Everyone wears a hat, whether there's anything on their head or not.
Some have a battered cowboy hat on their head from childhood to the grave.
Some do the hard-hat 40 hours a week until they retire.
Some wear the football helmet they had in the State Championship game - twenty years ago.
Some sport the pageant tiara too long after the gray ones outnumber the blonde ones.
Some insist on keeping the Dunce cap that Mrs. Meanteacher put on them in second grade.
Everyone wears a hat, and most wear many different ones over the course of their lives, but a lot of folks don't realize it because it's often tough to see the one they're wearing WHILE they're wearing it.
Last Friday night, I took the family to a local pizza parlor for my daughter's birthday.
We invited the sister-in-law and all of her kids, plus the ones she's fostering, and my sister brought her youngsters, too, including her new 6-week-old daughter. And of course there were friends of the kids, so there were a LOT of kids - nearly a dozen - who had handfuls of quarters for the rides and the games, and were busy spending 'em all while we waited for the pizzas to arrive.
The one thing we DIDN'T bring were party hats.
It was finally my turn to hold my newest niece for a while, so I went over near the carousel to let her watch the lights and horses go around while she was still young enough to get away with wearing her "new-baby" bonnet.
For the occasion of the party, I'd worn my new hat.
Ya see, when I took my father up to the V.A. hospital last month, he and I both bought ball caps in the gift shop after his appointments were done. Both were black with "U.S. Army" and the American eagle embroidered on them. I added one of my old brass NCO insignia and an Infantry crossed rifles pin, while Dad had slapped on his Captain's bars and a silver pin with the single word "Korea" on it. His also had the word "Retired" under the eagle, and although I'd thought about getting the same, I figured that since I'm reenlisting, it seemed a bit premature.
My family has a long, proud tradition of military service, and false humility is a character flaw for which I have never been accused.
Other families were there as well, including one who had an "Uncle Bob".
Every family has an "Uncle Bob" - you know the one - the guy who should be wearing the "Instant Asshole, Just Add Alcohol" hat...whether there's booze involved or not.
The "Uncle Bob" at the pizza parlor had a hat, too, but one you don't see too often here in the high country. Ever see the Batman movie where Jack Nicholson played Joker? When he trashed that museum, he had some sort of squashed pastry-chef thing on his melon that looked like a green and purple shower baggie - the things that grannies use to keep their hair dry.
"Uncle Bob" had one of those, but with some strange paisley pattern on it that reminded me of the pus-yellow-gravy-with-peas stuff you find in the chicken a la king MREs.
Between that, the pony-tail and the ridiculous little tuft of hair under his lower lip, it was more than obvious what kind of hat he wanted people to see.
He was "holding court" with a younger relative across the table, and the half-empty beer pitcher in front of him made it clear why he was speaking loudly enough to be heard over the carousel and the banks of video and ski-ball games.
The hat he wore was as much a statement as my own, and his words confirmed it.
I wasn't attempting to eavesdrop, but he was only two meters behind me. From where I was standing, I could hear the liberalite bumper sticker dogma flying fast and thick: "blood for oil", "where's bin-Laden?", "trampling the Constitution", "torture at Git'mo", "loss of respect in the world", "Emperor Bush", "Darth Cheney", "Imperial stormtroopers in Iraq"....
...why are all the nut-jobs fans of Star Wars? I liked those movies....
I had to give the fool some credit - he had the whole jackass, dumbass, head-up-his-ass, ass-backwards pile of bullshit down pat.
He spewed the Holy Catechism of the Church of Liberalism as sure and confident as any of the "best" of the frothing acolytes of Code Pinko, the loons of San Freak-cisco or the talking heads on network TV.
I wondered if the punk had seen my hat and was spouting off trying to get a rise out of one of "Bush's stormtroopers", if it was just his usual public display, or if it was even worth the effort to say anything to alleviate his spectacular ignorance.
In the meantime, the carousel had come to a stop, the kids were getting off and the pizzas were probably close to being done, so I turned to bring my niece back to her mom and further size up the situation.
The "artìste" hat puke was lounging in his chair with his back to me, but I caught the eye of the guy the "enlightened one" had been lecturing.
The poor kid gave me one of those "What can I do? He's Uncle Bob." kind of looks as I walked past, and I almost had to smile.
I gave the baby to my wife - she wanted to hold the munchkin again - and just then they announced the number for our order.
The remainder of the evening was all pizza and pop and cake and presents and pictures. My sister-in-law's son - a good kid and a smart boy of ten or eleven - must have overheard some of what le artìste was continuing to blather on about, since the drunk's volume increased as the level of his second pitcher of beer decreased. I saw the boy glance at le artìste, then back at me, but I waved off his obvious question.
I didn't see any reason to "go cold" on the puke, since I figured it would do no real good to point out the desperately obvious short-comings of his education, himself, and his dubious ancestry.
And, given the amount of booze he'd packed in by then, I didn't want to ruin my daughter's party if the fool reacted to an "on the spot correction" the way idiots sometimes do when they've got more beer than sense in 'em...however much I might have enjoyed it.
Besides, I swore an Oath over a quarter century ago to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" - which means I spent half my life making sure le artìste has the right to make a very public fool of himself.
I gave a shrug and a smirk, and the lad got the idea.
He's been a wrestler since he was in kindergarten.
He looked at the punk - skinny, drunk, and nearly as old as I am.
Then he glanced at me again, and grinned back.
He recognized a mismatch when he saw one.
Told ya he was a smart kid.
Everybody wears a hat.
Unlike some people, I know what mine says.