Would you wear shoes with a drop of human blood in the sole?
I mean, given the $1018 price tag, and the fact that they sold out in mere minutes, you almost certainly won’t get the chance. (Unless it’s your own blood. But that seems to miss the point a little bit. This is *somebody else’s blood* sloshing around in the sole of your shoe. Mixed with paint, of course, but it’s in there.
Note, also, the pentagram medallion on the laces. And the inverted cross on the tongue.
Nike is distancing themselves from the shoes, of course, saying they never manufactured them that way, and that’s fine. Lord knows they don’t need the religious masses picketing.
But that’s the thing, right? It is so easy to rile up religious people, and Lil Nas X has done it purely as a troll. Just because he can. There’s this big kerfuffle, now, over these shoes…. and if people could just chill out, recognize a troll for a troll and, you know, *not feed it*, the buzz about these shoes would disappear practically overnight.
But some people — and I’ll even go so far as to say some *types* of people — can’t leave it alone. This is symbology that *means something*, they cry, and out come the cries of blasphemy, etc etc.
There is nothing evil about these shoes, except for the backlash. These are man-made materials made by actual human beings to make a buck. There were no devils or demons involved. You can’t even argue that the blood is serving some nefarious purpose. It wasn’t harvested from unsuspecting children sleeping in their beds, or drawn unwillingly from a virgin sacrificed on an altar above a volcano. No, a bunch of shoe-designing nerds drew their own blood and mixed it with some paint and put it in the soles of the shoes to grab a headline.
The symbology is only as powerful as we allow it to be, folks. Yes, an inverted cross and a pentagram have connotations for those of us with religious backgrounds. But are we to believe that this kid — who comes from a few miles down the road from me, it turns out! — is really practicing Satanism here? Just look at what he’s said in response:
Nope, he’s trolling. And if you’re upset about these shoes, well, you were his intended target.
Okay, so the title only works when spoken aloud. The alliteration is lost in print.
Wife and I went to get vaccinated last week. I had some guilt about it, because we’ve actually had COVID already, and shouldn’t that make us immune at least for a while, and wouldn’t other people therefore need it more than us? But after being reassured that if you’re eligible, the thing to do is to get vaccinated no matter what, we went ahead and signed up.
And at a Kroger pharmacy, no less.
I do not love Kroger, but I shop there nine times out of ten because they generally have the best prices of grocery stores in my area. Plus I know their layout and I’m a creature of habit, blah blah blah… but I have never used their pharmacy, because I have seen how the store as a whole works, which is not inspiring for me when I consider who I want processing our pharmaceutical needs. (They are not super-efficient, is what I’m saying.)
Nonetheless, they were the closest and quickest appointment, so off to the Kenny Rogers we went.
And …. there was a line. Like a long line. But we were instructed to fill out paperwork and wait. Our wait would ultimately only be about 20 minutes, and we’d be out of there in under 45, so not bad on the whole. But that’s not what this story is about.
This story is about the COVID Kroger Karen, who enters the story just before we received our jabs.
We are sitting in the waiting area when she walks up, and delivers the line that I know is gonna lead to a good time: “Is there a manager I can speak to?”
And she says it, you know, louder than she needs to, because she’s getting ready to put on a show, and she wants her audience.
Well, the manager is giving vaccinations right now, so she’s going to have to wait, and to my surprise, she does. She begins doing what she’ll do for the next fifteen minutes, which is linger near the pharmacy, talk too loudly on her phone about how she has to wait, and sigh in exasperation as she fires off text messages and, presumably, disgruntled Facebook posts.
We get jabbed. We come out. CKK is still waiting, to my surprise, not making a scene. Our vaccinator wants us to linger for about 15 minutes to make sure we don’t have any adverse reaction. This is not a problem for me, because I want to see what CKK is gonna do, but nothing is happening, so I wander the aisles with my wife for a few.
By the time we’re back, she’s in full Karen meltdown. She’s standing at the counter, jabbing her finger angrily at the plastic divider between herself and the manager (who just a few minutes ago was pumping vaccine into my arm). Raising her voice to ludicrous levels.
“I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU CAN’T JUST FILL IT.”
The pharmacy is backlogged on all orders right now because we are prioritizing the COVID vaccination effort.
“I JUST CAME FROM MY DOCTOR AND HE ASSURED ME IT WOULD BE READY.”
There is always a delay, and if you had called ahead, we could have told you there would be more of a delay.
“THIS IS JUST RIDICULOUS.”
“WELL HOW LONG IS IT GONNA TAKE.”
