Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Misadventures of a Shoe Person

Home from New York.

And very glad of it.

Don't bother to get snippy with me, New York-lovers, because I am one of you. Like the t-shirts (and bumper stickers and mouse pads and coffee cups and baseball caps and tote bags and...) say, I heart New York. I truly do. There is nowhere else like it. New York City is wonderful and hectic and exciting and sometimes so beautiful it makes my heart stop. I just don't want to live there anymore.

New York is like an old boyfriend. I'm very, very grateful for the time we had together. I wouldn't take back a single moment of it. It was a great relationship while it lasted and in large part I would not be who I am today if it hadn't happened. But it came to an end for a reason, and the reason is that we're just not right for one another. Many fond memories, but no regrets.

Plus, New York really did a number on my feet last week. Oy. They're still sore & a little bit numb in places. Evidently the old boyfriend is still holding a few grudges. I had foot trauma after shoe drama after wince-inducing incident with my feet this week, and I'd like to publicly apologize to all the people who had to listen to me bitch about it (which is a bunch). But I've never had such issues with my feet on vacation before. In three trips of stomping around Paris the last couple of years (not to mention seven years of living in & around NYC) my feet never suffered so.

It all started well enough. My first full day in the city, I moseyed in from Westchester (I stayed with my dear friend Kelly and her family -- beautiful home, amazing kids, better than any hotel) to start my day at Saks. Now, I'd had some retailing planned that I was very excited about, because due to a gift certificate and some cautious saving I had a nice little wad of scratch to toss around in the shoe department at Saks Fifth Avenue, and I was looking forward to it. To spend my day of retailing I'd worn these:

My adorable little Ferragamo ankle boots with the nice low heel. They're very comfortable, I run around in these all the time. More about them anon.

The shoes that I've been dreaming about of late are these:

Manolo Blahnik Dodo. In red, bien sûr.

I'd actually seen them at Neiman Marcus the last time I was in Dallas and tried them on and oooooooh, they're dreamy. I looked for them on the Saks website, but there are no Manolo Blahniks on the Saks website. I thought this very odd, because there are Manolo Blahniks in the shoe department of the tiny little Austin Saks, so I just chalked it up to some odd e-commerce quirk.

I got up to the shoe department on the fourth floor and it was like a dream. I made my first pass, just to survey the sitch & get my legs under me, and I noticed something troubling.

No Manolos.

No Manolos AT ALL.

I felt a cold, sinking feeling in the area around my heart and when I checked in with one of the SAs, sure enough: yes, we have no Manolos.

I was tragified.

But I took a moment, gathered my wits, and shrugged it off. Phooey! I could certainly find some other shoes to love!! And I did. I gathered up several handfuls of shoes (much to the secret dismay, I'm sure, of the much-less-shoe-motivated Kelly, who was my extremely patient shopping companion) and handed them off to Clara, the SA who nabbed me. Pradas & MiuMius & Loubies, oh my!

(I should know better with the Loubies. It doesn't seem to matter if they are open- or closed-toe, they are simply too narrow for my feet. I must resign myself to never wearing a pair of Christian Louboutin shoes. This is extremely hurtful, but in time I hope to come to terms. Does anyone know of a good support group?)

Many, many pairs of shoes later, I decided on these:

YSL Doll, in red patent and suede.

They are beautiful, and they feel really good, because the straps are nice & wide & cradle the foot instead of biting into it. At least, they felt good in the moment, which was early in the shopping day and early in my trip, before all things foot-related went to hell in a handbasket.

I also fell for these:

Stuart Weitzman Slipper, in Flame (Flame!!) patent

and despite not planning to buy more than one pair of shoes that day, scooped 'em up. Adorable, comfy, tremendously all-purpose, and look at the cute doggies on the lining!!

Plus -- clever me had put off getting a Saks charge card until the day I spent a big chunk of money because I knew that most department stores give you a first day discount of 10% when you get the card, and sure enough, so does Saks! So I saved a considerable amount that way, and used my healthy gift card to make up a lot more of the rest. There is still a balance on my new Saks card, but it's not a tremendous balance, and I felt okay about it since I got two great pairs of shoes.

From Saks Kelly & I sought out a great little diner on Madison Avenue for lunch (oh, tuna melt on rye with fries smothered in brown gravy, you are one of my favorite New York meals!), and then Kelly very kindly hauled my purchases back to Westchester, where she had to return in order to make the school run to bring the kids home. From Grand Central Station I struck off for the Comme des Garçons boutique in Chelsea to do a little perfume shopping.

Now. Grand Central is at 42d Street and Park Avenue. The Comme des Garcons boutique is on 22nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. This is a long walk.

A very long walk.

