Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Books are not like shoes

yes, there are supposed to be two. apples to apples, remember?

Books are not like shoes. They're just not. Books are rectangular, and in some cases, square. Shoes are oval, and in some cases, rectangular. Books can be shredded; they cause paper cuts. Shoes cannot be ripped; their pain is more dull. Shoes squeeze from the outside, make our feet throb and sweat; books cut to inside, slicing our skin and memories.

Personally, the biggest difference between shoes and books is that I don't care when books get worn.

On January 29th, 2011, I bought Dave Egger's AHWOSG. It's actually the second time I've bought the book; the first was at the end of high school, when I read it in a 12-hour sitting, my mom forcing me off my bed to eat two meals. Second semester senior year of college, I grew nostalgic for it, and ordered it off Amazon. After it arrived, AHWOSG was quickly buried in a stack of 125 other books I had lying in my room.

I didn't ship it home when I packed up my belongings for the last time. It came with me to New York, and I've taken to reading bits and pieces of it on the subway. I'm currently on page 51, when Toph and the narrator are driving through San Francisco. The book already looks beat up. It's been jammed inside my backpack, occasionally crushed by other last-minute necessities. The right side corners are dogeared. The front cover is blazed with white scratches. When I flip the pages, they smell not-new. Within the pages, I've underlined phrases and written myself notes. When the book was sitting in my room, still pristine, it was a trophy of my good taste. Now it's dirty and ragged, and a trophy of of faux literary chops. I've loved it through all of its evolution.

5 days ago, I bought a pair of bright yellow sneakers at Urban Outfitters. They cost $18. I made sure to pick out the size 9 pair that looked the least scuffed. They soon became my go-to shoes. I wore them everywhere. But it rained Friday night. Mud spots colored the bottom white border, and I had to consciously suppress my urge to stop every block to swipe my thumb across the border to wipe them clean. Saturday, at Moma PS1, at the concert, my shoes stood in plumes of dust, inadvertently stepped on, occasionally kicked. And then on Sunday, in the middle of Union Square, one of my friends ran by me and accidentally stepped on them, leaving a fat, dark print on the right shoe, right side. Now they look at least 2 weeks old. The "newness" factor has expired.

I wish all my pairs of shoes would stay fresh forever. I remember buying a pair of running shoes my freshman year of college and wearing them once every two months, only when conditions were perfect. They were shockingly bright, practically glowing. One day in April, I saw Abraar at High Street gate and he said, "Damn those shoes are tight! So clean!" I felt my swollen pride. His words (and words like those) made my decision to slowly mete out usage worth it.

Today, when I look at my yellow shoes, this internal dialogue happens:

"Oh f*ck. Look at this mark."

"Hmm. Maybe I can wash it off?"

"Nope. You're just going to spread it around even worse."

"Great. Now people won't notice they're yellow anymore."

"Well, that's not true. They will see you wearing yellow shoes -- what a fresh color, by the way, don't ever let anyone tell you Asians can't wear yellow -- but then they'll see the mark on it and wonder, 'Why would he buy yellow shoes if he doesn't even take good care of them?'"

"Or maybe what people think is, 'Damn, nice yellow -- oh, wait. They're dirty. Never mind.'"

"Maybe I should get over yourself. Only I can see the stain. To everyone else I'm just wearing yellow shoes."

"Maybe ya should've gotten blue?"

I don't have a moral to this story. If you really need one, try some of these one for size: Don't Buy Yellow Shoes. Books are Better than Shoes. Materialism and Status is Not a Worthy Goal. (Critchlow-isms, if I've ever heard one before.)

Maybe it's about the juxtaposition between material goods and ideas. I'll get back to you on this one.

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