Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sweet Sole Music

Saturday morning. I walked into the living room and announced, “I am going to the gym. I’ll be back in an hour.”

I was not expecting a catered bon-voyage party but I was humbled by the collective vacuum of indifference. The cat continued to dig something out from between her toes. Consort’s eyes never left the business section of the paper. He didn’t even give his customary moo of “I hear that you just said something; I pray to God that you don’t quiz me later”. Daughter, knee-deep in a book involving ancient curses, a cat and a girl her age, was barely breathing let alone acknowledging her non ancient-curse-hurling mother. Even the dog, who hopes that someday we will go steady and I will wear his letter jacket, continued to snore into his own lap. I waited a second and then, shrugging, headed towards the door. I assumed I’d get a call in about forty five minutes asking where I was.

As my hand touched the doorknob, Daughter’s attention drifted off the page and towards me. “You’re going out?” she asked in confusion.

“Yes,” I said patiently, jiggling slightly from foot to foot in my eagerness to walk in place while reading InStyle magazine.


I said with slightly less patience, “Play back the tape in your head of what I just told you.”

She thought a moment, then asked “Are you sure you said it out loud?”


She thought some more. Consort continued to be enthralled with the Wagnerian opera that is any article about digital rights management. The cat, having finally snagged whatever was between her toes, ate it. The dog snored. Finally, Daughter shrugged.

“I didn’t hear what you…Wait! You’re going to the gym!” she said in relief.

“See how much easier life becomes if you listen to me?” I asked, preparing to give a quick-yet-dreary lecture on listening which, of course, would give her no incentive to ever listen to me again. She shook her head.

“No. I still didn’t hear what you said. I just heard your shoes.”

It’s not bad enough that I took step classes in the 90’s, and that my grapevine up-and-over was the talk of West Hollywood. I had to go and hurt myself in step class in such a way that I will carry the injury for the rest of my life. Yes, readers, I have a step-class war wound. This is like getting a disfiguring scar from a guinea pig named Mr. Squeakers. It doesn’t help that my injured body part (the meniscus) sounds like the kind of flat fish nice restaurants can’t sell until someone re-names it Costa Rican Velvet Salmon.

The good news was that I didn’t tear my knee enough to require surgery. The bad news was that I didn’t tear my knee enough to require surgery. Instead, I was sent into the limbo realm of physical therapy. I spent lots of time with someone named Tammy doing exercises designed to provoke hilarity in the viewer but provide no appreciable improvement to my joint. A few months later the doctor declared me “cured”, which could also be pronounced “we’ve used up your insurance payout”. He told me to get specially-made orthotics to keep this from happening again. I was handed the card of a trained professional whose great calling in life was crafting shoe inserts.

This was not a terribly interesting time in my life and I can’t recall tons of it, but the trip to the podiatrist was memorable in several ways. First, I had to pay five hundred dollars in cash. Cash-only transactions are understandable when you are buying a Vuitton purse on a New York sidewalk but they do give a person pause when dealing with someone who went to medical school and, theoretically, doesn’t have an antagonistic relationship with the authorities. Second, I could read the entire thesaurus and never come up with a better word to describe sticking your feet into buckets of warm plaster than “weird”. Third, I could read the entire thesaurus and never come up with a better word to describe this particular podiatrist than “weird”. Something told me touching feet wasn’t just a job for this guy.

Three weeks later, I was handed blue plastic shoe inserts to be worn every single time I worked out, unless I wanted Tammy-time again. I heeded this warning far more closely than I’ve heeded other equally insistent caveats, at least partially because every time I’d decide to go orthotics-free to the gym, within a week I’d be dragging my leg behind me and doing a kind of tuck-and-roll to get out of the car. It appeared the odd little man’s appliances and I are going through life together and I have no problem with that, just so long as I never had to watch him fondle my instep again.

So of course, about two years ago the designers got together and changed some basic element of the sports-shoe architecture. I don’t know what it is. The shoes feel identical to me but I know something changed because now every time I remove the cheap factory-made insert and put in my orthotics, I turn my shoes into a wind instrument. Every time I step down, I get a small but very distinct “WHHHEEEEeeeee!”.




I’ve had six different brands of shoes and they’ve all had something to say. I keep thinking I’ll learn to tune it out but in the meanwhile I entertain myself at the gym by pacing my steps to the song:

"Hey now…"

. "…You’re all all-star…"

. "…Get your game on…"

. "…Go play!..."

It also works if I can arrange my workout for the same time as the guy with Tourette’s Syndrome. His throat-clearing provides a nice bass note to the soprano lilt of my insoles, and he’s the only other member of the gym who doesn’t start taking great care to not look at my musical feet.

Standing at the door, I stared at Daughter who was clearly enjoying her deductive skills. I shifted my weight and the shoe wheezed in response. Imperceptibly, I shifted my balance to my toes, away from the orchestra. Kissing her good-bye, I flew off through the yard, my tiny syncopated cheerleaders celebrating each step towards health, and away from dignity.

“WHHHEEEEeeeee!” “WHHHEEEEeeeee!” “WHHHEEEEeeeee!”


Blogger cbahm said...

That's better than the inserts I've got for my plantar fasciitis: They make discreet little grandmotherly farts with each step.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm hearing more and more women our age complain about knee/foot problems, so I'm guessing this must be normal???

My injury is a bad Achilles tendon. Whenever my Achilles is bothering me, I am reduced to wearing Crocs around the house instead of walking barefoot. So instead of the sound of my bare feet slapping on the wood floors, my noise is instead a soft rubbery thud as I move from room to room. Ever so sexy, I can assure you. (Not.)

