No cake, just a hole in the shoes to celebrate the anniversaryÂ Â Â
Did you get the half-birthday card I sent you? You should have, I sent it a week ago. No matter how old I am, I never forget that Sept. 20 is my half-birthday. The reason is Uncle Norman's read below.
Mom had this thing with shoe stores. She always complained that her feet hurt. We"d go in and out of Yorkville"s many shoe stores, looking for the perfect comfortable shoe that she never could find. Rory and I would play on a store"s big ladder on wheels, flying back and forth across the floor with one of us hanging off, one arm free, in front of the customers. This usually stopped when the clerk or Mom threw something at us.
Then we"d pick up the foot measuring device. It was all metal and looked like it held some secret code with its side knobs. It must have been expensive, because the clerk went bananas when we threw it. Rory tried on spike heels he grabbed from the store"s front window display. He"d wobble up and down the carpet, smiling from side to side. I studied him with one hand to my chin and my elbow to my leg. Involuntarily, my head swayed with him as he traveled back and forth, back and forth.
Rory and I liked two shoe stores best. One was Salamander Shoes on 86th Street and the other was Yorkville Shoes on 83rd Street. Each store had a kid gimmick. Uncle Norman at Yorkville Shoes always made sure he knew your birthday, and he"d send you a birthday card. Six months later, he"d send you another card wishing you a happy half-birthday. I"d get my half-birthday card and say out loud, â€œBoy, that Uncle Norman is one swell guy. Hey Mom, I need a new pair of shoes. What do you think?
Mom delivered her look. First of all, I never cared whether I had any shoes, much less new ones. I only cared about new sneakers. The only thing that triggered me getting a new pair of shoes was a good rainstorm after a hole in my shoe"s sole had developed. Either I"d get home from school and Mom would notice my socks were wet or I"d take off my blue socks and Mom would notice my feet were blue from the sock"s dye. Only then would Mom say, â€œTomorrow, we go for new shoes.
The other store"s gimmick was a beauty. Salamander was the high-end shoe store in the neighborhood. If you had orthopedic needs, this was the place. I tested the laws of gravity by dropping my body from rarefied heights. My feet took most of the damage and had orthopedic needs. Here"s the gimmick: Salamander gave you a balloon with every pair of new shoes.
What the cheapskates failed to give you was helium. The balloon was nice but filled with mere air; to hold it aloft, Salamander"s management decided to put it on a straightened metal shirt hanger. You left the store flying your balloon majestically from the stick of metal, but most kids never made it a full block before the metal punctured the balloon. This left an extremely disappointed kid carrying a straightened hanger with a shred of rubber dangling from its tip. Most times, the kid took his frustration out on another kid.
If you were lucky, you might witness two kids leaving the store with their balloons at the same time. Walking in the same direction, smiles on their faces, arms outstretched, hoisting their balloons toward the clouds, screaming without sound, â€œHey look at me! â€œNo, look at me!
Suddenly one of the balloons would burst. With no pause, the victim would turn to the still-breathing balloon to deliver a deathblow. The two aggrieved parties were a midget reenactment of the Hamilton-Burr incident, with hangers replacing traditional pistols, dueling to the death or stopping when a parent carefully intervened.
Thomas Pryor"s work has been published in The New York Times, he has recently completed his first book and he curates a show at The Cornelia Street Cafe. Read his blog at YorkvilleStoopstoNuts.blogspot.com.
Trackback from your site.