Read to be better, but write to be great.

Read to be better, but write to be great.

When did our attitude on intelligence shift so significantly? We used to judge others and how they impacted the world based upon their original ideas. Now it seems that we dub people “smart” based upon how well they regurgitate brainiac quotes dreamed up by mold-breakers like Descartes or Socrates.

descartes
Cogito Ergo Sum…

When did we stop thinking for ourselves and become the unpaid marketers for long dead philosophers?

soc

But I plead guilty to this shallow conviction of plagiarism. When I stand in the damp shadows after a mild mid-afternoon rain listening to excited chatter of the finches Albert Einstein’s quote comes to mind.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

Suddenly I feel part of the in-crowd; the elite crew of masterminds that seem to have an answer, or a Hallmark card, for every situation. But by extracting one sentence memorized out of thousands have I relinquished the power of my own thoughts? Have I lost out on discovering the inner workings of the universe by complacently quoting others?

Maybe mulling over those million words we choked on only to finally swallow during late nights of reading we increase our own brainpower. Do the words of the long dead jog the creativity of our own? I know that many “un nuit blanche” have come and passed in my life when I can’t put down that book. At 2:58am those characters are my best friends, my confidants and no one understands me more than they do. And then, somewhere in between my vision blurring and drool, I get the “aha!” moment that we all (I hope) have experienced at least once in our lives. Usually my mental light bulb involves fireworks and breaking glass, but nonetheless it’s a moment where I realize my own potential. For a millisecond frustration and self-doubt fall away silently and I remember how amazing and brilliant I am, and know, without a shred of doubt, that I can be a better writer. That I’m an advanced thinker and could converse with those long dead. Sleep finally sweeps the remnants of my excited state under an exhausted rug, but I wake up driven to be individual… Driven to succeed, driven to surpass…

So I guess next time I hear someone spouting an over used ancient inapplicable quote I’ll think of Oscar Wilde, who said it the best. “Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”

oscar

The Real Hat Campaign-Preamble

I grew up a product of the 80’s and early 90’s with taglines like “I pity the fool” and “I’ll be back”.

But one of those taglines wormed it’s way into my young brain and lived there seemingly unforgotten until the last few years. I think it’s been there working its subconscious magic but now it hear it said in my own voice, and not the voice of an awkward angst ridden young person (I’ve been that for too long and I’m done with that now).

I’m getting a little older (I turned 31 this year in June) and hopefully a little smarter, I’m beginning to realize what it feels like to sit, breathe and relax into my own skin. And so the ultimate tag line of my youth has resurfaced…

“when people stop being polite, and start being real”

Thanks Real World MTV…

I’ve been asked a lot of questions over the years not only about my personal life, but my professional life. My view on the world, how it ticks for me. What makes me get out of my extremely comfortable sheets and amazing mattress with my gorgeous sexy husband in it…

I won’t lie…it’s hard…and if anyone tells you different they may not be as upfront as I am.

Through a serious of rantings and ravings (aka the modern blog) I’ll be taking you down a road that curves (either voraciously or sweetly) through the inner workings of my mind…

Be prepared for authenticity, honesty, and the real deal. Sometimes the real deal is brilliant but sometimes painful…sometimes it just plain sucks…

Just know I do care-not only about what I do but how I do it-so much that at times it hurts.

So here it is…

The beginning of The Real Hat Campaign

Eclectic Does Not Equal Poor…

I’m a little pissed off (not like that’s anything new now is it?!) and must speak my mind before small parts of my brain explode out my tiny ears and make my beautiful delicate emerald earring shatter against the wall.

I use Yelp (and love Yelp) frequently. I have found amazing and delightful new restaurants, countless stores, and secret parts of San Francisco while perusing the fascinating opinions of Bay Area residents.

But I can’t stand it when people lie…and write bad reviews and leave the truth out. Like I would ever judge someone’s appearance and think they’re poor because they’re eclectic….has ANYONE seen ME?!

I received my first bad Yelp review today at work and it echoed the same concept that I have been reading about other wonderful stores in downtown Mill Valley. That we “rich snobby Southern Marin types who have changed are cold hearted and don’t appreciate boho styles or those who are unique and unusual”.

First of all let’s get this straight…I have bright pink hair and have had that (along with black) on and off for the last sixteen years. My back is covered in tattoos from my neck all the way down. I can be crude, rude, and I’m a crazy vegetarian wine drinking Italophile writer who smokes a pack a day of Marlborough cigarrettes. We own hairless cats and tiny bratty chihuahua dogs who have more attitude than Dolly Parton. I was BORN in San Francisco and RAISED in Mill Valley (and not for two years only to move into a suburb of L.A.). We are old school (my friends and I) quirky little buggers who not only love the way it used to be around here (if you love free sex and tons of drugs and hot tubs and free rent and Jefferson Starship crawling up your ass every three minutes while the band jams and the junkie in the corner keeps asking you for a smoke) but the way it is now (conscious and green and clean and family oriented and modern and looking towards the future while keeping to our past while drowning in a sea of baby carriages).

