My Feet


I still haven’t got a car. Doing the bus thing is starting to get old. Now that I went and moved away from my old neighborhood I’m on the other side of the city from where I work. What used to be a five-block walk getting there in the morning is now two buses and a bit of waiting in between. Commute buses suck. Doing the nine to five shuffle with the secretaries and businessmen tends to put me in a state of depression. And then I don’t want to go to work, don’t want to ride the bus or go out of the house. Even just getting out of bed seems like the hardest thing to do.

Pulled up Craig’s List on the computer. There’s thousands of cars for sale, some even sound like the kind of car that I can see myself driving. Sometimes there’s a picture or two, and sometimes there is just a description and an email address to contact. But every time I try and connect, the car is either gone, sold, or the seller’s too whacked to actually meet me to show the car.

It used to be that whenever I was driving or walking around the city I’d stare up into the windows of other people’s apartments and wish that they were mine. Now that I’ve moved it’s the cars that I see going by in the streets as I wait for the bus that stir that sense of envy in me. Seems like there’s always something else to want, something else to obsess about. But now it’s chrome rims, twice pipes and a flashy paintjob that fill my waking dreams.

It’s not like I can’t keep taking the bus, as a matter of fact it’s probably better for me as I’m doing a lot more walking – sort a like being healthier in a forced to be kind of way. Though don’t get me wrong about the health deal cause, I sure as hell ain’t contemplating getting a bicycle or nothing like that. Just that I notice that I’m not hacking my lungs out any more, thanks to not living under the freeway and maybe all this walking.

But even with this extra “health’ incentive, I still got to admit that public transportation is an unbearable intrusion on my life. Every morning while I sip my four shot latte – yes, four shots. I’ve gone up a shot from my usual three because I have to take a bus and be at work on time and… Sorry. Now where was I? Oh yeah. Every morning while I sip my, ah, er, latte I’m forced to rub elbows with disgruntled workers and worse, kids on their way to school. And instead of just relaxing on my way to work, I’m tense, feeling their vibes, feeling the bus jerk, sensing that everyone’s bugging out about getting to work or school. So that I’m exhausted before I even set foot inside the door of my office. And going home is no picnic either: rush hour traffic, crowded buses, tired angry underpaid over-worked people.

This afternoon, while the bus was languishing in bumper to bumper traffic downtown, and the woman sitting next to me was breastfeeding what looked like a dwarf, the drunk standing in the door well decides that now is the time to start urinating and everyone is too busy to notice, either talking on their cell phones or their iPods are blaring away in their ears through their headphones while they stare off into space with these vacant zombie eyes. I’m standing there clutching a greasy germ encrusted handrail trying to edge my way slowly down the aisle away from the spreading puddle of urine. Thankfully the driver pulled over and I was able to make it to the front of the bus to get off, right before he stopped everything so that he could extend the mechanical ramp to let a handicapped person in a wheelchair on.

Of course it wasn’t my stop. It wasn’t even anywhere near my stop. It’s just that I couldn’t take it any more. I had to get off the bus and it didn’t matter that I was in the middle of downtown during rush hour. And seeing that people were everywhere, going in all these different directions, some acting crazy, some acting like they weren’t there and didn’t exist and some walking into me like I didn’t exist, I decided that I had had enough and that I was just going to walk home.

After making my way past Macy’s and then Union Square, I’m cutting across Stockton Street when I notice all these kids along the sidewalk, sitting along the wall in lawn chairs or just standing there and I look up to see what store they’re all lining up in front of and it’s “Nike Town” – Nike’s flagship store. So I slow down and ask one of the kids who’s sitting there on a folding chair eating a McDonald’s cheeseburger just what it is that they’re all doing there? And he looks at me like I’m stupid and says, “The new shoe comes out tomorrow, man.”

“The new shoe?” I ask.

“Yeah man. We all come down here every time they release a new shoe and we’re the first to get a pair.”

“You stand in line to get a pair of shoes, ah, so you can be the first to wear them?”

Shaking his head, he looks me up and down and then his eyes stop when he looks at my feet. “Nah, we don’t wear them,” he says, staring first at my black cowboy boots and then at my face and then back at my boots. “We collect them.”

There are kids lined up along the entire block of the street the Nike store is on. They’ve all come for the “new shoe” and apparently I’ve learned from the cheeseburger eating kid that they’re going to be there all night until nine in the morning when the store opens and then they can be the first to buy a 200 dollar pair of shoes that none of them will wear.

“You got a lot of these shoes?” I ask him.

“Bout twenty pair,” he says and then crumples up the burger wrapper and tosses it into the street.

That’s four grand in sneakers, that’s four thousand dollars worth of Nikes that this kid never wears. That’s fucking ridiculous I’m thinking. Somewhere in the back of my mind I can hear Bob Marley singing, “My feet is my only carriage. So I’ve got to push on through.”

The Stockton Tunnel is full of traffic as I enter from the south end, breathing fumes, walking home, behind me are all those kids waiting for their sneakers, in front of me is Chinatown and then North Beach, the neighborhood I live in. A car horn sounds and echoes through the tunnel, off the tiled walls and fades away. There’s other people walking with me through the tunnel and when I look at their feet I notice that they’ve got ordinary shoes on. Looking down I see the points of my cowboy boots and reflect that I walk a little weird. As I return to the daylight I look up to see the fog coming in from the Bay and I’m feeling a little tired, wanting to get home, so I pick up my pace.

4 Responses

  1. narrator

    The roll of urban life flows here. When I am in mass-transit-land I miss my car (freedom?) – when I am in car-land I miss my easy-riding (no riding while intoxicated laws yet, no parking crap) – but the only expensive shoes I’ve ever bought were for playing sports in. Collecting shoes? Collecting shoes that cost $4 to make at $200 a pop? Well, I guess we like sending money away in exchange for nothing. We do worse things in the world.

  2. lab munkay

    “These boots were made for walkin..”

  3. Cori

    I sware the woman nursing the dwarf wasn’t me!

  4. Adriana Bliss

    Fantastic piece, Patrick. I love the imagery of the shoes – the Nikes, the distinct cowboy boots (my personal faves are my suede pointed-toe boots). There’s a sense of protection/isolation – rubbing elbows, flowing through a crowded, lonely routine, not wanting to feel the rough, hot, cold asphalt/concrete beneath our feet.