Pants Quest. Broken Sandals. Poo in my Foot

My pants and sandals are falling apart. You may or may not be aware that I take great satisfaction in repairing things, and while I don’t claim to be good at it, I am usually good enough. And ‘good enough is perfect’ as they say, so by this philosophy you could argue that I am a perfect repairman, despite sucking.

I only have so many pants with me — two, to be exact. The pair that is falling apart was brought for the purpose of wearing them down into nothing, and I am glad to say that this has been accomplished. It is my intention to wear through all the many pants that my mom keeps buying for me until I have just two perfect pairs.

It is frustrating, therefore, that I do not have some more of my pants from Canada — I could start wearing through them as well, for at this time I am in a great pants wearing state of being, and I feel as though I would be able to burn through the majority of my superfluous wardrobe in just a few months. Oh, the woe, of not being as productive as I could be. And oh, the strangeness, to consider wearing pants productive.

The Cadet* World Wrestling Championships were just a little while ago, and so I made my way up to Serbia where I met up with my good friend Einhorn and a bright young Team Canada. I offered my services as a training partner; in exchange I received unused meal tickets, fishing line, and ring worm. Typical fair, really, from a wrestling team.

I don’t know if I’ve ever met a wrestling team that wasn’t fit for a movie. I could write at length about any team I’ve ever been involved with. This team included a little redneck girl that went to town and bought a frying pan to prove she could bend it without assistance, and also included an even littler girl who on two occasions had eaten her own vomit in front of her whole school in order to win a big mac** eating contest. There was no prize, but she assured us the bragging rights were all she needed***. Main topics of conversation included how to live like me, dictatorships, and cannibalism. It was almost startling to me, that I can feel so instantly at home at a wrestling tournament, or with a given wrestling team. To be sure, in my jungle with my monkeys I felt as at home as anywhere, but sadly most of those monkeys have died, and much of that jungle has been cleared away. I would need some time to settle into a new group and a new jungle, but in the bleachers, on the mat, among the whistles: I am already home.

The fishing line was requested for the purpose of repairing my sandals. They were utilized past what can be reasonably expected of them on the Camino de Santiago. I would never have guessed that I could walk over a hundred kilometers in flip flops with 40lbs on my back, but it turns out I can.

I was compelled to do so because my new hiking boots, which had been broken in for a few dozen kilometers before embarking on the journey and had given no indication of any problems, had worn my heels raw on the first day. Why on the camino and not before, I can’t be sure. Either God decided to intervene, or the additional weight on my back affected my gait in an unfavourable manner.

What matters is that I took to wearing my sandals (‘flip flops’, or ‘thongs’ — which I consider to be a subcategory of sandals) whenever possible. The advantages of flip flops are that they pack flat, are easy to put on and take off, and leave your feet in the open air. They are not, however, good for running, and they aren’t great for uneven terrain. And they are terrible in the rain, because once the surface in contact with your skin becomes wet, there is no friction — or anything else, for that matter — to hold your foot in place.

This particular trait was a problem, since it was raining almost constantly, and that some twist of fate would ensure that there was a good stretch of muddy path whenever I endeavoured to change into my flip flops — and wet flip flops are one thing, but when there is mud between your feet and the footwear there is simply no more walking to be done. You have to stop and wipe them clean. Or walk barefoot. About 30 seconds into my muddy barefoot excursions I stepped on broken glass and then cow poo. There was nowhere to stop and clean my feet for some time, and so I continued on knowing that the poo was seeping right into my precious little foot. Yes this sucked. It sucked very much.

Some days, to be sure, were better than others. I was blessed on this journey, with the most amiable of walking companions: Samantha from Ohio. She was infinitely patient with my frequent necessity to stop to change between boots and sandals or to wipe the mud from my feet, was up for arguing about politics and systems of governance at length, and was always happy to stop and enjoy any pretty place we happened upon. I probably walked over 200 km with her, and she didn’t try to kill me even once (that I know of).

During the walk my white pants were still quite good, and their special ability to convert into shorts was invaluable. The journey as a whole, however, basically destroyed my sandals, and they became unusable while I was in Croatia, where I had taken refuge from the evil Schengen Tourism restrictions.

The first repairs, using thread, did not last long; the second, with twine, are continuing to hold out against all expectation — largely because I underestimated the friction coefficient of the material (for the length exposed on the lower surface of the sole has long frayed away). The fishing line is thus waiting in reserve, and will surely take the flip flops to the end of their natural life, which is of course when the sole has worn through.

I had actually used up all my thread and broke maybe four needles in repairs on this trip. And so I ended up trying to fix my white pants with fishing line — because that’s what was available when one of the legs fell off while I was sitting in a hotel talking to wrestlers, who were much impressed to see me sewing the pants I was wearing. I don’t think even one of them questioned why I didn’t just buy new pants, which endeared them to me greatly.

The problem with the pants is that they are worn so thin that they no longer have the constitution to hold thread, be it for stitching or securing a patch. Fabric glue also failed to work sufficiently (but my tube of the stuff managed to break in my bag causing some unintended pocket formations). If I continue to wear the pants, I’m sure they will simply evaporate at the most inopportune of times. Nothing save a pants-shaped patch will save them now.

There were a range of other things it is absolutely vital to talk about, like my hair. But these things will have to wait. Today, on Friday the 13th, I believe I wore my white pants for the very last time. I do not have a replacement for them yet, and so will soon be travelling with just. one. pair. Of pants.

I am of course aware of the vulnerabilities one is open to when travelling with just one pair of pants. Perhaps my next email will be entitled “through the balkans without my pants.” Who knows what fortune or misfortune will befall me, or what will draw me out into the wide wide world, while my only pair of pants is drying on the clothesline. You can be sure that it will never stop raining, and at some point I will find myself wet and naked, trying to buy bread from what will turn out to be a drug dealer. Or something like that.

may you find fortune of all kinds,

may your pants hold true,

and may you ‘scape stepping

on glass

and then poo.




still in pants

* Cadet: 17 yrs and under.

** Why the corporations are being promoted within public schools is another matter, and why these sanctioned promotions take the form of glorifying unhealthy eating habits yet another.

*** They even had to pay for the big macs!

originally sent September 13, 2013

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