Why did I even start wearing flip-flops in the first place?
It’s an interesting question. In theory I, like so many other self-proclaimed persons of taste and refinement, find them objectionable. By the same token, I rarely if ever have found my eye wandering to the exposed toes of my fellow humans. Strangely, the habit began with a pretext that related directly to pursuit of enhanced physical fitness.
In addition to my gym regimen, which around this time last year had been enhanced and challenged with the implementation of boxing and strength training sessions, swimming became a big thing for me. The Red Hook recreation center has a wonderful pool, and it’s only about a ten minute walk from my own residence to said rec center. As I got slimmer and fitter over the years between 2010 and 2012, my trips to the pool were made in more and more minimal outerwear. Few things pleased me more than a walk to Red Hook in a t-shirt and swim trunks, towel tucked into an old Cannes Film Festival commemorative bag—hideous in design but a perfect size for stuffing into the not-terribly-capacious lockers at the facility—iPod pouring Phil Manzanera’s “Frontera” into my ears. At some point, perhaps during a trip to Target, a little voice told me I could dispense with socks on these trips, if I got a sturdy enough pair of flip-flops. And so I did.
The switch certainly did enhance the whole “Nature Boy” feel of my excursions. And I could keep the flip-flops on when I went from the locker room to the deck, and so on. I also did, I admit, find it amusing to sport footwear that had been subjected to a great deal of dyspeptic disdain by an ostensible movie blogger whom I will not give the satisfaction of naming here. This was all well and good as far as it went. But it wasn’t long before I started to behave, I guess, like a hippie with no goddamn hair. I wore the flip-flops on brief errands. During entire day trips to Fire Island. My Lovely Wife declined to encourage me in my folly, and so I did not wear them on more formal social occasions. But during the day, when she wasn’t around? Yup.
Then one day last July, during an indolent late afternoon, I went to my gym wearing the flip-flops. The gym, a pretty deluxe one, has several floors, and reception is on the second. Now when I say “deluxe” one of the things I mean is that its overall design is pretty sophisto, so, for instance, the stairs leading up to the reception area on the second floor are rimmed with a textured steel. So if you are bounding up the stairs like an idiot, and you do that thing where you fall forward, and you put your right foot out to brace the potential fall, and your foot slips outside of the flip-flop as you are unconsciously executing these actions, and your bare foot slams hard upon the metal edge of the individual step your foot is seeking to brace against the fall…
Oh yes. Ouch. The impact stung, and stung hard, and I yelled; something like “Oh shit!” and then I started hobbling up the remainder of the steps. I was not prepared to see the huge V-shaped gash that now decorated the underside of my right big toe. Nor the enormous amount of blood that pumped forth from it. Remember the first murder scene in Dario Argento’s Suspiria? Those couple of shots that actually look like a knife going into a mammalian organ of some sort? Yeah, that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.
Needless to say, the gym staffers at the front desk were a little nonplussed to see me bleeding all over their nice (possibly simulated) slate floor. Someone brought me a chair and another employee went scurrying for a first aid kit, and when that was procured, I basically poured an entire bottle of peroxide over my foot. A woman coming up the stage saw the undoubtedly bizarre tableau and said, “I’m a surgeon, can I help?” Myself and the other gym people attending me all gasped “Yes!” simultaneously and the woman then laughed and said “I’m joking.” No, I’m not making that up, in case you’re wondering what makes me so bitter.
The very accommodating gym people, after helping me put a fuckwad of gauze and adhesive tape around my injured digit, asked if I wanted to call an ambulance, but no, big brave me said he was okay to walk the six blocks over to Long Island College Hospital’s emergency room. And so I did. I need not detail the emergency room wait. You’ve all been there. But once out of the waiting room, my wound was treated under mildly unusual (I hope) conditions. For one thing, the person doing the stitching was also the admitting nurse for the room. Which meant that the stitching went like this: she would inject my toe with a local anesthetic, accomplish maybe two, three joins, so to speak…and then go back out and admit a few more patients and all sorts of other stuff, and then she’d get back and the local anesthetic had worn off, and she’d start stitching again, and I’d squirm, because it hurt, and she’d shoot more local anesthetic into my toe, and step out to admit more patients…anyway you get the idea. By this time My Lovely Wife had joined me, and she was enlisted to assist in my treatment. I had been moved into a supply room of the facility, and the overhead light therein was wonky, but there was a little gooseneck lamp that my attending person was using for the close-up work. Only its neck was broken, so the light wouldn’t stay put. So My Lovely Wife stood next to the nurse and held the lamp steady during the process of putting in twenty stitches, which took until about one in the morning. (I had been admitted at 7:30 the previous evening.) “How long have you two been married?” asked my healer, who was a very petite, extremely brusque woman maybe ten or twelve years my senior. “Six years,” one of us replied through gritted teeth. “That long?” she marveled, sounding slightly disgusted. “You’re so POLITE to each other.” (“You were not polite to me at all,” My Lovely Wife will sometimes remind me. “I was in excruciating pain,” I will counter. And really. You should have seen me. I didn’t yell, or cry. I spoke tersely, I admit, and in a less than ingratiating tone at times. But I was in excruciating pain.) At one point she chose to inform me that my wound was sufficiently deep that I might well have severed the toe completely, contemplation of which fact might have made me puke had I not been sufficiently distracted by my, you know, excruciating pain.
I had to go to an orthopedist every week for a while to get the wound checked, and I was told that the attending nurse had in fact done a great job with my stitches, and were you to look at the underside of my right big toe now, you’d never know anything had happened to it. As a matter of fact, looking at my feet right now, I’m not sure whether it was the right big toe or the left. What is it they say about the mind not letting you remember pain in a certain way?
The wound wasn’t the only bad thing. While hopping around trying to find a place where I could buy a proper orthopedic shoe (the hospital only had a direly undersized one to issue me; I’ve got Frankenstein-monster-size feet), I lost my cell phone (didn’t fucking cry about it like a fucking baby, though). (Incidentally, if you’re in NYC and find yourself needing that kind of thing, apparently C. Bigelow on Sixth Avenue has the hookup and then some, a discovery for which I once again owe My Lovely Wife big time.) Also, while being laid up in a sense for six weeks was a substantial aid insofar as writing a book was concerned, it threw a huge monkey wrench into my fitness routine. Now, as the public pool opening approaches and I have permanently foresworn flip-flops, I feel too fat to go. This too will pass, I suppose, but seriously, kids: do what Dana Stevens and that crybaby-who-will-not-be-named tell you: don’t rock the flip-flops.