The Free & Easy cover for October 2008 (which features the Abercrombie & Fitch coat below) reminded me of something. But what? After dropping $14.50 for the magazine at Kinokuniya, a beautiful Japanese book store in NYC, I walked across the street to Bryant Park and consumed the images in about 10 minutes. Not much to read and even less if you can't read Japanese.
Heading up to midtown it hit me. My boot shot from Ellis Island. Yes, it would appear I've been taking pictures of my shoes for many years. The shot of my Timberland work boot was taken circa 1985 from a window high above the Main Registry building on Ellis looking at the Statue of Liberty. This image could also be titled, "Free & Easy."
As a National Park Ranger assigned to the Statue and Ellis, I made $12,500 a year in 1985. While the work wasn't "Free" - - it was "Easy" as the above pic testifies. The best and lowest paying job I ever had. I was able to stretch out a one and half pound can of Dinty Moore beefstew over a week thanks to a 10 pound bag of Basmati rice. I drank lots of tap water. I ate a can of tuna fish for lunch...every day. I was 150 pounds, a 30" waist and in the best shape of my life. Better than the Army. But I was poor. And NYC is no place to be poor. "Rich girls don't date poor boys, J. Gatsby." No shit.
I remember the occasional complaint to other Rangers about how hard it was to date (ie:get laid) in NYC as a poor park ranger. I am now told by an old Ranger Buddy my complaints were hourly. He's still with the Park Service and mentioned to me the upcoming Park Service documentary by Ken Burns. I suggested a major film star, Martin Sheen, could read my letters as voice over, describing my lonlieness and desire for female companionship (ie: get laid) while assigned to the Statue and Ellis. My Ranger buddy replied, "Don't you mean, Charlie Sheen?"
When the Statue was closed to the public, I was transferred to Ellis Island and worked as a Museum Technician on the artifact removal. That is, everything on Ellis was packed up and moved to a warehouse somewhere in Manhattan. This allowed me to purchase a pair of steel toed boots courtesy of the federal government. God forbid, I drop something on my foot and file a disability claim for that whopping $12,500 job.
I went to a number of shoe stores and was overwhelmed with just how ugly work boots were. Not that they've changed much. It was in one store I saw the Timberland boot. I fell in love with it. But it wasn't steel toed. So, I bought 'em anyway, submitted the receipt to the Park Service and was reimbursed. I suspect I could've bought a pair of wingtips without any questions.
I still have the same Timberlands 23 years later. They've survived 19 Chicago winters as the only boot I ever wore with a suit. Toasty warm with decent traction on the ice sidewalk in front of the Hancock. Great looking with jeans but something of a statement untied with shorts and a untucked button down somewhere on the North Shore. A wonderful boot with soul - - I can't wear them without a strange desire for some Dinty Moore.