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Still Life With Birkenstocks

Went out shoe shopping today with my buddy Mur, to the infamous Birkenstock store in town.

Long-time readers will remember that...holy crap, it's been seven years...ago I went into this store to get my Birks repaired. I walked in with the shoes in hand and a man came up to me, seized the shoes, and said in tones of abject Southern horror: "Did you get these off'n a daid person?!"

I said, "Um."

He inspect the severe damage I had wrought upon the cork and added "Was you in prison and these was the only shoes they gave you?"

I agreed that this was the most likely scenario. He took them away, read me the riot act about what we do not do to our cork soles (bless your heart) and a week later I had pristine Birks for a third the price of new ones.

Alas, those shoes have since gone the way of all flesh and I had not picked up a replacement, so Mur and I went out on Birkenstock Quest. The official Birkenstock website lied to us repeatedly, and at last, the only hope was the store of legend. (Which, snark aside, is the only place I would go for shoe repairs, if it came to that. They are peculiar in a very Southern sort of way, but they do damn fine cobbling.)

The store is now very clean, very nice, brightly lit and I think in a new location. I found my chosen Birkenstock (Arizona, women's 39) and also tried on some new hiking boots, found them quite satisfactory, and mentioned in passing that I definitely needed new boots, because my current pair was a Target special.

Now, because I have a fair amount of Ye Olde Face Blindness, there was no way that I was going to remember what this guy looked like...until he looked up at me, and said, once again in tones of abject Southern horror, "Target? How do you have feet left? How is you not in a wheelchair?"

Good to know that some things never change.

(There was also the Sock Consultation. They have an entire wall of socks, promising a future of merino and wicking and cushioned comfort soles that will keep my feet dry and cooled and unblistered and massaged by tiny angels living in the weave. As I am heading to Botswana in April for a photo safari with a bunch of fellow artists, and they have very strict weight limits, I am on a quest for a sock that does all these things and can be washed and air-dry overnight.

I explained my needs to the Southern gent, who went and got another one, who went and got a third, and all of us stared at the Wall of Socks with expressions of deep concentration.

"We got liners," said one.

"Don't wanna send her out in liners," said another. "Need a sock to go over it. All-in-one."

"Why is you going to Africa?" said the third. "Is this a punishment for somethin'?"

"Needs to be a hiking sock, not a running sock," said the first.

"Wool blend would probably be best," said the second one.

"I saw a show where a black mamba bit a lion and that lion was daid in five minutes," said the third.

"This one's wicking, but how's it dry?" said the first.

"The silk blend's pretty good," said the second.

"If one of those mambas bites a man--or a woman--they'll be dead in half an hour!" said the third.

"The Wigwam's are good. We got any cotton?"

"We don't have any cotton socks in the store."

"You wouldn't get me in Africa. I've seen nature shows. You wouldn't get me out of the United States."

"Try these, maybe?"

"See if those dry overnight, yeah."

"I might not even leave North Carolina. It's scary out there."

I took the recommended socks, promised to report back, and agreed that yes, it was.)

If you get the right boot/sock combo you can conquer the world. I have a pair of hiking boots and socks I bought in 1999 or so and they are still going strong.

best cobbler slogan (in central sq, cambridge, ma):
I will heel you
I will save your sole
I will even dye for you

There's a shoe store near us that has a little marquee. Once upon a time, it read "Come in and have a fit!"

I was tempted, believe you me...

You just made my day.

"Did you get these off'n a daid person?!"

::barely manages not to spit water::

As I recall, he followed that up with "One who WALKED himself to death?!

OMG, I can hear the voices. (I grew up not far from there in Winston-Salem)

I was just there visiting my brother-in-law and family. It was lovely, and a very nice change from CA.

It's truly astonishing the kind of service you can get out of shoe store people. Some of those folks are passionate about their work in the way few retail clerks are that I've seen in any other type of store. I've got a guy at one of our local "I wouldn't normally go somewhere this upscale or trendy but I'd gotten tired of being burned by cheap crap elsewhere" shops, he impressed me my first visit by basically taking a look at my feet, saying "nine and a half wide, you probably want a pair of those" and sure enough, those fit superbly.

Professionalism is professionalism, and I admire it wherever I find it. Even if it seems a bit quirky on some levels.

(Deleted comment)
Ahh, the glorious sensual pleasure of putting warm dry socks on cold wet feet... sadly underappreciated.

