Bless you, my children

Today is Good Friday, a day I thought I’d invite Pope Benedict XVI to the blog to bless each and every one of you as you prepare your hearts, minds and souls for Easter Sunday.

I took this photo several years ago, obviously at Christmas time, at the Buca di Beppo in Louisville, a completely fun dining experience. The whole place is rigged out like a 1950s Italian-American Catholic family restaurant, or something. I’m not sure precisely what they’re trying to convey, other than hilarity. You also have to walk through the kitchen to get to the restaurant. Inexplicably, there are framed granny-panties on the wall of the women’s restroom.

Anyway, if you have a big crowd, like we did, you can request the Pope Room, which features a lot of pictures of popes both past and present. In the center of the table, behold, a bust of the current pontiff. The first time I went, John Paul II was the resident pope.

I’ve had popes on the brain since earlier this week, too, when I moped about Goober Shoes. My friend Alert Reader Holly — yes I totally stole that from Dave Barry — let me know that the Pope’s shoes actually have their own Facebook Fan page. (Yes, I “liked” it. What did you expect?)

Snap! They’re red and they’re gorgeous. They’re not wingtips, but they’re certainly wasted on a man for heaven’s sake. Well, he is The Man when it comes to the Catholic Church, so I’ll give him a pass. Wear those red shoes, Benedict!

Can’t you just imagine the Easter Bonnet with these babies?

Wait a minute. Why is it so hot in here? What am I doing in this handbasket?

Have a blessed Easter, everyone.

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Goober shoes

I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about shoes. Hey — don’t judge. It doesn’t hurt anybody, and looking at shoes online, looking at other peoples’ shoes, and mentally upgrading the shoe wardrobes of others give me something to do while I’m waiting in the doctor’s office, driving, or otherwise without mental stimulation.

So I’d like to go on record with the startling information that I absolutely loathe a trend shoe of the moment — the Sketcher Shape Up and its attendant clones.

This horror represents the apex of the goober shoe movement, which began innocently enough back in the sixties, I believe, with the introduction of the Birkinstock. Germans and others schlumped along in these things for years without much notice, and then sometime in the ’90s they became popular in the U.S. and suddenly everyone looked like Jesus, but with arch support. I myself endorse Birkinstocks and have two pairs of them — but I’m not saying they’re adorable or anything. I call them “serviceable chique” and will argue their merits to my dying day.

Same with Dansko clogs. Or, as I initially called them, Frankenstein shoes. These thick-soled numbers were favored for years by chefs and surgeons until, again, the general public caught on and they began popping up all over the place. I shalt not hate on the Dansko either for, like the Birkinstock, I have several pairs. I might even have a custom-designed pair with sunflowers on them. Maybe.

So that brings us to Crocs, those giant, rubber/plastic cloggie monstrosities that are so comfortable that I think that we shall never, ever be rid of them. They are too beloved by grannies and jammie-wearing Wal-Mart shoppers. The knock-offs are everywhere. Mercy, they are comfortable and yes, I do own several pairs. Mainly I wear them around the house, as slippers. Fortunately, they do offer some saner designs, which I can wear without spitting up in my mouth a little. How’s that for a ringing endorsement?

Crocs cemented the goober shoe movement and I maintain, Sketcher Shape Ups sealed the deal. We may never be able to go back to a sane world where people routinely wear Evan Picone pumps and black wing-tips like God intended.

But back to the Sketchers. I will never forget  my first sighting — on an ad in the subway station in New York City. It was August 2009 and I gasped aloud.

My eyes darted around the subway car. Not a Sketcher in sight. And then … and then: I spotted them. A trendy New Yorker, power-walking down the boulevard, her poor feet clad in Sketchers. I knew it was all over. “Oh no! No, no, no!” I remember thinking “It’s here in New York! In two or three years they’ll be wearing these things in Kentucky!”

