This photograph documents the sad end to my golf shoes. I had these shoes tucked away in my golf bag, a pair of freebies I never realized came with a great set of clubs I bought from a friend. When I made my discovery early this summer, I was proud: no longer would I have to be seen around the country club wearing a pair of New Balance cross-trainers. I was finally part of society.
They'd been sitting for years inside a zippered pocket on the golf bag, a kind of void space forming the structure of the bag in which you'd never think to look. The last recesses of original hull construction they look on a ship before calling off a man overboard search. So, for years these shoes sat in the garage, from Maryland to San Diego, from San Diego to Mudville, waiting for someone to need them. When I found them, I was delighted to give them new life. I lovingly polished them with a bit of white polish, covering the scuff marks, going around and around the toes with that perfect measure of pressure, and treating them as well as I did my favorite dress shoes. "Wow, Nikes. Probably at one time $150." I thought of the story of the The Velveteen Rabbit, or How Toys Become Real, by Marjorie Williams. So many allegories...
They'd seen the course once or twice before with their previous owner, maybe they were a bit neglected. After a game or two, I noticed the sole on the right shoe was coming loose. "Nothing I couldn't patch up back at home with a good gob of fabric glue," I muttered.
Good as new. They went around another game or two, enjoying their newfound life and covering a lot of ground. But the years in the heat had taken their toll on them, as I found on hole number three at the Metro Golf Course on a soggy early afternoon, the swankiest place in town (one of Mudville's neighbors where you're actually expected to wear a belt and tuck in your shirt). "Bernie, these shoes are falling apart, I might have to call it quits early." Every step I took, the top of the right sole would smack up to the bottom of the stitching (or whatever that correlates to in the anatomy of a shoe) making a loud "CLOP CLOP" report. "Keep playing, when it falls off you can go home." So every step walking to my ball from the cart path was "CLOP ped CLOP ped CLOP ped CLOP ped." Boy, it was soggy out there. Then, the bottom of the left sole did the same, so it was, "CLOP CLOP CLOP CLOP CLOP." No reactions from anyone, oh well, keep playing.
When the right sole was almost done, I showed it to Bernie again, who helped me by taking a firm grip on it and ripping it off. My shoe didn't seem in any pain. So I played like that for a little while, and then the left sole - just fell off on its own. Now I was just playing with the leather and cloth and stitches on the bottom of each shoe, kind of in the manner of construction of rock-climbing shoes. I was happy because I could now run to the ball without worry, it was kind of "combat golf" that day: I would make a crappy shot and then run to the ball to keep a good pace with the more experienced guys. A good workout nonetheless; we weren't allowed to drive onto the fairways because of the rain so I logged a good couple hundred yards of jog/sprints that day.
Without warning, on the right foot, I could see my toes sticking out, but I stuck with it (them?). We were nearing the end of the last hole, and this was no time to throw in the towel. Finally, I ended up taking off the right shoe, and playing with only one shoe and a sock. Then in my socks. But I didn't give up, and my shoes didn't give up on me. A little apprehensive about disapproving snorts from anyone who might see us in this state, I still felt good about not quitting. Nonetheless barefoot , I realized that maybe there should be more dignity involved. "Come on shoes, this place isn't good enough for us. I'm taking you home."