Thursday, December 03, 2009

Kicks Just Keep Getting Harder to Find

"And your kicks just keep gettin' harder to find, and all your kicks ain't bringing you peace of mind..." Paul Revere & the Raiders

"Give me two pair, cause I need two pair, so I can get to stomping in my air force ones..." Nelly

There's nothing... I mean nothing... like a good pair of shoes.  Even with The Lovely Steph Leann, who spends much of her working day sitting at a desk (she does much more than that, but she does spend time at a desk...) shoes are essential, as she deals with plantar fasciitis.  I, who not only spends at least 8 hours a day on my feet at The Happiest Place in the Mall, then at least 10 hours a week standing in front of an espresso bar at The Most Caffienated Place in Greystone, have to have good shoes.  A must.

My problem with shoes is two-fold... first, my feet are very wide.  Like, short and stubby, but wide.  I only wear a 9.5, sometimes I can wear a 9, every now and again a 10.  Secondly, I never grew up with a whole lot of money to buy the right kind of shoes... so after a decade of wearing & tolerating ill-fitting shoes, its only been recently that I would splurge the money to make my feet comfy.

When I was a kid, it was a huge deal to, every September, travel to nearby Geneva with my dad.  We'd go to Moore's Clothing in the little shopping center right past where they build the Wal-Mart (though it wasn't around in those days), and Dad would drop about $70 on a pair or Nikes, or Reeboks, or (one year and one year only) a pair of L.A. Gear shoes.  Paging 1988, come in 1988....

For my family, $70 was a lot of money, as we bought many of my clothes in cheaper establishments... but those shoes were great.  That was my pair for the whole school year.  In September, they'd be gleaming white with a blue stripe down the side, in May they'd be a muddy grey with a blue/black half-stripe barely hanging on.  But, when you went to a place like Moore's, before Dick's Sporting Goods and before Academy Sports & Outdoors (the right stuff the right price... Academy!) and before Target and before outlets and such, you had places like Moore's, places that would not only sell you a pair of shoes, they would sell you the correct pair of shoes. 

You would have an old guy who had that silver, metal foot bracket, and you'd place your sock feet in it, heel back, and the old guy would move the little brackets to barely touching your toes and the side brackets would slightly squeeze your feet.  The old guy would make a few notes based on those miniscule little notches on the foot bracket and come back with a couple of pairs of shoes from the back, a couple of pairs that would fit your feet perfectly.  And they did. 

I was blissfully unaware that my feet were wide.  I was ignorant of the fact that to shoe my feet, it would take some special searching.  And though you have a few younger folk that will flip out that shoe bracket when you go into a shoe store, I think foot sizing is a lost, lost art, the knowledge driven away by the convenience of walking in, trying a few pairs on, figuring out what fits best in the store, hoping it will still feel okay in two weeks and purchasing.  I'd pay a little extra for the old guy with the bracket.  And I finally did.  But I'll get to that.

I've had a few pairs of shoes purchased on how they fit in the store, or shoes that I thought, "Yeah, its a little tight, but they look cool, so I can deal with it..."  I bought a pair of Timberland slip-ons that were on sale for $20, and thats what I thought... but as The Lovely Steph Leann and I drove home from the beach, I decided to wear them, and I remember stopping somewhere and me getting out for a minute.  By the time I got back in the car, I was limping.  The shoes were tight across the top of my foot, left a bruise and I walked a little funny for three days.  Some years later, I sold those shoes to a Mexican guy for $3 at a yard sale that we had with Mikey Nipp.

Skechers are the worst.  I've owned several pairs in my life, and I have two that were decent, only one that was good.  Bought my first pair in college, through a mail order catalog, a pair of white-toed black shoes that I still have.  Usually, when The Lovely Steph Leann & I hit Panama City for Thanksgiving, we spend time at the Silver Sands Outlets in Sandestin, and a few years back, I fell into the, "Buy 2 pair, get 1 Free!" trap, and bought three pairs of shoes I didn't need... a pair of sneakers that were awesome--until they prematurely fell apart--the rubber started tearing lose of the sole within six months... a pair of brown loafers that, within the first few months, had a split in the sole... and a pair of black shoes that buckle in the front and still look great--of course, I only wear them once per month or two.  I've sworn that I'll never buy another pair of Skechers again.

There's a couple of pairs of shoes that I would toss into the d$ Shoe Hall of Fame, including a pair of Timberland sandals that were one size too big and that I wore on every beach trip I'd taken since 1999, a pair that The Lovely Steph Leann finally threw out not too long ago... a pair of American Eagle... well, my friend Allysong called them "clods", but they were like loafers, and are approaching their 12th year in my care and unfortunately are drawing near to the end of their life... and a pair of Lugz shoes I bought at Sears for $12, and have been fantastic tennis shoes.  (I once wore the Lugz shirt, my favorte FUBU shirt and my "W: The President" hat out to dinner, and someone remarked 'that outfit is a contradiction in terms'")

By the way, if you look close, you can see the wear and tear on the inside heel of these  "clods".  Everyone has a pair of shoes that just feels so good, and you want to keep them as long as you possibly can, because "just feels good" shoes are hard to come by.

