Monday, August 03, 2009

Cork Mountain Incident

...And then I’m back from the Quinn Cummings Seemingly Endless Yet Oddly Fun for Her Book Blog Tour 2009.

During one of those weeks, because I’m all about adding a degree of difficulty just to see what fear tastes like, my family visited four cities in seven days. First we spent two and a half days in DC. Then we spent two nights near Bryn Mawr outside of Philadelphia. Then we spent a night in Philadelphia. Then we spent a night in Wilmington, Delaware. Three of these locations were lovely and interesting and historic; one lacked any qualities whatsoever. I’ll let you decide which was which.

Before we left, I was at Marina’s house, in the yard watching our children argue over whose turn it was to use the big water-gun when I suddenly spied something in the corner. Even in the shadows, my brain knew what those were. I was suddenly flooded with endorphins. I was barely able to gasp, “Are those…Kork-Ease?”

“Oh, you remember those?” Marina giggled.

Do I remember those? My entire sixth-grade was spent trying to convince my mother that high-heeled Kork-Ease wouldn’t make me look trashy. My mother counter-offered with the low-heeled Kork-Ease. I sneered. It was to be the high-heeled Kork-Ease my friends Shannon and Autumn wore or it was to be nothing at all.

It was to be nothing at all. Shannon and Autumn both ended up in rehab before their junior year of high-school which my mother has always mystically attributed to those shoes. In time, I grew old enough to wear heels whenever I felt so inclined but by then Kork-Ease had grown out of fashion. By then I had also learned that whatever femininity heels bring to the table is offset by the sensation of driving your toes through the working end of a fountain pen. I hadn’t thought of Kork-Ease in years but I was certainly thinking of them now. Marina let me try hers on. I sashayed around the house, my inner sixth-grader shrieking in delight. Marina crooned, “They’re on sale at Zappos. Free shipping, too.”

Free shipping? I can be 5’7” with free shipping? Done. They arrived two days later. I sashayed around my house and decided they went with everything. Daughter offered to help me break them in by clomping around the house but I vetoed that in my strong voice. Abuse my black satin dress shoes if you must, daughter of mine, because the odds of my going to a formal event are small; but the Kork-Ease are going to go with everything and also somehow reverse time and not make me a weird loser in high school.

When I packed a few days later for the Trip of Many Hotel Rooms the Kork-Ease were on the top of the suitcase pile. We had some evening plans, some dinner plans with friends and work-type things; also, I had to visit a few bookstores and meet store managers and smile at them. I figured it would be easier to smile if I was very tall. And it was, truly. The Kork-Ease did everything I had hoped for including giving me a girlish sway to my walk which comes from trying very hard not to fall down. Consort went with us as far as Philly then peeled off a day early for the "Paris of the Mid-Atlantic states" which is Wilmington, Delaware. The kid and I spent a day by ourselves in Philly, cramming in the few remaining Revolutionary nuggets we hadn’t gotten to the day before. On Thurdsay, we checked out of our hotel and, grabbing our luggage, headed to the subway which would take us to the train station which would get us to Wilmington.

Wouldn’t you think a concierge, if asked whether the subway was to the right or the left of a hotel entrance, would send you in the right direction? Wouldn’t you, in fact, assume that’s the very least you can expect of a concierge? Daughter and I walked quite a few blocks, our rolling luggage bouncing over the cobblestoned streets, before I started to realize that the fact that we were heading deeper into the industrial district probably meant we were heading the wrong way. So we headed back. But because we were in the old part of Philadelphia, before people had discovered straight lines, going back where we came from delivered us to another area entirely.

[Someone just wrote in asking, Quinn, how did you get lost on a neighborhood built on a grid? Take my word for it, if there's one single alley which doesn't align with the rest of the state, I will find it and I will take and I will get lost.]

I stared at my map and declared us hopelessly lost. I wasn’t too worried, though, because we weren’t expected anyplace for hours and we were in a big city, chock-full of cabs happy to correct our little misadventure with only the liberal application of money.

Well, they would have, if only the cabs hadn’t been on strike that day. Dozens of them drove past us with signs in their windows indicating their displeasure over something. As a rule I’m inclined to side with David over Goliath, but I really wished they had suffered in silence for one more afternoon. Having perused the map and accosted anyone who looked like a local, I knew we had to walk in that direction for as long as we could. At some point, we’d reach the train station, get to a main road and get on a bus to the subway. Or we’d die from the heat and the humidity at which point they’d put mob-caps on us and declare us Colonial death-reenactors. My daughter and I trudged onward, pulling our suitcases behind us until we finally got to Rittenhouse Square, a place notable because we could pick up the subway from there. Our adventure was nearly over and I could rest assured that my kid had seen and smelled more of Philadelphia than most of its police officers. She and I stood for a second in the center of the park, basking in the shade of the first trees we had seen in about two miles when someone tapped my shoulder.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” the filthy homeless man said, “I think this is yours.”

