Things, then, were set in motion for a trip for Wicker Park, where I would hunt down the Doc Martin’s store and…go shoe shopping (shudder).
Chicago, of course (because it is being punished for great evil), was experiencing a repeat of the great Polar Vortex of '14: Summer Edition. A polar vortex in the summer meant that the weather was going to be in the 70s most of the day, which most of us could deal with. I’ll take 70 above versus 70 below any day of the week. In other words, it was a gorgeous day for shoe shopping.
I took an early train up, got to the neighborhood where I would be shopping, took a few looks around and decided to get some lunch so that I would not be shopping on an empty stomach. I found a bar that served nice chicken wings, and tried to decide what it was I wanted to buy.
Mostly, I wanted to a pair that was identical to the pair that was having the zippers replaced. I also wanted a pair that was perhaps taller than the pair I was replacing, and I wanted some sandals. I figured with three pairs of shoes I would be able to rotate shoes enough that I would not wear holes into my shoes. Also, the sandals I had (while they had served me well) were not adequate, and I’m fairly convinced they were responsible for some of the ankle issues I only seemed to have in the summer. So, there it was. I finished lunch and walked into Wicker Park, which I had last seen at night when I was in town for the Suns show at the Double Door. I had a vague sense of where I was supposed to go, but no real idea, and I found as I was walking down the street I was rather lost within a block. There were some young folks doing a campaign of some sort on the street that asked if they could help me since I was clearly lost.
“I need Doc Martins.”
“I feel your pain.”
They pointed down the street and sure enough, there it was, barely a walk from where I had lunch and in I went.
Enter the chorus of "Hallelujah."
Really, though, Korea’s Doc store had nothing on this place. It was massively huge and had every single kind of Doc I had seen on the website, and a few extra. It had a variety of sizes and colors and I was very excited to try on some shoes. Two very attractive women, also wearing Docs, smiled as I walked in and asked if they could help me.
“I intend to spend a lot of money on shoes.”
“You have come to the right place,” answered a busty lass with pink hair, ankle-high Docs, and a nice black dress. “What are you looking for?”
I sort of looked around the place in awe, then laid out my problem.
“Do you know what size you are?”
Then I laid out my second problem of having bought Docs too often in a country where they didn’t actually have my size.
“Do you have like, 10s?”
“We have 10s, 11s, 12s, whatever you need.”
“Sweet merciful goddess.”
I ended up sitting in front of a box of about 10 shoes representing three styles: 20 hole, 14 hole, and sandals. The sandals after one try, ended up being smaller than I thought. The 14 and 20 both ended up being almost exactly what I thought, but a bit tight across the middle.
“We have a butter for that. Just put it across the grain here and that will relax as you wear them in. Also this will protect the shoes from salt in the wintertime.”
The real challenge was the 20 hole. These were knee-high Docs (happiness) that I worried about getting over my calves. At first there was nothing to fear and I asked if anyone had a problem if I sat in the store and ladder laced the shoes.
“Go right ahead.”
Half an hour later I was struggling to try to zip up the boot over my calf on my right leg.
“Oh gods, they don’t fit.”
“Well, I have to be honest, the calves never really get any bigger.”
“But I want them!”
“I don’t have those because of the calves.”
“But I WANT them!”
“Well, you can keep trying, but if they don’t fit, they don’t fit.”
“If they don’t fit I will have to buy something else; I’m getting three pairs, already decided.”
“All right, well, let me know what you think.”
A half an hour later the girl that was helping other couples was surprised to see I was still there.
“I WILL MAKE THEM FIT!”
And I did. The reality was that I just need to let them out when I pull them up and then tightly lace them once they are on. And they fit just fine; they fit like a second pair of legs.
“And it looks like the time was worth it. How do they feel?”
And now that I had shoes, I wanted to take them for a walk. I paid up, was allowed to leave the bag at the shop while I went walking around, and that's just what I did. I went in and out of several shops. Bought a dress at a secondhand place, went to an art gallery, went in and out of several little places, hit a bar for a drink, and walked up and down the streets in my new shoes. At one point I passed a group of ragged-looking hippies sitting on the street.
“Hey, yo; those are nice shoes.”
“Yeah,” said the girl in the group, “what are those the Doc…18 holes?”
“Those are sweet shoes.”
I walked further down the lane and ran into a street festival of mostly house music that was rather hipping and hopping where several more people commented on my shoes. Before 8 p.m. I headed back toward the shoe shop to pick up the rest of my wares.
“So, how do they feel?” asked the same candy-haired girl who had helped me so patiently before.
“I don’t feel like they are breaking in at all.”
“Oh, no, really, are they painful?”
“No, I mean, they fit perfectly, like there is no need to break them in, like they are already broken in, like they are awesome.”
She smiled and I collected the rest of my shoes. In all, I would have to say it was the single most pleasant shoe-shopping experience of my career, and one that I don’t have to do again anytime soon.