About Running After My Hat

Set me up another sarsparilla, pard: Alaska, May-June 2000

Has your comment not appeared somewhere on RAMH? Read the Massively Presumptuous RAMH Comment Policy for some reasons why, maybe, and some suggestions for fixing the problem.

If for some reason you’re interested primarily in me rather than in Running After My Hat, you might want to see any or all of these pages at the site:

Now, about the site…

At one time, I thought the blog might act as a “launching platform” for an experiment in electronic publishing. (For more details, see the page called How It Was: Getting the Books.)

It doesn’t have much to do with that anymore. (Write anything for long enough, apparently, and it will turn out to be about something else.) These days, it mostly has to do with music, rumination, poetry, everyday life, and writing. Feel free to explore the list of categories over there on the left. If you’d like more detail about finding what interests you, you might also try the Navigating RAMH page. (Note that that page is likely to change — to get cleaned up — in the short to middle term, as of August 2011.)

It does not have to do with politics or religion or any of the other things which people find to argue about, especially on-line. This (plus the vagueness of what it does have to do with) probably explains why its population (such as it is) remains small but apparently loyal.

If you don’t have another email address, feel free to drop a message to me at runningaftermyhatATjohnesimpsonDOTcom. And, as the observant among you will have noticed — see over there on the left? under the category lists? — I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, and most recently Google+. I don’t spend a lot of time in those venues, however.

Why “Running After My Hat”? In his book All Things Considered, G.K. Chesterton included a chapter titled “On Running After One’s Hat.” Here’s the key passage:

…there is a current impression that it is unpleasant to have to run after one’s hat. Why should it be unpleasant to the well-ordered and pious mind? Not merely because it is running, and running exhausts one. The same people run much faster in games and sports. The same people run much more eagerly after an uninteresting little leather ball than they will after a nice silk hat. There is an idea that it is humiliating to run after one’s hat; and when people say it is humiliating they mean that it is comic. It certainly is comic; but man is a very comic creature, and most of the things he does are comic—eating, for instance. And the most comic things of all are exactly the things that are most worth doing—such as making love. A man running after a hat is not half so ridiculous as a man running after a wife.

Now a man could, if he felt rightly in the matter, run after his hat with the manliest ardour and the most sacred joy. He might regard himself as a jolly huntsman pursuing a wild animal, for certainly no animal could be wilder. In fact, I am inclined to believe that hat-hunting on windy days will be the sport of the upper classes in the future. There will be a meet of ladies and gentlemen on some high ground on a gusty morning. They will be told that the professional attendants have started a hat in such-and-such a thicket, or whatever be the technical term. Notice that this employment will in the fullest degree combine sport with humanitarianism. The hunters would feel that they were not inflicting pain. Nay, they would feel that they were inflicting pleasure, rich, almost riotous pleasure, upon the people who were looking on. When last I saw an old gentleman running after his hat in Hyde Park, I told him that a heart so benevolent as his ought to be filled with peace and thanks at the thought of how much unaffected pleasure his every gesture and bodily attitude were at that moment giving to the crowd.

Hope that helps!

(If you’d like to read the entire Chesterton book — or just that chapter, for that matter — you can find it in various forms free for downloading from the Project Gutenberg site.)

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  1. I forgot I’d read you lived in Florida. As you might have noticed, my stories are set there and that is where I grew up. Now I’m curious how you like the place.

  2. @marta – I’ll probably never feel at “home” in Florida, although I certainly like our home and love a heck of a lot of the people here. I just need four seasons! :)

  3. So fun! I’d like to invite you to a party I am throwing on my blog — October 29. Here’s a link with all of the details:


    I hope you can make it! You’d be a great addition to the crowd.


  4. @Angela Nickerson – I’m in… Lord knows what I’ll write about (I generally have very happy memories of my travels), but I’ll dredge up something. Even if I have to make it up. :)

  5. John; apropos the title of your blog.
    I myself am a man of many hats; I always have been and will probably continue to be. Many years ago – 25? – I came across a fantastic old-fashioned dark grey fedora in a basement I was cleaning out here in Oslo. As it seemed to be ownerless I took it for myself. How I loved that hat, all the more so because of the serendipitous way in which I found it. But best of all – the hat had a tiny little string attached to the inside rim that ended in an adjustable loop. It was a safety cord that you could attach to a top shirt/jacket button so that if the wind were to attempt to steal it, it would merely blow off your head and dangle over your shoulder, like a small pet on a lease. All well and good. Shortly thereafter I became friendly with a young woman and as part of the wooing process I invited her out to a concert being held on the docks of the fjord. It was a windy evening and due to a large quantity of precipitation, my trusty hat was firmly in place, security string attached to my uppermost shirt button. The young lady found my hat immensely amusing and insisted on trying it on for herself. As she danced madly about on the wharf (I might mention here that we had both partaken of a liberal amount of spirituous beverages) the wind swooped down and sent my beloved chapeau sailing out into the black and roiling waters of Oslo Fjord. She, of course, had no buttons to fasten the string to. What to do? I panicked. Without thinking I sprinted after my hat and was about to leap off the wharf to certain watery death when the voice of reason fortuitously intervened and I stopped, toes hanging over the edge. My favorite hat was gone. Forever. I sadly watched it blow out to sea like a felt Portuguese Man o’ War.
    There have since been many hats; purchased in Copenhagen, Vienna, found at flea markets here in Oslo. My latest is a handmade affair bought in Amsterdam at a street fair. But never have I since found one with a string.

