June 20, 2010

One Shoe Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

Good morning and greetings, summer solstice fans. As you know, the Katie Couric in me likes to report on the important news of the day. Whether we’re talking the oil spill, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the secret to those “nooks and crannies” in Thomas’ English Muffins, I don’t want my cyber peeps to miss out on anything important that occurs on my watch.

So you may not have seen this next story, reported by Randolph E. Schmid for the Associated Press, but fear not, my weekly readers, for I have it covered like buttercream frosting on a triple fudge chocolate cake.

Ethel Merman once crooned, “there’s no business like shoe business.” Well, about 5,500 years ago, or around the birth of John McCain, someone in the mountains of Armenia put their best foot forward in what is now the oldest leather shoe ever found. It will never be confused with a clog, a Jimmy Choo or Cinderella’s glass slipper, but this well-preserved Prince Charming of footwear was made of a single piece of leather, laced up the front and back, like a Paris Hilton sweat suit.

Worn and shaped by the wearer’s right foot, the shoe was found in a cave along with an argyle sock and an insert from Dr. Scholl’s. The shoe had been stuffed with grass, a lawn mower and a tiny rake, which all dated back to the same time as the leather of the shoe – between 5,637 and 5,387 years ago.

“This is great luck,” enthused archaeologist and mocassin collector Ron Pinhasi of University College Cork in Cork, Ireland, who led the research team. “We normally only find broken pots, egg timers and microwaves, but we have very little information about the day-to-day activity” of these ancient people. “What did they eat? What did they do? What did they wear? What was Bernie Madoff thinking? This gives us a real glimpse into their society and secretive hedge-funds.”

Previously the oldest leather shoe discovered in Europe or Asia was on the famous Otzi, the “Iceman” found frozen in the Alps a few years ago and now preserved in Italy. Well, either that or a Chuck Taylor hightop Converse sneaker dating back to the early Harlem Globetrotter days. Otzi’s shoes were made of deer and bear leather held together by a leather strap. The Armenian shoe appears to be made of cowhide, which is very similar to a pair of leather chaps I bought at a rodeo in San Francisco.

Older sandals and a pair of Ugg Boots have been found in a cave in the state of Missouri, but those were made of fiber rather than leather. The shoe found in what is now Armenia was found in a pit, along with a broken pot, some wild goat horns and a letter of apology from Tiger Woods.

It’s not clear if the grass that filled the shoe was intended as a lining or insulation, to maintain the shape of the shoe when it was stored or an early cure for preventive glaucoma. The Armenian shoe was small by current standards – European size 37 or U.S. women’s size 7 – but might have fit a man of that era, like a young Wayne Newton or Pee Wee Herman.

While the Armenian shoe was soft like a piece of brie cheese when it was unearthed, the leather has begun to harden like Coach Bobby Knight since it has been exposed to air. And unlike a lot of old shoes, it didn’t smell, which explains the bottle of Dr. Scholl’s Odor Destroyer All Day Deodorant Spray found nearby.

Pinhasi says the shoe is currently at the Institute of Archaeology in Yerevan, but he hopes it will be sent to laboratories in either Switzerland or Germany where it can be treated for preservation with Desenex Antifungal Spray and then returned to Armenia for display in a museum or a Lady Foot Locker. Because as we all know, the shoe must go on.

Moving on to our photo funhouse, in honor of the first day of summer, we’re featuring the first sunrise of the new decade (photos #1-2.) On the morning of January 1, 2010, I journeyed down to West Cliff Drive to meditate and greet the new millenium. It was an overcast morning, but then a hint of light appeared in the east, and as I strummed “this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius” on my autoharp, the sky broke and this delightful color appeared. There is something to be said about being first or a Yankee fan.

We follow this sunrise with a beautiful sunset from eleven days later. These rich images were captured at Natural Bridges as January was a spectacular month for experiencing the pagentry and colors of the coastal sky and for returning holiday gifts. My favorite image is #5, as I zoomed in on this squadron of pelicans heading south at happy hour, who, I found out later, were headed for the early bird special.

