Brown shoes," said Frank Zappa in the spirit of, oh, let's call it absolute freedom, "don't make it."

Of course, FZ had more in mind than mere fashion advice or an exhortation to those hungry freaks, daddy, but then he always did, and besides he had what sounded like a twelve-tone string quartet going on in the middle of things, which probably counted for more in the long run.

Still, brown shoes have never gotten much respect. How much for the car, Ralph Spoilsport?

Only what the traffic will allow, in small, unmarked bills delivered to me, Ralph Icebag, in a plain brown wrapper, by a brown-shoed square, in the dead of night.

The epitome of L7ness. The only thing worse would be wingtips. (I know this; I once trod almost the entire length of the Boardwalk at Seaside Heights in a pair of wingtips. Then again, they were black wingtips.)

Okay, I'm square. Cubic. Tesseractual, maybe. There was a time when I might have worried about this. And I never believed Huey's nonsense about it being "hip" to be square; after all, he was talking about former freaks who went through some weird suburban defreakization, and he was presumably trying to reassure them. Me, I've never been more than a few degrees off kilter.

This is not to say that I've been some champion of conformity or anything like that: it does mean, however, that while I might be too weird for normal people, I'm far too normal for weird people. And I have a few, um, possible oddities to my credit: among other things, I rode a bicycle up a mountain (and then down that mountain) in the dead of night, I beat a team with actual Master Points in an American Contract Bridge League-sanctioned tournament with an unrepentant, half-in-the-bag spades player as a partner, I played a corpse in a "home video" shot at Kerr Park in downtown Oklahoma City (drawing the attention of the cops, who were worked into the scene), and I took a Messianic Jew to an ale house. Not many people can claim even one of these.

Besides, my kids turned out sane. Oh, yeah, my daughter once listed her interests on an online profile as "home improvements and death metal," and my son plays about half a dozen musical instruments but prefers the louder ones, but then they're young. They'll adjust. A little.

So I can smile when I remember George Gobel saying "Did you ever feel like the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?" I do, George. And I think the world is just a little not a lot, but a little overdressed.

The Vent

  8 February 2005

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 Copyright © 2005 by Charles G. Hill