To all the shoe lunatics in the world!

Some people never go crazy. What a terrible life they must have”.

That’s what Charles Bukowski wrote. And had the voluntary lessons at my former high school been more exciting, I would probably never have met the “Dirty Old Man”. I took the literature work group at that time for lack of alternatives. The offer included Latin (dead), astronomy (stars hanging too high), biology (which I hated after the teacher was thrown out, who roasted his meatloaf on the Bunsen burner during the break) or simply books. Since I couldn’t and can’t do anything with chemistry, physics and numbers at all, I decided on the letters.

Until then, I had only read what in class had been rammed into us until the urge of vomit. The story of Mrs. Braun, who kills the murderer of her child. Goethe. Schiller. Kafka. All of them long since arrived in heaven of the scribblers and, to be honest, so boring for teenagers that you show the teacher the braces every minute while yawning.

Our teacher had spread out some books on the table. Everyone should choose one. I randomly grabbed any and got hold of one of Charles Bukowski. I trotted home with it and sat down in the rattan armchair. People of my generation know that rattan chairs were the latest craze back then. I also screamed when I got it alongside with the identical counterpart and a matching table. But not in rapture. The gift from my parents, who had promised me something very big for my 18th birthday. I expected – of course – a car. So instead, these ugly-ass seats. At least, the hated piano disappeared from my room upon their delivery. I’m about as musical as a toast and my teacher, who came into the house, from my point of view was already dead and smelled of old cheese. Anyway, with the help of Kneipp’s alternating baths in the spinach-green double washbasin of the parents’ bathroom, during a piano lesson he reanimated the goldfish who then was living in a ball glass, to such an extent that he swam his sad circles for another two months.

So now I had my fish no more and still no car either. But these dark brown armchairs with the beige cushions, into which I snuggled down and picked up the book.

I read the first page. The second. And forgot the time. The dirty old man opened my personal Pandora’s box that afternoon. “The best is yet to come or almost a youth.“ [This refers to Bukowski’s book “Ham on Rye“ which in Germany was published as “Das Schlimmste kommt noch oder Fast eine Jugend“ = “The worst is yet to come or almost a youth“ – The translator] Somehow this seemed to be the right soundtrack for that November.

What do you want, what do you know when you’re 18? Nothing. To be wild, to be free, to be different. Yes, okay, you get just that far with late puberty’s hormone boost. And then? Jeez, graduation appeared on the horizon and the urgent question of the parents, what on earth should become of the daughter with the optionally pink, green or blue dyed hair (it was watercolour, nevertheless I was expelled from school for one week). This daughter had no idea and flopped in her rattan armchair while her schoolmates enrolled themselves at universities.

One day before graduating from high school, my mother put the red fingernail to my chest. I picked up the telephone book and the then highly modern green keypad telephone. I opened the last page and chose “Z” like newspaper. Amazingly, I got the job.


And the money to buy me more and more books. I munched my way through the entire literature of West Coast writers and still wish I could write a sentence as strong as came apparently effortlessly out of the pen of a John Fante. Yes, I am allowed to live as a writer today. And yes, I am a bit as crazy as my great idols. Their genius often let them grab cocktails. Or the rifle. Because they gave the world everything they had. All thoughts, all feelings. At some point such people are empty. Or desperate in a world in which a toupee-wearing woman-hater, an opinion-negating censoring head of state, or an obese despot, steers the destiny.

Fortunately I have a good therapist. And, at the end of it all, the firm resolution to slide into the grave by accident, illness or age with the words “What a wicked ride”.

And then there’s the shoe thing. They are my blue-rose-green hair from today. While on the head it gets more and more senior-blonde, my feet have kept to the genetically given measurements. The cheeks hang, the chin doubles, all soft tissues prove that gravity exists. Only my feet remain true to themselves and size 39. And the manufacturers have understood that it works: smart kicks and a comfortable footbed do not have to be mutually exclusive. Politicians could take a leaf out of that book.

Nevertheless, I prefer to walk barefoot. Feel the earth. Life. I stumble, my toes turn blue. Step into shatters. Rub off my cornea. It’s a bit like a novel. Or like life at all. With socks you feel everything only subdued.

Cold feet? Of course I know them. And yes, I have a pair of socks or two. I wear them when it’s cold and raining. And then I think of one of those big sentences of my writing colleagues. Like Joël Dicker. His novel “The Baltimore Boys” is for me the high heel among the stories. Also because he writes a sentence in it like “You have to dream and dream big! Only the biggest dreams survive. The others – they dissolve in the rain, vanish in the wind.”

Exactly in this sense I wish myself and this world a lot of crazy people. My shoe size is now known to you. My address for shoes, chocolates or whatever else you can think of, will the editorial staff certainly reveal you. However, I am happy the most about sentences that catapult me back into November, when I understood a breath of life for the first time in the rattan armchair.


Yours, Silke Porath

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