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Why chickens don't wear wear sneakers, even to cross the road...
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My Aunt Rose was the best country cook this side of Krakow. Back when chicken was sold with all its parts, she prepared a delicacy called "foooss" to accompany her chicken soup. Despite its exotic name, "foooss" was simply a chicken foot accompanied by about five inches of leghorn limb. For those who didn't consider matzo balls enough of a challenge, "foooss" floated among the parsley flakes in Rose's incomparable broth. Yellow and scaly, with wizened nails still holding on to bony toes, the orphaned appendages contained a bonanza of golden fat which simultaneously warmed the heart and attacked. I was fascinated and repelled by these fossils. I oftened wondered how my elderly relatives, already contesting the cholesterol count, could derive such pleasure from sucking on a foot. (Obviously this was long before I learned about Freud or Woody Allen.) Imagine my surprise, then, when I looked down at my almost fifty year old feet and discovered two cases of "foooss" attached to my ankles. Corns, fungus, bunions, and afflictions which have chosen to remain nameless macerated my metatarsals. After applying several gallons of emollient designed to refresh a rhinoceros and one specifically aimed at soothing cracked udders, I set out on my refurbished feet to look for shoes.

First, I encountered a pair of leather sneakers so modestly priced that for a thousand dollars, I could buy four pairs. These were named for a denizen of the underworld, helping potential customers realize that no way in hell should one pay so much for footwear. For that price, I could hire eunuchs to pick me up and carry me where I wanted to go. (Just a bit more, and they wouldn't even have to be eunuchs.)

I remember when sneakers were worn for sports and gym class only. Some lax parents allowed their children to cavort in them after school, but these were obvious cases of child abuse. Boys wore canvas hightops or low, black or white, with the ubiquitous star. Girls had a choice of chaste oxfords in white, red, or navy blue, with white grommets, white laces, and a blue rectangle behind the heel. Since girls weren't expected to move, they didn't need the option of hightops to protect their delicate ankles.

I saw dozens of possibilities. Some had cushions at every point of contact, others had pumps to prevent the possibility of ever abrading leather. Some had no leather at all, with airholes so that feet could breathe through all the plastic and nylon. They came in every color combination known to modern optics, with logos to make me believe that I was as swift as Mercury and as athletic as (well, I might as well say it) Nike. After walking the gauntlet, I sat on a welcome bench and longed for the feet that had frolicked in my old canvas Keds. A sign flashed in front of me as I mused. "End toenail fungus forever", it declared. Slowly I turned. After all, I couldn't move any faster.

Written by Marcia Brown Rubinstien
August 18, 1997

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