By Jeff Edelstein

The Trentonian

Some kid puked in my shoes last week, which for most people, would just be an unpleasant Saturday.

For me, it was ... more.

You remember the movie "The Birdcage?" Hank Azaria played Agador Spartacus, the Guatemalan houseboy for Robin Williams and Nathan Lane's characters. It was a hilarious, breakout role for Azaria. And one of the running gags was his utter inability to wear shoes.

Barefoot, he'd glide through life, doing the conga (literally). But put a pair of loafers on him? He couldn't take two steps without falling on his butt.

Now I don't want to make it sound like I'm incapable of wearing a pair of shoes but I'm pretty much incapable of wearing a pair of shoes.

From, say, right about now through October, it's not an issue. I'm in flip-flops. Perfectly happy. Now sure, I've had some bosses through the years tell me I can't wear flip-flops to work, but I mostly just ignore that directive. I'm not a big draw-the-line guy, but it's not like I'm breaking bricks over here, you know? What's the big deal? (And my standard comeback: "Just tell the women they can't wear open-toed sandals, and I'll stop wearing flip-flops" has stopped every boss in their tracks. Anyway ...)

Anyway, when I have to wear shoes, I need to choose wisely, because I don't like when my feet hurt. Now I realize no one likes having hurt feet, but from my data-gathering it seems people are more than willing to put up with it until the shoes "get broken in.


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To me, this is a sign of insanity. I don't want to "break in" shoes while my heels bleed. I just want to be comfortable. All the time.

As a result, I am fiercely loyal to my footwear. I have a pair of Dr. Marten's I bought in 1994 that currently look like I've had them since 1884. I also have a pair of genuine imitation black leather workboots I use for snow situations.

And then I had a pair of slip-on loafers of some kind. Frictionless. I didn't hate them. And they were puked in. And I mean "in." They were puked "on" as well, but also "in."

"I can clean this up for you," the host of the child's party graciously offered, while holding my puke shoes.

I declined. "Just throw 'em out," I said.

So this left me in a bind. I was shoeless, literally. I left the party sans shoes. Went to the mall that way also.

And I found the perfect pair. Sketchers. JCPenney. Marked down to $9.99. Victory!

"You look like you're the lucky recipient of a weekend pass from the home," my wife said when she saw them.

They were brown and big and bulky and comfortable. Perfect footwear, apparently, for "the home." But not, according to my wife, perfect footwear for engaging with other humans.

So we went to Macy's -- this is all the same day, mind you, with our three little kids in tow -- where we both decided a pair of Tommy Hilfiger loafers would do the trick.

"I'm taking them to Wendy's," my wife said, with children hanging off of her. "I'll meet you there."

Well, I met her there, but in a pair of sweet, shiny, buttery soft leather Rockports.

"No," she said. "What happened to the other ones?"

"They hurt my feet," I said.

"You look like you're about to preach fire and brimstone and then ask for my credit card number," she said.

"I have no idea what that means."

"Neither do I, but no."

So I returned them.

I could go on and on here -- the next pair, from Lord & Taylor, Steve Madden, also returned -- but I'll save you the time. I ended up with a pair of Clarks. Lightweight. They don't hurt, at all. No need to "break in." Paid $79.95 for them. And barring puke, they will be my non-foul weather winter shoes for the next 20 years.

I can even take a few steps without falling. The conga, however, is out.