Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Shoe York

My next pair, maybe? I kind of dig them.

I bought my first pair of Blowfish flats in New York. This adds an air of exoticism to an item that is decidedly ordinary, like frozen hot chocolate, or H&M. I realize it, but this small town girl is spellbound by the memory of gazing at a Filene's Basement (one I haphazardly stumbled upon: it was directly across from my unplanned subway exit), enough so to breathe a little cinematic magic into a pair of cheap flats. I took the subway alone on that trip because I wanted to see something and it became clear that I was alone in that aim. I wanted to walk through Wall Street, to eat street food, to see the Statue of Liberty with my own eyes. I wanted to see 1 WTC after it was and before it was something new. I was alone, I was terrified, but I found shoes.

That entire trip was financed on a shoestring. Money was tight, E and I had just come back together after separating for the first of what would become two times; as has been our way for the last umpteen years, we were living paycheck to paycheck. I remember furtively checking my balance daily at the B of A caddy-corner to my hotel, quietly calling E at home and ticking off details of deli trips and every morsel I ate. I didn't want my travel mates to know that I had to really make a choice when it came to another $8 slice of pizza. I wanted to make at least one paltry attempt at shoppy New Yorkness, even if it meant eating every breakfast at Starbucks (can you say gift card?) to save real dimes for my wardrobe.

After a mindfully independent excursion to Battery Park and the World Trade Center site, and the ensuing run in with a crazy purse-selling creeper, I descended into the bowels of the city once again, heading north for the Natural History Museum and Central Park. My ability to express the ineptness with which I essayed to travel solo by subway is limited. You can imagine your five year old trying to navigate a Los Angeles freeway and you might get close to my experience. I kept repeating things to myself I'd pieced together from hearsay and Rick Steves. No staring at maps. No phone. No fumbling around. No nervous glances to the subway diagram. Don't look rape-able, mug-able, offensive or rich. Okay, I'm pretty sure those last four weren't from Rick Steves, but I figured they didn't hurt and neither did the small metal loop I'd put through the double zipper on my backpack. Truth be told, nobody seemed to have an interest in me. I agreeably relied on my high school invisibility experience and gave an award-worthy and very method performance of Terrified Provincial Woman Rides Subway.

The calcified grit of New York surprised me more than I wanted it to admit out loud. I exited to the street feeling as though I was caught mid-blight in a frozen moment of New York's decay. It crumbled like the ruins of an ancient city but I was moved within it, driven through some weird moment in its half-life. It throbbed like a throng of electric ants: hunting sugar, cheating death. Decay and frenzy. Hot smells. And yet I loved it in sick fascination of its otherness. I was a foreigner in my own country; I tried to absorb it all, the delicious and the nauseating.

I blinked into the sun like a mole and grabbed at the 3% of air that pulsed past a little fresher than inside. I rose up to meet Filene's, a monument to years spent watching Clinton and Stacy on TLC. Though I was sure that activity was decidedly unchic, I was happy to see anything familiar. (I realize now I was rejoicing at nothing more than a glorified TJ Maxx, but this is hindsight.) Inside I went, past rows of irregular designer jeans and racks of pre-Jon Gosselin Ed Hardy. I took the stairs up the stairway to shoe heaven and found the most comfortable pair of flats ordained by God or man. They're like slippers without the schlub.

As an effort to reduce stress to my legs before running this year's Urban Cow (née Cowtown) Half Marathon, I'm wearing flats for the next two weeks. Heels are off limits. Monday's walk up the ramp to my classroom in the brown New York Blowfish flats reminded me of how I slipped them on my feet in the store that July day and walked Central Park and Columbus Circle. How I glided past Tiffany's and paused at the window like all bad Audrey Hepburn wannabes, feeling myself join the ranks of decades of doe-eyed movie fans. My toes spread comfortably in the lime green suede. The sole was like a ballet flat; I felt light in them, feminine. I wanted to see something that day in New York, but the shoes are a good reminder that I really glimpsed a little at my own confidence, that I forayed into trusting myself and what the world has to offer.

1 comment:

  1. When did you go to NY? If you were there when we lived there, I'm going to be really sad that we weren't keeping in touch so I could have at the very least taken you to lunch one day, if not show you all around, let you stay with us, etc. We lived there from Jan. '03 to July '05. And by the way, we now live two hours away from the Big Apple, and so any time you want to see some of Philly or NY (I know it's a little far, but whatever) you are more than welcome to come stay with us.