​​Boston Got Sole: Is this a detour to the American Dream, or the American Nightmare?


(Left To Right) Gary Gorky, Oliver Amsterdam, Solevester Detroit

It must have been somewhere between the 20th and 21st centuries when sneakers first grasped the psyches of men, women, and everyone between them. If not for my associate, The Cowboy, I would have been spared one of the most fantastical and humiliating sets of experiences that I have ever been a part of. “A shoe convention?” I thought to myself, “Dear God! What the hell are they going to think of next?” It fell on the ides of April; maybe those Roman bastards were right because there must have been a curse put on that day by their whole goddamn pantheon. Back in the days of old Rome, Tellus, you know that evil Mother Nature, had her most prominent festival, the Fordicidia, during which pregnant cows were sacrificed with their young. That goddamn Fordicidia was always held on the very same day as this convention, and I had a feeling the two events would be equivalent.   

It was 11:16 A.M. At one point we were in the Clark University dining hall. There were many things happening. There was Punjabi chicken on a waffle. As we gallantly moved towards the front gates of campus, the perpetual yik-yakking of accepted student tour groups echoed across the wasteland as the unaware swarmed the grass. I stood in a circle with my colleagues Mr. Amsterdam, Dr. Detroit, and our Trotskyist photographer, Justin Lens. My mind raced about the undertaking we were about to embark on. The time came for me to call for a taxi. The phone rang, and with every passing second, the thought of failure crossed my mind. I breathed a sigh of relief as the person answered. With the logistics arranged, we waited at the front entrance for our ride. Once the taxi arrived, it became apparent that there wasn’t enough room for all of us because we were not sardines–unfortunately, we left that stage 400 million years ago. Damn the overlords! I almost couldn’t bear to leave Amsterdam to fend for himself, but I trusted that he would find his own ride. But I didn’t mind leaving Lens behind, as his incessant picture-taking was getting on my nerves. Fortunately, he was just there to soak in our glory. In fact, the only reason the arrogant image-snapper was with us that morning was to mooch off of the excitement as we commenced our great endeavor. Damn photographers! Always think they are the center of attention.

Last known photo of Justin Lens, our Trotskyist photographer

My associates and I were keen to respect the cultural and social norms of the strange, alien society that we knew we were entering by wearing the finest footwear crafted by man (although my associates’ definitions were questionable). The Dr. wore his favorite old beat-up pair of Doc Martens. The miserable bastard firmly believes that Converse has a place on this crazy goddamn planet. Mr. Amsterdam was sporting a pair of Ray Allen’s high tops, not to be confused with the Italian leather shoes Mr. Allen likely wears off-the-court, but rather a pair of green high-tops which buoyed around the bastard’s feet when he walked. I cannot comprehend who he was trying to impress but goddamnit did I respect it. Then there was me, with a pair of shoes that looked sharp enough to strip the paint off a rusted Cadillac frame. If you asked any member of the Bay Area group, The Pack, as well as myself, Vans are the singularly greatest form of footgear known to the human species. If the moon men bring us armageddon someday, the first things they will come for won’t be our technological innovations or precious metals. They will first come to take our Vans, because nowhere in the universe do objects of such great or greater illustriousness exist.

