These are the boots I bought ten years ago with the money I made from selling my books at the Strand bookstore. Books, which had always been able to warm my heart and soul and send my imagination soaring, could not keep my feet warm and dry in the winter unless I was reading by the fire. True, I didn’t have a fireplace, but I had radiators. I also had a pair of old boots that no longer kept the water out. I was tired of putting my feet into plastic bags before putting on my boots for slushy city streets.
I had always been proud of my book collection, and luckily my apartment had the kind of long wide hallway where it was possible to place my narrow bookcases against the entire length of one wall. This had the added advantage of being able to stack new books on top, higher and higher against the wall. This arrangement worked well for many years. And then one day it didn’t.
Three things had occurred. 1) The hallway had begun to feel claustrophobic. What I had jokingly referred to as the “Hall of Learning” no longer seemed apt. 2) My son was growing up and wanted to collect his own books. I had been saving much of my collection for him, but now there didn’t seem a point to it as even if he wanted to read something I already had, he preferred to buy his own, new copy. 3) Office work, my old standby, was no longer feasible after I went deaf in one ear, and I was strapped for cash. There was enough for essentials, but not for new winter boots (for me).
I wore out my little black suitcase on wheels carting load after load of weighty tomes up and down the subway steps from Brooklyn to Union Square in Manhattan, but every journey was worth the exchange for cold hard cash. There was always a line of people waiting to see if their books would sell, though most had backpacks instead of a suitcase. When it was my turn I held my breath as I unloaded my treasures onto the counter and waited to hear a yea or a nay. Once, when the checker was thumbing through one of my books and found I had underlined several passages, he shoved it back to me across the counter and yelled, “What are you bringing this to me for? You’ve marked it up!”
Nevertheless, the bookcases in the hallway began to empty out to the extent that I could even get rid of a couple of shelving units themselves. Meanwhile, on my way from Union Square and Fourteenth Street to the Strand at Fourth Avenue and Twelfth, I happened to pass a shoe store and noticed they were having a sale on winter boots. Uggs, no less. From Australia. With book money in hand, I was able to buy the warmest, tallest Ugg boots in soft gray suede. I wore them outside. I wore them inside. When I went to visit a friend on a snowy day I persuaded her to let me keep my boots on indoors (after carefully brushing the snow off).
The years passed. Ten of them by now. The boots eventually ceased to be waterproof though I sprayed them with the special Ugg spray, at least in the beginning. The boots got dirty too, but I kind of liked the stains. I just did a search for Ugg boots, and mine are obviously a discontinued style. Which makes them all the more precious.
This is a picture of how the hallway looks today. It looks reasonable. And there is more space to hang paintings. I still have plenty of books… Why is the front door painted red? Well, I stopped painting the town red years ago, and I never had a barn to paint red… but I did have a door.