And so they are. They’re everywhere. I saw knock-offs in Target. People in my walking park are polluting the pathways. And just this week, I saw them in a place I least expected it. In church. Yes, at Mass. On the feet of … I can barely bring myself to say it … the priest.

So now you know. The Goober Shoe Movement is irrevocably here. If a man of God who most often wears black feels the Shape-Up is for him, we can only conclude that footwear as we know it will never, ever be the same again.

I’m sorry, Father — truly, I am. Can I interest you in this stunning pair of wing-tips, though? I hear they’re all the rage at the Vatican.

* * *

I know what you all are thinking and you can just stop it right now. Just because I tried on a pair — just to make sure it didn’t like them, mind you — doesn’t mean at thing. A THING, I tell you.

Somewhere, some Birkinstock executive is laughing.

Sock it to me

I’m a fan of shoes; it’s a fairly well-established fact that I more or less view life through a high-heeled prism and any conversation you’re apt to have with me might either end, begin, or somewhere in-between contain the words “heel,” “sole,” “pointed,” “adorable,” “stocking,” or “boot.”

Or, perhaps, all six.

Given this information, it will come as no surprise to you that I also spend otherwise productive amounts of time ruminating on the subject of socks. They are, after all, devices which encase the feet — that alone gives them a leg-up on any other type of attire. The color, weight, thickness or thinness, appropriateness and compatibility with the various kinds of footwear … it’s all absorbing to me. As I strolled along the grocery aisle yesterday afternoon with my daughter, I engaged her in discourse on the socks I was then wearing — black, thick, servicable numbers that I generally wear with boots. Thick, as I say. Yesterday, I had crammed them into clogs that I usually wore with thin, stocking-like affairs with absolutely delightful results. Normally this clog made my feet tired after only a few hours of wear, but with the addition of thick socks, they were magically transformed into the comfortable shoes they should have been all along. I was delighted with my discovery.

“Socks,” said Claire. “Gotta love’em.”

OK so, while no one’s going to be tremendously bowled over by this vast philosophical insight, it did get me to ruminating on socks in general and the various problems and delights I have had with them over the years.

First and foremost — One Size Fits All.

Oh it so DOES NOT.

For most of my life I’ve worn a size 9 shoe — not tremendously big, but you know, a little bigger than average. I’m 5-foot 9, it’s proportional, right? In the last few years it has been brought to my attention by the expert fitters at a local running store that I actually wear a 9½ — so be it. But come on, sock industry, One Size Fits All? How could I possibly wear the same sock that Miss 5-Foot Nothing slips on her size 6 feet?

So it was with a great thrill, many years ago, that I discovered in the now-defunct McAlpin’s Department Store the existence of Tall Girl Socks. Oh yes. Socks which promised a heel that covered my heel and did not end up somewhere in the vicinity of my arch. An array of colors. Substantial, durable construction to stand up to even the most problematic of footwear. They were located on the second floor next to the escalator. I was a frequent shopper.

Yes, of course they were discontinued. Yes, of course McAlpins went out of business. Yes, now I buy socks that have no reasonable acquaintance with the location of my heels, or I get men’s socks, which are always, always, ALWAYS too big.

Problem #2 — Children

Yes, this heading could apply to so many things, but today we’re talking socks. The worst thing ever in the history of garment manufacture is baby socks. Just imagine: you’re the mother of a darling newborn, whose very existence is completely dependent upon you, the mother. You grew the thing in your womb; now you’ve got to feed and clothe it now that it’s emerged into the wild. It has tiny darling sweet little feet which, even in high August, are bitterly, bitterly cold. So as a conscientious mama, you sock those baby feet. Pow, the baby kicks them off. And why? Because people who manufacture baby socks apparently have never seen an actual baby and mistakenly believe that their feet are an inch and a half long. The heel of the sock hits Baby Foot around the end of the toes. If you’re a month-old infant, you have four jobs: eat, sleep, poop, and kick off socks. Bonus points if you can do all these at the same time, while crying.

