Friday, March 18, 2005


A few years ago a very well-to-do liberal (did I have to mention that?) colleague at work took an interest in my preference in shoes as they often do. She didn't think my somewhat old Sperry Topsiders were suitable to the task of, well, enclosing my feet and all those duties associated thereto.

Now I should add that the Sperry Topsiders (let's just call them "boat shoes") were not my idea in the first place. Several years prior to that I had worn some sort of "sneaker" which took the form of "running shoes" except that they had Velcro fasteners where there would have otherwise been shoe laces. Not having laces was a problem for this (oh, did I mention) other well-to-do liberal person who took an interest in my footwear. She convinced me to switch from my awful Velcro laden sneakers that I think came from somewhere like K-mart for $10 a pair and switch to these nice upscale boat shoes, complete with LEATHER shoe laces that needed to be re-tied about every 15 minutes. Not to mention I feel much safer in them when I am on a boat, that is, if I had a boat.

The cost of the boat shoes was around $75 at he time I think, which I considered excessive. But they were almost as comfortable as the $10 Velcro sneakers and eventually I got used to wearing them. I tried gluing the leather shoe laces to keep them tied, since I never used the laces when putting the shoes on or taking them off (just as I never used the Velcro on the sneakers.) All shoes should go on when you forcibly shove your feet at them and come off when you step on the back of one shoe and pull. Seems simple enough to me. Glue didn't work though, and after a few years of this, and other solutions, I took to tying the laces with square knots, so that even if they LOOKED untied, they remained snugly on my feet. Even the square knots would come undone eventually. I really don't think cow skin was designed to be used in this way. Snipping the excess off at the square knot wouldn't do since there wouldn't be anything to grip to re-tie it. I ended up just tying a series of square knots one on top of another until the top of my shoes looked sort of like an old-time Chinaman's pony tail.

Maybe that's why the more recent liberal fashion consultant thought that I should visit the Earth Shoe store and get something that (to her at least) looked nice and was comfortable too. So I did. And about $150 later I was wearing sort of brown leather clog-looking things with no laces (I liked this) and no heels (I wasn't so sure about this part). They are big up front where the toes are, and the lack of heel was supposed to cause the foot to comfortably "roll" forward as you walked.

These shoes were indeed comfortable for a few days. For some reason though which I don't recall at the moment, I felt compelled to go back to my "boat shoes" after a couple of weeks. This immediately got noticed. My excuse of "not wanting to wear the Earth Shoes out too quickly" was met with the suggestion that I buy a second pair.

I suppose many a friendship has been sacrificed over such a thing. In any event the Earth Shoes found there way here to the beach, where I am now where I thought they might serve as "dress shoes" if I ever needed such a thing (apparently I don't) and the next time I laid eyes on them the special protective spray which the Earth Shoe store salesman had convinced me was essential to proper enjoyment of the shoe had turned into some sort of smorgasbord for green mold. Nothing else in my closet was similarly affected, so I think they really did like that spray. Or perhaps they came in on it.

I've continued to wear the Sperry Topsiders, and only that brand, not just ANY boat shoe, for many years. I've had 4 or 5 pair. I wear them until they disintegrate. Well, actually longer than that, for as they disintegrate I "fix" them as best I can, applying glue here, string there, and whatever it takes to avoid the need to break in a new pair. I've even found an "outlet" store at the beach where I can get them for $50 or so, which is a fraction of what they cost now in regular stores.

All of this, preamble (word chosen carefully) to my shock and horror at seeing a pair of Earth Shoes at Walmart the other day for $15. On a whim, I bought a pair. There was no spray to go with them, and no salesperson nearby to suggest I needed any. They are made in China. I bet the pair I got for ten times as much was too. I wonder what these Topsiders actually cost to make? If I were paying $15 for them I'd be a lot more inclined to throw them away and break in new ones more frequently than I do. If this makes me a tightwad then I'm comfortable with that. I like to know what things cost to make, and that the people in between me, the consumer and those Chinamen who make the shoes and inform me as to how to tie the laces are not making too comfortable a profit.

For well-to-do liberals, money is no object, if it achieves the goal of making MY feet look better, just as personal taste is no object to those in the condo association who want everyone's door to be the same horrid orange. Those who know something about how government works, and who don't either work there, or have unlimited resources, would do well to shop for less expensive alternatives I think.

Or maybe it's just a coincidence that my last two shoe consultants were liberals.

And all of THAT as preamble to my slipping on my new Earth Shoes today and going for a walk on the beach. Spring has sprung I guess, or the 50 degree temperature and lack of wind combined for very moderate FEELING weather. That, coupled with my new shoes, and their "rolling" action and before I knew it I realized I had walked a VERY long way.

