HOLLYWOOD—The moment Mr. Miller donned me in Nordstrom the compliments started flowing. For a neighbor I evoked 1940s panache; a cop said I made him look like a Miami drug dealer. A smiling man who panhandles the traffic islands on La Cienega was reminded of his dad, “Had a hat just like that. Real stylish.”
I got all the compliments, it wasn’t as if I fished for them. The only flak he ever got was that I, Panama extraordinaire, lacked an intriguing back story. Mr. Miller bought me from Nordstrom. Plain and simple. The bulk of what he possesses: the pieces in his art collection, his Cuban cigars, his Italian loafers: each have a story.
As a hat I had no story, that is, until Memorial Day. Returning with the groceries on Fountain, Mr. Miller made the common mistake of doing too much at once: on top of taking the groceries in, a task that required both hands, he wanted to get me out of the car. For our tale to progress, it is well to mention that Mr. Miller has a house but his house does not have a garage. To ready himself for the walk ahead, he stuck me—the Panama—atop the scraggly sweat-stained cap he was already wearing. The palms of both hands were creased by the plastic loops of bags weighted by groceries. And he was smoldering because his daughter not only mocked the way he looked (“Wearing two hats looks funny,” she said, squinting her nose), she wouldn’t accept one of the grocery bags: insubordination.
At Cahuenga they turned the corner, where a decent wind was blowing. That’s when I did something I always wanted to do: I flew away. Because of the cap he was wearing, Mr. Miller didn’t feel a thing. Five minutes later, when he reached his house and put down the grocery bags, his hands felt above the cranial equator and gasped, “My hat!”
A frantic sprint immediately followed. Up and down the street he searched, behind fences and in parking lots. Secretly he was miffed at his daughter for not noticing when I flew the coop: being close to Mr. Miller’s thoughts, as his sombrero of choice, enabled me to accurately guess his thoughts as he searched for me in vain, “If a nuclear bomb is ever launched by accident, you can bet a child was in the room.”
He doggedly crossed Fountain and walked as far as Funk Bros. and confirmed that I, his wide-brimmed eminence, had indeed vanished. It was devastating. Such good care he had lavished on me—not even a drop of head perspiration had ever penetrated my ribbed silken band. Poof! Gone without a trace. Traumatized to the marrow, he gave up the faÃ§ade of zen master, and phoned his therapist:
“When can I get an appointment,” he said. “I’m devastated.”
“Doctor, that’s a long time. Doctor, please”¦”
“I’m not the doctor. This is the answering service.”
“Listen, I’m going through the grieving process. I need help”¦”
“You know,” said the operator, “Sometimes you just have to let it go.”
He hung up with a desultory gaze. His daughter observed, “Dad, you look sad.”
“I am sad.”
“It’s only a hat,” she said.
“Dads need to pout sometimes. It’s good to pout. Then you can look back and say I overreacted, that was so silly of me. It was only a hat. It would be nice if we could pout together. I’ve put up with plenty of your pouting. Now put up with some of mine.”
After a while his fingers grasped a marker and he made a poster,HAT LOST, on the corner of Cahuenga and Fountain, 2 p.m. Memorial Day. $$$ REWARD
She stared at him forming the letter, compressed her lips, and said,
“You have to let it go.”
Talk about turning the tables: Usually it’s the grown-ups offering bromides that that children cannot apply, while the wound is too fresh. He wasn’t ready for his daughter’s breathtaking zen wisdom, I can tell you that. At this point Mr. Miller let out a primal scream to make the china plates tremble, to make the twigs shiver, to make a passer-by look up and see a rakish Panama hat resting atop the hedge near the corner of Cahuenga and Fountain, and think, “My what a fine looking hat. I think I’ll try it on.”
To be continued”¦
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