On Foot

You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the history of tying shoes. This is a wise choice. There are so many other things that need thinking about. You know, like that odd smell that’s maybe of burning plastic that’s sometimes in the hallway when you were gone all day? Or what responsibility we have for that seam line visible on Saturn’s moon Iapetus? Or why all those people are setting up circus tents in your backyard? There’s got to be someone to ask about that. I broke from my habit of non-thinking about tying shoes so that we could have this done once and for all. No, I am not reading about the history of socks. You know why.

For the second-longest time there just wasn’t any tying of shoes. This had four reasons, one of them being that there were no shoes. Shoes were invented for Napoleon Bonaparte’s army after it was noticed that tromping through a thousand miles of Russian snow was really hard on the bare foot. It didn’t help the snow any either, but this is the wrong time of year for me to write about the history of snow-clearing or maybe ice-skating. Napoleon agreed this was a lot of trouble for feet and ordered experts to come up with a way to cover the foot. They did this by the simple process of covering the foot. It was a rousing success and everybody agreed they should have been making shoes for hundreds of years now. This and the overcoming of the other three reasons let shoes become really quite popular.

Still, the earliest shoes weren’t easy to put on or take off. They were slabs of leather that one would fit around the foot and, using needle and thread and Grandmom who knows how to use those sewing tools that look faintly like surgical instruments, stitch closed. This could take until well near bedtime. The British Army spent most of the 1830s with its soldiers never leaving their bunks, just sewing and unsewing their boots all day. This lead to peaceful times and the First Reform Act.

The countries of Western Europe competed to find ways to easily tightening and loosening shoes. Through much of the Civil War the Union armies experimented with welding shoes into place, an action that resulted in many burned ankles and slugged welders. In Scotland rivets were tried. These were of limited use as the striking action of putting rivets in place could magnetize the iron slugs, causing people to walk to the north and find they ran out of Scotland, to their chagrin.

So naturally the breakthrough came in the Ottoman Empire. In 1878 a shoemaker for the Sultan Abdul Hamid II asked, “Why don’t we just punch parallel rows of uniformly spaced holes in the shoes, and then thread a strong string or small rope through the holes to fit them together?” The Sultan, who was in another room, didn’t hear the suggestion but approved it. When this turned out to be a pretty darned good idea after all he nodded as if that had been his intention all along, and quickly ordered an investigation to just what was going on with shoes. I hope this doesn’t end up in his report. He’s got to be expecting something really great if it’s taken all this while to get something on his desk. I’m not arrogant enough to think my essay here that great, but I am earmarking it for this year’s Robert Benchley Society essay contest. Just saying.

Still the early forms were not precisely what we see today. When are they ever? The first attempts used separate laces and loops for each pair of holes, which took forever to deal with. Folks trying to save time as telegraphs and railroads got all snappy and romantic started just tying the top loop together. This made their toes pop out the middle. So they retaliated by poking laces through the other, non-top holes. And so by 1889, on a Tuesday, shoes were finally tied in ways that we would recognize today, on a Friday.

Is there room for improvement? Surely. The glue-covered shoelace solved the problem of unraveled knots, but at the cost of being a right mess. And nobody has anything but embarrassed coughs to say about the frictionless superfluid lace that would slither out of its holes and into the pantry. We may yet scrap the whole project and go back to being barefoot.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose another five points to another record high and at this point it’s getting kind of dull and the fun is draining out of it all. I’m not looking forward to how this implies we’re going to get a really big and fun and exciting crash down to, like, 14 points within the next week.



I’d like to talk about craft hobbies. It’s not much, but it’s the best idea I had this week. These come in a couple of varieties. One of the most satisfying is the hobby of joining things to other things. This is a particularly fun thing to do since when you’re done you have fewer things around. This saves valuable inventory space in your home, car, office, or bag-of-holding. It may make the joined object more unwieldy, but who pays attention to wieldiness? With everything that’s going on in the world these days? Wieldiness of household items can’t possibly rank below the loss of confidence that the Price Is Right producers could cheat contestants by changing the “actual retail price” of prizes whenever those things are shown on a computer monitor rather than revealed by sliding away a panel to show a fixed sign. So somewhere in the fourth dozen of things to worry about.