I'm with Guy Number Three. Black mambas are mean and very very fast. I don't want you to git bit and end up daid. Google just told me you have plenty of venomous snakes in North Carolina, so somebody might want to let Guy Number Three know. He'll never leave the store.

After years of stupid footwear choices (insert tones of abject Southern horror), I now wear Mephistos at $350/pair. I think they are handcrafted by an obscure sect of monks living high in the Italian Alps. Each shoe weighs like 5 pounds, so there goes your weight limit. They take some getting used to, but my feet don't hate me anymore. For these prices I expect the store staff to form a chair out of their forearms and carry me around the place as I shop.

Mephistos ... I think they are handcrafted by an obscure sect of monks living high in the Italian Alps.

Not with that name, they're not!

(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
> As I am heading to Botswana in April for a photo safari...

"Look at that! How about I mention this massively cool upcoming thing in passing while discussing socks? Tee hee!"

I'd bet figs to watermelons that you actually physically teeheed, except you're not really the teeheeing sort. Botswana. Daaaayum. :) Hope it's gonna be even more awesome than it sounds!

*laugh* I have actually moved to the point of "Horrified Travel Dread" on it, though I am sure it will be VERY cool once I'm there. I just have to plan everything I am taking down to the last ounce so as to keep the gods of misfortune at bay.

Im heading to Tasmania for two weeks to indulge my photography habit (no where near as cool at Botswana) and Im planning to do a fair bit of walking and like you have been questing for the perfect sock

I have found Lightfeet which are made in Australia and I really like them


I started out with Thorlo and these are just like them but thinner and lighter and less padding in the padded bit but still well enough padded. my problem is my feet are REALLY wide and with the Thorlos adding extra thickness inside the shoe, its too thick and my little toes are jammed up and go to sleep, which I imagine is suboptimal long term LOL

I wear them to the gym and have successfully completed 1 hr walks in reasonable heat, my feet tend to swell and sweat in hot shoe environments but I have found this design to be comfortable and the lighter ones would probably dry overnight

They even have an ultra light option which I havent tried


I dont know if you can get these in the US but you can probably buy online

Good luck and look forward to seeing your photos when you come back

Mine are here for anyone wanting to see scenic shots of New Zealand and quite a few shots of my birman cat and kitten :)


*I* would be excited over Tasmania!

I think I sprained something laughing at this.

I am still wearing a pair of Birkenstock shoes I bought 12 years ago. I've had the soles replaced twice, and the toe area re-sewn once (thank you Newberry obsidian flow). I wear them almost every day. Best $200 I've spent in a looooong time.

My Birkenstock clogs have cork like yours did. I've been looking about for a repair place near me but there aren't any, alas. I'll have to mail them off like I did with the shoes.

Botswana! What fun! Have a blast with the photographs!

I loved my Birkenstock Arizonas for many years. Also, are too sculpted for wearing with an AFO foot brace, plus with no control over my foot, no toe hold, so they'd fly off. Still rooting for new nerves to grow...

I don't doubt that both shoe expeditions happened as you said, but the true joy is the glorious way you presented them.

And casually namedropping Botswana? FTW.

Dr. Phil

ain't no horror like Southern horror--some dismay is MADE for a drawl! I love that you had a Greek Chorus composed of two sock-hunters and a bonafide graduate of Mutual of Omaha helping you out--reading your entry made my day! :)

If they still made the Birki style I adored… I'd buy 5 pair AT ANY PRICE to have them till I died.
And I wear Thorlos too. You've seen what my ankles look like.

I have a pair of Birks that my springer spaniel chewed off the big toe on the right side; I'm pretty sure I can get the two together—I've been mix-and-matching with a pair of knockoffs in preparation for shipping the Birkenstocks to Birkenstock Central in Connecticut to see if they can do anything.

I have a pair of handmade leather sandals made from a tracing of my foot where said springer also got a bite out of one of the shoes, and because they're from Native Leather on Bleecker Street, I took them back to Dick, who had made them over 18 years ago and asked if he could repair them; he did.

The springer has been re-homed by a breed rescue to a couple in Pennsylvania who have more experience with springers than I do, plus they have a yard.

Never mind the snakes.

You MUST get pictures of honey badgers!

*Witness the Top Gear special where the hosts drove across Botswana in beaters they bought sight unseen in Africa.* I expect your trip will be even more epic.