This story is brought to you by the quest for the perfect boot.
Did you say perfect butt…as in ass? NO, I mean boot like shoe…like these boots were made for walking. This quest led me to a man named Murray, which then led to a bookstore, and then back to Murray. Then it led me to a computer and will hopefully lead you back to Murray. (Confusing I know…but please try and follow.) As New Yorkers know… and we do know everything… there is that one perfect pair of shoes you can wear with anything. Even more specifically, there is the New York actor: one who needs an even more specific shoe they can wear with everything, AND travel around the country having it serve as a viable piece of footwear in all climates. This was me. Now that I am embarking on extended employment throughout the country I felt it time to find one boot to suit all occasions: opening nights, traveling, outings, bus trips, outdoor excursions and midget partnering Yoga (huge in Oregon). So… you may be reading and wondering how my usual twist on a healthy supplement or natural physical improvement comes into this article. Trust me, it will be there.
So where does one search for boots in the city? Shhhhh… I’m going to tell you. Take the yellow train with an N on it to 8th street. From there you walk west on 8th and after about 4 blocks you will be in the heart of about 5 boot shops, all alike in stature and décor, most of them having opened up in the early seventies and eighties and carrying thousands of shoes. Many so old they were born from a discontinued model and have only one size… but if you’re that lucky Cinderella who’s little pig hoof fits, you’ve got yourself a vintage treasure. Oink.
Moving along… So, I found a great pair of a Harley Davidson Roadster motorcycle boots. They had a flat black finish, great price, decent fit (ish), and in the pressure of the moment I bought the cool, affordable, not-so-great-fitting-boot and went on my merry way. Fast forward two Avenues and 15 city blocks later and I had problems. The boots I “NEEDED” to wear out of the store were doing some serious damage to my hooves. My heels hurt, my big toe was thrust over the 2nd biggest toe, my arches were throbbing, and it was a general mess. Actually, on the subway my bunion said, out loud no less (in a NYC wise guy accent), “Hey, hey! Are you fucking kidding me with this situation down here? I just met the pinky toe and we are opposite sides of the foot-hemisphere!” Needless to say… that was an awkward moment for everyone. Stupid talking bunion. Dumb Boots.
At this point I knew there was only one thing to do: go back. Go back with my shoppers pride dragging on the floor and ask for a refund. I also realized the odds of this, having worn the shoes into the street: not good. (Somewhere in this story I found better boots, while trying to help a friend shop for herself… this is the way shoe karma goes… you always find great stuff when looking for someone else). So I made my way back down to 8th street and Stylish Shoe (singular…not plural) to make my plight. My first obstacle was a Portuguese woman at the desk with a limited English vocabulary and the look of death. As I walked back into Stylish Shoe with my boots in a plastic bag, she already knew what I wanted. I simply got the shake of a head and the sentence, “We no taking boots back from customer. Store Credit for you!” Then she called over the owner… Murray. Murray looked as though he had seen better days and approached my front counter with a pace that would rival a turtle. He again opened with a quote of store policy and asked me if I could find something else I wanted to exchange the boots for. In my retort I explained I had gotten a new pair already, I lived on tour, and had no room to travel extra shoes, I also offered to pay a 20 $ restocking fee if he would return the shoes…as I didn’t want to have boots I couldn’t wear and hated the idea of them going to waste in my trunk. He took a moment, paused and smiled. In a jewish east village accent, he said, “I always like to work with the customer. And for you, today, we are returning the shoe. Come, let’s get you a refund.” I was happy, to say the least. And then I noticed something.
As Murray struggled to fill out paper work… his right hand was trembling so bad he could not write with a pen. His assistant took over and began the task. In this awkward moment I bluntly asked (like I do), “What’s going on with the hand?”. “Parkinsons”, he replied. At this moment some would have said, ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘That’s terrible’. I did not. I feel anyone who is struggling… no, living… with any disease wants least of all, pity. I mean, we all have our cross to bear and this was Murray’s, but my sappy condolence would do anything BUT lighten the load. So I didn’t skip a beat. I proceeded to converse and ask how far along he was, daily medication list, and how he was dealing with day-to-day life. ( As many know I consider myself an unofficial expert on all things medical.) He then pulled back his flannel shirt to reveal a large box hung from his shoulder, wires ran into his stomach from a the machine which beeped and blinked like an electric lunch box. He spoke with the simplest matter-of-fact tone, “What’s been hard lately is the stomach cancer, for which I’m being infused daily with chemo. But this little device lets me continue to run the boot shop during the day.” I was floored. “Jesus,” I said, as if to call someone down here right now and give this guy a hand. This moment hit me. I had nothing. The only place my mind could go was to what it must have been like for him to be there selling boots on that day… or dealing with fickle customers who couldn’t make up their minds (me). He proceeded to tell me that he had no family left, only a passing friend to help him get through really bad days and that the store was his last hurrah. Being a retired accountant, he spoke of how he had always dreamed of owning a nice shoe store.
