Culture Watch: Have you checked lately to make sure you've got shoes on each of your feet?
All photos by Mitch Waxman
As a serial stuff-loser my own personal stuff, I'm all too aware of how easy it is to lose, er, stuff -- anytime, anyplace. But you'd think there are certain limits that aren't easily breached. Like we all know the old saying about how you'd lose your head if it wasn't screwed on. Especially in my "glass half full" bursts of optimism, Iike to think that if you lost your head, you'd notice -- and it wouldn't be left behind on the pavement or the gutter to catch the eye of, say, some strolling photographer.
Like our pal Mitch Waxman.
This winter has been rough on Mitch, whose preferred mode of transport is pavement-pounding, but the weather hasn't been terribly accommodating. Lately he's been forcing himself out and about more, and he's unearthed a trend that makes my feet recoil if I just think about it.
In his Newtown Penacle blogpost yesterday, "no end," Mitch returned to a subject he noted he has been tracking as far back as 2011, and documented most extensively in an October 2014 post called "altars and colossi":
The "nytimes.com" link above, by the way is to an August 1989 "New Jersey Opinion" piece called "Why Just One Shoe?" by Richard Sigal, an associate professor of sociology at New Jersey's County College of Morris. "Being a sociologist," Professor Sigal wrote, "I'm fascinated by social patterns and profiles."
For several years one has been documenting the appearance of single shoes, divorced from their life partners, scattered about the larger Newtown Pentacle. This topic has been mentioned before, as has the supposition that this might be evidence of a secretive serial killer amongst us, one who keeps a singular shoe as a trophy of their kill while discarding the other on area streets.
For lack of a better name, I have christened this possible predator the Queens Cobbler.
Is the Single Shoe Phenomenon characteristic of a particular ethnic group? Can they be categorized according to educational level? Is this a product of social class? Do they know one another? Are they organized? Is there a club? Are hundreds – possibly thousands – of people out there hopping around on one foot?
Is the Single Shoe Phenomenon characteristic of a particular ethnic group? Can they be categorized according to educational level? Is this a product of social class? Do they know one another? Are they organized? Is there a club? Are hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of people out there hopping around on one foot?It's a relief to know that at least one sociologist is on the case, but at least back in 1989 Professor Sigal seemed to have a whole bunch of questions and not a lot of answers. It would be interesting to know if his research has progressed much since then.
And then, why am I the one to take notice in the first place? Is it psychological? I know when someone leaves something, let's say at your home, that is supposed to indicate that person's reluctance to leave ordesire to return. Might this be the message of the Single Shoe Syndrome? What could be going on in someone's head, either consciously or unconsciously, that results in the abandonment of one shoe? Why not both? Is this person unwilling to fully commit?
In any case, Professor Sigal was writing primarily about single shoes littering the sides ot the interstate highways he drove, which is freaky in its own way ("Since people rarely walk along interstates, I can imagine only that most single shoes are pitched out of car windows") but is of course quite different from the single-shoe zone of a confirmed pavement-pounder like Mitch.
And according to his report yesterday, the situation has not only worsened but taken an ominous turn (lots of links onsite):
It appears that now, along with all the other dangers besetting us in that great nasty world out there, we need to pause periodically -- how often? every hour? every four hours? -- to inventory the number of shoes currently deployed on our feet. Probably someone has already devised a form for maintaining such records.
For quite a while now, one has been noticing the abundances of single shoes arrayed on the sidewalks of Western Queens, and offered that there might be a serial killer walking amongst us whom I’ve christened as “The Queens Cobbler.” Should my supposition be correct, and that the singular shoes which litter our streets are in fact some sort of grisly trophy or taunt to the gendarmé left behind by a sociopath, then this person has finally crossed the line.
This infantile example was found on a lonely stretch of Newtown Road that spans the distance between Northern Blvd. and Broadway at the angle between Woodside and Astoria, and is the sort of shoe that an infant child would wear. It’s one thing for the Cobbler to be picking off adults, one would offer, but an innocent child?
For shame, Cobbler, for shame.
This more recent shot from Sunnyside is so much more your style, Cobbler, so why not just leave the kids out of this?