Throw in the Sponge

The wearer knows where the shoe pinches

I’ve never seen so much snow in December, not a day passes without at least snow flurries. I wasn’t prepared for a full-fledged winter. My half shoes were warm enough and kept my feet dry – until the snow got too deep and started falling into the tops. By the time I decided I needed boots, the shelves were almost empty and I spent an inordinate amount of time shopping in the pre-Christmas hectic. I was almost ready to throw in the sponge. Well, I’m glad I didn’t because I needed the sponge later.

I thought I had found the perfect winter boots: They were waterproof, warm, my feet felt very comfy in them, they gave me good traction in the snow. The German expression ‘wo drückt der Schuh?’, literally translated ‘where does the shoe pinch?’, means ‘what’s the problem?’ So what was the problem? It wasn’t the feet as you might expect. But the English idiom ‘the wearer knows where the shoe pinches’ is so true. I soon felt painful pressure on the calf bone or fibula, the bone leading away from my ankle.

The first time I ventured out of the house with my new boots, after ten minutes every step became torture. I managed to get home by stuffing my wool glove into the shaft of the boot for protection. By the way, the gloves I had on were the ones I described in my previous blog entry. I didn’t realize they were going to be so extremely multi-functional.

Obviously, I had little choice but to break in the boots gently, step by step, since I needed snow-worthy footwear. I put them on for our next outing in the snow and carried my comfortable but too low shoes in my backpack, just in case. And to alleviate the pressure on my calf bone – the sponge, finally – I took a sturdy kitchen sponge, abrasive on one side and soft on the other and wedged it in between my ankle and the shaft of the boot. It worked fairly well, but it was wise that I brought a reserve pair of shoes with me. I changed from boots to shoes midway on our walk, and yes, the snow did fall into the tops, but that was definitely the lesser evil.

Without boots you wouldn't want to leave the trodden path, not even for a good shot. (Click for more pictures in my gallery.)

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One Response to Throw in the Sponge

  1. david alston says:

    Your comments about winter shoes remind me of what a remarkable place Salt Lake is. Not in terms of beauty like Munich, but in terms of practicality. We have more snow than we have had in ten years, over ten feet at Alta and Snowbird and almost that much at Deer Valley. And yet I have only walked on snowy streets one time and that was before Thanksgiving. This weekend we are going to the Utah Symphony concert and if I were healthy we would walk on dry streets. As it is we will eat at a little Serbo-Croatian cafe across the street and then take the train to the symphony, perfect.

    You must be the calmest person I have ever met. Never is your writing tainted by politics or complaining, except, of course, occasionally about French trains, a perfectly legitimate target. I, on the other hand, get up in the morning, coffee and paper in hand and start in on topics like what a jerk the mayor is (even though he has painted 8 foot green stripes right down the middle of our main streets and posted signs: “bikes may use full lane.” No wonder, as Maun knows so well, the best place for me to be is on another continent, on my bike with other objective in life but to enjoy the scenery and get to the next hotel.

    Today’s paper, however, provides me with the opportunity to tell you about my minor Hungarian connection. I have been looking for a chance and in a very round about way an article in the paper today provides that opportunity. I said round about. The article is about the fact that the neighbouring county, where people have built houses high on the mountains where they don’t belong, is going to hire a marksman and provide him with a silenced 22 caliber rifle to shoot the deer in people’s flower gardens. Only in America, maybe only in Utah, and maybe only in Davis County where a geranium is worth more than a deer anytime.

    So where is the connection with Hungary? When I was a graduate student at the University of Washington we had a Hungarian professor, Antonin Hruby. I will never forget him. He had been a physicist in Hungary before fleeing, having had enough first of the Nazis and then the Communists. He found a niche in the German Department using a physics approach to establishing authorship of medieval texts by using computer analysis. It was fascinating. And he would start class every day with a little tidbit. He came in one morning talking about our “attavistic” habit of picket fences and neatly groomed yards, as if we were pioneers clearing the forest. I had never heard the word “attavistic” before and I was impressed. And I try to use the word every now and then to impress others. Mostly they just think I am being pretentious.
    One Monday he came in and said: “It was a good weekend, I have forgotten all your names.” Maybe I should blame my cynicism and pessimism on him, but I don’t think I can since he had a couple of wars under his belt and every reason to be cynical. All I have is my bicycle and sunshine. If I could only rememer that. I actually worked up the nerve to say the exact same thing about the good weekend to one of my high school classes. Big mistake, someone went home and told momma and I almost got fired. Besides Bela Bartok there are a couple of other important Hungarians in my life, I will talk about them later.

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