Old Shoes, New Shoes

I hate shopping on principle, but I really, really hate shoe shopping.  Why?  Because I think most men’s dress shoe styles look ridiculous, with their pointy-toed or square-toed ends and other decorative flourishes, and they especially look absurd on my gunboat-like size 13 feet.  The experience always leaves me feeling like I have a natural set of clown feet.

IMG_6351But, I had no choice.  My current set of work shoes were simply so old and worn out that even a shoeshopping-resistant person like me had to admit the time had come.  On one pair the sole had worked free and was beginning to flap, on another the heels were falling off, and on a third the vamp had cracked open.  And, I have to admit, separate and apart from these structural failings they all looked pretty beat to hell, too.

So today Kish and I went off to one of those mega-shoe stores and I walked down aisles of fancy men’s shoes, trying to find a sturdy pair of black shoes and two pairs of simple brown shoes.  I once again learned that shoe sizes vary widely depending upon the manufacturer, that the elves who install the laces on new shoes insist on doing so in a weird and sadistic way, and that male shoe designers apparently have been ingesting psychedelic substances and obtained their inspiration from the footwear of medieval court jesters.

Tomorrow I’ll be wearing some new shoes.  They will look ridiculous — of course.

UJ’s Hat

IMG_6287Last weekend, on the father-son fishing trip to Hen Island, there was one dominant topic around the card table:  UJ’s hat.  It is pictured above, in all its glory.

When you’re drinking beer, smoking cigars, and playing cards, sophomoric humor tends to dominate, and usually there is one theme or target for the weekend,  This year, something about this humble hat provoked the onslaught of insult humor.  Some of the best lines:

Did you steal that hat from a homeless person?

How far down into the dumpster did you need to go to find that thing?

That hat looks like it’s ready to spontaneously combust.

Any readers so inclined are invited to share their jibes.

UJ explained, somewhat sheepishly, that he rescued the hat from the dustbin of history, when one of his friends was getting ready to pitch it — but now he wears it with a curious pride, knowing that he will suffer the slings and arrows of rude family humor.  It keeps the sun off his head, and the brim can be tugged and maneuvered into all kinds of shapes — which was one of the things that made the hat an apt target for our jokes.

The Trump Debate Conspiracy Theory

If you were conspiracy minded — and who among us doesn’t have a touch of that lurking somewhere in your personality? — you might swear that Donald Trump’s shenanigans were part of a plot to boost the viewership for the first Republican presidential debate.

This past weekend, I heard a lot of talk about the Donald and the first Republican debate.  The Republican folks, regardless of whether they think Trump is great for “telling the truth” or consider him an oddball gloryhound, will be watching, and at least one diehard Democrat conceded that he probably would tune in just to see what kind of weirdness the Trumpster might produce.  Why not?  It might be good TV.  As one of the people who talked about Trump kept saying, “he’s entertaining!”

And I suppose he is, in the same perverse way that a train wreck or a messy public divorce of Hollywood celebs might be viewed as entertaining.

What does that mean for the other Republicans?  It means that you hope that your poll numbers are good enough that you get to share the stage with the guy who’s getting all of the press.  The ratings for this first debate probably will get the highest ratings for any debate, ever, that isn’t between the two nominated candidates, and you sure as heck would want to be present to have that big audience checking you out.  And if the Donald implodes — which inevitably will happen, if it hasn’t happened by then, anyway — and you can come across as an appealing alternative, so much the better.  If you’re not on stage, you don’t get any of that crucial face time before a national audience.

Could Trumpelstiltskin have concocted all of this hullabaloo as part of some devious political strategy to command as much attention as possible and suck all of the oxygen away from the Ds?  Who knows?  But it’s a pretty good conspiracy theory, isn’t it?  In fact, it’s just the kind of conspiracy theory that the Donald himself would likely latch onto.

Closed Captioning

As we have watched the last few episodes of True Detective — which I think has really picked up lately, incidentally — Kish and I have had the same conversation several times:

“What did he say?”

“I don’t know — I couldn’t hear it.”

“You know, I hear that a lot of people are watching this show with the closed captioning feature on their TVs activated.”

The Vince Vaughn character, in particular, seems to specialize in muttering things under his breath, menacingly but incomprehensibly, but we have have trouble understanding many characters on that show.  Is there something about the sound quality of True Detective that just sucks, or have the producers decided that whispered statements fit better with the dark themes of the show?  Maybe the “never mind” theme music is supposed to suggest to viewers that the dialogue really doesn’t matter much, anyway.

When you can’t hear the dialogue on a TV show, there aren’t any good choices.  If you’re watching a recording, you can try to rewind, but you need the deftness of a surgeon to move back to just the right spot without overshooting, and it really wrecks the flow of the narrative even if you are successful.  Or, you can crank the volume up to senior citizen retirement home levels, give up any pretense of clinging to remaining youth, and start going to restaurants at “Early Bird Special” times and using the word “whippersnapper.”  Or, you can activate the closed captioning option — which will expose your obvious lack of technological know-how in trying to find and turn on the option in the first place.

