Over the years I’ve attended several writing workshops. Most were geared toward amateurs, who suffered no illusions about giving up their day jobs. Perhaps a few of us seniors remembered, in moments of fantasy, that Anna Mary Robertson Moses (aka “Grandma”), didn’t begin painting in earnest until she was 78! Well…I’ve still got a few more months.
Another workshop I attended—“Marketing Your School”--was conducted by the Disney Corporation. Walt’s theory of marketing, so we learned, was quite simple: “Know your stuff, know who you’re stuffing, and stuff ‘em.” S’pose it’s much the same for those of us hoping to find an audience for our thoughts.
Borrowing some ideas from both workshops, I’ve decided to share a few musings about shoes... I have no idea why I chose this subject.
A few years ago Imelda Marcos was convicted of graft and corruption, but thus far she’s avoided prison. This news kindled fond memories of our 17 years in the Philippines as well as the “going away” parties that began shortly after the “evil twins”--Ferdinand & Imelda--were spirited off to Honolulu in February 1986. Our hostess, at one of these parties, was wearing a T-shirt with a caricature of Imelda. The former first-lady was saying in apparent dismay, “Why is everyone so upset? I could’ve gotten the matching purses too!”
Soon afterward, the new government opened up Malacanang Palace in Manila so the general public could survey the other forsaken “soles” Imelda had left behind. We paid the modest fee and let our eyes wander over the bountiful array of footwear. ‘Though impossible to count, a thousand pairs didn’t seem unreasonable. A later NY Times article put the number at 1,220! It was, from my perspective, more than you’d see at a DSW going-out-of-business sale.
Speaking of DSW, I once saw a boldly painted sign in one of their outlets shamelessly proclaiming, “A pair of show-stopping heels has the ability to transform your life.” Really? Such magical thinking is why folks like Dr. Phil stay busy.
Concerning irrational thoughts, it’s not that rare to hear some women say they’d “die” for a certain pair of shoes. Here’s one of those “Be-careful-what-you-wish-for” stories. It’s from the article, “Crimes of Fashion: Killer Shoes in History”:
“…in the early part of the 20th century, the term “killer shoes” had a whole different meaning. According to Invisible Paris, shoe-related illnesses and even deaths were quite common at the time, due to the aniline dyes used in shoe polishes and for dyeing leather black…”
Decades later, a weaponized shoe was designed to bring down an aircraft! In December of 2001, on a flight from Paris to Miami, Richard Reid (aka the “shoe bomber”) was subdued by several passengers as he attempted to light a fuse extending from his shoe. Had he succeeded, nearly 200 people would’ve died.
Still on a serious note, at the height of Michael Jordan’s fame, kids were robbed and at times killed for their Air Jordan’s! In something of an update: in May of 2020, a company that specializes in collector sneakers sold a pair of autographed 1985 Air Jordan’s for $275,000.
Wanting to walk more than a mile in another guy’s shoes, provides a segue into songs with “shoes” in the title. With at least a dozen or so, they run the gamut from profound to profane. “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” being the best-known of the former, was covered by both Elvis and Joe South. At the other extreme, Lil Wayne’s “Watch My Shoes,” is pure profanity. It wasn’t a song, but some off-hand comments about “loose shoes” (both profane and racist) that caused cabinet member Earl Butz to be fired during the Nixon era.
There’s a long-held belief that “walk a mile in my shoes” was an adaptation of a Native American phrase in which “moccasins” substituted for “shoes.” Actually, it’s derived from an 1895 poem: “Just walk a mile in his moccasins before you abuse, criticize and accuse.” Either way, the phrase serves as an urgent appeal for empathy---a quality sorely lacking in recent years. Also related is the well-known quote by Mahatma Gandhi, “I cried because I had no shoes, then I met a man who had no feet,” a classic example of perspective.
Shoes, like many objects, can be symbolic of the vicissitudes of life---our hopes, dreams, struggles, accomplishments, failures, et al. My dad, a lifelong blue-collar worker, died on Father’s Day in 1998. I saved his last pair of work shoes--scarred, burned, stained; the sole separated from the upper in places. They’re my size. I have other work shoes that provide more protection, but occasionally I put on Dad’s old shoes for some work project. During these brief excursions into magical thinking, I imagine I’m walking a mile in his shoes. And much to my chagrin, I admit that maybe, just maybe, DSW was right…”(those shoes did) transform my life.”