You can make a craft by taking two or more things and affixing them to one another. Or prefix them, if you like, as long as you’ve taken care to get the order of them correct. You could suffix them too, if you dare. It all depends on the level of confidence you have in your fixing abilities. So I’m still on the “affix” level. I have hopes of prefixing something, someday, but I know I’m all talk on this issue. The things I might prefix other things to know it, also.

There are many ways to join things together. You can use glue, for example. Or epoxy. It’s hard for the newcomer to understand the differences between glue and epoxy. Fan web sites won’t clear things up at all because adhesive-substance fans want you to know that you don’t appreciate adhesion correctly. The important difference is that glue won’t finish setting until you’ve accidentally broken the thing apart testing to see if the glue has set. Meanwhile, epoxy will set before you’ve managed to fit together the things you wanted to stick together. Evaluate which would better serve your object-adhesion needs, and then use whatever you had already anyway.

If adhesive semi-fluid goos aren’t your thing I don’t know that we can still be friends. I’ll try to overlook it. We have bigger problems right now. Anyway, you can make things adhere to one another by other techniques. You could use nails. The big advantage of nails is that you get to take the thing you’re dealing with and drive a thin shard of metal into it while hitting it repeatedly with a separate heavy chunk of lever-mounted metal. OK, I’m starting to see why someone might turn away from adhesive semi-fluid goos. The drawback of nails is that if you handle the thing enough the nails will slip loose and some chunk of your craft project will fall down and I just bet it’s onto your toe. If this hasn’t happened, try handling your project some more. Wear shoes, if you have shoes that aren’t horrible mistakes.

A screw is a good way to affix something to another thing in a way that it won’t come loose. This is because the screw has the mechanical advantage that … uhm … and the thing with the threads … something … friction for the thingy. But you have to get the screw into the thing somehow. This is a good excuse to apply a power tool to your project. If you haven’t got a power tool, this could be the excuse you need to get a power tool. Probably a screwdriver. The power tool gives you the chance to press the power button and hear the thing whirring around some. This can be so soothing you don’t even need the tranquility of completing a project.

You might want your thing painted. You can paint it before affixing things together, or after, or both. If you paint before affixing things together this will keep the glue or whatever from working quite right. If you paint after affixing then there’ll be little cracks and crevices that never get painted to look right. If you do both, then you can have the flaws of both in your project. Choose the aggravating and unavoidable flaws that work for your neuroses.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose another six points over the course of the day, but it doesn’t trust any of those points. “How can we believe that’s structurally stable, anyway?” asked the index. It’s a good question. We have no answer.


The Boot: And How I Got It

I need to preface this by explaining I’m a big fan of clothes. I think they’re one of the top ideas humanity has come up with. I’m not sure which is exactly on top. Clothes, the equality of people before the law, any scene where Homer Simpson gives a false name, and the curried tofu the farmer’s market on the west side of town has are in the top ten. I’m happy to wear most any kind of clothing. If I run across one while at home I’ll just toss it on, which works out better in winter.

There is one point at which this clothes-appreciation stops. That point is my feet. Not socks. I retain a love of socks even though I am still afraid to read about their history. They belong to the class of clothes that feel wonderful to put on, to have on, and to take off, along with bathing suits and long underwear. They don’t feel so good when they’re wet or have pebbles in them, but that is the fault of the water or pebbles and not inherent to the socks themselves. Also not so good if they have holes, but that’s again not the fault of the socks. Ask a pair of socks to vote on whether they should have holes or not and they would flop over, helpless in their inanimate sock natures. But I expect they’d want to have only the one authorized hole for slipping the entire foot in. I almost wrote “whole” foot there, but I didn’t want to distract people by thinking of foot-holes. That’s unsettling, which socks are not.

No, my problem is with shoes. I say it’s the fault of shoes. I’ve owned literally more than a dozen shoes and they’ve all been made of pain. Some just a little bit of pain. Others, especially boots, are vast, highly organized networks of intensely concentrated pain. Shoe-makers insist the problem is that since I am tall, I have feet that are large, toe-to-heel, and also rather more curved than the average. So either my big toe or my … part of the foot on the other side of the big toe … falls outside the normal bounds of a shoe. I say the shoe-makers are at fault, for installing in every pair of shoes ever made small, pneumatically fired mallets battering every part of my foot every moment that I wear them. So I’m always finding excuses to take my shoes off. “Why, wouldn’t it be impolite to wear my shoes in your house?” “We’re going to be on this plane nearly two hours, why not slip my feet out?” “Oh, I’m at the hipster barcade so much it’s almost like home, I can leave my shoes behind.”

