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Tunesday: Jill Sobule, Big Shoes

braceI just had a birthday, and with it came a little bit of reflection. I had a birth defect–the opposite of  “club foot”– that was corrected by nighttime braces, adaptive physical education, and “big shoes”.  Had I been born in a different time, I would have been a limping, foot-dragging awkward outcast, my feet so splayed, my arches so fallen, that normal walking would  have Screenshot_12been nigh to impossible. Through the simplest of medieval devices, more than a decade of that adaptive physical education, and some truly, terribly ugly shoes, I grew into a young man with natural speed, strength and agility (mostly squandered, I’ll admit) who could cover 40 Screen-Shot-2012-06-22-at-1.09.23-PMyards in 5 seconds at 230 pounds, dunk a basketball, and catch just about anything thrown to me.  But man, those shoes were ugly.

Jill Sobule, pictured at right in her big, ugly, shoes wrote a song that resonates at the very deepest core of my soul.  Oh, how I wanted to wear sneakers, not heavy hot leather things with stiff soles that looked stupid with sweat socks.

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The Shortest Best Story Ever

This post originally appeared in Old Road Apples’ very first week of existence. No one noticed it. No one even read it. So, I’m giving it a chance at new life, as I will be doing with other, carefully selected posts in the coming weeks.

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Among the students voted “best…” and “most likely to…” for the Senior Class Personalities in my kids’ yearbooks, I noted what has to be the most flattering and impressive designation, “Talks the least. Says the Most.”  I can’t think of a higher salute from one’s peers.

Now I’m thinking about the writer Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway was one of those “gateway writers” who collectively inspired me to study literature and read obsessively.  An early selection of my adolescence-generated prose stinks of derivation, but as I stumbled into my pretentious twenties I mocked him along with other, equally unsubtle critics.  He ate a sandwich.  It was a good, moist sandwich with meat and cheese. The cheese was yellow and good. He had eaten kind of sandwich Nick ate in Italy.  I fell in love with bombast, magical realism, what I jokingly called “maximumism.”  That passed, too, and I’ve come full circle to recognize the subtle  genius behind the man who writes the least  and says, or at least edits, the most.

My favorite story about Hemingway involves him sitting around a table, possibly at The Algonquin, with his friends, a few of whom were towering talents in their own right, and betting the house that he could write an entire story with just a few words.  His eager companions bade him put his money where he mouth (and pen) was.  Hemingway replied with a 6-word novel, hastily scribbled onto a napkin  It read:

“For sale: baby shoes.  Never worn.”

His companions read the words, probably grumbled a little, and paid the man.