Probably somewhere in the universe — more likely, on the Internet — are socks that would fulfill my every sock need. Perhaps I have even perused such a website (like a couple years ago when I got friends’ new baby faux lace-up sneaker socks, not unlike the Nike numbers pictured above). But as a consistent thing, life is punctuated with sock peril. They don’t fit, they flee from pairing. White socks get dingy, all socks get holey.

I shall continue my quest for the Perfect Sock — and since socks and shoes go together like peas and carrots, I foresee that this is a Destiny that I can cheerfully fulfill.

We’re a pair

There’s something essential about me that’s frankly no mystery to anyone who’s been around me more than five minutes: I love shoes.

Now, to give myself credit, I don’t foist my shoe-love on unsuspecting strangers (much), or bring them up when the conversation is centered around world peace or reforming health care — although, come to think of it, give me a minute and I’m sure I can find a connection.

But pretty much, yeah, I enjoy shoes; talking about shoes; wearing shoes; dream-shopping for the perfect shoe for friends, acquaintances and co-workers; selling shoes I don’t want on eBay; giving away shoes that it turns out I couldn’t wear and it would cost more than I paid to send them back. Etc., etc.

And if I like shoes, it doesn’t take much imagination to realize that I adore boots. For boots are the absolute apex of shoedom. If shoes are fabulous, then boots are stratospheric.

And so you can imagine my thrill when I discovered that my husband was cowboy before country was cool. And that a pair of Old Gringo boots are on the way to his feet come Christmas morn.

It’s like this: hearken back, if you will, to the 1970s. It was before Urban Cowboy, but my dear husband wore cowboy boots, leather vests, and a cowboy hat atop his long loopy locks (I have photographic evidence). When it became apparent that I, his wife, harbored not-secret lust for shit-kickers, he couldn’t have been happier.

And then Old Gringo came into our lives. And let us place credit where credit is due: squarely upon blogging sensation Pioneer Woman who, when asked by one of her loyal readers her favorite brand of boot, she unhesitatingly answered, “Old Gringo. There is no substitute.”

The truth came out later, when I told her via email that all-consuming lust had bloomed in my heart after a quick perusal of their website. “Aren’t they great?” she said, admitting she personally didn’t own any. “If I started I’d be afraid I’d never stop.”

Oh Ree Drummond, truer words have never been spoken.

The Soileaus are now an Old Gringo family. My boots are so gorgeous I wept when they arrived, for they are festooned with darling swallows. Now, if the name of this website has been somewhat of a mystery to you lo these several months of its existence, I shall now reveal all: “Soileau” is pronounced “swallow,” like the bird, so “NouveauSoileau” kinda-sorta rhymes.

Still with me?

Since becoming a swallow, er, Soileau, I have been wont to collect items with lovely swallows upon them: earrings and the like. Since I’m also a sucker for pretty much anything to do with birds in general, this works out well. Hummingbirds and swallows: I’m totally there.

So when I found these boots I knew it was all over, baby. I printed out a picture of them and, ask anybody I work with, put them on my bulletin board so that I might gaze longingly and lustfully at them any time I happened to glance up from the keyboard.

And now, as Christmas approaches and sales they are a poppin’ the absolutely gorgeous pair of Old Gringos Tras has been monitoring for a reduction in price (the mighty hunter-shopper, remember) have been ordered and are on their way east. I don’t think anybody else in three states contiguous knows anything about Old Gringo, so the pair of us are assured that our happy feet are going to be decking the halls like no other cowboy/cowgirl combination. This suits me fine, because if there’s one thing I love more than boots, it might be simply the quality of being unique.

Nobody has toes as long and pointed as I, which is, of course, perfect for this time of year. A mischievous 5-year-old (not mine!) recently commented, with a glance at the ends of my cockroach-killing, long, pointed boots, “You’re wearing elf shoes!”

I can handle that.