Shoe Fetishes, Crazy Writers, and Escaped Mental Patients
My car smells like Dragon’s Blood.
Dragon’s Blood incense, that is. I took some to a New Age friend’s house recently to burn in a blessing that needed a little extra boost of power for something she was writing. I forgot to take the leftovers out of the car and we’ve had a couple of warm days. The situation could certainly be worse, I suppose: the car could smell like shoe leather.
Colleagues who catch a ride with me to lunch always comment on the spare pair of shoes under my seat. There’s a good reason for their being there, but I don’t know whether to call it a shoe fetish or a foot fetish. Or just the fact that I’m a Pisces and Pisceans are supposed to be very sensitive to all things related to feet, which may be why a good foot massage will have me whimpering like a puppy.
As much as my mother has always loved expensive, colorful designer shoes—a luxury for a farm woman—the trait never manifested for me in quite the same way. I don’t care that the shoes be designer or expensive. I prefer that they not be either. But I do like it if they’re unusual, something a bit less bizarre than Elton John’s ‘70’s show. And I do like lots of shoes, although if had my druthers, I’d spend my life barefoot.
As a brand new “career woman”–that was a thing back then–straight out of college, I had 52 pairs of shoes, but most of them cost $5 to $10 because I shopped sales and specials carefully. I was color-coordinated in those days, probably because few other people in my Department of Defense job were colorful at all. Match a magenta business suit? Ah, yes, with magenta pumps and magenta hosiery with a seam up the back. Robin’s egg blue business suit? Then robin’s egg blue shoes and stockings, probably with a matching garter belt. I guess I figured that if I had to conform to the business world and wear a suit, then I was going to own the whole process.
But no matter how many shoes I’ve had at any one time, I’m still not crazy about actually wearing them. Vicki still laughs about the time we attended a writer’s conference in St. Augustine. After six or seven hours on the road and me driving every mile of it barefoot, the valet met us at the hotel and offered to park the car. There was one little problem: I’d forgotten to bring shoes with me, except for the ultra-swanky ones meant only for the formal banquet, and they were packed away in the car trunk.
One of my favorite stories to tell when I present a workshop for writers on the secrets to finding time to write is about how I’ve used a microcassette tape recorder since 1990 to dictate whole books. When I was writing a murder scene in Flying by Night, I decided I had to get away from the TV and the kids and out of the house to concentrate. So I went for a barefoot walk in a green pantsuit my mom had bought for me (not my style, but I felt obliged to wear it occasionally).
So alone under the stars, barefoot, I busily dictated a gory scene into the recorder, which I held close to me. An elderly neighbor I’d never met before caught my eye—he was hiding in the shadows outside his house. I stopped recording, walked past with a nod of acknowledgment, and started dictating again a few minutes later. When I reached the end of the cul-de-sac, I noticed he’d gone inside and suddenly a light came on in the house down the street where another elderly couple lived and I could see the man peering out his window at me.
Three minutes later, a police car careened to a halt beside me and the cop asked what I was doing and if lived nearby.
“I live in that house over there,” I told him. Then, holding up my recorder, I added, “I’m a writer and I’m on deadline.” The cop gave me a quick once-over, nodded, and turned off his flashing lights.
“Oh,” he said. “We just got a call from several old men in your neighborhood. Something about a woman in green hospital pajamas, no shoes, and talking to herself. They thought we’d better check it out in case there was an escaped mental patient on the loose.”
Although people over 65 are still scandalized by my bare feet, nowadays my biggest problem with shoes is still finding them, but not because I’ve misplaced them. Usually, it’s because my 13-year-old has borrowed them. First of all, I’d prefer that she not borrow them. But furthermore….
A few days ago, I arrived at work after a barefoot drive but knowing I had a spare set of casual shoes under the seat. Everyone seemed to be back from the holidays, so I parked 40 gazillion miles away from the office and wriggled into my jacket. As I started to get out, I reached for the shoes under my seat. Not there. Instead, they were under the passenger seat, where my daughter had borrowed them the night before when she’d failed to wear shoes of her own to the grocery store. Okay, I thought, no problem.
Except that my shoes were missing the toes. And heels. Yep, suddenly they’d become open-toed sandals. The kid just doesn’t quite get that size 10 feet do not fit into size 8 shoes without something giving. But I was late for work and grateful to have my woods-tromping shoes still in the trunk after a visit to my parents’ farm and Granddaddy’s pond down in his woods.
And that’s why I sat conspicuously in an important meeting this week, trying to be oh-so-cool while I was wearing muddy loafers and smelling of Dragon’s Blood.