Honestly, I don't know what I was thinking, except that it was a nice day and I hadn't been in New York in a long time & wouldn't it be nice to stroll through the city on a pleasant day like today? I did break things up a bit by stopping at the Bryant Park Café and treating myself to a mid-afternoon outdoor glass of champagne in that green and lovely space. (Bryant Park has been considerably beautified and rejuvenated since I lived in NYC -- once upon a time it was not nearly so gorgeous as it is now. Let's just say that champagne was certainly not the substance most often partaken of there.)

I also wandered through the Garment District and into M&J Trimming, the mecca of all things ribbon-y, button-y, and fringe-y. If you sew, you could lose your mind and your retirement fund in that place -- trust me when I tell you that their online site provides only a tiny glimpse into what is available. I popped into the button area, thinking I might pick up some fun buttons to take home to use on some sewing project in the future, but left, overwhelmed, pretty quickly. One should only enter this store if you have an idea of what you need -- aimlessly browsing could stretch on & on forever until one day your mouldering bones are found in a dusty heap. Fantastic fun, though.

Also on my travels I meandered through a lovely little exhibit on color in clothing throughout history at the Museum at FIT. It's a small exhibit, but I was enjoying the quiet & opportunity to sit on a nice padded bench (my dogs were really barking by this point, you see) and look at pretty dresses when the place was invaded by a shrieking horde of squawking young women around ages 14 - 15. I was flushed out of the place like a flustered chicken whose henhouse had been set upon by foxes. I smoothed my ruffled feathers, hoiked up my socks (which by this point were tragically unable to stay up on my feet and kept schlumping down inside my boots to puddle up around my arches -- oooooooooooh, I just hate that feeling) and moved on.

Needless to say, once my perfume purchases (more about which also anon -- not today) were in hand I got my subway on

& made my way back up to midtown to have more champagne and then moules et frites with a couple of friends. Post-dinner, back to GCS to catch the Harlem Line to Westchester.

By the time I got back to Kelly's house, my feet were howling. Howling. The several glasses of wine I had taken medicinally (to numb the feet) had worn off and I gimped my way up to the third-floor guest room with many a stifled moan.

The next day I had a leisurely morning and then planned to go in & spend the afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art (always my favorite) and then more drinks & dinner with friends that evening. Some combination of foot pain, foolishness, and a false sense of security (my plantar fasciitis has been relatively under control lately) combined to make me completely forget my podiatrist's warning that flat shoes are not a good idea for me these days, and I got on the train in my new red Weitzman flats.

Well, I made it through a nice lunch in the café and two floors worth of galleries before I was nearly in tears. Oh sure, the front of my feet felt great, but my heel felt like someone was driving knives into it. I didn't think there was any way I could walk the rest of the day in those shoes, so I left MoMA and hurried a few blocks away to an Aerosoles store where I picked up a pair of these:

Aerosoles Flow Away

These are actually cuter on -- they have a great sort of retro, 40's, Andrews Sisters vibe to them. (I would also like to point out that I paid full-price for them in the store and they are now more than half-off on the website, but let's just. Not. Go there.) They were not ideal -- if the heels were maybe an inch lower they would have been more of what I needed, but at least they took the weight off my injured heel, which was what I needed.

Friday I stayed in Westchester & did local stuff, which meant the blessing of being driven around by Kelly and giving my feet a rest. So on Saturday when we got ready to go back into the city and spend the whole day poking around, I put the Ferragamo boots back on. Wiser for experience, I broke up my walking much more frequently with stops for lunch or coffee or wine and on the whole the feet were doing pretty well. We were in Chelsea headed toward the very nifty Hotel Gansevoort's rooftop bar (gorgeous views, sadly overpriced & mediocre wines) for a late-afternoon pick-us-up when I noticed that the sound of my heel on the cobblestones had changed. And sure enough, my heel tap (the little black plastic bit at the bottom of the heel itself) had mostly come off. I was walking on a bare nail protruding from the bottom of the heel.

Now, we all know how I feel about shoe maintenance. I spent the rest of the afternoon cringing in rhythm with my footfalls, knowing that I was damaging, possibly ruining, my beautiful boots with every step. (Without the heel taps your heels are coming into unprotected contact with the ground, which damages the leather and the structure of the shoe. It's very important to keep them up and replace them when they wear out.)

Monday was my last day in the city before flying back to Austin Tuesday morning and I was determined to make the best of it. It was a gorgeous day and I wanted to do a fair amount of walking around, and so I put on these:

Jeffrey Campbell Park

I like these shoes kinda middling-well. The good things about them are that they stay on my feet due to the ankle straps, they're a mid-heel and there is plenty of room in them to place an orthotic to help with the p.f. The bad things about them are that they're platforms (I tend to turn my ankle) and well... there's a bit of a Bride of Frankenstein vibe going on with them, honestly. They're not exactly elegant, but I had brought them just in case and the case was definitely presenting itself.