Yes, in time, I get used to the pains of any particular pair of shoes and they get familiar enough to be sort of pleasant-ish. And that lasts for minutes, because that’s when the soles start to collapse and I end up walking on the pile of jagged spikes ordinarily hidden in them. Then I go on for another couple months hoping something will turn up. Meanwhile the shoes grow holes large enough to let my toes through and if you think I’m exaggerating this I will include a picture of my recently-retired boots unless it turns out I’m lazy.

My several-years-old pair of boots, which have cracks along their toes and which have almost come loose from the heels, which are shredded things anyway.
What it takes to get me to stop wearing a pair of boots: find a pair of boots not just with lots of holes in them but also that don’t even point in the same direction.

So I went shopping for new shoes which I figured wouldn’t be better but would at least be different. This is not a metaphor. There was this promising rubber pair that went up nearly to my knees and had no laces. But it was too tight and as I tried taking it off I realized a cartoon might happen. Society escaped without a pair of size-12 knee-high rubber missiles firing from the shoe store towards the half-price calendars kiosk. At another store, another day, I tried one and found … something … wonderful.

They didn’t hurt! My feet went in and no particular part of my body was in agony. They just felt warm and as waterproof as you can tell from inside a Payless Shoe Store in the wing of the mall I never go to because there’s no bookstores there. It’s a wonder. I bought the shoes as fast as I could and I’ve just been delighted ever since. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before.

My several-days-old pair of boots, or at least several-days-in-my-ownership boots, which are still even shiny and only have a little dirt on them because it was so much fun stepping in a puddle and not getting cold and wet from that.
I’m sorry to spend so much time talking about boots but you have to understand these ones don’t hurt me endlessly when I have them on and that’s an exciting development. I mean, I even got to step in a puddle of slushy water and my feet didn’t come out cold and wet and more miserable and when does that even happen? Never, I tell you, never! PS: See how not-lazy I am?

The shoes are a size 14. That’s bigger than I’ve ever worn before. It’s a size more generally associated with kangaroos who play basketball. It’s large enough if I ever took my boots off inside, say, a Best Buy I’d be able to sneak a Smart TV or a sales associate or maybe the water fountain out in them. I’ve never seen size 14s in a normal shoe store before and I may never see them again. I don’t care. I have shoes that work as shoes. I may never take them off again, except that it feels so good to take them off.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Although the Another Blog, Meanwhile index rose seven points over the trading day there’s little reason to think it’s because anyone was doing anything not connected to the panini-press debate. So few people were paying attention to what the index was doing that it might well have risen seven points entirely on a stiff breeze. Someone broke the George Foreman grill.


Or Maybe The Shoe People Are Smarter Than They Let On

So, I dipped my boot into the pond, to see how deep the water above the ice layer was, and how seriously solid the ice layer was, and it turns out there’s a hole in the boot. Also the water is that extremely cold, extremely adhesive sort of water that instantly saturates the entirety of the sock, and that never warms up, even after you’ve taken the sock off and have set your foot on fire. I’m pretty sure things weren’t this bad two weeks ago.

In Which I Am Rewarded For Shoe Non-Decay

About a year ago I bought a pair of rubber boots from the DSW Shoe Warehouse, which I suppose ought to just be called DSW, but if I call it that then nobody knows what they are except that they’re a place someone can buy rubber boots from. I suppose that’s enough, although I don’t care for the ambiguity about what other things which are not rubber boots they might also sell. Canvas sneakers? Rubber telephone poles? Synthetic-fur-lined mortar-and-pestle sets? Leather guitars? Maybe I’m over-worrying this.

Anyway, after buying the boots I haven’t had to buy anything else from them, or any other shoe merchants, what with my having kept the same pair of feet since then. And then last week DSW S— W——– sent me a card saying they missed me and wanted me back, and sent a $20 coupon if I’ll just come in and buy something from them sometime soon pleeeeeease. This seems like a pretty good deal considering it’s not like I was boycotting them or anything, I just haven’t needed shoes. I still don’t, but I feel like I should pop in and say hello if they’re so upset by not seeing me for a year-plus. Also I’d just like other merchants to know that if they want to send me coupons I’ll consider coming in and making them feel less lonely.