Thursday, April 21, 2011

I wear white running shoes


Today, I took away 6 combs and 3 mirrors from girl students who appear deeply concerened about their appearance, but couldn't be bothered to bring textbooks, pencils, or practice papers to class on speaking test day. I take their beauty supplies away, they pout, and I chuckle - sometimes out loud.

I admit what most of this blog's readers already know: I really don't put a great deal of effort into my appearance. Like B sometimes used to say: "I couldn't be bohvuhd..."

This often extends to my shoes. The only shoes I have purchased in Korea are the size 13 soccer cleats I picked-up in Itaewon a couple of years ago. It's tough to find big sizes here, unless you're one of those starter-cap-with-the-size-sticker-still-on kind of guys, and then you can get the ballin' shoes to match. It's mainly basketball shoes in big sizes for U.S. G.I.s in Itaewon and none of them are really my style.

These days I want something comfortable. So, for the first time since maybe Junior High school (the time of the Reebok Energy Return), I am wearing white sneakers, running shoes, trainers, kicks, whatever the kids are calling them these days, and I'm wearing them out in public - to school anyway.

I bought a pair of the shoes in the picture for an extreme discount before I made a return to Korea in 2009. I have barely worn them, but let me tell you, they feel just fine and they are the perfect pacifier to my barkin' dogs. As an added bonus, New Balance seems to regarded as a high end brand among my students - I'm getting a lot of compliments from them when they hear me squeaking down the hallway. Who knew that New Balance had become cool? I'll be hornswoggled!

But how can I trust my students? They seem to only care about The North Face and making their jeans as skinny as humanly possible. I don't read GQ, but I'm pretty sure that wearing cross-training shoes aywhere other than the gym or an actual cross-training environment is about as cool as wearing black knee-high socks and sandals. But you know what? I couldn't give a rat's ass. These sneakers are comfy, by gum - I feel like I'm walking on air.

I hesitated earlier in the week before putting them on, but today I was reminded of Ryan Iverach. Ryan was a perennial overachiever in High School. I think he was planning to attend an elite military academy after graduating, and during high school, he was pretty much the Cock o' the Walk - starting quarterback, honor roll, and not a bad record with the ladies. He was also just a good guy.

The shoes remind me of a time when we were taking swimming lessons in PE class. While in the changing room, one student named Jamie who fancied himself a tough guy was bullying one of the meaker individuals in our class for wearing "tighty whities" as opposed to the boxers that became popular with students our age a few years prior. He seemed to be campaigning for others to join in the mockery. Ryan interjected in a manner that was both effective and inspiring. It stuck with me through the years. It went something like this...

Ryan: Why are you giving him a hard time?

Jamie: 'Cause he's wearing f$%#ing tighty whities, man.

Ryan: So?

Jamie: So? Nobody wears those anymore.

Ryan: Who cares what he wears? I wear those sometimes, too. Listen to yourself. Why do you care so much about what he wears under his pants?

By this point, Jamie was seeming more and more like an idiot bully who was being called-out by the one guy in the room who could easily kick his ass but would rather just dress him down with words. I think I remember Jamie becoming red-faced and backing-down, and Ryan waiting for Jamie to leave before checking with Mr. Tighty Whitey to make sure he was okay.

Anyway, that moment always stuck with me as a perfect example of a guy who was brave enough to step-in and be honest and to correct someone for being an elitist dumb-ass. It happens in my school every day - kids ridiculed because they don't have the latest phone or they aren't wearing make-up yet.

Anyway, thinking about this today, I googled Ryan Ivarach. Do it yourself and see what's become of the guy who stood-up to a bully in the change-room. I don't know what happened to Jamie, but I do remember that the following year (grade 12), he was expelled from school for robbing a senior citizen with a pellet gun, and I can bet you that at the time he wasn't wearing tighty whities or running shoes.

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