My blisters were about to burst. The back of my brother’s head was shrinking ahead of me, disappearing into the midtown crowd. My resentment towards the city was growing after a few days walking in and out of Brooklyn and Manhattan. I was beginning to wonder what it was that people found so magical about this crowded, busy, smelly, average-seeming place, this place that was just…another city.
Turns out, I had worn the wrong shoes.
They were the right shoes everywhere else. They were my plain black Doc Martens with the mismatched laces (yellow on the right, purple on the left). They had gotten me through almost every day of the previous four years of high school, and many days of that first semester of college. They seemed like the right fashion choice for New York…but the wrong practical choice for following (trailing behind) my brother as he walked. Everywhere. New York suddenly seemed far too big in those shoes whose soles were probably well past their prime. My brother, bless him, finally caught on to what I wasn’t quite ready to admit – that my feet were killing me and that my beloved Docs were long since dead – and took me right into a New Balance store for some right proper sneakers. I would at least grant New York that much – you really can find just about anything you need right when you need it.
I had a few more subsequent visits that weren’t nearly as traumatic to my feet as that one, but the shine had worn off. I still couldn’t…get the magnetism.
Strangely, it would take other big, frenetic cities in other places to rekindle any lost affection. The chaos of Hong Kong and the boulevards and rues of Paris, they taught me how to be okay in the crowd…but those are stories for another time, except that a few times since then that I’ve walked through Manhattan with my brother, he’s asked me if I was in a hurry.
Needless to say I (re)learned that I always needed the right shoes (and better callouses). It’s been something on my mind (and feet) every time I’ve gone up since, including this last trip for Thanksgiving.
We were, for once, without my brother; but we still walked miles. Not so many miles as there are between Brooklyn and upper Manhattan, but we still walked. We walked from Penn Station to our rooms at citizenM, a chic and comfortable (and surprisingly reasonable) hotel on West 50th Street. From there, we walked to the Walter Kerr to see the man himself, Springsteen on Broadway (after a decadent amount of pizza with ricotta and mushrooms at John’s), and back to the hotel again. We walked from 50th down to 31st, just to cross 6th Avenue and back up to 44th again, to get to our spots for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and then onto lunch afterwards. We walked the length of 5th Avenue to see the holiday lights and the shiny facade of the Plaza (but not in for tea).
We walked. And again I planned my outfits around my boots – but they were the right boots this time. They were boots I now even wish I’d had in Paris, and in Hong Kong. They are Merrell Captiva Launch boots, and I can’t say I’d want to go to another big city without them. I want to see where else these boots would take me in New York – back through the Village, back through Chinatown, back through Brooklyn…the possibilities are endless.
These Merrells won’t take away from my love of those particular Doc Martens (or Docs in general, of course) – but maybe, just maybe, to shift our perspective on a city, we just need to change our shoes.