Tag Archives: boots

A good pair of wool socks

I went hiking with a few guys from work last winter. It would have been a great day, but I couldn’t keep my toes warm, and so try as I did to just enjoy myself, the weather, the outdoors, being with my friends, I couldn’t shake the feeling that way down, at the lowest point of my physical being, there was this little area that not only refused to be warm, but it denied comfort to the rest of my body.

winter hiking

My torso was fine. The hat on my head kept everything on top nice and toasty. But my toes sent dramatic distress signals ringing throughout the entire system, “Help! We’re freezing! It’s so cold down here! You’ve got to do something about it! You’ve got to help us out! No time to focus on anything else but right down here! Cold! Cold! Cold!”

And finally I couldn’t take it, I had to stop for a second, I told the group, “Guys, I need a minute, my toes are freezing, I’ve got to warm them up,” and, naturally, everyone stopped, but they kind of looked around at each other, like seriously? This guy’s going to sit here and, what, start undressing because his toes are cold?

And I could tell what they were thinking, so I needed to find a way to get the attention off of me, I asked my friend Doug, “Doug, your feet aren’t freezing? I don’t know what I’m doing wrong here. My boots are waterproof, not that it’s raining, but still, it’s just that, I have two pairs of socks.”

My other friend Pete fielded the question, “Two pairs of socks? You’ve got them both on at the same time?” I nodded. “That’s your problem right there, your feet can’t breathe. We’re doing all of this walking, your feet start to overheat, they sweat, and that sweat starts to get cold. It’s a temperature drop spiraling out of control, and those waterproof boots probably aren’t helping, no ventilation, it’s like a greenhouse in there, but one that’s not at all strong enough to withstand the outside temperature.”

That was a lot that he just said, and I really badly wanted to counter with something, anything, because, first of all, I was asking Doug, and yeah, I did pick Doug kind of randomly, but Pete could have at least let Doug fumble around a little bit, a, “Yeah …  I don’t know …” before butting in like a know-it-all. If Doug didn’t have an immediate answer, at least I wouldn’t have looked like I’m the only one not knowing what he was doing. But now, Pete, calling me out on the double socks.

That was only the beginning, “And what do you have there, cotton socks? Wool?” Was this a trick question? “Cotton,” I answered, and I should have said something else, I should have thrown him a curveball, like synthetic, but I didn’t, and Pete would’ve probably been able to tell anyway, this guy apparently knows everything there is to know about socks, he was shaking his head, “No, nope, nope, you gotta have wool socks. The cotton, all it does is absorb the sweat. That’s not going to happen with wool.”

Then he kind of turned around to address the group, like he was giving a lecture, a sock symposium, “I’m telling you guys, all I have is one pair of good wool socks, and I’m fine, my toes are really warm.” And everyone else just nodded in agreement, meanwhile I was sitting on some log, undoing the knots in my boots. “Easy Rob,” Pete was still on a roll here, “I know your toes must be really cold but don’t take your boots off. It’s much colder outside, even though it doesn’t feel like it. And even if you do manage to warm up your feet with your hands, it’s going to be even worse when you have to put them back inside those damp cotton athletic socks you have there.”

Couldn’t he just drop it? Did he really have to throw in the word “athletic” socks? Hiking is athletic. You need a little bit of athleticism, right, to hike? “Actually,” Pete continued, “I think I have an extra pair of wool socks in my bag,” and that was all I needed, I took off my boots, yes, it was a lot colder out in the air, I couldn’t believe it. But I started massaging my bare feet, I don’t know if it felt good, because my feet were so cold, it was like they were transferring that chill to my hands. Were my hands going to be cold now?

“Ooh, sorry buddy, I must have left them at home. Well, let’s get going, we’ve got a lot more trail to cover.” And everybody started walking ahead, I had to put the wet socks back on, they had accumulated a slight layer of frost after having been laid out beside me. It was miserable. I don’t know why Pete couldn’t have sent out an email the night before, “Hey guys! Since I know everything there is to know about socks, I figured I’d pass along some friendly advice: get a good pair of wool socks!” would that have been too much? A text message? Something?

A semester at sea

When I was in college I spent a semester at sea. I thought it would launch me into the fields of like marine biology and aquatics and stuff. I imagined myself really learning the nuts and bolts of life out on the open ocean, but it wasn’t anything like I had expected. Nothing I could have read or studied would have helped prepare me for the challenges of living on a boat.

semester at sea

Like, for example, I thought that there’d be like a big disembarking, like a “Bon voyage!” type of farewell. But no, they kept us in this stupid inflatable room on campus inside the Olympic sized swimming pool for two days straight. “What’s the point of this?” we all asked, “When do we get to go out to sea?”

The faculty explained that they were giving us a couple of days in a controlled environment to develop our sea legs. I told them that this was unnecessary, that I’d been on a boat several times. I was lying, of course, but come on, people have been travelling on boats for forever. Do you think that the pilgrims who crossed the Atlantic were forced to sit on some glorified pool toy for two days straight?

The worst part was that the swim team still had practice. The inflatable only took up like three lanes, so we had to just sit there and watch them all staring at us like this was the stupidest thing anybody could have ever decided to come to college and actually pay to do.

I was just about to give up, thinking about all of the regular classes that I’d have to sign up for after I backed out of the whole semester at sea, but one of my classmates, or shipmates, or potential shipmates, he backed out. I thought to myself, what a wimp, I can’t believe he quit. And then I realized how ridiculous I sounded, criticizing this guy for a decision that I was just about to make, so I doubled down on my commitment. I was going to earn those sea legs.

