Seeing shoes on the line with Noah is a real treat.
“Look Noah,” I point.
He throws his hands up in the air and sings out “What????”
He’s legitimately confused.
”Who’s shoes are they, daddy?”
”How did they get up there?”
”Why are the shoes on the wire?”
”How will someone get them down?”
He doesn’t actually ask any of these questions, but they are all implied in the tone of his “what????”
I’m glad he doesn’t ask for explanations, though, for I haven’t the faintest idea what the answers are. Okay, how they got up there. Maybe. I assume someone tied the laces together and flung them up. But I’ve never seen someone do that, so I can’t say on average how many attempts it takes to hook them or how often someone is injured in the process. And why are they up there? I have to think it was some practical joke, like toilet papering someone’s house. You sneak into your enemy’s closet and toss his or her sneakers up onto the line. Great. Good one. But who’s sneakers? No idea. And what did they do to deserve it? And how they’ll get down?
That’s probably the best question, for I’ve lived a lot of years now. And you’d think that with this prank going on for all those years and then some, there’d be shoes on nearly every wire the world over. Unless, that is, someone (a city official, perhaps, or a good samaritan) comes around in the witching hour and removes them.
Up until recently I had never seen someone either toss or remove shoes. But we had a block party in Berkeley before moving to Santa Fe. And, go figure, right above the tables set with dishes we and our neighbors brought was, yep you guessed it, a big pair of white high tops (they’re almost always plain white high tops, are they not?) hanging from the line.
I hadn’t spotted them yet. But then I hear Noah call out, “what???”
Well, it became an obsession with all of us “adults” to try and get those shoes down. A lot of suggestions were tossed around. A ladder was pulled out. A rake was duct taped to a broomstick. A woman got on her boyfriend’s shoulders. Balls were thrown. A car was pulled out under the shoes and then all of the above techniques were employed again in various combinations on top of said car. I proposed just cutting down the telephone pole. (We were moving after all.) No one found that funny.
In an ideal world, this would have made for a perfect bonding activity. Problem solving. Great way to get to know your neighbors. That’s the point of a block party after all. Had they been planted by one of our neighbors? The shoes were pretty large, so I quickly eyeballed the other partygoers, looking for large feet. No clear matches.
People set to trying to get the shoes down. It was a total mess. No one was electrocuted, but that was just about the only positive. Necks were strained. Tempers flared. Lines were drawn. People were pissed. And the shoes now seemed inextricably tied and twisted around the wire. But then, maybe 45 minutes in, food getting cold and everyone ready to admit defeat, one last flurry of attempts was made and, I remember it now in slow motion, the tip of the rake caught on the a lace of the lower shoe as the holder strained and craned to try to reach it. He then toppled off (safely), but as he fell, the rake dragged the shoe down and then released it, thus catapulting it back up and over the wire. Down came the pair.
There was great jubilation. Cheering, hugging even. Booze came out. The grill was reignited. Kids were allowed extra sweets. Even democrats and republicans became friends (or would have if any republicans live in the Bay Area). This all to say that getting shoes off the wire has got to be way harder than getting them up there. And so why aren’t more up there? Or are there?