Miles in my shoes

I have a pair of shoes that have become conversation pieces, among a certain set. They are not Manolo Blahniks—far from it—and for all I know Manolos have been replaced by another brand now, in a more esoterically cool way.
No, these are my Tretorns—the most basic tennis shoes (excluding Keds) you can buy. Or, at least you used to be able to buy them, at Lady’s Foot Locker or wherever. They cost just under $30 as I recall. This is when I was in college. I had a few pairs, one of which I ceremoniously tossed after a nasty Mardi Gras weekend which rendered them smelling of the French Quarter (the French Quarter during Mardi Gras, which I guess is slightly worse smelling than your typical French Quarter weekend). Did not occur to me I could have simply put them in the wash upon return home. Of course, neither did it occur to me that Tretorn would pull them off the shelves in the near future, only for them to resurface after a few years on the Internet at premium, non–Keds–like, prices. So after the pair I didn’t throw away eventually disintegrated, I missed that New Orleans set, which were nearly brand new at the time of the trip.
Of course, I could tell you a lot more about that trip that would have nothing to do with the shoes, and why not? My friend Mitch’s relative owned the landmark French Quarter restaurant Tujagues, and we spent at least two evenings there during one of our visits—once, having dinner; a second time sleeping it off in a private upstairs dining room. None of it was pretty, though it seemed it at the time—my friend Leah and I holding one of our particularly inappropriate contests (who can kiss the most boys in a two-hour period?) or my friend Jack, after spraining his ankle when he fell off a sidewalk and then, a few painkillers later, slipped into his Ragin’ Canjun persona, in which he berated everyone in sight in a terrible Cajun accent.
I believe during this trip two of my male friends were also nearly arrested for use of public non–rest rooms. In their defense, I believe authorized rest rooms were in short supply over Mardi Gras.
Meanwhile, being the naïve college girl that I was, this was the first I learned that “black beans and rice” traditionally include sausage. Seriously. Growing up in Dallas, there was a place my family often frequented that served just that—black beans and rice, no sausage involved. I hate pork and complained mightily about this “new” version that weekend in New Orleans. How my friends put up with me is a mystery.
But now I have the Tretorns, again, and I was so grateful to find them having resurfaced that I paid an obscene price for them. They aren’t even as colorful—previously available with plaid or paisley designs—as they once were.
But once in a while, someone will stop, stare and say, “My God, I remember those.” It’s a touch of common ground.
Alas, even these are now falling apart, which I guess gives them extra street cred. But once they really do waste away I’ll want to bite the bullet and buy another pair, and I’ll miss the old days all over again—the affordable Tretorns, the Rajin’ Cajun, those beloved beignets at Café DuMonde, the smell of spilled drinks and aging vomit on a sunny Quarter morning, once again.

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