Cycle 2: A Mile in Strange Shoes

Which are your favorite shoes?
I wear my Birkenstocks the most. (Does that make them my favorite?)

Who wears Birkenstocks?
Hippies with money. Granolas. Leftwing vegetarians who want comfortable shoes. Believers.

What are their advantages and disadvantages?
Advantages – Comfy. Can slip them on and off.
Disadvantages – Feels squishy in rain. Feet get cold in movie theaters. Feet are exposed, so they have to look – and smell – presentable. In the summer, tops of feet get white bands from straps.

Where do you wish you could wear Birkenstocks but don’t?
In sex clubs – but I don’t want to look prissy.

When else do you go without shoes?
When I’m swimming; in bed; in the shower; when I’m doing yoga; during African dance class; when I’m visiting people’s houses where it’s customary to take shoes off; when I’m meditating; when I’m dancing by myself in the living room; when a foot fetishist is worshiping my feet; when I’m napping; when I’m getting a massage; when I’m clipping my toenails; when I’m masturbating (usually); when I’m watching TV; when I’m changing shoes.

Why do you like Birkenstocks so much?
They form to your feet.

How many Birkenstocks have you owned?
Five or six over the last fifteen years.

What’s your size?
8M US, 7.5 UK, 41.5 EU, 20 Japan. (But I say I’m 8½ when I’m trying to hook foot fetishists online.)

When do you wear these black leather shoes?
When I have to dress up. When it’s raining, because they’re waterproof.

Why do wet feet in shoes feel disgusting?
They feel clammy.

How did they make these shoes waterproof?
The leather was probably treated with toxic chemicals. (Are cows waterproof? Come to think of it - I must be waterproof myself.)

Where were they made?
In Vietnam.

Of which materials?
Leather uppers, leather and manmade linings, manmade outsoles.

Who made them?
I’ll never know. (Do I want to know?) Sweatshop workers most likely – children, bent old women, workers who could never afford waterproof Timberlands, even though it rains a hundred days a year in Ho Chi Minh City.

Where have your hiking boots traveled?
All over Berkeley and San Francisco, Charleston, South Carolina, New Orleans, Fairbanks, Alaska, Kauai, Key West, Cincinnati, L.A.

Traversing what geographical features?
Beaches (Pacific and Atlantic), deserts, fields, meadows, woods, snow, permafrost (Alaskan), mountains, valleys, volcanic rock (Hawaiian aa and pahoehoe).

Whom do you walk with?
I usually walk alone.

Why haven’t your hiking boots ventured outside the United States?
I don’t have a passport.

When will you replace these boots?
Since my last pair of boots lasted five years and I’ve been wearing these boots for about three, they should last me another two years.

How many miles will your boots have traveled by the time they wear out?
Say I walk about a mile (around 2,000 steps) a day. That makes 365 miles a year. Since my boots last five years, they will have traveled 365 x 5 = 1825 miles before they wear out. That’s like walking from San Francisco to Des Moines, or Fargo, or San Antonio. Or from Paris to Rome and back.

Which part of your boots wears out first?
The soles' outer heels.

What are shoes for?
They keep one from touching the dirty ground.

Why are you obsessed with cleanliness?
It is dangerous to touch, to be touched by things.

Which is more dangerous, to touch or be touched?
To be touched, to be sure.

How do your plastic sandals fit in your regime of hygiene?
Because they’re plastic I can wear them right after a shower, after which I wait till my feet are dry before I switch to Birkenstocks. This way, I never have to walk on the ground with bare feet.

When is something clean enough?
When it’s new and I own it and I’m the only one who’s ever touched it.

Besides you, who else is clean?
People with clean habits like me.

Where will this passion for cleanliness take you?
From dirt have I come, to dirt I will return.

Why do you have two pairs of Birkenstocks?
My brother gave me a second pair for my birthday.

What do you do with two pairs?
The black ones are for outside, the brown ones for inside.

How do you distinguish inside and outside?
Outside is dirty, outside is chaos. Inside I make my semblances of order.

Who is your inside self?
The one wearing brown Birkenstocks.

Which side are you on when you’re writing?
Inside. (Though my highest ambition is to write myself outside, an inveterate wanderer with sturdy shoes.)

When are inside and outside not opposites?
When I don’t have to be anyone to anybody – not even to myself – the antithesis between inside and outside falls away. When I am no one, inside and outside are one.

Where are you at such moments?
Barefoot on the threshold.

<< Part I: What Is the Question?
>> Mirror, Mirror
eXTReMe Tracker Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.