I have no doubt that my hearing acuity has declined over the years, but I wouldn’t say that I’ve got a hearing problem — at least, I don’t think I do.  Does any young whippersnapper out there have trouble following the dialogue on True Detective, too?  Speak up, will you?

The Leaping Range Of The Wolf Spider

Hen Island in Lake Erie is a spidery place.  You regularly see little spiders scurrying about in the corners of the old buildings, and if you walk around the island you need to be prepared to scrape some stray cobwebs from your arms or your face.

Coming face to face with a huge, hairy-legged monstrosity on a screened-in porch is quite another matter, however.

IMG_6282This beauty showed up on the porch on Saturday morning.  It was not quite as big as a tarantula — but close . . . appallingly, disgustingly close.  It was down by a baseboard, near a table leg, looking bigger than it actually was because it was a female spider toting an egg sac.  As our group of six or seven sat on our rockers, reading and chatting on a pretty morning, one member of the group noticed the spider.  Then, the conversation went something like this:

“Hey, look at the size of that spider.  Holy shit!”

“That’s a wolf spider.  It’s harmless.”

“You may be right, but my conscious mind refuses to believe that anything that looks like that is harmless.”

“Well, they can bite.”

“Yeah, but the bite is not poisonous.”

“It will still leave a pretty good welt.”

“I’ve heard that wolf spiders can leap ten feet.”

Wait . . . ten feet?  At that point everybody on the porch did a mental calculation of their range from the spider, which now looked suspiciously like it was crouching and ready to spring, and whether they were beyond the ten-foot zone of death.  I’m guessing that many of the rockers had the same thought I did — a mental image of a shaggy horror suddenly flying through the air, landing on their face, close enough so you can get a good look at the inhuman eyes and the slavering mandibles, and delivering a sharp, painful bite.  And if that bulging egg sac happened to burst at just that moment, releasing a horde of ravenous, biting baby spiders with Olympic-caliber leaping abilities into an enclosed area . . . .

At that point, getting a cup of coffee from the kitchen in the next building seemed like a really good idea.

One of the staffers eventually came and put the spider, which had remained blessedly huddled near the table, in a jar.  We all took a good look, then released it outside, feeling good and environmentally sensitive about letting the spider back into its habitat but nevertheless unsettled by our brush with the wild world.

What If They Gave A Hotel And Nobody Came?

IMG_6246I was in Washington, D.C. recently and saw this sign in front of the Old Post Office, advertising it as a new “TRUMP” property — in this case, the Trump International Hotel.

The Old Post Office is a beautiful building, and I have no doubt that it will make a magnificent hotel, but . . . the Trump International Hotel?  Doesn’t that seem just a tad inconsistent with The Donald’s recent political speechifying?

How many international visitors are really going to feel welcome at a Trump hotel and are going to be eager to stay there?

Travel Magazines

When you’ve been on the road and your poor planning means that you don’t have any recreational reading to peruse during that dinner for one, you’re probably going to end up looking at what might be called, generically, “travel magazines.”  That loose category includes the in-flight magazines on airplanes, the city magazines found in hotel rooms, and all other magazines that regularly feature multiple articles on traveling.

If you read such magazines, be prepared to be charged with enthusiasm about, well, just about everything and everywhere.  Because no one, anywhere, is more enthusiastic about anything than travel writers are about their subject.  Next to these guys, Mary Kay consultants, recent converts to the Church of Scientology, and the paid actors raving about the latest piece of exercise and weight-loss equipment on a TV commercial seem glum and disinterested.

IMG_6238You can’t have too many exclamation points in these travel magazine articles. Every city, no matter how backward, dirty, or decrepit, receives the most glamorous photo montage that can be prepared without engaged in outright Potemkin Village falsehood.  Every restaurant is one of the finest in the region.  Every city is growing and experiencing an explosion of diversity and development.  And pay no attention to the stories that you might have read about political and liberty issues in, say, mainland China.  Hey, these guys are wearing sunglasses and western clothing.  How cool is that!

Another thing about these magazines, too:  they’re incredibly bossy, presumptuous, and somewhat unnerving.  You see articles with headlines like “Twelve Things You Must Do in Akron!” or “The Ultimate Guide to Mung Bean Tourism!” or “Three Absolutely Perfect Days in The Bronx!” telling you that you have to do this or you’d be insane not to do that.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever had one “absolutely perfect” day, much less three in a row.

If you read enough travel magazines, you might come to the conclusion that that you may as well plan to travel everywhere and anywhere, because it’s all great.  Or, if you’re like me, you think of the old saying “believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.”