shoes not made for walking
Saturday, October 29 2005
I didn't have any instructions for how to operate the $15 cappuccino maker we'd bought at Goodwill yesterday, so I figured out how it worked by a series of little experiments, one of which caused a mild (non-destructive) explosion. In the end I was able to generate a credible mug full of espresso. I say "credible" because it had the rich, non-bitter perfection of espresso and lacked the compromised imperfection of American drip coffee. Now that I can make my own espresso, I wonder if I'll ever be fixing drip coffee again.
When Gretchen came in from walking the dogs, I gave her the exciting news about ours being an espresso-enabled household. So she immediately set to work fixing herself a cappuccino. She doesn't normally drink coffee, but a cappuccino is a hard beverage for any reasonable person to refuse. Interestingly, instead of performing a series of experiments like I had done, Gretchen just started operating the machine as though she knew how it worked. I asked her how she came to her knowledge, suspecting that there might have been a stint as a coffee cart girl she hadn't told me about. But no, she just knew the steps from having watched coffee shop employees preparing hundreds of beverages over the years. Of course, there are some differences between industrial-grade cappuccino makers and the rinky dink consumer models one buys for $15 from Goodwill. The supply of pressurized hot water in a consumer model is very finite, and if you want more than about four shots of espresso, you're going to have to open up that pressurized chamber and put more water in there.
Gretchen pointed out something interesting about the bragging rights that our new cappuccino maker gives us. If we'd bought a $500 model at Williams Sonoma, the cappuccinos would have to be exceptionally good to make up for the self-loathing Yuppie ick factor we'd feel from having made such a purchase. Now, though, we can loudly trumpet how we occasionally enjoy cappuccinos made by a $15 cappuccino maker we bought at Goodwill. Such cappuccinos will always have a certain amount of proletarian cred, even if (as is the case) our ghetto cappuccino maker is sitting atop $3000 granite countertops.
This afternoon I worked at making myself a pair of 60s-style platform shoes for tonight's Halloween party, where I'd be dressing up as Mick Jagger (the evidently eternal vocalist for the Rolling Stones - I throw in this parenthetical mostly for the benefit of my parents). For this project's raw materials I used an old pair of dress shoes and a couple two by six lumber scraps. The dress shoes I used have served as my formal shoes for countless weddings, most recently Dina's in Isræl. (I think I originally found them set out on the street in Brentwood, California.) They're pretty well worn by now, particularly after I used them as basic walking around shoes in both Jerusalem and Istanbul. To convert them into platform shoes, I simply added an inch and half of wood to the soles. First I traced the sole pattern onto the two by six scraps and then I used a handheld electric jigsaw to cut out the shapes. To attach the platforms to the shoes, I used Gorilla GlueTM, since that's the only commonly-available glue that seems to work in cobbler applications (Liquid NailsTM definitely does not). It's relatively easy to drive drywall screws through the bottom of a shoe into a wooden sole extension, and the only place I had to use nails was at the tips of the toes, where I carefully drove in finishing nails at a steep angle starting at the seam between the shoe and its original sole.
A couple hours later, the soles were on tight, so I painted them black using that black goop I'd been using to fix the roof (it was goopy enough to fill in little triangular gaps where the old heel, old sole, and new platform don't quite come together). Then I spray painted the shoes gloss-black and painted on details in blood red and white. The shoes ended up looking clownish but cool, retro but timeless, which is the perfect vibe for Mick Jagger. (Mind you, I don't particularly like the Rolling Stones or anything from Mick's various sad solo careers; this was strictly a Halloween exercise.)
When Gretchen got home from whatever it was she'd been doing all afternoon, we slapped on our outfits as quickly as we could. Somewhere in the thick of things I went off on a bit of a tangent to make a flamboyant belt buckle using an Australian coin, a piece of copper, and two strips of iron pipe strapping. I also used some makeup to emphasize the size of my lower lip and the vertical lines on either side of my mouth. We're talking about Mick Jagger here, a man as famous for his mouth as Jay Lo is for her ass. More on that in a bit.
Meanwhile Gretchen was disatisfied with her turtleneck, which was too much like a sack. Perhaps, she said, if I'd decided to be John Lennon it would help with the Yoko Ono illusion she was attempting. As it was, my Mick Jagger ended up looking a lot more like Bono, particularly once I put on a pair of rockstar shades.
So we went to the party, which was out in Willow at residence of the vegan friends who started a separate farm animal sanctuary from the one whose name begins with the word "Catskill." Also there was the whole vegan scene (but not the one county legislator from Woodstock who is also vegan; his presence was confined to a picture on a yard sign out in front asking for your vote come November eighth).
Initially it seemed Gretchen and I were the only ones wearing costumes, unless you count the guy with the "Hail Seitan" tee shirt (featuring forks in the shape of a pentagram). But then out came some wigs and people made a half-hearted attempt to be dressed up.
But then C & K, the two photogenic vegan Buddhists from Woodstock, showed up. She was impersonating Jay Lo, complete with an artifically expanded rump, and he was Donatella Versace, wearing a blond wig and pants so low-cut that he was showing a good inch and a half of ass crack when standing vertically.
After an appropriately vegan dinner, we all went out in the back to bask in the warmth of a reluctant bonfire built mostly of cleared brush. To get it burning required several drenchings with gasoline, each bigger than the one before and the latter of which sent up small mushroom clouds of fire when ignited.
By now I was fairly accustomed to tottering about atop my platform shoes, although to get this way I had to approach walking from a new perspective. Walking was now something done mostly in the knees, with feet kept parallel to the ground at all times. Now I understand club dancing moves better than I used to. When all you can do is move your feet vertically like flying saucers, that becomes an important dance step. To keep things interesting, you're forced to use your hands and arms. You end up being more of a tree tossed by the wind than a human being.
My hair, enjoy it while it lasts. Behind my head is one of the support pillars helping to hold up the solar deck.
My custom shoes, after having worn them out to the bonfire a few times.
My makeshift belt buckle.
The only surviving picture of Gretchen and me from tonight's party.
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