And ya know, it was great. Went into the city, strolled around, made my way downtown to Chambers St. to see what's going on with the re-building, made my way back up to Chelsea to have lunch with a friend. Feet felt good, I'd only twisted my ankle (not seriously) once, on the whole it was going swimmingly. I strolled east on 14th Street on a beautiful sunny New York day, planning to putz around in the Union Square area for a while before heading back up to mid-town & meeting my friend Mary for one last drink at Grand Central (there are some swell bars & restaurants in there, it's not just trains) before heading out.

And as I stepped off the curb to cross 14th Street, my shoe broke.

Yep. The loop that holds the ankle strap to the shoe snapped apart. This is not merely a cosmetic issue, friends -- these shoes have a fairly shallow footbed and without the ankle strap I can barely keep my foot in them -- I walk right out of them unless I go at a snail's pace.

Furious. Furious and frustrated and footsore and just completely out of my head. I stopped thinking rationally, hopped on the 4 train going uptown, and got off at Grand Central intending to march (well, not really march -- hobble) up to Saks and buy footwear because I was sick of being betrayed by cheap shoes!! (Or so went the silent rant in my head.) I came out of the station onto Vanderbilt Avenue and hadn't gone half a block when a neon sign jumped out at me: Shoe Repair!!

The clouds parted, the angels sang, I shuffled my way into a little hive of shoe-repair activity and sadly handed over my shoe to the distinguished Russian man named Alex behind the cash register, asking, "How long would it take for you to fix this?" He gave me the Russian no-problem shrug (if you have any Russian friends or relatives you know what I mean; if you don't, trust me when I say no one shrugs as eloquently as a middle-aged Russian man) and handed it off to a minion. Five minutes and $8 later, my shoe was returned to me. Ooooooh, so happy!!! For once -- it goes my way!!

I continued my wandering and found myself in Saks again (fancy that!), taking one last turn around the shoe department. I felt a little smug, congratulated myself on my $8 fix, and headed back out the door.

And the instant I stepped out the door onto Fifth Avenue, the other shoe broke.

No. I am really not making this up.

The furious haze descended again, I pivoted on my heel, went back inside, stormed upstairs (they have elevators, thank goodness) and bought the Weitzman flats in black. I wedged my little heel orthotics into them and wore them out of the store, heading straight back to Grand Central, where I staked out a rocking chair on the Campbell Apartment Terrace bar and nursed a couple of glasses of wine until Mary met me there.

This was not, perhaps, the wisest course of action for dealing with this, but at this point I was just... so... MAD!!!!

So here I am, back in the Land of Cars, and let me tell you -- when I wheeled my suitcase out into the parking lot at the airport & saw my car waiting patiently for me, I almost threw my arms around it and cried tears of joy. (Although, due to the amounts of grackle shit on the hood, this would be ill-advised.)

And believe it or not, I'm actually pondering returning the red YSLs. They were ex-pen-sive, and I bought three pairs of shoes I didn't expect to while I was in New York. I haven't even looked at any of my balances yet, but a trip to New York puts a dent in the ol' available credit line. And while they are exceptionally beautiful shoes, the truth is that they were substitutes for those Manolos. Which, as they are in stores now, may be sold out before I can get enough saved up again to score them, seeing as how I really need to focus on paying off this trip as opposed to buying more stuff. I know I'll wear the YSLs, and they feel nice -- the heel is only 3", which is extremely manageable. Oh, I don't know what to do. What should I do? Please tell me.

There were more New York adventures and there will be more regaling over the next week.

Photos: stock.xchng, Style Spy, Neiman Marcus, Zappos,, Nordstrom

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Caroline said...

oh, aim, nobody deserves that much shoe-related horror.

Take the YSLs back. They're great, but not as great as the manolos.

StyleSpy said...

Insult to injury, Caro? My camera died three days before I left.

Anonymous said...

I think the YSL Dolls have great style! I prefer them to the Manolos. Even though I've never seen you in real life, I have a hunch that the Dolls are more "you".

But if you are definitely going to buy the Manolos anyway, if there is absolutely no stopping you, then I guess you should return them.

I hope you have been pampering your poor feet. I look forward to reading more about your trip!!

Suzy/spell me


Robin said...

I vouch for always getting the shoes you love. The YSLs are beautiful, but you don't love them like the Manolos. Like when people write advice columnists about their two boyfriends (who should I choose?) and answer their own question by the end of their letter.

Patty said...

You poor thing! REturn the YSLs and get the Manolos. Isn't that a line from The Godfather, only with canolis?

elke said...

My goodness! Lot's of shoe drama! But you'll be diggin the clicks you bought for a long time! Thank goodness for shoe Doctors!

StyleSpy said...

The thing is, if I return the YSLs, I'm not absolutely sure I will get the Manolos, because once that charge is off my card, cooler heads (in the form of my financial counselor and sense-talker-into-er Cap'n B and the ghost of my frugal father) may prevent me from splashing out for them until I've actually saved up enough to buy them outright as opposed to putting them on a charge. By then they're likely to be sold out. And then I have no shoes at alllllllll!!!

(Please do take that last bit with a grain of salt. Several grains. A cup.)