We finally made it to the boat and everything was just, again, not at all how I had imagined it to be, certainly nothing like the brochures from the student center made it out to be. I was pretty sure I’d have a roommate. One roommate. Not three. And I hesitate to even call them roommates, because it was hardly a room that we were forced to share.

These guys were a bunch of total nerds. Everybody had the same pair of knee high rubber boots from the first day, I was like, “Guys, what did your moms all go shopping at the same boat store?” and I turned to the first mate, he was checking us all in, and that guy was a huge nerd too, he hadn’t even cracked a smile. One of the nerds was like, “These are the boots they told us to buy. You don’t have any?”

And I don’t know how it was possible that I was accepted into this program, how they let me sit on that tube in the pool for two days, but nobody sent me like a checklist of stuff to buy. “They sent it to our campus email,” one of the dorks said, but I didn’t even bother replying, I never set up my campus email. I was still using my AOL email at the time, I’m not going to bother sharing my old screen name, but it was something lame, childish, you know, I can say that looking back now. Fine, it was SpleenHarvester6834. I don’t know. I thought it was badass at the time. I think I just saw the Hellraiser movies or something.

So I was totally underprepared without the waterproof shoes. But that’s OK, because I bought this pack of novelty eye patches and pirate swords from a party goods store. “Come on mateys!” I passed around the plastic trinkets, nobody took any, what a bunch of weirdoes, seriously, you’re going to spend a whole three months on a boat out on the open ocean and you don’t want to have even the slightest bit of fun?

And that’s what it was, three months of no fun, of performing a bunch of boring calculations. All of the ship’s work was mostly done automatically and, I guess reading the brochures would have helped, but it was all just lab work, just pointing stuff at the sky and taking seawater samples and eating this disgusting packaged food. I didn’t have a cell phone yet, so it didn’t matter that there wasn’t any service, but no TV, just a deck of cards that I brought that got wet with sea spray almost immediately after I busted them out.

I didn’t do anything, not that it mattered, you pay the price for a semester at sea and you don’t do any work, apparently the price tag has an included C+ minimum grade. I’ve never since spoken to any of my shipmates. It’s like, you know when Facebook came out and all of the sudden you start reconnecting with kids you went to Kindergarten with? There was nothing from any of those guys. Maybe they’re all back at sea, back at the open water, who knows, bunch of nerds, I bet you they have no idea what Facebook is. Still, I always find it strange that there’s basically no digital record I ever even boarded the ship.

The absolute worst part was, while I didn’t have any seasickness at all while on board, as soon as I touched dry land again, I started to feel the waves. After a couple of weeks I went to the doctor and he diagnosed me with Phantom Wave Syndrome, something about the brain and waves and, I have no idea, but everything’s always a little wobbly. I asked him, besides medication, is there any relief? “Well,” he told me, “You could always get back out there, back out to sea, I’m sure you wouldn’t feel anything if you were back on a boat.”

But fuck that, fuck the sea, fuck marine biology. I put my heart and soul into the water and it just sank, like it was encased in a cement defibrillator, a whole big vast ocean of nothing.

A total self-reinvention

It’s a brand new me. I’m new and improved. And it’s more than just my new haircut. Do you like my new haircut? Yeah, I guess I don’t say “nice haircut” every time somebody I know gets a haircut, even if I notice it. Well, the old me doesn’t do that. The new me is all about that. Nice haircut. Well do you have it up differently? Whatever, it looks great, nice hair.

But the new me doesn’t care if you compliment me on my haircut. The new me gets haircuts every week, so that way it always looks like I’ve had a fresh cut, because I have, but you just won’t notice it, because that’s the way it’s always going to look, like right out of the package, like new, brand new.

Are those a new pair of boots? Really, that old? Well they look brand new. They look terrific. Boots, boots, boots. Ahem. You just look really put together, really sharp. Have you gone through any sort of personal reinvention lately? Like a brand new you? No, I don’t see why you’d need one, the right now you is totally working out fine.

But I needed something different. I can’t get stuck doing the same old for too long. Do you like my new boots? Yeah, they cost like four hundred bucks. And you can’t really tell unless I pull my pants up, but look how high up they go, totally leather, like Western inspired, like the Wild West. And these jeans. Man, I thought boot cut jeans would have been exactly what I should have gone for with these boots, but that’s such an old me way of approaching life, fashion. No, I went with the slim, extra slim. So you can kind of see the outline of the boots even with the pants rolled down. Actually, I’m having a little trouble here getting this leg down again over the boot. Maybe it’s a little too slim. Just, here, you pull, I’ll make sure the boot doesn’t get caught, no, not like … no, that’s it, you got it.

All right, brand new brand new me, starting right this second. That pant leg mishap doesn’t count. But wait, this brand new brand new me, I got a haircut two days ago, I need to get another one, right now. I’ll get it later. That’ll be a totally reinvented brand new me. I guess this is like a transitory brand new me. Maybe I shouldn’t get so hung up about the haircut.

I need a new watch. You would have thought I’d have planned this out a little better, maybe like write a list: Title: Brand New Me. And then I’d underline that title, and then I’ll do like bullet-points. Bullet point: watch. Bullet point: boots. But that’s where I think I lost myself. I just thought, in my head, not on paper, bullet point: boots. I went online, bought the boots, got a haircut, broke the boots in at home, came in with the perfect boot-jean pairing. Brand new me. Right? No.

Watch, what else? Do you have a pen? Cufflinks. Cufflinks? No, not with jeans. With jeans? No, definitely not with jeans. Tie clips. Bowties. I should have bought some lifts for my boots, just maybe like an extra inch or two, really tower myself over everybody else. But wait, if I’m that high up, everybody’s less likely to notice my haircut, it’ll be too far away. Maybe just an extra half-inch.

Are those new glasses? Ahem.