Yesterday being St. Patrick's day had a noticeable impact on the beach. Or at least I guess that's what did it. This place is deserted this time of year and it's common to not see another single soul on the beach or any sign of humanity. From the parking lot, and noises in the distance I infer that some are making a long weekend here out of St. Patrick's day, one of the many holidays that I can be blissfully unaware of unless it is brought to my attention. Oh yes, I was careful to get off the streets early yesterday and really had forgotten all about it until I noticed all the tire tracks on the beach. It seemed that every dune crossing had been the site of drunken celebrants testing their four-wheel-drives. Quite a few had apparently brought wood with them to half burn for warmth in the night and then quickly cover with sand until the flame was gone, or not.

I wasn't consciously paying that much attention to the tire tracks or the burnt wood so much as the things uncovered by last nights activity. Due to my eyesight being no better than average for a person my age I tend to collect mostly brightly colored or large things on my beach walks. I'm sure many a tiny treasure has escaped my notice.

As a result, a large snail shell (A) that isn't broken will usually get my attention. The ones found here are not often very attractive, although with some oil and a bit of work they can be made to be quite decorative. Since attending a lecture on the subject broken bits of glass (B) are now picked up by me rather than being passed over. Some people actually SELL this stuff making an old Heineken bottle carelessly tossed into the ocean a modern investment vehicle. I used to think that such glass was worn down mainly by the action of sand, but I learned that salt water actually weakens the structure of molten silicon dioxide (and whatever else they happen to mix with it) accelerating the speed with which those razor sharp edges become harmless, and rendering a Noxema, Haley's MO, or some fancy new fruit drink's bottle (C) difficult to distinguish and giving the glass surface a patina hard to duplicate by mecchanical means. Of course, at the lecture I attended, I found that through proper chemical and spectroscopic analysis one can trace these glass fragments back to their source, be it a modern day bottling plant or a hand blown item from the 1600s (none of which appear in my collection I am sure.)

In fact I often note that the beach is one of the few places that you can safely walk barefooted without much concern. Almost anything except a discarded hypodermic needle is quickly rendered safe to the bottom of the feet in one way or another. Most things submerge themselves in the wet sand at a uniform rate so that if you "relax" your feet (I'm not entirely sure I know what I mean by this) you can walk down the beach without looking where you are going and only occasionally feel something uncomfortable enough to make you check for skin breakage. Almost any metal corrodes rapidly to the point where it is unrecognizable. There is no such thing as stainless steel here. Only gold has much chance of surviving in a recognizable form and I have yet to collect my first dabloon. Wood rots in interesting ways and plastics of all sort may last, but they are quickly covered with sea plants, snails, and other mollusks to the point where you might recognize a familiar shape without being able to see any of the original surface. No, my feet are safe as I amble down the beach this time of year in my Earth Shoes. I have absolutely nothing to worry about.

That is, other than crushing something I'd like to collect (D) like this tiny conch shell about whose inhabitant we can say "We hardly knew ye." As the sand protects our feet from sharp things, it also protects items such as this from multi-ton drunk-driven ersatz dune buggies on St. Patrick's day nights. Our tiny departed conch friend is indestructible by comparison to it's former lodgings (E) which I have seen on the beach frequently thinking it is some sort of washed up plant. But actually I found that these are conchs egg casings. Normally I find these totally empty with a small hole on the outer edge where the young ones have left. Close by to this one however I found a separated unit (F) with no such hole, and not one, but many tiny unborn inside, shell, and all.

The conch, like the snail, of course, makes do with only one foot, albeit the majority of its body serving that purpose, and has no need of an Earth Shoe, or a boat shoe for that matter.

When one walks, one thinks, and without knowing it finds that they have reached the public beach in Delaware with a pocket full of treasure and a seemingly long (now) slog back to that speck in the distance called home. One can but try to get back before damage is done to those collected beach goodies and thoughts.

Making up for months during which I mostly cut and pasted excerpts and my quick reactions to things "collected" on the Internet it occurs to me that the quality of such "blogging" isn't far above the time wasted watching TV. It is nice then from time to time to actually create something, especially as I sit here and realize that those shoes have rubbed a small blister onto the inside of my right foot.

I should go now. I have an "Urgent" message from Sears, informing me that they are all out of the money I gave them to insure I'd never have to have a kitchen appliance replaced. It occurs to me now that Sears gets my money if something breaks, and they get my money if it doesn't too. There is something of the "Earth Shoe" phenomenon in this that I'll have to study more carefully. Look for an update.

Update: Well, I'm here adding tags to my old posts. I noticed I promised an update, so here it is. I let all my Sears extended warrantys expire. Most of this stuff costs about twice as much to replace or insure as to fix, plus, in replacing them you usually get new features, energy efficiency, etc. Also, I'm still wearing the Waolmart Earth Shoes. They don't ever seem to wear out. They smell a bit though. So I throw them in the washing machine from time to time.