Almost 7 years at Starbucks has caused me to go through 8 pairs of shoes... I've had tennis shoes, mostly, but I've done the lace-less slip on shoes as well, but they've always been a $20 or less pair that I knew I was going to destroy.  When I took the job at The Happiest Place in the Mall, I was told that part of costume was black shoes, so I had to go out a buy some.  I bought some new brown Starbucks shoes at the same time, and in July 2008, I put my brown GXS flats and my black Reebok runners in motion. 

During our trip to The Most Magical Place on Earth in June, my feet were getting blistered.  The Lovely Steph Leann chalked it up to my Lugz that, while comfortable, were just not made for the walking, standing, running and walking more that we were doing for 14 hours per day, four days in a row--the Skecher tennis shoes weren't doing any better.  After watching her to go New Balance and spend over a $110 on a pair of shoes (which, all these years in marriage later is almost still unfathomable), I decided it was finally time to get myself a good pair of sneakers.  We discussed it, and, still coming to grips about the fact that I might have to spend that much to fit my wide feet into some comfy shoes, I went to a local shop called The Trak Shak

The guy there wasn't old... but he knew how to size a foot.  I told him what I was looking for--a pair of tennis shoes that could be used for three things--running, walking and if needed, playing tennis, if I ever decided to get my chunky tail up and do something.  I told him that my problem was my feet were wide, and it was hard to find a good pair of shoes that I liked.  He listened, he asked me to walk around and he told me that he could tell from my walk that I tended to walk inward, probably due to lack of good footwear.  Long story short (too late?) I came out with a pair of Nikes that fit... perfectly.  What size?  9 1/2.  I call them my Trailer Shoes.  Why?  Cause they are "Double wide".
So, a few weeks ago when The Lovely Steph Leann and I were in Pensacola/Destin, we stopped off at the Sandestin Silver Sands outlet, and I went into the Reebok store.  It was time to find a good pair of shoes for The Happiest Place at the Mall.  Reebok and Rockport were side by side, and had a deal... a "Buy 2, Get 1 Free!" deal.  Skechers had got me on this some years back, so I told The Lovely Steph Leann I wouldn't buy 2 pairs just to buy 2 pairs... but I did need some Magic Shoes and I did need some good sandals (remember, as she tossed my Timberlands when I wasn't looking). 

With a little shopping, I managed to find a pair of great Rockport sandals, a great pair of brown loafers (since my "clods" aren't permissable by The Lovely Steph Leann many times, and my Skechers have a gash in them) and finally, a solid pair of Reebok Walk Ultra III DMX, size 2E--that's Double Wide.  Total cost?  $102.  Thought I'd got a deal.

At The Happiest Place in the Mall, I feel like I'm walking on one of those spring shoes, as the shoes feel great.  They feel wonderful.  I've got my Nikes, which feel awesome when I'm lounging, walking or running, and I've got my Black 'boks, which feel awesome when I'm making Magic. 


(There's always a big but...)

Yesterday was a full day for me.  I had to be at The Happiest Place in the Mall all day, then at Starbucks last night.  I usually carry my khaki shorts and my black polo, a pair of white socks and my heavily syruped, heavily grounded Starbucks shoes in my backseat, so when I leave The Magic, I can grab something to eat, then head to The Beans.  Well, I forgot my socks and shoes.  No matter... I've got on black socks, which will make me a look dorky, but the shoes are black, and they are springy, and heck, I need springy at Starbucks.  I'm considering buying a pair of these Walk Ultra III DMX, size 2E, for the coffee shop.

Its raining, quite hard actually, and I run the garbage out.  Toss on my blue hoodie, throw on the hood, roll the garbage can out and to the dumpster.  Come back, take off the blue hoodie, throw it on the rack and go do the dishes.  As I'm standing in front of the sink, rinsing off an empty tray of cranberry bliss bars, I hear a squeaky sound.  Almost like a whistling, almost like that "wheeeeeeee" sound you hear when a firework goes up, right before it explodes.  A whirring, if you will. 

No... it can't be... no, its not... it cannot be... not... its the mat.  Its the mat I'm standing on.  Its the mat, the rubber mat, because there is water under it... there's... no way that...

I walk off the mat, to the front.  As I walk, I can hear it.  Whir whish whish whish whirrrr whish whish.  I stand still, and lean a little, putting a little more weight on my left foot.  The whirring is a little louder.  I do the same on my right.  Whisssshhh. 

Somehow, someway, a slight hole has developed in the sole of my Black Reebok Walk Ultra III DMX, Size 2E, and as I walk, air--moist air--is being pushed out.  As I lift my foot, it re-inflates, and as I put my foot down, it pushed out more air.  This is a problem that cannot be fixed.  This is an issue that cannot be resolved.  When I told The Lovely Steph Leann, she just shrugged and said, "Eh, it'll go away."  I shook my head silently, knowing it never would.  And as I walked onstage at The Happiest Place in the Mall, I heard the slight sound of a whirring whish. 

I think I'm going to write a strongly worded letter. 

Kicks... good kicks... just keep getting harder to find.  Alas.

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