Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Your Shoe Say


KHUK KHAK, Thailand - It is low season here, the shops closed, or open with no customers, the beaches isolated, the restaurants empty. Rain is coming in every afternoon from the Andaman. Everywhere, you can get a good low-season price.

I rode my motorbike right down on the beach, zig-zagging with the waves, and parked it just above high tide mark, putting a sandal under the kickstand to prevent its sinking into the sand.

Did you know a Honda motor will run underwater? I found out today, crossing the river inlet, outlet, at low tide, misjudging the waves, going under, sinking in the sand, un-assing the motorbike and pushing it across, throttle wide open.

"Yeah. You just have to keep the throttle wide open," said Damon, the biker, when I told him.

The tailor lady offered me a suit jacket, pants, and tailored shirt for 2,000 Thai Baht, about seventy dollars. I could go for a deal like that, except I haven't worn a suit in, uh, since I stopped wearing a watch. That was in '91, a court appearance, witness protection. What's that? Eighteen years.

I could wear a suit to the airport for purposes of looking the part of the distinguished elderly gentleman or Japanese businessman, but comfort is the prevailing concern for a 22 hr. flight and 34 total hrs. travel door-to-door, and that just gets you to Denver. Still ain't home yet, so screw the suit.

And besides, if you buy a suit, you must have the proper footwear to accompany it, to be properly attired. And that would require deliberation of a whole nuther universe of options and possibilities about your choice, and what it might say about you.

The choice seems largely dependent on geography and what you're doing, and who you're trying to impress. If you're not trying to impress anybody, that narrows the choice considerably. What are you doing, attending a ball, a formal reception, a funeral, a parking lot? You working a ranch, your garden, ICU, your second serve, the streets?

'Honey, you gonna need a stilletto heel for that job.'

For every job, there is a uniform, and for every uniform, there's a shoe to go with it. Comfort is not a factor. Even when you say there is no uniform, there is a uniform. Take a look around. What is everybody wearing? Is there a concern?

Do these shoes match?

Each other? You mean your outfit? Your personality? Your idea of who you want to be? The ad in GQ? It's a loaded question.

Everybody is wearing them. It's the style.

Ok, Bozo. Get the purple ones.

Haven't worn a workboot in five, six, seven years.

You know they say Jesus bathed his feet two, three times a day? And he was wearing sandals.

Your feet, closed up, dark and damp, are a breeding ground for bacteria, is why, because of gravity pulling all your body's toxins down there, and the sweat glands in your feet. Don't believe me, smell your socks. That's why some people's socks can knock you over, why they sell odor-eaters and odor-absorbent socks, and why in a sweat lodge, you appreciate personal hygenic care of the participants.

Over here, they leave the shoes at the door, consider the feet the dirtiest part of the body, and culturally observe not pointing your feet at others, and especially the Buddha.

Maybe you already knew all that, about Buddha and stinkfoot. What you most certainly do NOT know, is that that black dog got one of my sandals and chewed it almost up.

What that means is yet another trip to the shoe guy at the end of Khao San road in Bangkok for his custom leather sandals. Everybody else, it seems, sells cheap-ass rubber Chinese flip-flops. There are decent sandal shops around, but they don't have your size.

So, for the first time in years, I've the need to contemplate the purchase of shoes, since I'll be headed for Indian Country, and they'll expect me to do some work this year. NOT computer work. REAL work. Outside work. You'll need something besides those sandals.

When you're wearing sandals, people don't take you as seriously as they do when you're wearing a certified workboot, or say, wingtips. You always look like you're on vacation.

In the Nebraska panhandle, people look down at your feet and say, "Hi, Stranger. You're not from around here, are you?"

On the rez, when the guys are ready to put up a 30-foot tipi, they look at my feet and give me a look that says, 'You aren't going to be any help. Better stand back. You might get hurt.'

Well, I have grown an affinity for wearing sandals year round. Your feet spread out and don't like being closed up in a certified shoe. When it gets too cold in S. Dakota to wear sandals, it's time for me to leave. It's not the people or the climate. It's about my toes.

Cold toes, runny nose, summer over, time to close.

Can't get the suit. Don't have the right shoes. Can't help set up camp. Haven't got the right shoe. Sorry, can't help you guys. Haven't got the right shoe.