On to the late night fun fare. “President Obama is now in the Gulf of Mexico. This is his fourth visit since the spill. So the president has been down there four times. And the head of BP is saying, ‘Well see, it hasn’t affected tourism.’ “Thanks to BP, the Gulf now has two new islands: self-service and full.” –David Letterman “There is good news! BP today finally managed to almost completely stop the flow of information. There is good news. Scientists sent a probe down there in the Gulf of Mexico today and they found traces of seawater.” –Bill Maher

“Here’s a little bit of good news. The Coast Guard says that BP is now catching up to 630,000 gallons of oil a day. The bad news is that they’re capturing it with ducks. The White House said today that BP is moving up its timeline for containing the oil by two weeks. They said they’d get it ‘done, even if they have to work six hours a day, four days a week.’ “There’s some good economic news here. Employers plan to hire 5 percent more college graduates this year than in 2009. Unfortunately, almost all these jobs involve rubber gloves, paper towels, and a one-way ticket to the Gulf of Mexico.” –Jimmy Fallon

“According to a new report, BP has the worst safety record of all the oil companies. They’ve paid over $372 million in fines. Oh, they don’t call them fines. They call them ‘campaign contributions.’” –Jay Leno “The U.S. will face England in the World Cup, and the U.S. ambassador and the U.K. ambassador have made a friendly wager on the game. If England wins, we have to buy their ambassador tea and crumpets, and if we win, they have to buy us a new ocean. “Did you hear about this? In Afghanistan, the U.S. has discovered large deposits of iron, copper, cobalt, gold, and lithium. Or, as most people would call it, ‘not Osama bin Laden.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Today, President Obama finally met with BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward, but the meeting was only scheduled 20 minutes. Call me crazy, but I think it should take more time to discuss an oil spill than it does to get your oil checked.” –Jimmy Fallon “These British Petroleum guys can’t do anything right. The chairman of BP, Carl-Henric Svanberg, told reporters that sometimes large oil companies are greedy and don’t care, but ‘not BP. We care about the small people.’ That’s what he called the residents of the Gulf — ‘the small people.’ But to be fair, English is not the guy’s first language. Money is. See, the problem is I do believe they care about the small people. Problem is, they don’t care about the big leak.” –Jay Leno

“And then today, the president met with BP CEO Tony Hayward, and Obama was demanding that BP clean up the gulf. And I’m thinking, good luck. They can’t even clean up their gas station restrooms.” –David Letterman David Letterman’s “Top Ten Things Overheard During President Obama’s Meeting with Tony Hayward” 7.”Speaking of leaks, where’s the men’s room?”
6.”Thanks for giving my administration something to worry about besides two wars, a crushing debt, global warming and the worst economy in 70 years” 2.”Biden, please, enough with the vuvuzela”

That’s our first post for the summer of 2010. Congratulations go out to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers for knocking off the Boston Celtics in a hard-fought, seven game series to capture their second consecutive NBA title. It’s always sad when the short, eight month NBA season comes to end, but it will give me a chance to work on my poetry, song writing and body sculpting.

So enjoy the official start of summer, the longest Monday of the year and we’ll catch you at the NBA draft. Aloha, mahalo and later, Phil Jackson fans.


  1. Hello Summer and to your loyal puppy Summer too! Great selection of photos to celebrate our coastal living. Yes, number 5 photo is one of our favorites too… that same squadron of Peligans were spotted heading north from the Pebble Beach 2010 PGA US Open yesterday. This past Saturday had some great US Open golf moments, especially with Tiger Woods. The smart plays and win went to the new arrival and very composed young Irishman, McDowell. Thanks for the great 2010 “USGG” Summer Blog Opener. Happy post Father’s day.

    Comment by Babs — June 21, 2010 @ 7:44 am

  2. beautiful pictures and trenchant observations – you were really rolling! Mom

    Comment by Lee Gilbert — June 21, 2010 @ 8:49 am

  3. Any discovery of Billy White shoes Johnson? Love those pelicans in flight formation over the clouds. Happy belated dad’s day bro.

    Comment by Jerry Hoffman — June 21, 2010 @ 11:58 am

  4. You really stepped in it with this blog. I’m wedging it in the briefcase — despite your lack of coverage from US Open or Game 7. Seriously, I haven’t seen uglier shots since Tiger Woods’ stable. Oh, well, at least I have SC Football.

    Comment by Andy Patman — June 21, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

  5. It’s time to bring those babies back from obscurity!

    Sent from my iPhone 4G

    Comment by GSX-R600 gurl — July 13, 2010 @ 2:23 am

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