Friday, February 3, 2012
Most people don't notice them. Probably because they never look above themselves all that often. But they are everywhere and have been for decades. You see them in urban ghettos and suburban sprawl. They are on desserted phone wires and near mountaintops. Tennis shoes, sneakers, gym shoes...hanging on phone wires, on streetlight wires, on traffic light wires...twisting in the wind or shining down at night. They are evident.
Urban folklore abounds. They supposedly have been used to mark territory. Gang turf, drug dealer's turf, the spot marked. But the evidence just isn't there because sneakers hang overhead in all sorts of neighborhoods. They hang where no gangs exist, where no dope is sold, where you'd least expect them to be. Wonder how long it would take you to find a pair in your neighborhood?
Some say it's a different kind of ritual. The purveyors of urban legend say they function as rites of passage. First sexual experience, all manner of initiation or even the end of a school year. Tossing a well-used pair of gym shoes does make sense, but then the pair of white tennis shoes I see hanging over the intersection of Hawthorne and SE 37th street in Portland began their tenure in fairly new condition. Maybe some disgruntled kid whose mom bought the wrong logo vented and tossed them up and over for all to recognize his rage. Not really.
I view them as a sort of Zen Koan. Something that you keep turning over in your mind, working thorough your brain. Something that (and here comes a favorite phrase of mine) you finger the jagged grain of until one day, meaning appears, at least for the moment.
This pair of white sneakers I have seen hanging for a couple of years has gone through a range of temperatures from 103 to 23. Still it hangs. It's survived rain, freezing rain, snow, hail, wind and heat. Still the shoe laces hold. Washed and bleached, this white beacon is trying to tell us something about living this life. I've got a few ideas but I'm still refining them. I figure I've got a while to let them crystalize in my head because those shoes aren't going anywhere for awhile.