Ballad Of Billy Butts

A "float" at Mountain Days
Queen waves to crowd at Sandy Mountain festival

I live in a small town, a cute town with a donut shop named “Joe’s” and a coffee shop named “Mountain Moka”–yes they spell mocha with a “K”–’cause Ks are real Klassy.

364 days of the year, Sandy, OR is a layover to your weekend camping trip to Mt. Hood. We’re an afterthought, a place swing in for gas or grub, except for one Thursday in July. On that singular day, for a few brief hours, Sandy, quite literally stops traffic on the only highway leading up to Mt. Hood to hold our annual Mountain Days parade and crooked carnival. The week leading up to the parade, citizens place chairs on the sidewalk, staking out their views for the procession of “floats”, which are simply cars trucks and vans with a little bit of window paint and streamers full of teens who toss candy out to kids on the street.

I grew up in San Jose, CA, which is not a small town by any means. If you placed a folding chair on the street a hobo would steal it before he tried to take your wallet.  San Jose is a loud obnoxious city with a weird clapping ritual at the Century 21 movie theater on Bascom Avenue. So I think mountain days is charming in its own way and it inspired me a ballad. (Read this ditty to the tune of Giligan’s Island)

The Ballad of Billy Butts

Now here’s a tale of a little town
Whose pride is bold and true.
In summer when the sun is out,
A fair is what they do.

The streets are cleared: a grand parade.
On curbs, folk park their chairs–
Some days ahead to claim their spots,
Ensuring views are theirs.

But Billy fell upon the scene:
That night, he rigged the streets:
Instead of chairs: a bed of nails,
He left them for their seats.

How cruel! How mean! the mayor bawled
How can we all proceed?
What nasty waif swiped all our chairs?
Who have we disagreed?

Two miles away his truck was full
With folding chairs and nails.
The driver spoke up to himself,
They’ll never find my trails!

The light was red; his truck went through.
The police flagged him down.
Some chairs! Some nails! the copper said,
And then a mighty frown!

To jail he went, the petty thug.
And that is where he’ll stay
His cell is hard, his butt is sore:
His seats, taken away!

Six Word Saturday

These shoes are killing me, not!!!!!!

barefoot running injury
Uh oh

One of my favorite podcasts recently ran a show about the Tormentor of the Toes, the modern day sneaker. In the show, Steven Dubner interviews Dr. Lieberman,  an evolutionary biologist  who teaches at Harvard, and Elizabeth Semmelhack, a curator at the Brooklyn Museum who worked on the Rise of the Sneaker exhibit.  The episode explores the benefits of walking, running, and moving about the planet without shoes. It also clarifies a few of the benefits of protective footwear. I love Freakanomics. It’s an exceptional show. Listen to These Shoes Are Killing Me!

Freakamonics Radio
Explore the hidden side of everything.

Freakanomics Podcast

They Refused To Wear Shoes: 5 Famous Barefoot Superstars

You don’t need shoes to become a celebrity or a sell out. Checkout these five famous luminaries who tread the streets in bare feet.

Codi Lundin

Cody Lundin Barefoot Guru & survival Expert
Codi Lundin barefoot aboriginal life skills teacher.

This hardcore savage co-hosted of Discovery Channel’s popular reality television series, Dual Survival until the hollywood hacks replaced Dave Canterberry (a shod, but awesome dude) with an ornery pile of spicy donkey crap named Joe Teti.

Despite leaving the show, Codi continues to share his valuable expertise at his Aboriginal Living Skills School in Prescott, Arizona. He focuses on working with Mother Nature, not against her. You can learn more about his particular approach to life and to survival from his delightfully illustrated book, 98.6 How to Keep Your Ass Alive!

Steve Jobs

Barefoot Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs Barefoot during his days at Reed College.

I almost didn’t include Steve Jobs because of his disgraceful ethics. That said, the man was not stupid and revolutionized the computer industry. When he was just a poor entitled, middle class white male, little Stevie Jobs shunned shoes. According to Walter Isaacson while Steve attended Reed College in Oregon he “went barefoot most of the time, wearing sandals when it snowed”. To his credit even after making it big, Steve didn’t ditch his partiality for the sanctity of his lower leg often shopping at the super market in his bare feet.

