“I once had a friend put my shoe over his nose to see how long he could keep it there. He spent the evening in the E.R.”
When I first read in the Bible that the Apostle Paul compared people in the church to parts of the body – like the eye or the head – my first thought was “Please Lord, don’t let me be a foot.”
The foot is definitely one of the “unpresentable parts” of the body and, in the Most Unappealing Body Part category, consistently ranks in the top three year after year. I am of the firm belief that feet need to be covered at all times and because of that, I am suggesting here that all people everywhere, and especially men, need to start wearing burkas on their feet. Feet are necessary, I get that, but they are an evil body part that lurks (like my great Uncle Lyman), sweating and molding and fungusing , waiting to jump out at you (like the Black Death) as soon as the Hello Kitty socks are removed. They are constantly in some stage of cracking, blistering, callousing or peeling, and, one or two of the nails are always in danger of falling off or getting bent back and they are always in a constant state of unwellness and in need of being rubbed. I’m saying all this because I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about this post. I, more than most, am all for covering feet in shoes, but really, family, why do we need so many stinkin’ pairs?!?
When I was young I only had one pair of shoes at any given time (yes, I actually did have to walk to school in the snow, barefoot, uphill both ways with barbed wire wrapped around my feet to keep from slipping). I’m sure, given my preferences, I would have liked to have less than five pairs of boots and more than one pair of shoes, but I lived in Ketchikan and really didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. No one did. Shoes stores sold two types of shoes. The ones that got you beat up and the ones that got you less beat up. There was no Nike back in the day. There were Buster Browns (aka, Zach Brown Busters your head open), Keds (only your little sister wore Keds) and P.F. Flyers (aka get your Face Punched shoes). In order to preserve your good looks there was only one shoe anyone could wear and that shoe was made by Converse.
The good thing about Chuck Taylors is that you got punched less when you wore them. The bad thing about them was that they left nothing to the imagination (like Speedos on a fat guy) when it came to the size of your feet. Since my legs were long I used to sit on the bus with my feet sticking into the aisle and on one of the daily punch fests (also known as the bus ride to school) I went from thinking my Chuck’s were pretty awesome to realizing that I had a horrendous birth defect – my feet. They were freakishly huge in comparison to the rest of my body. I didn’t realize until later in life that my head was way too big for my body, too, but at that moment the meat slabs attached to my ankles took all my attention and looked like something out of a science fiction movie. I fought the urge to say “I am not an animal, I am a human being!” I glanced around the bus and was sure that everyone was looking at my monstrosities. In actuality, I’m sure everyone (but that one guy who shaved at the age of 10 – he was too busy combing his mustache with that little comb that I wanted so badly), was looking at their own feet and feeling the same way. Maybe that’s why bell bottoms were so popular because they hid teenage feet so well. If someone had only invented bell bottoms for my face then my life would have been complete.
Chuck Taylor may have been a wife-beating, beer-swilling redneck from the south, but we didn’t care because if you didn’t wear Chuck Taylors you wore nothing at all. They came in any color and style you desired – as long as the color you desired was black and the style you wanted was high or low top. The squeak they produced was deafening (current iterations of the shoes have an added material, similar to micronized talc, which makes them not only quieter, but as slick as bbs on a hot skillet covered in grease with a goose around). Back then though they had enough traction to pop your ankle out of its socket and leave it behind you on the court if you cut too hard, especially so, if you wiped them on a wet towel before you hit the court (which we all did). It got so squeaky at times that it sounded like a gym full of really aggressive and testosterone-addled crickets attacking a flock of defenseless mice. Depending upon how much our coach (my dad) had to drink the night before, we sometimes had to practice in our socks to keep him from ripping his ears off and throwing them at us.
My kids wear Chucks, but they are not their father’s canvas Converse. Chucks now come in hundreds of colors and styles – they have to since there are close to five hundred different brands of sneakers alone to compete with. Diversify or die is the shoe mantra and my kids have drunk this Koolaid in spades. They have more shoes than monkeys have butts and the majority of them come from the evil four letter word shoe company.
My friend, Steven, calls Nike “Satan’s shoe company,” but to my kids, who have worshiped at the altar of Nike more than once, they are almost the only thing (aside from the occasional foray into Chuckdom) they’ll attach to their stinky feet. That swoosh means more to them than a bag of diamonds and if you stuck that swoosh on two dead squirrels you found on the road my kids would say “Awesome!,” slip those suckers on and head over to their friend’s house to show them off. I personally don’t get it and think Nike is the Bernie Madoff of the shoe market. I mean how can any company, in good conscience, charge so much for something that weighs so little? I have paid less per ounce for Wagu beef and in my opinion if you buy a pair of shoes for $200 they should weigh roughly the same as a bowling ball.
My wife doesn’t have a shoe problem. She has more than two pairs, but just barely. She is like the anti-Imelda and tends to wear her shoes until a little hole appears on the front of the shoe from where her big toenail presses into it day after day, year after year. She doesn’t throw her shoes away until her entire toe pops in and out through the opening at every step (I married the most frugal woman in the world. Hurray for me and too bad for all you suckers who married someone else). During our first five years of marriage she wore the same pair of Birkenstocks until those shoes and her feet were one. They were so comfortable because the fibers of the shoes had woven themselves into her flesh until the shoes and her feet were no longer separate entities. The shoes had become a parasite (“PAIRasite”) that lived off of her feet. It took special surgery to remove them and we had to drown the shoes in the river to keep them from seeking her at night like the severed hand from so many campfire ghost stories.
Apart from my wife, it has often felt like I live with four little Imeldas.
NB: Imelda Marcos was the wife of (now dead) Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator of the Philippines. When they were deposed they found her collection of 3000 shoes. It’s my own personal belief that Imelda had exceptionally ugly feet and that Fernando kept purchasing shoes for her to keep them covered up. Do a Google search of Imelda’s shoes and you will notice that not one of her 3000 pairs were open toed.
I write this sitting in my 25 year old Nevados sandals (I got them on sale for $8.99) so take what I’m saying with a grain of salt, but I would never dream of getting rid of a pair of shoes unless they are completely unusable. My old shoes get relegated to the closet, to the back porch, to the mud room, but they never get thrown away until the funnel web spiders have set up shop in them and the empty carcasses of long dead moths are strewn all around. Only at that point do I exercise my charitable duty and bring them to Goodwill.
Until then, any shoe is a good shoe. My mind doesn’t really work right at any time, but especially when it comes to shoes. It starts to play tricks on me the moment I try to Goodwill a perfectly good pair of “work” shoes. The term “work shoes” has become a euphemism for any pair of shoes that I might put on to do any kind of work that doesn’t involve a computer. It’s odd, but when work does actually occur it is way too much of a hassle for me to change into my work shoes.
I am a very careful painter after all and there is no need to take the time to change. On the first careful stroke, I inevitably have splattered my good shoes and the next day I am forced to buy a pair of “I told you so” shoes.
My old, good shoes are now my new paint shoes and my old paint shoes get moved to the back door to be used as mud shoes. The mud shoes get sent to the barn to be used as clean out the barn shoes and the new paint shoes get put in the closet for the next time I paint. I’ll be too lazy to change into either the new paint shoes or the new mud shoes or the new barn shoes when needed and the vicious cycle will be repeated ad infinitum, until the Lord comes and brings me and all my shoes up to heaven.
My shoes are not me and I was able to actually get rid of three pairs of perfectly “good” shoes today.