Post #400

The curious case of the footloose footwear

16th May 2004, early evening | Comments (19)

When I was a child the newspapers were always filled with stories about excesses in EU agricultural production: Butter Mountains, Milk Lakes, and Grain Hills were a part of everyday news reports.

San Francisco, it seems, has a similar problem, but in this case it’s with shoes. They might not put it in their guidebooks, and you sure as hell won’t see Governor Schwarzenegger talk about it on TV, but take it from me, this town has more shoes that it knows what to do with.

Why do I say that? Well, I don’t think a single day has passed that I haven’t seen a pair of shoes, sometimes with laces, sometimes without, placed neatly on the sidewalk, resting atop a wall, or in the middle of the road, as though their occupant had been driven from them, cartoon-style, by the impact of a car.

Sometimes the shoes are old and battered, sometimes they’re shiny and new. But regardless of their state, they’re always side-by-side, perfectly aligned, and utterly alone.

Now, the fact that the streets of San Francisco are infested with stray shoes is odd enough, but what’s doubly strange is that many of the homeless people here are wandering around in bare feet. Why this should be, I do not know. Maybe the homeless people and the shoes move in different social circles? Maybe San Francisco’s great unwashed feel shoes to be restrictive of their freedom? (Maybe the shoes feel San Francisco’s great unwashed are restrictive of their freedom? Who can tell.)

Whatever the reason, this proliferation of ownerless shoes is just another example of the city’s curious charm.

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Comments (19)

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  1. Trent:

    I was in San Fransisco a few years ago, and I remember thinking a similar thing. Lots of shoes. San Fransisco has got a lot of odd things. Not to say it isn't a great city... just an odd one.

    I remember I got stopped by some guy saying he was a police man and that I'd done something wrong... so I'm getting majorly freaked out. And then I realize it's just some guy trying to hand me an advertisment for something. Hmph.

    Posted 8 minutes after the fact
  2. Alistair:

    It sounds a little similar to the 'Leave A Book' thing happening in a lot of major cities around the world. You basically, read a book and put it down in a public place. Someone else comes along, picks up your book and reads it and then leaves it somewhere else for someone else to pick up.

    What I can't remember, is if there was some sort of tracking associated to the books. For instance, when you pick it up you swing to a website and write down where/when/for how long, you have had that particular book. You'd get a feeling for the history that particular book has gone through very quickly I think, especially in a big city.

    Posted 3 hours after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  3. Dunstan:

    Here's the 'Leave a Book' thing, Alistair, it seems to be called 'BookCrossing':

    Interesting idea :o)

    Posted 3 hours, 8 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Alistair
  4. Alistair:

    Yeah, that is the exact thing I was referring to Dunstan.

    When I first heard about it, I thought it was a little strange/odd. However, now I seem to think the idea of it is quite cool. Unfortunately, where I live in Australia, I've never come across a book. I'd be exciting to find one at some point though. I'd read it on the priciple of it (even if it wasn't in my book reading style).

    Posted 3 hours, 15 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Sparticus
  5. Sparticus:

    If you wander around looking for a book you'll never find one. Start a trend, buy a book and leave it lying around somewhere with the instructions.
    For other free things see also:
    1000 journals:
    And there was also a website that gave away thousands of pinky/purple books, telling people to leave them lying around in coffee shops and in libraries, however the url escapes me.

    Posted 7 hours, 25 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Alistair
  6. Chris Neale:

    Footware / footwear ?

    Or come to that 'footwhere' - the state of not knowing one's feet are. : )

    Posted 11 hours, 35 minutes after the fact
  7. Chris Neale:

    add 'where' wherever you like : ]

    Posted 11 hours, 46 minutes after the fact
  8. Ryan Schwartz:

    You should take pictures - start a photoblog: "Shoes of San Francisco"

    Posted 14 hours, 52 minutes after the fact
  9. Ethan:

    Got an apartment yet, O Unwashed Orchard?


    Posted 15 hours, 34 minutes after the fact
  10. David House:

    Wow, the tenth comment and no-one so far has made a Hitchiker's Guide reference! It's just as predicted, the end of the world as we know it, due to the saturation of the shoe market...

    Posted 18 hours, 30 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  11. Dunstan:

    Ah! Very good, David, I'd forgotten about that :op

    Posted 18 hours, 53 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ David House
  12. Christian:

    He. Spike Jonze did a short film titled "How they get there" on EXACTLY this topic. It's available on DVD if you care to check it out (it's a short-film, approx. 2 mins or something like that):

    Posted 1 day, 8 hours after the fact
  13. Jeff:

    Dunstan, what ever happened with the young fawn you were romancing earlier in the trip? You wrote a long, drunken and very entertaining post about it a few weeks back.

    You didn't wait 6 days did you? You're so $, and don't even know it......

    Posted 2 days, 13 hours after the fact
  14. Debbie:

    Believe it or not, I think it may be a national phenomenon, as I've seen them all over the place. For many years, I thought of doing a photo-essay of those shoes without feet, and my fantasy was to call the essay: "Lost Soles." I had all sorts of ideas, but I never got around to it. I imagine the photo-essay has been done, but I don't know about the title. Anybody want to claim it??

    Posted 2 days, 21 hours after the fact
  15. Chuckg:

    It's a secret US policy to catch the elusive shoe theifs proliferating our great nation. The first person to touch the shoe gets snagged up by the ironcast cage dangling several hundred feet above the ground. I'm sure the Brits have some scheme for catching criminals too, beyond the little batons for beating crowds into submission.

    Posted 4 days, 7 hours after the fact
  16. Heather:

    Jish lamented

    I photographed

    and someone collected some (many?) and made art. shoe found land (burning man 2002) was a contemplation maze created with found should.

    Posted 1 week, 3 days after the fact
  17. Renice:

    Alistair's comment about the possibility of tracking a book on a website reminds me of – I got one of the marked dollar bills years back and have been notified twice that someone else had logged it in. It surprised me that over 6 or 7 years it had stayed in the same small university town.

    Posted 2 weeks after the fact
  18. Tony Crockford:

    Hey Dunstan,

    You must be having a great time - no posts in 10 days...

    Where you at?

    Posted 2 weeks, 1 day after the fact
  19. Sam:

    Re I also don't think wandering around looking for books is the best way to start it off. I have left a few around Manchester UK, and found none. But the 'karma'like element appeals to me. Maybe you should either leave a few around, or if that does not appeal, just log into the forum in and simply ask if anybody would like to send you one. Who knows...

    Posted 1 month, 1 week after the fact

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