I have met many loud people in my life. My vice principal, the loud eater in the back of my local KFC, and of course the man in my neighborhood only known as “Screamin’ Ted.” But the man guarding the doors to inside the event, in his yellow shirt that made him look like he was a banana, was the loudest. He flailed his arms around so that everyone in front of him could bask in his cavendish glory. “VIP!” he yelled, barring one of the doorways. So is that it then? Are we not important enough for this bastard? Do we just belong in the goddamn general admission? We should have heeded his warnings, we should have never headed inside. Just as we entered the Center for Digital Federal Credit Union establishment (commonly referred to as the DCU Center by the locals) our hands were stamped with the sigil of this organization, Got Sole. They would stain our skin for days as a mark of shame to denote our shared degeneracy. The entire affair up to this point was like something out of a damn Kafka novel. “[They] insisted that we could not take the press entrance, despite the fact that we were working for the press. Bastards, ridiculous”, Mr. Amsterdam still was outraged, but at that moment I realized we were better for it—drawing unnecessary attention to myself was the last thing that I needed. A man walked past, talking to a security guard. “I’m actually going to the beef jerky convention!” he laughed, if only he knew the true hell he was walking straight into. But maybe he knew that, maybe he was ready, maybe this place wasn’t built for people like us. For the sneakerhead, Boston Got Sole was some kind of deranged heaven. Music blasted over the speakers, and Travis Scott’s giant golden metallic head watched over us like some kind of panopticon. Every booth was lined with shoes. Sneakers for $1500, child-size Air Jordan’s going for $425, some kind of fur-covered Nike’s. A man stood on the stage holding up a pair of the MSCHF’s Big Red Boots like some kind of golden calf. “JESUS CHRIST!” the Doctor exclaimed, “Those are my shower shoes!” He pointed towards a pair of plain black plastic slides. He was right, those were his shower shoes! Or something close enough at least. They had a $325 price tag attached, what the hell were they doing here? What the hell was this place? Where was The Cowboy when we needed him most? That bastard left us to drown in the scum, mire, and glop. Those shower shoes… too weird to live, and too rare to die.

A warning: never walk the lines of a convention you don’t belong in. We were unaware of the tricks that the carnies of The Sole were about to do to us. There were two men armed with the Wheel of Doom straight out of a 90s game show. They demanded we play their deranged game of “the spin.” The top prize? A discount on their overpriced footwear. “We’re gonna shock the world,” said one of them, handing me a cheap sticker that would soon become a resident of my local garbage can. But the real prize was when we got the hell out of there before they brought in Jeopardy: Shoe Edition for a free sneaker lace.

I was expecting people above the voting age, the late teens early twenties crowd, but left and right zoomers, the worst of our generation, with their broccoli cuts and  fake gold necklaces and blue necklines plagued my surroundings. The apex of my interactions with the younger crowd was while in line for someone claiming to buy our “sole slappers.” This truly was, or so I thought, an adult’s folly. His outfit screamed: “I am failing pre-algebra!” His demeanor proved to me that the art of shoe selling truly was rated E for everyone. “What are you trading?” this zoomer said, eyeing us behind his gas station sunglasses. He thought we were professionals, even though a ⅓ of us looked like we had just walked straight out of the Battle of Gettysburg. “No Jordans?” Gas Station Glasses said. He looked at us, disappointed. He reminded me a little of my friend, The Cowboy. But no, Gas Station Glasses was no cowboy. Who did he think he was? That our value was solely based on what, a pair of shoes? This punk and his “Pandora’s box” of Michael’s shoes. We quickly left the scene, unbeknownst to us that there was no chance of escaping this pit we had flung ourselves into.

Mr. Gorky looks out at the convention floor

I had one mission coming to this strange, strange world: to sell my shoes. But not just any shoes, rare shoes! Worn by a wheelchair user! When I saw a tent exclaiming they would buy, I became intrigued. If ever there was a gluttony to footwear, this 40-year-old trying to be 20 proved me wrong. His hands were like shovels piling Domino’s® Loaded Tater Tots into his mouth, grease oozing from his fingers. What was this, a Steve McQueen movie? Of course, there was an Irishman—holding his box of Irish-themed shoes. The buyer, preoccupied with his cardiac-busting fried potatoes, stared down at such Gaelic-themed footwear: “Gonna pass.” the man exclaimed before his excavator arm dropped yet more tots down his gullet.

I was feeling terrible. Nobody would buy the cripple shoes! Surely nobody understood the importance of disability representation on one’s sole. “Detroit, Amsterdam!” pointing around at my colleagues. “Shoes!” I exclaimed. 

“Pretty fire,” said the man, still pretending to be in his 20s. Surely he hadn’t worn shoes by a wheelchair person, so I asked him with my classic “ever worn shoes by someone in a wheelchair” line. “Actually I have!” he said, the neon yellow cheese bouncing up and down in his mouth like the cord of a bungee rope. An offer was on the table, but what was I to do? Me, an amateur to find a dollar amount for such wear? But despite my economic handicap, I gave him an offer with the help of my id, Dr. Detroit. We wagered a solid $200, but to the dismay of the tot diddler, his partner (probably malnourished from a lack of sharing) yelled “hell no,” hoping the distraction of a crippled shoe seller would lead to him swiping a morsel of the tot.  

