Thursday, September 13, 2007

Malcolm Gladwell Can Go Jump In A Lake

It is morning here in Los Angeles. An elderly man just walked through the complex sticking fliers in everyone's door and muttering slightly to himself. My neighbor walked by with a dog. It's a noisy dog, and she was trying to shhh it. It seemed, surprisingly, to work.

Noko Marie's post got me started thinking about the eighties and nineties, and now I can't seem to stop. I'm thinking, a little dreamily, about my first pair of Doc Martens.

It was the winter of eighth or ninth grade. I can't remember which; it actually makes a big difference in terms of whether I was slightly ahead of the times or slightly behind. There can't have been too much of a difference either way. I know this,because they were still very difficult to find.

I can't remember how I decided I needed Doc Martens. It was just one of those things, one of the essential mysteries of life, why, one morning, something just looks right.

I wasn't a punk kid; I wasn't cool. But one morning I woke up and knew those were the right shoes to have.

I was talking about that moment, the Doc Martens moment, with a friend and she pointed out that Doc Martens were expensive. That didn't stop it; she had experienced it too. All around the country, thirteen and fourteen year olds were waking up and saying they needed Doc Martens.

There were two pieces: the money, and then finding the actual shoes. And let's remember it was the very early nineties. The internet didn't exist. Or it did, but only for rocket scientists who probably already had or didn't want a pair of Docs. No, I went to every shoe store around. I wasn't in L.A. when I engaged in this exercise; I was on the east coast and it was winter and I sucked my near ones and dear ones into this hunt.

There's something fun about it; every collector knows that. You go into a store and you look around and you don't find what you want and you ask the sales clerk if they know anyplace else that might have it and you go there and you repeat. You get closer and closer.

I found them at a little punk store in Hamilton, Ontario. It was my first time in a punk store and I was terrified. I had to draw the attention of the sales clerk who could tell in a flash that I was a) poor and b) not really cool enough to be there. But I did, and then I went back with my dad, and although I had thought I wanted the cherry pair I wound up buying the black ten hole kind.

So I wore them around and got blisters on my heels and bled all over the inside of the shoes and they got salt damaged and didn't really make anything different or better and I stopped wearing them at some point. Only to take them up again when I was in college and wear that same pair every day for like a year.

Look, I'm sure Malcolm Gladwell could come up with some elaborate diagnosis of what made those shoes look so right to me, and everyone else, at that moment. It still has this kind of mysterious quality to it; I start imagining myself as this more or less accurate radio set, picking up emanations from the ether.

Also I think there's a lesson here about the importance of high quality footwear.

Back here at morning in Los Angeles one of the shirtless musicians across the courtyard strolls out, wearing tight red pants. A wave of music with him.


Noko Marie said...

Blisters! I always thought the great thing about Docs was the high comfort quotient. Mine were like the only really comfortable shoes I owned.

I should say, "Mine are like the only really comfortable shoes I own." Because I have a nice-looking pair right in the closet. That I never wear. Because somehow in my mid-life crisis at age 40, I have felt a need to bump up the girly-style quotient: boots with heels, sandals with heels, no flat shoes allowed, yada yada yada.

Captain Colossal said...

For me, they fell into the comfortable-once-broken-in category. I'm from California; you have to remember the shoe style that swept my school before that was Birkenstocks.