And hey kids (and adults) but newsflash…times change. Mill Valley is one of the most expensive places to live in the entire United States and is the fourth desirable zipcode to live in thanks to Smithsonian Magazine who decided we are extra extra cool (and dammit we ARE!). But people are saying negative things about our community….and I just can’t handle it anymore. People write about good stores with hardworking people. I can’t stand that…

We may have the “stepford wives” and the “milfs” and the “richies” but every part of an affluent community does. Hey…what about the Marina in S.F.? Or the “hidden rich” hipsters of the Mission whose “mommy and daddy” money is driving our rents higher. Places that really should be 900 bucks (because its such a hole) are now  2800 (and that’s not even including the parking spot that’s really too small for your car!).

I’m proudly from Southern Marin (you can call me a prep or a richie but not a stepford) and from San Francisco (but don’t EVEN think about calling me a hipster)-and we accept and love all types of people regardless of your income…it just so happens it’s a lot more expensive to live in Mill Valley than a lot of other places that surround us so please don’t hate if you can’t afford it.

Most people that tease others and hate on certain places is usually because they’re jealous and feel inadequate that they have less.

Maybe instead of wasting your time on being negative about beautiful places you should start focusing on being a better part of your community and making a difference …

Opera as art…

The gilding above my widened eyes quietly beckons to me, asking me to remember something I dare to forget. They remind me of times in a fairy tale land. A time while walking through the fog covered sleet ridden streets of Venice in the dead of winter allow you to live in another century; frigid waters lapping at my toes, Vivaldi echoing through the narrow half-forgotten streets.

An air of excitement fill the grandiose room while the orchestra tunes and the lights begin to dim until we can just make out the softly undulating curtain that falls which such weight in front of us. The strings begin, tasting the air delicately before their strength builds and we begin to build the scene.

Curtain opens…voices bellow from places of sadness and love. They sing in exultation; unity. A new version of church…one that loves us all regardless of what we believe in anymore. One that sweeps us briskly off our feet and into another space where our lungs are the ticket to paradise…our eyes truly a window to another land…

 

My father would pick me up every morning without fail before I could drive in order to spend time with me and take me to school. The two of us would play interesting and unusual games in the car while on the winding narrow road that I now know many others didn’t play.

Which album and year is this song from? Who is the lead singer? Who is Keith Richards really? And does he make or break the “Stones”?
Bob Dylan, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, The White Album, Pink Floyd…Rock and roll icons were burned into my mind from an early age. Also that and the fact that every time I answered his incessant questions correctly I received a nickel.
Hey…a nickel was worth a lot more in the 80’s than it is now. I was greedy for the music…and wanted the money. So in turn I learned the tracks, the names of the singers, their backup bands. And in time I grew to love and cherish them.
On mornings thick with the dripping Mt. Tam fog that obscured the road and make the tourists shake in their rental cars as they drove the 1, we would roll the windows up, equalize the bass and treble, and pump classical.

Yes…classical.

At first I didn’t love it. I was bored and wanted something with a beat, or a catchy lyric.

Soon I began to find the beauty in the way the music undulated through the car. I eagerly anticipated the way the strings sung in perfect balance to the harpsichord, or how the operatic voices make my eardrums vibrate in my head.

At school I would hum softly just out of ear’s reach of the other students, hearing the arias from Turandot or Madame Butterfly, weave patterns through my mind.

 

So I began to love the opera.

Authenticity-The Relatively Clear Wall of Honesty, Or So We Think

Being in bed for two days solid allows you time to think. I’m not sure if all of my recent thoughts have been completely coherent, as I was running a 102 degree temperature (hence my ass being in bed, because otherwise you know I’d be at work). Regardless it allows time for the mind to wander aimlessly. Thoughts come in and flit out as if you had the attention span of a rabbit, but every once and a while something solidifies and grows into some sort of worthy conversation (with yourself of course).

But I’ve always been a fan of talking to myself. Half of my conversations are with myself. My written ramblings are nothing more than that-a conversation with myself. Take those comments as you may. These could be early signs of insanity. But then again, I don’t know too many “normal” people. And these days “normal” to me is nothing more than a setting on a washing machine.