All orders are delayed by at least 24 hours right now because of the COVID vaccination effort, as I told you before.
And on and on, and around and around. There’s more. Lots more. The same basket of phrases gets passed back and forth between them like cards in a game of Go Fish.
In defense of CKK, I’d feel some kind of way if I were in her situation, too. Coming out to pick up a prescription only to find it’s not ready is one of the more frustrating things on the 1st-World-Problems Bingo Card, so on the one hand, I get it.
On the other hand? *Waves hands vaguely around* We are in a pandemic, after all, and y’know, if the vaccination effort is taking precedence over your monthly refill? I think we have to have some understanding, here.
But not CKK. Having made no headway with the manager (as she was never going to), she throws her hands up in exasperation. Whirls around, not to leave, but to continue her performance. I have been studiously staring at my phone while this has been going on, pretending to text so I can giggle under my breath as she loses her mind. She doesn’t catch me laughing, but I do make the mistake of glancing up —
And we lock eyes.
I immediately avert right back to my phone, but it’s too late. She saw me. She walks toward me. Performatively announces, “I have never been treated like this. I just can’t believe it.”
I am studiously staring at a text message from my wife from over a week ago. This is a very important message, I hope my posture communicates. I haven’t been paying attention to you at all. In fact, I didn’t even hear you. In furtherance of fact, I don’t hear you now. All I know and all I see is this message from my wife. From over a week ago.
It’s not working. She comes right up to me. “Can you believe this? I can’t believe they’re doing this to me.”
She’s loud. She’s angry. She wants sympathy, and she has come to the driest of wells for a drink. I have no sympathy for this woman. She represents everything I hate in entitled, angry Older White People.
But because I’m a polite southern boy, I *almost* give it to her. I *almost* make the barest of head shakes, the tiniest of shoulder shrugs, I *almost* mutter knowingly, “whattayagonnado?” But I can’t make myself do it. I can’t offer her any comfort when she’s carrying on this way. I’m a parent. We do not negotiate with terrorists.
I steadfastly ignore her, hoping she’ll walk away, but she won’t. I instead offer her my favorite mantra when somebody is complaining: “Life is pain.”
I say it without looking up. Without smiling. I don’t mean it as a joke, or to mock her. It’s all I have for her in this moment.
She steps back. Squints at me. “What?”
Maybe she didn’t hear. Maybe she doesn’t understand. Maybe I’m just a colossal a-hole, more of an a-hole than she is in this moment. I don’t know. But it’s all I have for her. I offer it again, this time looking her in the eye and shrugging. “Life is pain.”
She scowls at me but doesn’t say anything. She stalks off to go be angry somewhere else, anywhere else, away from this absolutely unhelpful bald dude in his Star Wars hoodie quoting Princess Bride philosophy at her which she probably doesn’t even get, the rube.
It’s quiet. People go about their business.
I have discovered the cure for Karens, and the cure is ruthless existential candor.
He does this from time to time — the impulse just strikes him and he wants to tell a story, and he’ll grab a bunch of white paper and sharpies and markers and go on a writing and drawing spree for a couple hours, then come away with this concoction of hastily-scribbled, choppily-illustrated wonder.
This one, being in a holiday frame of mind, was about Santa Claws.
That’s not a misspelling, you see — in addition to being creatively inclined, the kid also has an affinity for the macabre.
“You thought Christmas was a happy season?” The book begins, ominously.
In his story, to summarize, Santa Claus is attacked by a Clawster (what that is, I have no idea, and upon further discussion, I’m not sure the kid does either). This infects him with a deadly virus that turns him into Santa Claws, who goes on a Tarantino-esque roarin’ rampage of revenge, attacking elves (tearing one in half!) and savaging his reindeer (poor Rudolph!) before being attacked by a SWAT team. (“PREPARE WAR”, Santa Claws says, in a quote from the book.)
This does not deter Santa Claws, however, because his claws are able to slice ‘n’ dice the bullets they shoot at him. The SWAT team comes up short, so it takes the army to subdue him, at which point they learn that the Clawster was from the Civil War, somehow.
(I’d take a picture, but he gave it to my dad as a birthday present — because after hearing him read it to me, I told him his grandfather would love to hear it. )
I tell you all that not to try to brag that the kid’s story is awesome or anything (I mean, as a parent, I’m over here gushing about it. Objectively? …There are some plot holes.).
