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My feet are killing me. I’ve been on them most of the day, pounding the rural pavement of Lake Charles, La., and then testing the strength and durability of my arches over countless hours at the craps table. My pain is compounded by the fact that many people keep stepping on my toes, as it’s Mardi Gras and the hordes here are festively going from restaurant to restaurant and then to L’Auberge Casino Resort.

I love this community, and I’ve written about it in the past, but right now, man, my dogs are barking. I try to fight through the pain at L’Auberge because this is one of my favorite casinos to lose my money to. I figure that a couple of hands of Texas Hold ’em in the poker room might be just enough tush-on-chair time to let my feet recover. But when you have nervous tells like I do — ?namely, I bounce my foot up and down when I have a good hand and I cross my ankles and push hard on the floor when I have a bad hand — my situation is going from bad to worse.

It’s these shoes. I’ve had them for at least 15 years. They’re not nearly as comfortable as they once were, and the soles are so worn and tattered that parts of them are scattered all over the world. But I love them because they’re a walking reminder, figuratively and literally, of a life spent in the twin quests of knowledge and companionship. Lots of friendly and enlightening conversations have started with, “Cool shoes.”

That’s why I’m dog-cussing these awesome-looking-though-oh-so-uncomfortable shoes on Fat Tuesday in Lake Charles, La., USA. Because my feet are killing me. My toes, dear Lord, are swollen to the size of Southwest Louisiana swamp creatures, which I’m told are pretty big.

After enjoying the Lake Charles Fat Tuesday shenanigans for a while, I retire to my hotel room. Only I’m way too sore to sleep. And the view of the city and the grand lake in the distance is way too mesmerizing to ignore. Plus, to stare out my giant hotel windows at the sprawling hotel grounds is to put something else in my sight and on my mind other than how much I hate my feet; how much I hate my shoes; how much I hate myself for letting something as ugly as podiatric vanity cloud my judgment and render me useless. Because, you see, the sorer your feet are, the faster you want to get the heck out of Southwest Louisiana and back to a giant shopping mall with more shoe stores per capita than there are children having nightmares about Southwest Louisiana swamp creatures, which I’m told are pretty creepy.

Maybe work will take my mind off my feet. I pull out my laptop and start editing copy for this issue of American Way. And then it happens: As if it were divined from the heavens over Southwest Louisiana, and as if my laptop were somehow a transmitter for talking to that great podiatrist in the sky, I get to Bruce Rushton’s story about the Allen Edmonds shoe company. I’ve never heard of this firm, but I am inspired — inspired by a story about shoes while vacationing in Southwest Louisiana (see the story on page 34 to see why). So inspired, in fact, that I’m tracking down a PR contact and asking him for a pair of Allen Edmonds to demo. I want to take the Pepsi challenge with these American-made shoes and see if they can make my feet happy. In so doing, I’ll be wearing the first pair of shoes that I didn’t  (a) buy on discount or (b) let age in my closet for at least five years. I am told that a pair is going out in tomorrow’s mail, and I can wear them for a few weeks before I send them back. So I’m going to stop writing now and will continue in a couple of weeks after wearing the shoes. To be continued …

Two weeks later
My feet are lovin’ me now. Not just because they don’t hurt but because for the first time in our lives (theirs and mine), they’ve been in charge. Believe me when I say that I’m not wearing these shoes; they’re wearing me. The way I walk, the way I look … the way I sound and look when I walk are all the result of my (er, their) shoes. I’m hoping the fellas at ?Allen Edmonds will let me keep them for a little while longer, as I have some important business meetings in other cities outside of Southwest Louisiana this month. And after reading Laura ?Kiniry’s ode to San Francisco (page 48), my feet are feverishly searching for a meeting to take there. Until then, enjoy this issue of American Way and consider the soul and sole that went into it.

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Adam Pitluk
Editor