6:28 PM  
Blogger Chatty said...

You know that situation where you get a song (or in this case a sound) stuck in your head and it drives you crazy (well, in my case, crazier)? I call it an ear gremlin, but I'm sure others have many different words for it.
Anyway, having read this, I now have an ear gremlin that goes WHEEEEEeeee in accompaniment to every song on the radio, every commercial jingle on TV while I'm cooking dinner, ad nauseum. It's syncopated. Dah Dah Dah, Doo Doo WHEEEEEeeee. Dah Dah Dah, Doo Doo WHEEEEEeeee. You get the drift, I'm sure. Thanks a million, Quinn!
Oh, by the way - there's a game (used to be only on AOL, now it's available to all at www.boxerjam.com)called "Strike a Match". It's a fun game, wherein - at least in my case - you pit yourself on line against other insomniacs. Anyway, TWICE last week, during the 3rd round (match three words), I saw "Bob, Quinn and e.e." listed among the nine choices. I immediately jumped, because I knew for sure that the common word was "Cummings". Doesn't that just make you proud, in a totally silly but fun way? That of all the Cummings in the world, you are one of the three "Strike A Match" found worthy of matching? Heck, I was proud, just by association, the first time my acquaintance (way back when I was in "the industry") Sharon Gless was a clue in the TV Guide crossword puzzle. I cut it out and took it to her the next day. She thought it was such a hoot that she framed it ; )
So, although I have never MET you, I feel I know you a bit through your blog, and, once again, I am proud by association!
In all fairness, I must add that "Bob" and "e.e." were ALSO good kids when they had it...

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Quinn,
Funny story except I thought you were going to mention that the "weird" podiatrist managed to find every ticklish spot on your feet.

4:37 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

If it makes you feel better, Podiatrists are not MDs.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A step-class war wound sounds fierce, compared to the scars on my instep from a long-ago night of roller skating. Three words: really big blisters.

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha! "It appeared the odd little man’s appliances and I are going through life together and I have no problem with that, just so long as I never had to watch him fondle my instep again."

I nearly sprayed my screen at every other sentence. Your writing has a Dave Barry type of hilarity, have you published any books? If so I'd love to check them out.

8:43 PM  
Blogger guerrilla girl said...

How funny. My orthotics got very chatty after they met the most recent pair of whatever shoe it is I'm supposed to wear for the rest of my life, though mine emit more of a tuneless squeak.

(I tore the arch of my foot on my morning run almost two years ago. It was a really bad idea.)

9:56 AM  
Blogger BiPolar Wife said...

I have a pair of asthmatic flip-flops that choose to have wheezing attacks in the quietest of places, i.e., the library and the Hallmark store. Nothing cracks up my teenagers more than being with me when this happens.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love your writing.. you bring us right into the action.. like we are riding on your shoulder. The squeaky shoes reminds of video emailed to me.. It was a commercial for grocery store in australia.. A little old lady comes in with her own little shopping cart and is squeaking all around the store, annoying the manager,who comes up to the woman with an oil can to graciously oil the wheels on her little cart. "Oh thank you young man" she says and remembers she needs something about 5 steps away. She leaves the cart and goes squeaking over to the egg shelf! Ha!
Also.. parents may want to check out my niece's site, she has illustrated and cowritten a book "Howard the Fish" aimed to help and also entertain children with autism at

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, I don't expect you to post this and I especially don't want people to think I'm rude by correcting you, but I have held this in about as long as I can.

I am reminded about your encounter with the man who couldn't see well enough to drive and how you fought wtih yourself over whether to confront him. You couldn't help it; neither can I.

I've posted before and resisted, but here goes. When you use quotation marks, punctuation goes inside them. I know it's really picky of me, gauche to mention it too, probably, but when I see punctuation standing all alone outside the quotes, it's like a visual screech on the blackboard.

An exception would be: Do you know who said "I did not have sex with that woman"?

I've wondered if your editors might point this out to you and that I'd see a change at some point in the blog, but I keep reading and I keep on seeing screeches. Do editors still do that sort of thing?

You write so well and there is a great cadence to your writing. I am looking forward to your book very much, but please, could you check this out?

As far as I'm concerned this is a note to you and not a public comment. I don't, for one moment, expect you to take my word for this as I feel certain that you will check this out. Rightly so. I'm just hoping to see fewer lonely, commas and exclamation points.

I'm wondering if I will regret not holding this in. You were right; he shouldn't have been driving.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Miss Cavendish said...

Have you ever thought of ditching the orthotics? I taught aerobics and was a long-distance runner until I developed plantar fasciitis. I wore orthotics, had surgery, and finally healed when I threw out those annoying inserts . . .

1:26 PM  
Blogger Dawn Maria said...

I'm so glad I skipped the gym this morning to troll the internet for new posts on my favorite blogs! I once fell flat on my rear during step class- I think it was an up-and-over that did it- and twisted my ankle. I still finished the class though. Which is why I had to wear one of those ugly boot things for weeks afterward.

In other news, I also noticed the quotation mark error but I felt relief more than anything. I'm a writer/blogger too and do that stuff all the time =)

9:38 AM  
Anonymous La BellaDonna said...

My poor superstructure; it's been broken, sprained, stretched, torqued and tortured, to the point where I wear boots that are too big, padded with men's socks.

But that's not why I'm commenting.

If you can, find a copy of Lloyd Alexander's The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian for your daughter. It has magic, a cat, AND a young princess. It's a wonderful book!

2:41 PM  

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