Friday, June 09, 2006

Asuncion memory moment....

A picture of me in Asuncion, Paraguay (where are the accent marks here?). Looking a little professorial, I hope. You can see the amazing blue of the sky and the red clay roofs here. I was standing on the balcony of our little pied-a-terre (pied-au-ciel?), two tiny rooms where we were paying all of 30 dollars a month to live in April 2005.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A simple pleasure

Serendipity in the drugstore. I just picked up a pair of Okabashi sandals at Walgreens yesterday. I decided that the Germanic look to their Milan sandal would be appropriate with dark socks at the English language institute that I am teaching at for my summer job, at least for one day while I contemplated buying new shoes (my old ones broke through at the sole). Ahh, the power of marketing--a cheap price and a promise that I would be able to join a 200,000 strong group of enthusiasts. As I drove home, I felt sheepish--yet once again, an impulse buy driven by marketing and the promise of commodified "community". Would there be any material reality behind the cute but still utilitarian Okabashi copy? Did I ever care about reflexology? The reflexological foot massages I had were actually painful...

As I walked to work, wondering how the sandaled look would fly (they would have been severely verboten at my ESL job in Boston), small tickles of pleasure swirled around in my feet. They were happy to have a supportive but not rock-hard arch and then, I noticed, as my feet rutched slightly back and forth with each step, that the "massage beads" design to these sandals were massaging muscles I had forgotten were there. As my feet relaxed, I noticed that it was as if they were relieved of stress that had become so commonplace I hadn't noticed it anymore. The material experience of wearing the shoe exceeded and transformed the modest expectations set up. I hadn't heard of these shoes before, I had no knowledge of the kinds of people who wear them--I wasn't sure if they would fit my minimal style imprint or if they would make me look middle-aged, or desperately cheap. But as I walked into town, the experience of unexpectable contact with the sole of my foot dissolved such worries into forgetting.

My work shoes were quite comfortable, clearance Hush Puppy loafers, but they didn't give me pleasure. I had found them so "comfortable" that I wore them down over the past year and a half. Or, perhaps, had I become numb to the discomfort my feet were feeling? As I asked myself this question, I had little fantasies about buying Okas for everyone I know, but maybe they wouldn't have my experience. The more enthusiastic I wax, the more skeptical my best friends tend to be.

So, gentle reader, should you happen upon this blog, check some Okabashi out, either at your local drugstore, or online. The basic ones can be had for 10-15 dollars and in one day, believe me, what you might get out of them far exceeds what you pay for them. I've been a loyal Brazilian Havaiana wearer for about three years now--indoors and out, on occasion, but I haven't experienced this kind of pleasure outside of a foot massage. We forget about our feet until they hurt, we put up with slightly uncomfortable shoes or at the very least, expect our shoes to feel neutral--not to make you feel good. The Okabashi (also known in their wilder, hip citygirl style as "Shoes that love you: Oka b.") are about little moments of pleasure in your day that might make a big difference.