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Battered Footwear + Me


Sometime in the 1980s, I strolled into the Rainbow sandal factory in San Clemente, California to pick up a new pair of simple leather sandals. I don't know if they have a particular name. I don't recall the company offering anything but brown leather accompanied by a few pieces nylon, rubber, and foam.

I walked out of the factory store with the same pair I'm wearing today, thirty-odd years later. It seems almost counter-productive (counter-capitalistic?) to make something so durable. I would not have predicted they would survive three decades of thrashing (I am not gentle on my feet, nor do I plan on going gently into the good night).

By the mid-eighties, I was already surfing. A lot. I was in those sandals as I ventured down the scorching path to Trestles, occasionally on a skateboard nervously dragging a foot to maintain a sensible speed. (Speed-wobbles + surfboard seemed like an equation best avoided.)

I wore 'em as I sauntered back and forth on San Clemente's pier, holding my girlfriend's hand and wishing that pier was twice as long. I'd look down at my feet, trying to think of the right words or, at least, something witty to say.

As a junior in high school, I broke a completely imaginary record by wearing Rainbow Sandals every day for the entire school year (a pair of Nikes hid in my locker, waiting exclusively for PE).

They were on my feet as I entered my college dorm and as I wrestled with Psychoanalytic Marxism and Society of the Spectacle and pottery wheels and looms for four university years.

The surf and turf my Rainbows encountered expanded, from white-hot sand in Mexico, the tar marred beaches of the central coast, to beach paths through rainforests full of ferns in Oregon.

I met a girl. We visited Tahiti, Hawaii, and New Zealand. I trod (mindfully, gently) on coral and lava rock and under waterfalls. At home, we got ourselves a dog. I walked that pup across San Francisco's crumbling pavement, bleary-eyed by the early hour and thankful that sandals take no time and effort.

Today, I wade deeply into tide pools with my two kids, looking for rare creatures among the rocks. Family vacations have introduced the sandals to fresh water, submerged in the Russian River, Eel River, and too many great California creeks, lakes, and ponds to name.

Life keeps changing and surprising me. The sandals don't. They're there.

Aside from art and earth, I'm not especially enamored by inanimate objects. There are, no doubt, a hundred thousand things more important to celebrate and note. But please allow this one silly tribute to an indestructible and inseparable pair.

Song Suggestion: I was probably listening to the Stones when I got those sandals. So, naturally: She's a Rainbow


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