Sunday, February 12, 2017

Barefoot on Fourth Avenue

Going barefoot in public was a kind of fad in the 1970s that continued into the 1990s. You'd see young people and sometimes adults pad down the summer sidewalks of our hometown, including the downtown. Going to places like the grocery store without shoes on was also a joy on pleasant days. I really enjoyed the "fad" and, over the years, I've loved staying barefoot on walks and occasional summertime errands. Six or seven times over the years, I made more "epic" journeys among stores on warm days during vacations or trips. They're happy occasions to remember, the way as my father recalled going hunting barefoot in his younger days (yet he had little tolerance for hippies...).

Back in the 1980s, while my wife Beth was at a conference in Tucson, I bummed around on my own for the day and visited Fourth Avenue. This area of Tucson is a wonderfully artsy shopping district: see and also , which calls the area "Proud to Be A Little Out There... hip back when most hipsters you know were still in diapers." The author continues, "Most Tucsonans have their own story set on the 'Ave.' Now, it's time to write yours."

Well, my story, such as it is, fits into the website's description. As I looked for a parking spot that morning, I thought about going barefoot for the visit. As I recall I wore a summery shirt and old, straight-legged jeans, and my sandals were kicked off on the floorboard. When I parked, I didn't slip back into my sandals but stepped onto the street and with a happy sigh. I fed the meter and then padded down the way to my first destination, a bookstore. I loved the fellowing of the cool floor beneath my feet after the rough warmth of the sidewalk. Exploring the selection, I found an Annie Dillard book that I still have, and a couple others.

Then I walked down the way among the other shops for an unhurried time. What a joy to be out and about with no shoes on! I watched the sidewalk in front of my strolling toes and felt the gentle thud of my heels. The stores had a variety of crafts, jewelry, books, environment related items, and Southwestern-y products. I felt so happy and quirky as I browsed shops, and I had excellent luck. The textures of cool floors alternating with the sidewalk---warm like a back porch---felt delightful, and I did see one other person enjoying the day the same way.

No one seemed to mind. A clerk in a rock and gem shop  gave me a strange look as I strolled around the beautiful displays (I should’ve asked first), but I did make a purchase.

Toward the end of my visit, I padded down the sidewalk, shopping bags in hand, and paused at a window display of a clothes and accessories store. A clerk, standing outside, invited me to check out their sales! So I tiptoed in and, strolling among several shoppers, I found the day’s last treasure, a purse for Beth.

This past year, my wife Beth had some business in Tucson, and I came along. As I spent time during the day while she was busy, I decided to revisit Fourth Avenue. This time, I had my shoes on! Too many years had gone by to revisit specific places, although two bookstores that I had visited still operated, though in different locations. I had a terrific time browsing the shops again and ended up with an ice cream cone from Dairy Queen before I caught a ride back to our hotel.

How pleasant to visit a favorite location, even though quite a few years had gone by!

The fad of going barefoot seems to have returned, to some extent, here in the 10s. I've had a couple students show up for class without shoes on, and I kid with them that I loved to go that way in my own younger days. Everything comes back into fashion, as they say.

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