The dictionary has a plethora of meanings for the words we overuse, don’t use enough, or even misuse. But authentic-that’s not a word I hear that often anymore. Many times when I do hear it I don’t believe it, or it’s being misused. Many times the context in which the word “authentic” is being used in is nothing more than a lie. Well, that’s not very authentic now, is it?

au·then·tic

1 not false or copied; genuine; real
2.having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence;authenticated; verified
3.entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement withknown facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy
I remember walking the streets of Florence late at night while the men peddled “authentic” Fendi and Louis Vuitton bags, hocking them from the darkness under the antique stone arches of 400 year old buildings. “Authentic?” I asked one of the men once. “Certo, signorina. Il Cento per cento autentico. E genuino.” He answered me in perfect Italian laden with a thick accent from another faraway land. “Of course, miss.  One hundred percent authentic. It’s genuine.” It was easy to see he was blantly lying to my face. The “LV” marks on the bag weren’t even those letters. They were either “CV” or “LC” or some other odd version of Vuitton’s trademark stamp.
My constant search for all things authentic throughout my life hasn’t always been the easiest road traveled. I seem to never take the “easy” path. Maybe the easy part of my path is the fact that my choices have been easy. They’ve always been very distinctly different from the other routes I could have taken, but those paved and easiest to walk have never been the ones I wanted to walk. I’ve wanted to meander through cobblestones with four inch Chanel heels on.
Hey, at least I look good while I’m getting to where I’m going, right?
While running my business I’ve always strived to be authentic-what you see is what you get. What do you see? A young girl working lots of hours and making sure she stays on top of her game? Yep, that’s truly what you’re getting. There isn’t anything different than that simple fact going on. I have certain ethics that I keep to, which in many ways hurt me financially, but keep me sane and my morals sky high.
For example I have lists of people that want beaver fur felt mens hats-which I won’t carry. “Why won’t you make countless 800 dollar sales, you crazy person?” I have heard this question in not so many words before. The answer is simple-I’m a vegetarian and have been for 20 years and it goes against my ethics. “But why don’t you want to carry more inexpensive hats made in China?” This answer, although seemingly simple, goes deeper that the pristine surface-I want the people that supply us to get paid, to be happy, to be healthy and not driven to make cheap products for nothing. Slave labor or a tortured workplace hold no integrity to me. I’d rather buy less and have it made in a perfect authentic manner, paying homage to the days of yore when people took time to make it perfect. My vendors are artisans. They are masters and manufacture with the highest quality materials and get paid for what they do. Not because they’re overpriced, or egotistic-but because their product is actually worth it. What a concept?! Getting paid for your time and expertise. Getting paid for what’s due instead of the quick immediate fix.
But these days a lot of what moves the marketplace is the quick fix. How can trivial consumer products like the Hermes Birkin bag be a status symbol anymore when half of what you see being sold on the marketplace is a fake? Where is the artistry in that? I would prefer to not have that bag instead of carrying one that wasn’t real.
But my major question to the consumers out there, both the big and small, where is the integrity? Where is the authenticity? The honesty? Do you feel better because you can consume more for a small price while the economy declines? Are you happy? I knew I wasn’t. So I changed, but trust me-retraining yourself to be conscious as a consumer isn’t easy. It does allow conversations to open between you and your sources-find where your food comes from, where your shoes come from, where your hats come from.
Those ideals are what makes me tick. I strive to be an authentic person owning an authentic business. We’re so real in here that sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself. So maybe we make less money-but I’ll tell you, when I finally fall asleep at night after having countless other conversations with myself, I sleep peacefully because I know that one can make a difference in this world.

In The Beginning

I shouldn’t be here…

Well, maybe saying that I shouldn’t be here gives off a negative connotation. Let me try something else.

I never thought I would be here, in this store, watching the light bounce off my newly painted silver metallic walls. I never thought I would still be here in the store.

But then again I didn’t think my mom would be dead six months after I turn 21.

I was a happy kid, a truly happy kid. I’m not completely sure how I turned out to be such an anti-social jaded person before the ripe age of 30, but such is life and I’m working with what I’ve got. When I was young I ran around, smiling and laughing. I vacuumed naked (which was one of my favorite things to do as a small child) and ran through our 1 acre property that I grew up on that was perched off of Panoramic Avenue on Mt. Tamalpais here in Mill Valley. My parents were supportive and loving. They gave me everything I could desire to grow into an intelligent young person relatively capable of making my own decisions in this world that simultaneously stuns us with beauty and knocks the wind out of our chests.

