Posts Tagged ‘shoes’

The Frontier – a rant

August 28, 2014

The Cole Haan woman is the new Marlboro man.

I saw these advertisements after reading a few paragraphs of My Life As A Dog for the Bushwick Book Club show that happened last week.  These were passages talking about America and walking out in nature.  The main character, a young boy in 1950’s Sweden, is imagining himself as an American and all the romance that entails.  He imagines himself “walking into the American wilderness..”  He eats “the fruits of nature and drink(s) from rippling streams and springs and rivers.”  He walks with a  wolf/dog/super-human and realizes “his is also not wholly dog nor human being.  We are the best of both–one for all and all for one.”  That is the dream–one of the most romantic notions of America.  The frontier.  The return to the basic essence of people as inhabitants of the planet.  A connection to nature and our purer, primal selves.   The frontier is abundance, with you as a natural participant in, recipient of that abundance.  That land of milk and honey that is yours as your human birthright.  And of course, that’s in contrast with reality.  Especially reality now.  Everyone longs to be epic, fighting big battles of good and evil instead of just the battle of will power against Doritoes and reality TV where we indulge our inner voyeurs by watching people treat each other horribly.  We give in to our smaller natures by watching other people flagrantly give in to their smaller natures.

I’m trying to think of all the least epic things — doritoes, cubicle walls, tourists, emails, email blasts, xboxes, plastic forks, walmart, airconditioning, flourescent lighting, fat mirrors in the elevators, cheetos.  I don’t know…  These are all arguable.  I really tend to think that packaged snack foods in general though are anti-epic.  And fastfood chains.  They take most of the food out of the food and then package it in mass quantities for us to eat and become addicted to.  What a racket.  What an easy trick on us humans who need nourishment so bad that we’ll take it in these depleted forms that kill us in the end.  Sometimes there seems no end to the depth of human patheticness.  So here we are..

And the Cole Haan ads reflect this.  They know what they’re doing.  They want you to associate their shoes with epicness, with something beyond the day-to-day pathetic tedium, mediocrity, mundanity that makes us feel unconnected in the end.  Mostly unconnected.  From each other, and from ourselves, and certainly from anything epic.  But the ads, they show a young, lithe blonde woman in the wilderness.  There are mountains behind her.  Maybe they are the American Rockies.  She’s on a road.  She’s going places.  She’s walking.  Maybe she’ll hitch hike.  But right now it’s just her and the elements.  It’s just her, living her life, at peace with the unknown, ready to accept whatever the gods put before her on that road.

But these are pricey shoes.  You can’t get a pair of flats that aren’t at least a hundred dollars.  A pair of boots can cost  half a month’s rent.    And how long would your $500 boots last you in the Rockies?  And if you could afford those boots, you probably wouldn’t be walking on that road.  You would be driving your SUV.  Or you would have your driver drive you.  Or you would have that boyfriend who bought you those boots drive you.  And if you paid for them yourself, you might have had to spend way too long in over air-conditioned environments, away from any natural light.   You might be very short on vitamin D from your lack of sunlight and short on melatonin from your lack of complete darkness.  You might be very short on sleep in general because people want you to work all the time.  Everyday.  For most of the week so that all that time you spend making money for rent doesn’t leave you much time to enjoy the apartment you’re paying rent for.  So those boots of that brand that is supposed to connect you to the eternal grandness inside you can only be bought by submitting to the most mundane, but painful, robbery of that grandness inside you.

What a trick these Cole Haan people are pulling–telling us we need $300 dollar shoes to feel connected to the earth and nature, when we already are the earth and nature.  We’d probably feel more connected to the earth and nature without any shoes at all.  We could all probably use more time in our bare feet.

Well, maybe soon we’ll all be spending more time in nature anyway, because there are the garbage patches in the ocean and then there’s the global warming, and it’s going to cause coastal flooding and flooding of major urban areas so we’ll be homeless and in nature a lot more, what’s left that we can stand on that is.

Oh, I just thought of another similarity between the Cole Haan woman and the Marlboro man.  The Marlboro man used the rugged American frontier to sell cigarettes that kill you.  And the Cole Haan woman uses that same romantic frontier to sell consumerism that kills you.

Jesus.  Why does advertising keep wanting us all to have cancer?

I don’t see the point in that.


Incomplete list of non-epic things:

styrofoam containers
food products


The High Heels of Lviv

October 11, 2013

The High Heels of Lviv

These shoes are not
built for running or for connecting
to the ground as much as keeping
you above it.
A spike, like Jesus,
a sacrifice.
Off the ground is certainly closer to god.
These women are just
very religious.

The shoes say,
who cares about getting there.
Lay me down.  Bend me over.  I’m ready for it.
For life, I mean—the exchange, the interplay
and hello, reproduction
if it comes to that.

The heels say
let’s make something.  I’m ready to
make out,
make babies,
make love,
make up,
make believe.

The shoes say
Stay….It’s not the destination, but the journey anyway.

Me, I’ve had enough
of keeping myself above.
My back has let me know.
I spent my 20’s on a platform
above reality.  Reality schmeality, I’d say.
I paid the price for hovering.

I’m flatfooted now
with heels gripping the pavement.
I’m learning to be low.
I’m making friends
with the ground I stand on, which I like,
because I like having friends.

Look, I know what it means—
the illusion of height, the defying reality.
Fuck the elements.  Fuck gravity.  Lviv is centuries
of want me, want me.

I don’t know why
ankles grow fat or toes crooked.
I can’t read minds,
and who knows why time is so mean.
You do what you can.
You put on your shoes.
A heel worn higher still
says what you’ve always known to be true—
if you’re not wanted, what are you?

It’s very nice that feet take you
to the toilet first thing.  But really,
do you exist without being wanted?

I am here regardless, and I have other rules that bind me,
but this city exists because it never resisted.
‘I won’t fight.  You can want me.
I won’t run away.  Stay, stay…’

© Susan Hwang 2017. Photo: Carrie Jordan, Site design by