I always had a thing for women’s shoes; high heels, espadrilles, flats, sandals, whatever, with a preference for footwear that exposes the most foot flesh. But I’m also into men’s shoes, exclusively gym shoes. I have discerning, expensive tastes. I visit sporting goods stores the way one would visit a museum, seriously studying and appraising shoes for hours. I handle them, admire them, but I can’t afford to purchase them.
My basketball coach at school, a crewcut ex-marine, has some kind of shoe deal, and he insists that everyone on the team wear his shoes. The coach’s shoes are incredibly ugly and cheaply made, and I refuse to wear them. After a bitter confrontation with the coach, he boots me off the team. But it’s really no big deal. The expulsion only hastens my transition from “Nice Jewish Boy” to “Dirty Hippie.”
I counter Seymour’s incessant barking at me to get a haircut by growing my hair past my shoulders. My hair is thick and curly, and I worry that I look like a Jewish Bozo the Clown. I buy the cheapest hair-straightening product I can find, which stinks for days, and makes me vaguely resemble James Taylor on the cover of his new album. I never understood it, but long-haired guys (even ugly and gross ones) seem to get the girls, and with my new and noxious locks, I get one too.
Fifteen year-old Melody is making her own transition, from Cheerleader to Hippie Chick. A blonde-haired, blue-eyed shiksa goddess-in-waiting, Melody is pretty and sweet and innocent - the perfect girlfriend, if she didn’t have Flintstone feet, more Fred than Wilma.
I invite my downstairs neighbor and oldest friend, Abe, to watch Melody and me making out. I rip off a couple bottles of mom’s pricey wine, roll a few joints, drop the needle on ‘Layla’ by Derek and the Dominoes, and voila, the mood for love. As Melody and I make out, I keep one eye on Abe’s reaction - Abe digs it. Melody, not so much.