I’m in downtown San Diego, and I have a problem. My shoes – how do I say this – my shoes are a bit whiffy. As in, they pong. What I mean is, they smell. Actually, let me be really clear about this: my cherry red New Balance sneakers, which I bought only a few months ago, STINK. I’ve experienced minor shoe smells before, mostly due to being overdue for a sock wash, but this is different. This is a stink that has infused the actual shoe itself. The stink has permeated the molecules and fibres of whatever stink-attracting substance these shoes are made of, and the stink and the shoes are now one entity. Stink Sneakers! Sneakers Of Stink!
Putting them on in my Dad’s apartment that morning, I’d nearly gagged. It’s not nice, not nice at all to be grossed out by your own body odours. Had I any other options I would have reached for them, unfortunately these are the only shoes I took on this trip. So here I am in downtown San Diego, trying to find a shoe store in amongst the Gaps and the Banana Republics and all the other faceless chain stores. I finally find one, it’s vast and the rows and rows of sports shoes blur into infinity. I walk out with an acceptable replacement pair and sit down in a patch of park to put them on.
But what to do with the Stink Sneakers? My not-so-trusty Sneakers Of Stink? Those betraying, foul-smelling, bad eggs of footwear? Why, I bundle them into the nearest trash can of course. After first wrapping them up in the box my new shoes came in. Revelling in my new, clean, and oh-so-fresh smelling shoes I stroll around town for some further shopping and sightseeing.
It’s an hour or two later, as I make my way to the San Diego tram, when I see him. A black homeless guy, not so old, maybe in his late twenties. He has little shaggy dreadlocks and his clothes are kind of raggedy, like a textbook American bum. But today he’s walking with his head held high and a spring in his step. In fact, he’s part-jiving, part-walking as he bounces past me, whistling a cheery tune under his breath. And on his feet are a pair of the jauntiest, sassiest, most pimpin’ cherry-red New Balance sneakers you ever did see.