I’m in downtown Chicago for the next twenty-four and I’m feelin’ fine.
The buildings look just like I remember them (tall, smart) and the weather is a familiar negative ten-thousand degrees. It’s great! I love Chicago so much. As I clippity-clopped through the city today, doing errands, I thought about the expression, “I know _____ like the back of my hand.” I’ll bet I know downtown Chicago better. I’ve seen the back of my hand a lot, but which one? And at what stage of life? My hands keep changing, but Chicago is Chicago is Chicago.
But a city is hell on shoes. The low-slung cowboy boots I’ve been hoofing around in for the past couple months were looking awful: dirty and dull, desperately in need of a shoe facial. So, after I turned in a bunch of work, etc., I went in search of a shoe shine shop. Find one I did, and I sat there trying not to smile like a weirdo through the whole thing because I had forgotten that there is perhaps nothing on Earth — on Earth — that feels better than walking out of a shoe shine shop with shiny shoes. Hey, don’t take my word for it: take Fred Astaire’s word for it. Take Fred Astaire’s word for everything. There’s a song he sings called “Put a Shine On Your Shoes” in the MGM movie The Bandwagon. This song says everything better than I could say on this topic. Consider:
When you feel as low/As the bottom of a well/And can’t get out of the mood/Do something to perk yourself up/And change your attitude/Give a tug to your tie/Put a crease in your pants/But if you really want to feel fine/Give your shoes a shine
When there’s a shine on your shoes/There’s a melody in your heart/With a singable happy feeling/A wonderful way to start/To face the world every day/With a deedle-dum-dee-dah-dah/A little melody that is making/The worrying world go by
Put a shine on your shoes/Put a shine on your shoes… [REPEAT AD INFINITUM.]
The number is marvelous. Astaire twirls up to the guy working the shoe shine stand and wins him over like he always wins everyone over; before long, the guy is killing the rhythm with his brushes and his towel as he works. Of course, all the extras in the background are happy, smiling at the song and dance. There are some charming slapstick moments — there so often were in these sorts of films — but obviously the best thing about it is that it’s a number about feet and it’s Fred Astaire, so what more do you want in life? In life! A number focusing expressly on Fred Astaire’s feet?? Just… Just stick a fork in me. I’m done. You’re done, too! There’s no way you’re going to keep reading this because you’re clicking over to YouTube right now to watch Fred Astaire dance, aren’t you? It’s okay. I left writing to watch it, too.
Have you come back? I hope so. I’m almost done. I only wanted to say that my boots look brand new after my shoe shine. In fact, they look better than when I got them. I’m a new woman. And the coolest thing was when the guy was almost finished, he did one final back n’ forth with the clean towel around each heel and quick whipped it off with a “thwap!” It was like a gun went off, it was so loud! Awesome. If it’s possible to tip too liberally, I did.
Shine those shoes.