After a long pause I jumped in. “Well, Murray, I know this is a tough time, but can I ask how you are fueling your body while in this process of extreme stress and large doses of medication?” “McDonalds. I do love cheese and coffee, lots of takeout… Things that are easy”, he replied. Without another breath I knew why I was there. I jumped in with the benefits of a healthy diet, book recommendations, and talked about my experience as a cancer survivor. I explained how he could gain energy and put himself in a position to better deal with chemo through better nutrition. I told him that of course I’m not a doctor, but I believe this with my whole heart: That what you put in reflects the energy yield in your body’s systems. And right now, Murray, you need everything you can get. He attempted to scribble down what I had said down on the back of a receipt, the chicken scratches on the back of the paper hurt my heart. He then asked if candy and sweets were good before bed. Hmm… frustrated, I felt like I had just given an iPad demo to my grandpa and then he tried use it as a cutting board. I knew he needed more time, help, and info. I collected myself, said my goodbyes, and wished him the best. As I left he said, “You know, I really want to know more about this good food stuff, and I want to eat better. I just don’t know how.” I smiled and just said, “Be strong, my friend.”
The second I left the store my heart started to race, I ran to the clerk at Barnes and Noble and asked for “Chris Carr’s Crazy, Sexy, Cancer Tips.” A paint by numbers guild to fool-proof cancer treatment nutrition. This book, one of my favs, outlines everything I believe in when it comes to what to and what NOT to eat. It’s a great read for anyone looking to change up the standard American diet and takes into account everything a person needed to heal: mind, body and spirit. It uses bold print and pictures and most chapters are not more than a dozen pages long, yet to my dismay, the book was out! Crap. The manager then asked me to hold on a second and noticed she had seen a box at the top of the stairs of new books and I quote, “We get orders in all the time, you never know what’s going to be in there.” So, as you may have guessed, they opened the box and what was the first book? Crazy, Sexy Cancer Tips. Cha-ching!
I wrote a small note inside the front cover and headed back to Stylish Shoe (singular). I found Murray hard at work with a few customers and waited patiently by the door. As he did before, he slowly made his way over to me with a look of confusion. “Did you forget something?” he asked. “No Sir, I bought you this book and I want you to promise me you will read it. I’ve given you a business card so anytime you have any questions please call me.” Murray tried to talk but nothing came out. All he could do was stumble to the register, eyes full of tears and pull out money to give to me. “Here. Here, I will pay you… let me give you something?!” “No. I am giving you a gift and I am wishing you strength. I will check back in a few months… be well.” As I started out the door, (now I’m crying and are the other sales people as well as the two patrons in the store) he raised his hand and shouted “ God bless… God bless you.” And that was it. That was my life changing experience.
As I walked down the street my head was spinning. I could only hope Murray would find a support system and come through his struggle the better for it. I thought about my experience, how lucky I was to have such a great family and caring friends who took care of me when I was sick. And then it hit me… I had this epiphany. Life is very short. Ten thousand years human beings have risen and fallen and the things in life that seem so important mean nothing at all. Your job, your house, your credit cards, the role you want in a show so badly, that audition (I’m clearly narrating for an actor), anything material. These things which consume us will not with stand the test of time. So, what will? Kindness. Kindness towards your fellow man or woman could send unknown waves of positive energy through generations. Imagine if we all woke up tomorrow and found a stranger, someone you owe nothing to. You find this stranger and you connect. You offer your ear, your time, a smile… maybe a cup of coffee. Who knows? And it doesn’t have to be a stranger, it could be your friend… no one is off limits!
So, relating this to my health blog, do you remember in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, the part when he gives the presents back to the Who’s in Whoville? Remember when his heart swelled and grew ten times?! Yeah… that just happened to me. So I can assure you it will be good for you and your heart! And acts of kindness are free. So get going! Unless you buy them a book….but it’s still not expensive. That book was one cocktail at the bar, so don’t say you can’t afford to treat someone…it’s just a choice what we spend our money on.
Also, I’m gonna put the address for Stylish Shoe up here and if anyone feels like and is in the area…possibly shopping for boots…stop by and give Murray a hug, or shop at his store or send him a smile! He could really use it!
All Season Boots
“The Best Of The West”
19 west 8th street NYC 10011
bet. 5th and 6th Ave.
2014 Update: Unfortunately the show shop has closed, there is a new store there and I would guess Murray is gone as well. Looking back to read this article, it still makes me smile and I have to say I am very thankful I was open to receiving the moment. That’s part of the magic of writing things down. I can go back and without too much effort, see Murray’s face, I can hear his voice and smell the boot shop. This sweet old guy in the village changed my life for that one afternoon interaction and maybe by someone reading this, their too. At any rate this is the magic of writing, be present, and interacting on a personal level with strangers in the city.