today | current | recent | random ... categories | search ... who ... syndication

In passing : The Eraserhead of shoe stores.

Early last week I went out to pick up a sandwich for lunch. While I waited, I sat down with a cup of coffee and read one of the local news weeklies. Flipping through the pages, I stopped on a photograph of a woman's high heel shoe sitting on the remains of a building destroyed by fire. Somehow, I had missed the news that Karl's shoe store had burned down. Sure enough, I've walked past the still smoldering rubble twice in as many days, taking in the smell of burnt leather. That the store was destroyed by fire almost doesn't come as news. The store, as such, had long since been closed down by fire inspectors but I'm told the fire actually started a block over and eventually made its way to the the Main, where the store fronted. Officially or not, the doors were always open and, when it was warm, Mr. Karl was always sitting outside ready to sell Going to Karl's was alot like watching Eraserhead. It was difficult, unsatisfying, ultimately left a bad taste in your mouth and you never wanted to do it again. But somehow it was like a rite of passage and afterwards you felt that it was something that every person should experience exactly once. Who knows where Mr. Karl got his shoes and he was probably the only one who knew where to find them once they made their way into the building. I've never met anyone who ever found a pair of the same shoe sitting side by side. The metal utility shelves that lined the store were overflowing with shoes of every size and variety that spilled in to cardboard boxes already full of shoes, presumably waiting for their own place on high. Buying a pair of shoes at Karl's involved two distinct steps. First, you made your way through the offerings trying to find something that you liked which was an effort all to itself. But it paled compared to what followed. If you'd spent 20 minutes finding a shoe that matched your taste, you were assured of spending atleast twice as long trying to walk out the door with the other one. Who knows whether the other shoe just didn't exist or whether Mr. Karl didn't care to try to find it. But he would always bring you something in its place. Back in the days of cheap army surplus Czechoslovakian basketball shoes, my friends and I would go to Karl's looking for cheap Converse high tops. The pressure to buy the pink and green and white combo that would invariably come out of the backroom is the stuff of legend in Montreal. We've all seen them, held them and pretended to consider them and then fought to free our hands of them, lest there be any confusion about whether or not we wanted to buy them. It was an amazing experience that left you equally dazzled and annoyed. And while I doubt anyone has ever bought more than one pair of shoes, if that, from Karl's I'm pretty sure it will be a presence sadly missed.


Pinging through Teddy ←  → The dictified word of the day is : obloquy