Lasers in the Shoe Stores
Dr. Andy reflects on the technologies of preparing for a daily walk.
The twin calamities of the pandemic and the smoke-choked air force active and social people such as myself to try on other people’s lives. I found that while the inactivity makes me anxious, the time to reflect gives me more fodder for these newsletters.
My “sport” of walking does not require a lot of equipment; nevertheless, last week I visited our local athletic shoe store, Fleet Feet, to get fitted for new shoes. Not having spent a lot of time in this store since I was training for distance runs, I was surprised by how much had changed with the process of buying shoes. Gone are the slide-rule-like Brannock Devices invented by Charles F. Brannock in the 1920s, first used to measure my feet in the early 1970s at Lazarus Shoes on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, Maryland. (My mom knew that Lazarus provided the highest quality leather shoes, so we went shoe shopping there every fall throughout my childhood, even after the divorce when we had a lot less money.)
Today in the best shoe store in my hometown of Davis, California feet are measured with lasers and heat maps, revealing, in my case, that my wide left foot is about 9.2 inches long, and my wide right foot is about 9.7 inches long. I wear size 10.5 (this I knew), and my arches could use some support. (Henry Adams said that “All experience is an arch, to build upon.”) Fascinating facts, but do any of these data help us find comfortable shoes? It turns out that the answer is yes.
Of course, as any journalist or therapist knows, data points alone are insufficient when one is seeking to understand; for this purchase, I was also interviewed about my activity habits. Fleet Feet employee Carlos and I were both surprised to realize that, at 6.5 miles a day, the current version of Dr. Andy covers more miles (about 45 miles a week) than the version of Dr. Andy who was a serious runner training for half marathons and listening to entire Kings games when out on runs (that guy ran about 25 miles a week, but he also didn’t wear an odometer around the house). I tried on some New Balance shoes and a HOKA ONE Bondi 7 (the coolest looking shoe I saw that day), but I decided on a Kahru Ikoni 2021 in glacier grey. Calling itself “The Finnish Sportsbear,” this Scandinavian company Karhu is allowed to use glacial motifs in their coloring schemes. I chose the subdued coloring because I will likely be teaching in these shoes this fall, rather than teaching barefoot, as I’ve done for the last 18 months.
While I was looking forward to trying out my new shoes in the days after my purchase, the world had other plans for me: I was effectively “benched” by Northern California’s bad air. Saturday, for example, the day that my son Jukie and I will often walk ten miles or more to bring our step-count average up for the week, I walked a mere .67 of one mile, my poorest performance in the last two years. Checking on the result of all my late-August inactivity, I see that my daily average mileage for 2021 has dropped from 6.5 to 6.4. The horror!
As we get older, we need to keep moving, socializing, and thinking. Scientific studies with titles such as “Early retirement can accelerate cognitive decline” show that active brains can ward off dementia. The problem solving nature of most jobs will provide the mental practice needed to stay sharp, but I suspect that people who write poems, do puzzles, take long walks, and play trivia games also have certain advantages over those who do not. Studies also recommend that we get enough sleep, eat unprocessed foods, get our hearing checked and (dare I say it?) limit our alcohol consumption in order to slow mental decline. We should all aspire to be like Ed Asner, the great actor and disability rights activist who was tweeting cogently right up until the time he passed away this week at the age of 91.
How many of us will be tweeting (or its futuristic equivalent) at 91 or older? And what will scientists discover in the coming decades that might lengthen our lives on our overheating planet? The physicist Richard P. Feynman once said that “There is nothing in biology yet found that indicates the inevitability of death. This suggests to me that it is not at all inevitable and that it is only a matter of time before biologists discover what it is that is causing us the trouble.” Until we are confronting that sort of trouble, surely the best days of our best lives will be spent in the company of people who make us smile, laugh, or swoon as we challenge our brains, stretch our limbs, welcome new ideas, and extinguish our TV sets.
I am feeling lucky. On the morning that I am writing to you, the temperature is in the 50s, and the air is “green,” meaning that it is safe to take a walk. I hope you and yours are also surrounded by green, wherever you are, and that we all find occasional reasons for optimism and the taking of deep breaths.
Thanks to all of you (such as Quizimodo, The Original Vincibles, The Outside Agitators, and Bono’s Pro Bono Oboe Bonobos) who support these newsletters and our pub quiz on Patreon. Other organizations that also deserve your support are working to comfort Californians who have been evacuated because of the rampaging forest fires, are working to help southerners weather Hurricane Ida, are working to provide medical supplies and other forms of relief to Haitians rocked by yet another devastating earthquake, and are working to ameliorate the lives of refugees displaced by wars and other challenges in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Closer to home, The Yolo Food Bank does heroic work every day to address food insecurity in our county, a problem exacerbated by the new insecurity surrounding covid. If you can, please give generously!
Poetry Night Thursday at 7 at the John Natsoulas Gallery will be an open mic. Bring something short to read, or a musical instrument. Your bravery will be rewarded!
P.S. Here are three questions from last week’s quiz:
Books and Authors. First name Mary, what American nature poet’s fifth collection of poetry, American Primitive, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984? A hint for one team: the answer is not “Mary Angelou.”
Sports. Miguel Cabrera has recently hit his 500th home run. For what team does he play?
Shakespeare. While King Lear is Shakespeare’s most famous play with the word “King” in its title, this word also appears in the short title of which of Shakespeare’s histories?
P.P.S. Speaking of those working to help Afghan refugees, check out the Article 26 Backpack Project by Pub Quiz regular Keith David Watenpaugh.