Mesarchia (mes-ar’-chi-a): The repetition of the same word or words at the beginning and middle of successive sentences.

My hats are my passion. My hats are my inspiration. My hats are my corridor to what I can be. I started collecting hats when I was 10 years old. I got a set of electric trains for my birthday. Along with the train set, my father gave me an engineer’s hat. It had black and gray pinstripes and a tall floppy brim. The town’s train station was about two blocks from where I lived, It was a key stop for the commuter train going to and from New York City. I had a squirt can of “3-in-One Oil.” I’d walk up and down the platform in my hat pretending I was a railroad engineer waiting for my train. I’d tell people in thick railroad jargon that I was waiting for a “Brass Collar” (Railroad Bigwig) so we could have a look at the Clown Wagon” (Caboose) behind the “Battleship” (Large Locomotive) when it arrived from Hoboken at 3:30. Some people would laugh, others told me to go home where little boys belong. I understood that when I fell off the platform one day. People were screaming and yelling. The 2:30 from Newark was only 100 ft away, so nobody could help me. I laid in the middle of the tracks until the train stopped. I crawled out and the Conductor reached down and pulled me back up on the platform. He yelled, “You’re lucky to be alive!” as I ran for home, crying. My Mom asked me what was wrong, and I told her I had been tun over by the train from Newark. She smiled and said “You’re just like your father: an idiot! Have some milk and cookies.”

My second hat was a Union Soldier hat. Our family had taken a spring road trip to Washington, DC. We stopped at Gettysburg along the way to visit the famous battlefield where Lincoln had delivered his “Gettysburg Address” to dedicate a cemetery there. There was a museum there. It was a tribute to how crazy the US had gone, dividing into two separate countries and going to war. There was a gift shop attached to the museum that had a lot of Abraham Lincoln souvenirs—rulers with the “Gettysburg Address” printed on them and pencil sharpeners in the shape of Lincoln’s bust. There were placemats imprinted with photographic images of battlefield carnage, red white and blue garters, and cheap bourbon called “Famous Grant.” Then, there were the hats!

There were Union hats, and Confederate hats. I wanted a Confederate hat—I begged. My father called me a traitor and gave me his signature karate chop on the back of the neck. I blacked out for a second, like I always did. When I snapped back, I was wearing a Union soldier’s hat. “We won that damn war, and don’t forget it. Your great great great grand Uncle was killed by a Rebel—shot in the back and left to bleed to death on the battlefield at Shiloh. Never forget that. As we came out of the gift shop I saw a kid at the other side of the parking lot wearing a Rebel hat. I was mad after what my father had told me. I ran across the parking lot to kick the Rebel boy’s ass. I slipped on an oil spot, fell, and cut my knee. The Rebel boy came over and asked me if I was ok. I told him I was fine. He was from Fishhook, North Carolina. He told me his great great great grand Uncle was killed by a Yankee—shot in the back and left to bleed to death on the battlefield at Vicksburg. We made friends right there in that parking lot and were pen pals for years: he died on the battlefield at Can Tho in Vietnam.

In a way, my hat collection is a repository of memories—some good, some bad. I have 106 hats in my collection. When I put one on, it can be like flipping a switch on a time machine. I guess my most important hat is my Davy Crockett “raccoon skin cap.” Mine had a snap-on tail and glow-in-the dark eyes. It also had tuck-in ear flaps. When I put it on, I became “king of the wild frontier.” Knowing Davy had “killed him a bear when he was only three,” I was deeply disappointed that there were no bears in New Jersey that I could kill, but I went bear hunting anyway. I had a bow and arrow set that I had pulled the suction cups off of and sharpened the arrow shafts’ tips with my pencil sharpener. There was a patch of woods near were I lived. That’s where I went hunting. I never saw a bear, but once I saw my woodshop teacher Mr. Rippey with the girl’s gym teacher Miss Meedle. Miss Meedle was holding onto a tree while Mr. Rippey hopped up and down behind her. Now that I’m older, I know what was going on. At the time, I didn’t. When I told Mom what I had seen, she said “Oh my!” Nearly immediately, she called my school and asked for Mr. Rippey. When she got him on the line, she told me to leave the room.

Anyway, when you put something on your head, you put something in your head. Hats can affect your identity. Where would Napoleon have been without his hat? Mickey Mantle? The Cat in the Hat? Earnest Hemingway? Chico Marx? Tom Mix? Benny Hill? Queen Elizabeth? The Mad Hatter? There are hundreds more. Get a hat. Take a break from being you.

Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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