I tell you that instead to point out just how awesome it is to be a kid. Here I’ve been agonizing over this writing thing for years. One finished novel (unpublished), one drafted but un-edited novel (trunked), and a third in late-stage edits (out for review with some trusted critics). Endless revisions. Long-Dark-Tea-Times-of-the-Soul wondering whether my drivel is any good or will ever come to anything.
This kid has an idea, tosses it off in a couple hours, and starts shopping it around the same day — and then doesn’t think about it again.
Funny that from my self-doubting, self-flagellating self could come such a font of unabashed abandon, such impervious confidence.
We need words for some of the various social discomforts that arise around public restrooms.
Like, how about that feeling when you walk into a public bathroom, and it’s just … horrific. Like it smells like a decomposing roadside deer crossed with a wretched witches’ brew and a healthy dose of eau de dumpster. And you handle your business in the fog of it, but then as you’re walking out, somebody else walks in, and they can only assume you’re responsible for the atrocity besetting their nostrils. This feeling — that panic where in your head you say hey this isn’t my fault, I did not do this thing, please don’t judge me but in reality you say nothing because to say something about it would be weirder and worse than being judged?
This feeling needs a name.
Or that feeling when you go into a public stall and have to sit down, and there’s no immediate sign that anybody else has been there recently, but when you sit down, the seat is warm. I mean, bathrooms are kinda like hotel rooms, right? You know other people use them — that’s kinda the whole point — but while you’re in there? That space is yours, and the thought of somebody else’s butt on your seat? It feels like a crime against decency.
This feeling needs a name.
Here’s another one: you go into the restroom, not to do business, but for something else. Like you had to check your face to make sure your co-workers haven’t failed to notify you that you have shaving cream on your ear. But on the way in, you pass by somebody just hanging in the hall outside, in a way that kinda says yeah, I’m gonna be here for a few minutes, on their phone, or chatting with a friend or whatever. So you go in there and you do whatever you need to. But this isn’t a hand-washing visit; you just had to pop in. But now you think, shoot, that person out there is gonna think I did my business and didn’t wash my hands. So you think about washing your hands, but then another part of your brain says, no, that’s stupid, nobody’s paying attention to whether you had enough time to wash your hands. But then you say to yourself maybe you should just wash them anyway, but then no, this was not a hand-washing operation, I’m not gonna be pressured to wash my hands just because somebody might notice that I didn’t. So you stand there staring yourself down in the mirror like a maniac because you won’t be self-pressured into washing your hands but you also won’t be socially shamed for not washing them.
This feeling needs a name.
Or, what about — and I’m a guy, so I grant that girls may play by different rules here — what about that feeling when you’re in a public restroom — doing anything, be it your business, washing up, checking your watch, whatever — and another guy in the restroom says literally anything to you? This is an egregious violation of the social contract, but this jerk has done it, so now, what do you do? Ignore the joker who has so little sense of the social order that he wants to open his mouth and say a single solitary word in this sacred profane place? But to do so seems to violate the other social contract which dictates that you speak and respond when spoken to. So do you break the unwritten laws of the restroom and respond, opening yourself up to the possibility of having an actual conversation with a stranger in the last place you want to have a conversation? No, you chuckle awkwardly and double-time it away from the weirdo.
This feeling needs a name.
I dunno. What are some others? Or better yet, some names for these feelings? I am desperate.
This post brought to you out of sheer bloody-minded determination to write something not even vaguely related to current events.
I’ve been bald by choice for 10 (help!) years now.
I buzzed it for the first time when I was 30, went briefly back to keeping it short for maaaybe a year, and have been shaving it ever since. (Every Sunday — except sometimes on Mondays — I shave my face and just keep on going right over the top.)
This is a development that would dishearten some men, apparently, but for me, it’s just one less thing to worry about. Plus, I don’t have to worry about messing up my hair when I wear a hat, so even though I don’t wear a lot of hats (my white-guy-in-a-fedora phase was short-lived, you’re welcome), that’s always on the table.
Anyway, baldness is easy, fun, and easy, and, dare I say, stylish? It’s also easy; not sure if I mentioned that.
But apparently some part of my subconscious wants my hair back, because recently I dreamed that I had hair again. And not just hair, but the full-on, down-to-my-shoulders, shampoo-commercial hair I had in high school.
What does this say about me? When I take such smug pride in my baldness, only to have my subconscious serve up an image of myself with Fabio-esque locks? That I’m living a lie? That I only tell myself I love being bald so I’m not crushed by the cosmic unfairness of it?
Well, no, I don’t think so, because in the same dream I hated having hair again and immediately made to shave it off.