Le Shoes

Mardi Gras may not be a big event in your section of the country; but it is a major festival in the South along the northern Gulf Coast. I suspect is it analogous to Saint Patrick’s Day in Massachusetts, that is, party time in the Big City? Mardi Gras refers to events of the Carnival celebrations, beginning on or after Epiphany and culminating on the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday", referring to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual of fasting for the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday.

There are many parades, balls and celebrations during this time of the year. In some places, schools are closed and holidays are pronounced. Most of the parades are hosted by a krewe ("crew"); an organization that puts on a parade and/or a ball for the Carnival season. The term is best known for its association with New Orleans Mardi Gras, but is also used in other Carnival celebrations around the Gulf of Mexico.

Joseph Stillwell Cain, Jr. (Joe Cain) is largely credited with the rebirth of Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile, Alabama, which had ceased during the American Civil War. In 1867, following the war and while Mobile was still under Union occupation, Joe Cain paraded through the streets of Mobile, dressed in an improvised costume depicting a fictional Chickasaw chief named Slacabamorinico (his nickname was probably Bubba). The choice was a backhanded insult to the Union forces in that the Chickasaw tribe had never been defeated in war. Joe was joined by six other Confederate veterans, parading in a decorated coal wagon, playing drums and horns, and the group became the "L. C. Minstrel Band", now commonly referred to as the "Lost Cause Minstrels" of Mobile.

A friend and I were invited to the Order of Mystic Magnolias Eighteenth Annual Ball in 2011. Of course, it requires a “Costume de Rigueur”, another name for a tuxedo. Not having one (like I wear one every five or so years), I rented one. I already had good dress shoes so that was no problem.

I really looked great when I was fully attired and with my nice cleaned tux, white tie and all, and my nice black shoes. We had to park some distance away from the event and decided to walk. Shortly after we started walking, I noticed that my right shoe heel did not feel quite right. I discovered that my heal was very worn on one side. The rubber had apparently disintegrated in the roughly 15 years I owned the shoes and was rubbing off on the sidewalk. By the time I reached the auditorium, both heels had completely rubbed off and I was walking flat footed. Then the soles started going. After walking in shoes that have heels for many years, it was strange to be wearing shoes but being almost barefoot and in a tuxedo.

The ball was punctuated by female pole dancers who were elevated on a platform for all to see. It was obvious that a lot of participants has started partying well before the time they arrived at the ball. One such participant, a woman, fell flat on her back with her legs straight up in the air. Now Harry, just how do help her right herself and not notice? It was not too long before male celebrants were assisting the female pole dancers. They were  all soon escorted out of the building. By the time the second band started playing funky hip-hop music, everyone was jumping up and down like Maasai warriors readying themselves for a hunt. Of course, the bounce in my body has long since abated let alone the bounce in my shoes now void of much sole at best. I did my best.

By the time we returned to the car that evening, I had collected several rocks, broken Mardi Gras beads, gum wrappers and the like on my very sticky soles. It was a most interesting evening. Please know the shoes are in a trash pile somewhere.

One never knows how much he is cared for until some trauma impacts their life. Following my publishing this story in my annual Christmas letter, several expressed sympathy for the loss of my beloved dress shoes. One fine day in December, I was quite surprised to find a package at my doorstep from a friend in Alabama containing a pair of shoe soles. The tops were gone but this friend (soon to be ex-friend) suggested that perhaps duct tape might be used in lieu of shoelaces to fasten them to my feet. I tried it and it worked. Thanks to him, I am ready for the next dance and can hold my head high when everyone starts to boogie woogie.

I decided to wear them for a while and see how they were in the long run. As luck would have it, they actually stuck to my feet. I was quite painful and inflicted a great deal of emotional distress on my recent ex-friend. While in Pensacola recently, he ask if he could stop by and help me remove them. And you see what happened next.

Pain, a lot of pain. Oh well, lessons learned.