    – Brian

  6. Brian: Sorry for not replying sooner… I know you’ll be entertained by this: I was determined to find someplace online selling a hat like that, just so I could wave the URL triumphantly in your direction.

    Sadly, no.

    What seems to have made your hat unique (aside from its being yours, and the manner in which you found it, and the one in which you lost it) is the “fedora”(-like?) nature. I found a bunch of something called “bucket hats” with strings like that, likewise Stetson- and Indiana Jones-type models. But among fedora wearers, it seems the style is to be too cool to worry about losing it in the wind. Something like that.

    That’s a GREAT story, btw. You don’t say whether the relationship between you and the young lady survived the hideous experience, but I did wonder if she ever knew how much she’d disrupted your psyche.

    I’ve got one ball cap I wear sometimes, from the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau, Alaska, and I’ve still got the Indy-type hat shown in the picture up top. Another one something like the Indy one, a little lighter in weight. And that’s about it for headgear. Florida’s climate doesn’t seem to encourage it, unless you’re wearing it to keep the sun off the top of your head. (I spend as little time as possible outdoors, so for me that’s not an issue. :)

  7. Hi old friend! Can you believe, it’s been nine years and two weeks or so. I hope things go well for you and Toni. I’m okay … still in the same business, tho w/ a different company name … and a different target audience.

    I bought your XPath and XPointer book today. (I’m totally psyched to read it!) I bought it because I’ve decided to start building my website pages from XML files! In thinking about this task, I’ve concluded I need some consulting help and wondered if you’d be interested.

    I look forward to speaking with you … even if you’re not interested!!



  8. Neil: Hola, friend — wonderful to hear from you!

    About your questions: check your email.

    (For those of you who don’t recognize Neil’s name, he’s the genius behind what used to be called GeekCruises: three- to seven-day cruises on which tech-type people took courses in a variety of topics such as the Perl programming language, the Linux operating system, etc. (The Missus and I went on two GeekCruises in 2000 — and were married on the first.) GeekCruises has expanded, shedding its narrow focus, and is now known as InSight Cruises. To give you a sense of what sort of courses they’re talking about, exactly: when you request being added to their mailing list for future cruises, they ask what subjects you’re interested in: science; Macintosh; opera; chess; classical music, art, Shakespeare, history…)

  9. Yay, Chesterton!
    Sorry, not much of an original comment, I know, but I just found your blog after seeing some of your posts to Janet, Margaret and Beth over on the Forum.
    Off to explore…

  10. I write to express my gratitude for the hint that Chesterton is not merely an apologist for Old Redsocks but also an essayist worth stealing from, almost in the Beerbohm class. I had not previously been aware of this.

    I arrived at RAHM via a comment you made to our common friend Froog. Somewhat frightened by your draconian rules about commenting, I resolved to try, since our blogs have a few small things in common, though mine lacks the erudition and cogency of yours and yours cannot compete in facetiousness and feeble levity with mine. We differ in the way we write about hats, as you will see if you glance at some of the 45 posts I have in that category.

    Strength to your elbow.

  11. Tony: I’m very pleased you stopped by. I have also visited your bloggish demesne, but have so far been too intimidated to comment. And you don’t seem to have any rules, draconian or otherwise (I’m so excited; I’ve never been able to do draconian before). So I really ought to just dive in, eh?

    Your hat posts seem to be along the lines of Froog’s Daily Llama series. Well, except that he only does an impressionistic sentence or two per each, and you discuss the hell out of it.

    However, while I haven’t read all your posts tagged “hats,” I couldn’t find a single on the subject: why hats?

    Maybe you can enlighten readers over there at some point in the upcoming quantity-light/quality-heavy weeks.

    P.S. “Other Men’s Flowers” is a wonderful name for a blog!

  12. Why not?

  13. Yo John!
    Long time no see.
    Just thought I’d drop by and let you know that The Beauregarde Affair is out and about: http://amzn.to/sxRFTg

    E-book just now, POD is soon up.
    How are things with you? Drop me a line and let me know what you are up to.


  14. Why Brian — you old Son of… well, you know.

    Congratulations on TBA’s seeing the light of day. Duly enKindled here; looking forward to a picaresque trip through your past. And I’m very glad to see it ain’t just words, those pesky things… a Brian publication with No Pictures At All would feel incomplete!

  15. No Pictures At All would indeed feel incomplete.

    But what of you? Tell me of your adventures. What are you working on? Are you still in touch with Kate? Is she famous yet? The rest of the Burning Lines crew? Wasn’t that a blast? I remember typing madly at work, hoping not to be discovered. But type I must so as not to be eclipsed by another Burning Liner who was faster than me to the mark. It seems so long ago now.

    Thanks for the support for TBA; much appreciated. Bit bawdy and druggy. Hope it’s to your taste.

    – Brian

  16. Hi John, I found your delightful story while researching a hat that sounds almost alike to your old favorite. It is a vintage felt fedora, of chocolate brown with a black band. It has a long cord/string that ends in a nifty button. The company is Knox of New York. It is quite small, and I have given it to me somewhat ungrateful daughter:)


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