Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pointing the way

I bought a new pair of hiking boots for my trip to Yosemite, but the process wasn't exactly smooth sailing. I took back four pairs before settling on a fifth, which I bought in desperation—we were leaving the next day. On the trip, those boots caused me so much pain that at one point I had to walk barefoot: my toes felt like they were being stung by mud wasps. By the third day of hiking, with new socks, I finally broke them in. Still I'll need to buy another pair if I'm ever to go hiking again.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with shoes. I'm a Pisces after all. But come to think of it, what does that have to do with anything?—fish don't have feet.

Once, I made a dance, my first choreographic effort, where I carried a suitcase full of old shoes and laid them out toe-to-heel on stage; I proceeded to dance along the lines of shoes, as shown in the first frame here (until I come to an explosion of emulsifier used in the printing of this contact sheet): 

I also yelled into my shoe (last frame). 

Those shoes seemed significant at the time, i.e., following them would point the way—to a new boyfriend or career, or to my destiny. In retrospect, they didn't point to anything, only to the fact that I had a bunch of old shoes. But at least one person was enthralled with my performance. A strange man with a thick Italian accent called to tell me the "Toronto Italian Businessmen's Association" wanted to present me with an award for best new performer; I thought about it, worried that it was the Mafia calling—who else gave out cash awards to dancers?—and graciously declined. (I often wonder what would have happened if I'd accepted, would I have become rich and famous?...but that's another story.)

When I moved to NYC I bought a pair of expensive ($75, a fortune at the time) pink and purple 6-inch heels because I thought they'd make me attractive to a guy I was dating named Jefferson. I should have known with a name like Jefferson to run the other way, although in those shoes I could hardly walk, least of all run. This is how I remember them:

I never wore those awful shoes, not once. And Jefferson, well, the less said the better....

There were the shoes that made me cry on the cobblestones of Rome; the plastic boots I wore during Toronto winters; the El Naturista shoes (all organic) that nearly killed me. 

It seems whenever I buy shoes, I take them back within the week. In the store they're fine, but once home they're too small, too big, don't support my arches, hurt my feet. I sometimes think that if an FBI agent were following me, he'd pin me for a mule carrying drugs, the way I transfer shoes in such predictable patterns.

My favorite shoes ever were the ones I wore when I was four or five. My mother bought me a pair of red oxfords. I loved those shoes! They were the most beautiful things I'd ever known. I was so proud, trying hard to keep them shiny clean, but soon forgot and scuffed the leather off into dirty strips. I ran those shoes into the ground, and then like all good shoes, they were retired. Here's a facsimile of those beloved shoes:

Maybe there's hope I'll find a good pair of shoes like those early ones.

1 comment:

  1. Those old photos - fantastic. So the Rat's Nest twist on the Joseph Campbell adage is, what, follow your ... shoes? Um, okay.