Like many others, my parents parted ways and I grew up as a child of divorce. Honestly it never bothered me. I didn’t mind that my parents lived in two different houses. It was kinda fun. It allowed me to shop more (yes, I can be somewhat of a shopaholic but then again I did grow up in retail) and I loved filling my two distinctly different rooms up with new furniture and two sets of clothes.

My father, who diligently picked me up and took me to school every morning since I can remember, played Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles and Dire Straits in the car. When I think back now I know where I got my tastes for music that did not necessarily come from the 80’s (the decade I was born in). After school I would come back to the store where my mom was working  (always home base) and do my homework. The moment I was done I would begin to work the floor, fitting clients in hats and chatting it up with the locals who were at least three times my age. I would continue this pattern during all the years of my youth…

Twice a year (of course at a time when it wasn’t the busy season at the store) I would take a two week trip with my father. I remember getting off the plane for the first time in Italy, mesmerized by the foreign language that rolled off of tanned mens tongues and how the women, although clad in black and leather, could never be more elegant. I was lucky enough to grow up with Europe at my fingertips and to use not only immerse myself in their culture to help shape my personality, but also my taste in fashion, art, history and interior design.

I would return to the States (tanner, even during the winter) donning thick black eyeliner and boots so skyscraper tall that I towered high above my stature of only 5 feet. Funny enough, I’m now 5 foot 2 inches (as my Kaiser nurse told me I’ve grown within the last three years) and you’ll still find me in either four inch Blahnik heels or platform Moon Boots (my newest obsession from Florence). My closet was filled to the brim with small perfect oddities that lined the boutique windows of the small streets of Paris, Venice, Florence and Rome.

Red leather Versace pants so soft they crumpled when you took them off laying paper thin like veneer on the floor below. Lame thread infused cashmere coats with wide shawl collars that you could tuck up to brave the freezing cold of the Venetian fog during aqua alta (high water). A cinghiale (wild boar) purse with metallic imprinting and lapis lazuli closure from Fendi was one of my favorite finds and I still wear it to this day.

These influences of texture and color and the passion for fashion drove me to exceed at my job of creating custom hats for clients and fine tuning the store in Mill Valley to have a European edge to it. And I’ve done a good job. Screw it-I’ve done a great job! I’ve succeeded at keeping a niche business around during a difficult time in the economy and have a loyal army of clients who follow me.

Quite different than where I thought I would be. My hands should be stronger, and my tendons already worn out from countless hours of surgery during my residency. But that didn’t happen. I didn’t finish college. I didn’t go on to school to be a veterinarian like I always thought I would have. The small furry animals that I so adore are being taken care of by some amazing D.V.M. that possibly graduated top of their class from UC Davis.

But that was my dream…and now I live another. It’s not like I don’t love what I do. I do, truly…I’m just not where I thought I would be. Not in my wildest dreams.

Sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles now isn’t it…

Doing It All Again-For The Very First Time

I have a bizarre aversion to technology. Most of my friends and family find that odd, considering I only graduated high school in 2000, which puts me in the age of Google, and Microsoft, and of course the age of Apple. It took me years to get the iPhone. I didn’t understand why I wanted to use all those apps, or text my friends, when I could just pick up the phone, or write a thank you note, the old school way, instead of sending an email. I didn’t want anyone to know that I loved spinach on Facebook, or that I was eating lunch in a certain part of the city with certain people. I’m private. I always have been. I always will be.

But here we are-doing a blog, adding a Facebook page, and communicating through the new wave of social media. To be blatantly honest-I’m a little nervous.

I’m not really sure about it, but hey, I’m adventurous and will always try things (well, most of everything) at least once.

I’ll be 30 this year. May not sound old to you-but that’s old to me. I’m pleased about where I am in my life, what I’ve learned, where I’ve been, and how I’ve turned out. My mom, if she was still alive, would say I’m a “good kid, a good hardworking, honest kid”. My father, who lives in San Rafael with his wife tells me he’s proud of me. So needless to say, I’m happy.

This is the year that things change (or so I’ve been told). This is the year that I really try and figure out where I am, where I’ve come from, and where the hell I’m going. These growing pain are just that-painful. But although I have an aversion to technology, I don’t seem to have one to pain.

All my life I’ve made such an effort to separate my personal life from my professional life. To not be just “the hat girl”. To not be just “the kid who’s worked in retail forever already”. But I’ve come to the conclusion that those facets of my personality are a hugely definitive section of who I am today. It’s time for those who know me professionally to know me personally (even though that may end up being messy in some aspects) and for those who know me personally to know “what the hell that girl really does with her life”.

So here we go…

The curtain is raised, the stage is set and we’ll tell a little story about a girl who’s been in retail for 22 years, runs her own store, tries to live an authentic and true life-while growing and changing, becoming a woman of her own.