and I’ll never be able to host a decent house party with so many people wary of my weird conduct” to “I reveal so much that I bet people think I’m absolutely bonkers and I’ll never be able to host a decent house party with so many people wary of my weird conduct which means, dammit, I’ll never be able to put my new-ish Crockpot to proper use!”

I know this metaphor very well: I am a duck gliding upon the calm waters of a pond. At least, that’s what you typically see. But by writing all of this, I’m allowing you to see my webbed feet paddling furiously below the water’s surface.

Because I know that sensation too.

uncle al show

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s