Herb Benham column

Herb Benham

I bought a pair of boat shoes. I don’t have a boat, but I have a pair of boat shoes.

The boat shoes are gray, light and comfortable. They have grippy rubber soles that squeak. The laces are adjustable and do not require a forward fold yoga pose in order to tie.

I’ve always wanted a pair of boat shoes. Boat shoes are aspirational. They conjure a lifestyle both carefree and reckless:

Boat shoes have me standing tall in my boat skimming on a lake so blue that they might as well be the headwaters to heaven. I am wearing a good pair of sunglasses that won’t scratch even if I get cuffed around by a grizzly on the opposite shore that may eat me and my curvaceous crew but will leave my glasses intact with nary a paw print.

A cool wind whistles through my hair and every so often, when the boat hits a wave generated by the pod of killer whales acting as de facto escorts, I remember my thick brown hair — hair that has height as well as heft — and run my hands, hands that are both calloused and smooth, through it.

I owe it all to my new boat shoes. Without them, this shimmery fantasy pops like the large soap bubbles I saw recently in front of the San Diego Zoo.

After buying the boat shoes, I took them out of the box. They were cushy and promised a lifetime of more cushy.

My plan was to wear them to Floyd’s on their maiden voyage in order to buy three sets of duplicate truck keys. Before pushing off, I had to decide whether to wear socks or no socks:

When I am in my boat — a 1940 Chris Craft Racing Runabout — skimming along the headwaters of heaven, I am not wearing socks. Socks are for the people stuck on land waving goodbye to you on your private dock. As the boat disappears into the wild blue yonder, the sock people turn and resume their sad, sock-clad lives.

Wearing socks under my boat shoes was like wearing black knee socks under a pair of sandals. I might as well raise the white flag, dry dock the boat and turn my back on my watery dreams.

I was going to Floyd’s. Sockless. In my new boat shoes.

The day was warm, but some days can be like that, especially when the great inland sea receded 65 million years ago leaving future inhabitants low and dry. I looked at the other drivers cars around me on Chester and thought, ‘I am wearing boat shoes and you, fine sir, are not.” It was as if I pulled my Chris Craft up to their dinghy which they were trying to bail out with Yuban coffee cans because it had sprung a leak.

Four blocks later, as I was passing Valley Gun, my feet began to sweat. I flicked the air conditioning from halfway to high. I knew enough about footwear, boating or otherwise, that unless you cut this sweat off at the pass, even all hands on deck cannot save you.

By the time I reached Floyd’s, my feet were on fire but it was like one of those those Biblical lake of fire-fires whereby your feet are both wet and burning at the same time.

I sloshed into Floyd’s and was glad to see that there was nobody ahead of me in the key line saving me having to say, “Sir, may I go ahead of you? My new boating shoes, which may look light, gray and springy to you are cooking my feet like lobsters in an attractive lobster pot, but a pot nonetheless.”

I’ve learned something about boating shoes. They’re better if you buy the boat, too. Then, it’s downwind and smooth sailing on your heavenly journey into the bluest of headwaters.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 661-395-7279.

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