He handed me a bright-pink sports bra. He pointed to my luggage, which had come unzipped, possibly from the clash of twentieth-century technology and eighteenth-century sidewalks. I gingerly took my bra, thanked him without actually looking at him and quickly dropped to my knees to examine the damage. My first concern was Consort’s GPS system, which he had been using in the rental car and had left with me to bring to Wilmington. It was small and it was expensive, just the sort of thing to go bouncing out but I quickly found it. My second fear was less financial and more bourgeois; had I functioned as some kind of Johnny Appleseed of underwear throughout the city? Johnny Lingerie? Well, I wasn’t going to pull everything out, but a rough headcount (as it were) led me to believe only the sports bra had made a break for it. I sighed in relief. I bought the kid a drink from a push-cart and we finally got on the subway and the train.

That night in Wilmington, I was telling Consort about my adventure, holding up the sports bra gingerly on the tip of my pinky when I noticed something in my luggage. I grabbed a Kork-Ease and then I flung everything else out of the luggage. There was no second Kork-Ease. Somewhere between Penn’s Landing and Rittenhouse Square, we had taken a casualty. A nearly unworn Kork-Ease shoe was now a citizen of the City of Brotherly Love.

We got back to Los Angeles and I started calling. The representative from Zappos, while sympathetic and frankly a little entertained, couldn’t sell me a single shoe. She suggested I try the Kork-Ease company. The representative from Kork-Ease, while sympathetic and frankly a little entertained, couldn’t sell me a single shoe. I have made my peace with the fact that if I’m to have a pair of Kork-Ease in my life, I’m going to have to buy another pair. I can’t say as I’m happy about it, but I’ll survive. But because I'm me, I can't throw away a perfectly good spinster sandal which committed no greater crime than not having made a break for it along with its partner.

Which is why there’s now a single sandal sitting, damning and mute, on the Bench of Random Objects, waiting for me to meet a single-legged woman who has the same unfinished business from her childhood.

Hey, I found fun things to do in Wilmington, Delaware. Anything can happen.


Anonymous Shari said...

Sorry Quinn, but it isn't the Philadelphia streets that let you down. Philadelphia, especially Old City, is a grid. The numbered streets go north-south, and the ones named after trees head east-west. How on earth did you walk to an industrial area from Old City? There really isn't any industry close to there.

BTW, Wilmington and environs is full of fun things to do. Longwood, Hagley, and Winterthur are all places that my girls enjoyed going to. Especially for a West Coast child, seeing colonial era places would be interesting

3:03 PM  
Blogger Char said...

how have I never heard of these shoes? I must investigate.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous FurBabyMom said...

As always, another one of your blog posts has made me LOL! So sorry about the runaway Kork-Ease, I feel your pain!

By the way, I must tell you that having loyally followed you on your book blog tour, for about the past two weeks I have found that every time I make toast, as I wait for the toast to pop up you come to mind. Seriously, EVERY time! I observed today that it goes something like this:

I stare at the toaster, futilely trying to hurry the toasting process along. I think about toast. Suddenly I think “Quinn! Quinn loves toast!” And then of course that brings to mind your book blog tour and the book itself. I believe you have done some very effective subliminal advertising (with all that talk of toast) during your tour my dear! ;)

Glad you had a safe and enjoyable vacation.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Miss Cavendish said...

Oh dear. Do you remember Famolare? Isadora and her Avocado Plant? Both were staples of Seventeen magazine, along with Kork-ease, I believe . . .

4:46 PM  
Blogger njanehair said...

My mom wouldn't let me have the higher heeled Kork-Ease either, but I still loved my moderately high version *to death*. Having a smaller foot, I can usually find samples and discontinued styles, deeply discounted. I found a famous-maker, Kork-Ease inspired pair in light-blue suede for $12.00! But these shoes still cost me. I practically bought a whole wardrobe to go with those sandals!

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Amy G. said...

Now you have a beautiful paperweight/shelf ornament/silent testimonial to All Things Cool.

Thanks for the belly laugh!

6:16 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Do you remember the story of The Brave Little Toaster...and how he found his way back to his "master"

Yeah? (sniff)

The Brave Little Kork-Ease

Peace - Rene

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interestingly, as a kid in the 'burbs of NYC, I coveted these very same sandals...only for some reason they were called "buffalo sandals." My mother finally broke down and bought me a pair (the low heel of course!) and they were my very favorite possession. WAY better than Candies or Dr. Scholls!