We were hard on our luck. The goods we brought were not to par with the paraphernalia that the others had brought. At every turn, we were rejected. Too small! Too ugly! Not hype enough! Would Travis Scott even wear these to take the trash out? Of course, we left the main center and headed for the hinterland of the convention. The outskirts surrounded the main room, where the amateurs were selling not just shoes but basically anything that was in their closet, their floor, or in their grandfather’s garage in Iowa for all we knew. The strategy of the man we met was simple: a shoulder shove into his booth would certainly give the hoi polloi the urge to buy his wares. The man was selling on an old plastic table, the kind where they put the BBQ buffet at a university’s accepted students day. Amsterdam was looking to sell his shoes, some vintage Ray Allen’s. We will call the man we met “Shoulder Slapper” for reasons I will explain later. Shoulder Slapper was looking to trade or so he said. What kind of trader was he? We didn’t know. Was he trading like a University of Chicago economist, or like a left-wing populist? I showed him the cripple shoes which he turned down faster than a baseball hooligan going to the first WooSox game, claiming that they were not “hype.” Once again I had to ask myself: what the hell I had gotten myself into? Dealing with the opponents of crippledshoeism. He would then examine the Ray Allen’s after Amsterdam demanded a trade for a pair he had found in Shoulder Slapper’s Parisian catacomb of shoes. Shoulder Slapper had to call his colleague, clearly not familiar with the footwear my acquaintance had. A man next to us dragged a large black bag across floor filled with the shoes, the accomplice. And he came to the stunning conclusion that the shoes were fake! He squinted his eyes at the golden lining of Amsterdam’s ‘Allens. “Fraudsters!” we could hear him think. Was this man gonna call a copper and inform the thin blue line flyers of our supposed fake sneakers? Of course, we knew the man was full of shit, and I would be too if a cripple and civil war soldier were watching me during a possible transaction. We needed a second opinion, thankfully we also knew just where to go. Jesus, a second opinion? We were like patients off to the doctor’s office deciding on major surgery. The man in question we had met right when we first entered the convention, and he had in his possession the magnum opus of Ray Allen’s: the signed Ray Allen’s. Our Ray Allen expert identified himself as a Connecticut man. What did this mean? We didn’t know. What did a man from the least New England state in New England know about being a green teamer? You never know with Connecticutites, always trying to hold you hostage, until you try their dreaded New Haven pizza. But the man had made us protagonists once again, as he verified that the shoes were indeed authentic.

Mr. Amsterdam peruses a seller’s wares

We were about to leave the Thunderdome, assuming the way out was gonna be duck soup when all of the sudden were halted by the media. It truly was an embarrassing moment “Goddammit, we were the media!” I could hear Detroit mutter under his breath. Or was this a compliment? Were we too well disguised? Media Person One and Media Person Two lined us up for an interview, assuming we were the average shoe enthusiasts, but we didn’t even know a goddamn thing! They asked us what the best sneaker drop was, passing the mic to Amsterdam. My heart skipped a beat. What the hell were we doing here? But despite all the odds Amsterdam kept his cool. He said he couldn’t share his answer, as it would be too controversial for the masses. Smart man. We narrowly escaped this one time, but the heat was too hot, and we needed to get out of there. The walls felt like they were closing in on us, any minute now they’ll find out who we really are! Sometimes I think to myself, is Mortal Engines just a clone of Howl’s Moving Castle? “No!” Detroit yells at me from across the small library table, “That has nothing to do with this article!” 

Anyway, as we fled the scene, an old guy called out to us. “You’re the drippiest ones here,” he said, referring to our outfits. There he was, the only source of sympathy in this hellhole. As I saw the convention center slowly fade away from the bus window, I could think only one thing. I’m fucking done with sneakers.

We stand in front of an idol to a shoe deity