Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shoes. SHOES! Shooooooooooes....

This is not a deep post about the complexities of life, nor is it symbolic of anything. This is a joyous celebration of a lifestyle in which I get to wear shoes. This might be the very first time in my life in which I can wear the fabulous but sometimes impractical shoes that my heart aches for when I walk through the department stores or along the rows and rows of displays at DSW. I have always loved shoes, mostly because my father works in the shoe business and my mother always loved shoes too. Foot fashion is a family affair. Oh, how I long to don a pair of high high heels or a tall boot to click-clack on tile floors and cement sidewalks for a night on the town; to wrap the ribbons of an espadrille wedge around my ankles or slide on a pair of mules for a summer excursion.

Alas, I was blessed with both an adoration of foot attire and the wrong-shaped foot for most of it. My size 6, narrow-heel/wide-toe, high-instep feet have proven prohibitive in this area. As a kid, I mostly wore fashion athletic shoes but had a few pairs of something fancier lurking in the closet. In college and grad school, I mostly wore what was comfortable because trudging around campus all day in uncomfortable shoes is a bad idea and mostly unnecessary. Why dress up for class when you're just going to head to the gym or computer lab afterward? While living in Chicago and DC, where fashionable feet are everywhere and there are plenty of excuses to strut your stuff, commuting is mostly done by walking, biking, and riding the train and bus, where you will likely have to stand a large portion of the time. Some people wear comfort shoes to commute, then change into their cute shoes upon arrival at their destination. I worked in offices where no one cared and I would have been out of place in pumps, so I opted for comfortable shoes that looked decent enough in the business-casual environs. Oddly enough, Casual Fridays were the only times that the cute shoes came out, because can be worn with jeans, and because as Stacy and Clinton say, just because it's casual doesn't mean you have to look like a slob.

In my new job, in this new state, every day is Casual Friday. I could get away with wearing jeans and a t-shirt and hiking boots all the time. But why? I drive to and from work, I sit at a desk all day, I don't have to run up and down a lot of stairs, and some of the young women in my office do dress more nicely. This is the ideal environment for all of those shoes that lay largely unused in my closet, plus some others that call to me from the store shelves. So, out come the teal suede Mary Jane heels with the  cut-outs on the toes. Out come the black patent booties with the square toes and the tan suede booties with the buckle that rattles. In the past two months here, I have also acquired some brown boots with a chunky heel and grey suede wedges. These tootsies will have to relearn how to walk in heels, because it's time to get stylin' again. Of course, there will be some stylish flats to add to the collection as well, since matching the boring black slacks is no longer a concern.

Shoes may be a small, trivial thing in the grand scheme of life, but we all need our vices. How can we bring joy to others if we don't feel joy ourselves? And, after all, I'm stimulating the economy.

These are the things we tell ourselves to justify our selfishness. Please forgive me, and then compliment my shoes.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Another notch on the proverbial post

Yesterday, I went to the home improvement store and bought a log splitter. Today, I split all of the shorter logs in the pile underneath my porch. It came a month after I replaced my car's side view mirror on my own. Both tasks make me feel like beating my chest and grunting like Tim 'The Toolman' Taylor. Maybe it's more like when Tom Hanks rejoiced in Castaway after starting a fire on his own. I can do this myself, without anyone's help! Well, Google showed me how to replace the mirror, but I did it for real.

I don't recall ever having swung an ax before, but it looked difficult. The heavy iron head tapers to a sharp edge, balanced on a long, thin handle, which makes it hard to lift and too easy to bring down quickly. One false move and a foot or ankle is sliced to the bone. So I begin with caution. Find a crack in the phloem, the brittle bark, that goes all the way down to the xylem, the meaty wood. Lay the log on a flat surface, the crack exposed to all the world. Grasp the handle firmly. Line the blade up with the crack, lift it up over the shoulder, bring it down halfway, deliberately, then let gravity and momentum take over. Feel the wood resist the blade with a smack, or, if you actually hit the crack as planned, a satisfying creak as it splinters. Place a foot on the log for leverage to pry the blade from the cut. A couple (or many) more just like that and the log halves fall satisfyingly away from each other, exposing the fresh wood inside.

Most of the logs didn't take that long. My aim was decent, my strength enough to deliver sufficient power to the swing. Without a large enough crack, though, the wood would splinter but mostly remain intact. I like the physicality of the task, the breaking of something to use later, and the knowledge that I can do this myself. But I'm generally not good at exploiting cracks or weaknesses. I'd rather throw the log on the fire whole and let it burn down on its own, or else find something more powerful to cut it apart quickly, no whittling away needed. I might be better off with a wedge and a mallet - easier to wield, and less dangerous - but the stove is small and all I have is a log splitter, so I swing the ax with care and keep at it until the work is done.

There are more logs in a different pile, some without visible cracks and some too narrow to split and too long for the stove. For those, I will need a chainsaw...