8:39 PM  
Blogger Joie de Vivre said...

Have you tried Craig's list for Philadelphia? Might be worth a try! You have at least one lurker who will be keeping her eye out for a wayward sandal!

9:13 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Yeah, it really is tough to get lost on a grid...but if you're told to go in the wrong direction, that'll do it!

And while Wilmington proper is a bit dead, as someone up above mentioned, the surrounding area is good stuff!

And Miss Cavendish...really!!! I LOVED my Famolare's...

I wasn't allowed to have Kork-ease either...or Dr. Scholl's strangely enough. If anything was popular, my mom was sure that I didn't need it, because it was probably in some way bad for you or just over priced. Thanks mom! You've created a life long deep discount bargain shopper!

6:21 AM  
Blogger Sara J. Henry said...

This is hilarious. And yes, the Craigslist posting idea could be fruitful, in more ways than one.

Congrats for surviving your first book blog tour.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

We've never met, and yet somehow I manage to feel vaguely hurt that you were in Philly and I never got to meet you in person. Urgh, that makes me sort of creepy, doesn't it? Sorry about that. FWIW, I'll keep an eye out for your shoe.

And just so you know? I got lost a lot when I first moved here.

8:51 AM  
Anonymous jen said...

You know how you'll occassionally see one shoe on the side of the road and you spend the next twenty minutes wondering how anyone could lose ONE shoe and not both?

Mystery solved.

(Anonymous - we called them Buffalo sandals, too.)

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:06 PM  
Blogger Dawn Maria said...

I never heard of Kork-Ease shoes, but as a girl I loved the plastic heels you could buy in the small toy section of the grocery store. We didn't have much money back then; it was a treat when Mom bought me a pair.

I'd be so excited to wear them that I'd usually break them within the first hour. I was very tall as a kid and think the physics of the heel couldn't handle it.

Weight x childhood exuberance x running around the house= broken plastic heels

So happy to have you back and blogging!

7:27 AM  
Blogger 3 Peanuts said...

Oh I am laughing so hard. I grew up in a Philadelphia suburb so I was picturing this all in my mind and laughed very much out loud when the homeless ma handed you your bra! So sorry about the loss of your beloved Kork -ease.


1:13 PM  
Blogger Pamela said...

I loved the Kork-ease shoes. Being exactly 5 feet tall meant that I needed the height just so I could stand nose to chin with the guys. What memories! Later on it was the Pony high top shoes which didn't give me height but gave me self preservation because I was in the "in crowd" with those shoes.

Great blog.

7:30 AM  
Anonymous La BellaDonna said...

OMG. Well, if Shari or Maya don't beat me to it, I'll keep my eyes open for your lonely shoe. Maya, it's OK; I, too, feel vaguely ... disappointed ... that she whooshed (or clomped ) through Philly without stopping to wave. I hope you at least had a soft pretzel.

Amen on the grids, too. Did you by any chance manage to pass into Camden? I can only conclude that you must have been slightly north of the touristy, Liberty Bell/Constitution Center area. Did you get to see the exhibit on Napoleon at the Constitution Center? Did you get to the Winterthur Museum in Delaware? Delaware's a small state, but it's stuffed to the gills with museums.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

Always the helpful crafter, I am envisioning a small vanity 'cork board', holding very small notes with decorative push-pins (perhaps a nice birthday gift idea for your mom?) resting provacatively on a dressing table.

Of course, I'm also envisioning a limping woman of the evening in Philly.

12:37 PM  
Anonymous rebecca said...

(Prefaced with I know i am a complete nerd...)

I finally got an iphone. The new one, the 3gS, and I LOVE the maps and gps location part. I've been known to gps myself at random places.

I can recommend it highly.

8:58 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Great post - seems like old times.

If this happened to me (and things like this do) my take would be that when I get the new pair of shoes I'll have a back up for one of them, just in case.

6:10 AM  
Blogger Kristina said...

They were forbidden fruit to me too. All the cool girls had them and I was told no, I would "twist an ankle". Unfortunately after 40 odd years of klutziness I think she's right....

7:05 AM  
Blogger Ker said...

I was somehow signed up for the zappos digest, and they just recently mentioned 2 places where you can buy one shoe:

#1 is the place to buy shoes for just one foot.

#2 The organization you're looking for is called The National Odd Shoe Exchange (N.O.S.E) and can be reached at:

They collect shoes either in singles or mismates. They've been able to help me.

6:42 PM  
Blogger bcre8uv said...

Always eager for a good shoe lead, I zipped right over to Zappos to check out the Kork-Ease. Cute! But I fear the foreshadowing of the style named "Tamara Tumbled".


9:39 AM  

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