Abebe Bikila

Faster barefoot
Abede Bikila winning the 1960 Olympic marathon in Rome

Abebe was an Ethiopian double Olympic marathon champion. He set a world record when he won the marathon at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome running barefoot. I wrote a separate blog post about how a minimalist shoe company tried to steal this man’s amazing legacy.

Pheidippides

Phidippides
Phidippides delivering word of victory before giving up the ghost.

Philippides inspired the marathon and the Spartathon. He is credited with running from Marathon to Athens (150 miles) to deliver news of a military victory against the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. It took him only two days. The Spartathon is described as the world’s most grueling races, it runs over rough tracks and muddy paths, crosses vineyards and olive groves, climbs steep hillsides and, most challenging of all, takes the runners on the 1,200 meter ascent and descent of Mount Parthenio in the dead of night. The  ominous mountain is covered with jagged rocks and thorny bushes, on which it is said Pheidippides met the god Pan. There is still no pathway over the mountain that is swept by strong winds with temperatures as low as 4°C. Even the finest athletes hallucinate as they cover the final stages of this epic race that retraces the naked foot steps of Pheidippides the ancient Athenian herald*.

Uma Thurman

Movie star Uma Thurman barefoot
Uma Thurman barefoot Cannes festival 2015

She is a semi-main stream actor who was married to both Ethan Hawke and Gary Oldman for brief periods–you can’t get anymore Gen X than that!  In 2015, she ignored the requirement for women to wear heels at this Cannes Film Festival parading around barefoot instead.

*Pheidippides was a hemerodrome , which means “day-runner / professional courier”.

Barefoot Running Could Make Trump a Better President?

Trump white suit barefoot
Donal Trump is his bare feet.

Let’s be honest, barefoot running hurts like hell for the first few months. It’s not easy. You can’t just barge out the door and stampede down the streets like a wild rhino. It takes time. It takes patience. It takes a strong mind and a strong heart.

Not everyone can run barefoot because not everyone has thick skin. And that’s what you need when you run unshod. You need thick skin, tough skin.  Does Donald Trump have thick skin? No! No! No! Read his tweets about being parodied on SNL:

Wimpy Trump Cries to Twitter
Wimpy Trump Whines Twitter

Trump’s skin has been sculpted by a surgeon’s blade, powdered and colored for camera, crowd and stage. It’s frail skin, flimsy as toilet tissue.

The Donald couldn’t run barefoot, not even for a block, not even a few paces, not even one big toe dipped gingerly on the plush white house lawn. He doesn’t have the spirit for it.

But what would happen if he did decide to chuck his loafers and socks for a day hike in the forest. Without the fabricated barrier between his body and the ground, he might feel the pulsing energy of the earth rising up through the dirt, he might experience the enchanting dribble of soothing raindrops flowing down his instep, he might even succumb to the primal urge of dance. And then, swinging and swaying to an invisible rhythm, barefoot between the wet cedars and pines, he might reconsider strip mining for Coal, ransacking planned parenthood, and banning Muslims from our borders. It certainly wouldn’t be enough to make him a great president, but it would be a start.

If Trump did start running, or even just walking barefoot, America might not be lost in its teenage self indulgence. And I along with all of the other barefoot runners from around the world would rejoice, knowing that Trump’s bare feet would be hitting the cold, hard streets of DC and hurting like hell for the first few months.

Until then, I leave you with this:

What Vibram 5 Fingers Did To This Olympic Champion Will Piss You Off

Vibram Rips Off Barefoot Olympic Champion's Family.
Vibram Rips Off Barefoot Olympic Champion’s Family.

It’s September 10, 1960 and Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila, is leading the pack in the Olympic Marathon in Rome, Italy. Morocco’s Abdesian Rhadi is chasing closely behind, but Rhadi can’t catch the remarkably fast barefoot Ethopian, who finishes in about 2 hours, 15 minutes, taking the gold and shattering the Olympic marathon record by almost eight minutes.

Bikila wasn’t even supposed to race that hot day in September-he was a last minute addition to the Ethiopian team when their star runner got sick.

