I don’t think you could imagine my utter surprise when you gave me those Dr. Martens today … for 20 years ago, I purchased the same pair, size 10, on Melrose Street in Los Angeles. They were a lot of money for a college student, but dreaming shoes. Slick, black leather city shoes a film director would wear! That’s why I asked you today at our cars in the marina parking lot, if I could pay you for them … I remembered them being close to $300! I thought they were the coolest thing. My best friend, Andrew, from high school agreed, so they were to be mine! Two decades ago I shelled out the huge amount of dough for those shoes, grey flare leg trousers from a Beverly Hills mall, and a black sporty shirt with a zipper from some too edgy boutique and wore that to my UCLA film school interview that week.
I didn’t end up attending film school in LA (too slick and too obsessed with “superior” film as a medium), but went to UCSC instead. A much better fit for me since I substituted the black zip shirt for a tank top much to my grandmother’s chagrin because it showed my shoulders. Little did she know I usually wore a Zuckerberg-like blue hoodie over it. I paid $1750 / month rent for a hole in the wall to live. I went through too few dependable roommates to split the rent. I had to choose between a car or eating. I couldn’t afford parking for a car anyway, so I was a bike rider and wore cargo shorts and reflective blue New Balance shoes on my mountain bike and carried my lap top, heavy hard drive and GL-1 Canon video camera in my bright blue and orange Timbuk2 messenger bag up and down Highland Street. I contemplated becoming a motorcycle rider if I were to stay in California, so I could wear Dr. Marten boots on a motorcycle ... the steel toed version looked cool! In the meantime, I wore the low-cut version of the Dr. Martens for very special occasions. I wore them every time I went to the theatre to see my play One More Night in Cabana Royale produced.
I wore them on Match.com dates to Monterey. My date was wearing the high boot cut male version of the Dr. Martens and that’s the first thing we commented on as we walked around town, drank coffee at the Ugly Mug Cafe and played pool! I wore them to the art galleries of Carmel where I marveled at the works of Wynn Bullock. After graduating, I wore those shoes to my first job interviews and got a job at a photography magazine making films. One of my subjects was weirdly Wynn Bullock. Until I relaxed into more casual wear, those shoes, grey slacks and a variety of fitted shirts were my uniform.
Those shoes are still in my closet and I haven’t worn them in years. The last time I wore them was to my newspaper advertising design job interview 5 years ago. This is the job I currently have and wore the Dr. Martens until I realized that jeans and sneakers were just fine in the office. Or at least I managed to be one of those people who managed to get away with it!
So seeing those same shoes today, this time brand spanking new, and with yellow stitched trim instead of black, those size 10s reminded me of how far I’ve come and what drive and passion I had as a 19-year-old interviewing at top film schools. It also made me realize that I knew not a lot about how the business operated, but was functioning on talent, drive, luck and a bit of privilege alone. (Think about it, I could afford to splurge on Dr. Martens as a 19-year-old.)
It also made me realize how many special occasions I’ve had since then and haven’t worn those Dr. Martens. As I await for the funding of my pilot episode that could, once again, change everything, I am amazed at the anxiousness I feel for the possibilities before me. The same anxiousness I felt at my film school interview in LA. However, this time, I’m much better prepared for the slick suits that interviewed me and intimidated me with their artistic authority. I’ve lived through graduate school and know how it feels when the shoe doesn’t fit and how to make it through another way. I had abandoned the prestigious art school for my project and the shoe fit was adjusted by a movie deal with an LA entertainment company! A big break to get my show seen on Amazon!
I continued to write and created a solid pilot script and at the launch of my web series on Amazon, it was gaining momentum in the festival scene. First, back to LA to compete at a prestigious red-carpet awards show where I wore a borrowed brown dress and white glittery strappy sandals. The same sandals I wore at my wedding 10 years prior which were a bit chipped from the rocky beaches in Washington. Then, on to the red carpet in New York City, where again, instead of Dr. Martens for this special occasion, I wore buttery leather brown knee-high aviator boots and a custom Wai-Ching red dress, a signature rose-gold Whidbey Island charm necklace from Gerald Jewelers and red silk scarf. I was floating in my boots as I shared my story with the reporters after winning Best Director at the NYC Web Fest.
My outfits sure have evolved, along with the shoes. Andrew visited around Christmas time this past year after my NY win. I hadn’t seen him in what seemed like ages. He had been there as I tried on my Dr. Martens on Melrose. His kind dad had driven carless me to LA for my interview. As Andrew and I sat on my boat at the Oak Harbor Marina for a visit, I realized we were wearing the same shoes! Slip-on waterproof brown Merrells … a staple for dog walking in the grass and rain, walking the docks and jogging through puddles.
Tonight, as I try on the Dr. Martens you gave me Renee, they fit just the same as I first walked in them on the sidewalk of Melrose. Buckles needed a bit adjusting as they cut into the top of my foot, but once adjusted, they feel just right. Sometimes the shoe fits and sometimes it needs a bit adjusting. I feel a special occasion coming on! What pair of shoes will I wear? I think you just gave them to me.