Despite Bikilia’s amazing victory, his story doesn’t end happily. In 1969 a terrible crash leaves him paralyzed; when asked about the accident, he says:

“Men of success meet with tragedy. It was the will of God that I won the Olympics, and it was the will of God that I met with my accident. I accepted those victories as I accept this tragedy.”

He dies of complications, just a few years later.

There is no doubt that Bikili is a champion in every way. He epitomizes determination and the runner’s spirit.  In 2010, on the heels of the barefoot running craze, Vibram Five Fingers decides to make the barefoot olympian the poster child for minimalist running, introducing the Bikili line of five finger running shoes, trademarking the Bikili name to protect their golden goose. There’s just one problem: Bikila’s family never gives Vibram permission to use Bikili’s name in any way shape or form. When the family discovers that Bikili’s name is being used without permission, they sue Vibram in U.S. District Court, seeking monetary damages.

Unfortunately, Judge Ronald Leighton dismisses the case, leaving the family out in the cold.  The lawyer for Bikili’s family writes, “The fact remains that Vibram has never asked the Bikila Family for permission, nor compensated them for using Abebe Bikila’s personality….We hope that the parties can ultimately resolve their differences and the Bikila family can continue to promote the legacy of Abebe Bikila.”

Is this really what Vibram wants to be remembered for? Stealing an olympic champion’s legacy.

Chasing Wolves

English: Engraving of a black wolf by J. G. Ke...
English: Engraving of a black wolf by J. G. Keulemans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a boy, my grandfather gave me a slingshot. I used it almost everyday in the open field near his house. One day I set up range with rusty tin cans and dirty old beer bottles near a giant oak tree. Perched on one of the long gnarly limbs of the tree was a dove. It was sitting so still, gazing down at me. I don’t know what got into me, but I grabbed a jagged rock, loaded it into the slingshot, pulled back as far as I could, and aimed at the bird.

The dove wasn’t like the cans, it didn’t just fall over when the rock struck it; instead its lightly feathered breast absorbed the sharp rock with a soft thump; the dove cried out with dull and painful murmur as it struggled to heave itself into the sky. With its chest crushed, it couldn’t fly, pulsing wildly in the air as it tumbled into a patch of tall grass near the base of the oak. I sprinted over, watching it beat its wings back and forth against the dirt and grass, trying to breathe into its smashed breast, its strength slowly fading from it, dark blood trickling from its beak. I remember looking into its eyes, they seemed to say to me “Why did you do this to me?” I had no answer. So I just stared at it, stunned. Slowly the stroke of the dove’s wings waned until it lay still, its outstretched wings facing heaven. The moment it died, I sensed the presence of my ancestors, watching me from above, scowling down with disapproval.

I felt heartsick. Something snapped deep inside my being, a flood of guilt and shame rushed into my soul. I felt dirty, sullied, unclean. I clutched at my chest trying to wipe the feeling away, but the stain remained.

I ran into my grandfather’s house crying. He gathered me up in his big carpenter’s arms and held me, rocking me back and forth in his burly armchair. My head against his chest with tears in my eyes, I told him what I had done. He let me cry for a while, and when I had calmed down, he told me this story:

He said inside everyone is a black wolf. And this black wolf is cruelty, fear, ignorance: everything evil. But also inside everyone is a white wolf. And this white wolf is love, courage, curiosity: everything good. At some point in everyone’s life, these two wolves start to fight. When the black wolf is winning, he said, you’ll feel the way you do now: confused, sad, unfulfilled. But when the white wolf is winning you’ll feel focused, happy, fulfilled. If you’re not careful, he warned, the black wolf can gradually take control of you, leading you down very dark paths. I knew that I didn’t want follow the black wolf; so,  I asked my grandfather what I could do to fight it. He put his hands on my shoulders and said, “To fight the black wolf, you must feed the white one, giving him more power and strength than the black one.” Then he told me to find the body of the dove, apologize to it, dig a grave for it and to bury the slingshot next to it. I did what my grandfather told me to do and I felt much better. When I patted the last scoop of dirt on the grave, I could tell that my my ancestors and the dove were pleased.

Sometimes when I’m alone on long barefoot runs on the remote trails of the  Oregon wilderness, I feel a powerful presence leading the way, guarding me from the black wolves prowling in the dark shadows.

Which wolf are you feeding?