Wooden shoes

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 11 Jan 2023



Death trap

Back to February of 1978, still a youth and foolish, but with Classical excerpts constantly flooding my mind, providing illustrations and highlights to every step I took.

“Nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se
Quam quod ridiculos homines facit.” 

Juvenal Satire 3

The hardest thing to bear in poverty

Is that it makes us look ridiculous.

I know this is a truth for any long, hard stretch of poverty, the starving, painful type. But Kim and I were only playing at it, toying with it for a short time and without any real privations. I can think of only one instance where this occurred and it happened to Kim, not me.

Kim’s sneakers had worn out. They were worse than ragged, they were disintegrating. He came home one evening after having visited some Dutch girl, with a bag, and in it two Dutch wooden shoes with pointy toes, thick heavy things, hand carved, objects you might put on a mantel as a piece of art conversational curiosity at best. But he proposed to wear them. So the next morning, which was bright and beautiful with a little nip in the air for early March, he dons the wooden things with only a thin pair of socks underneath and we begin clip-clapping our way up the streets the mile and a half to Telegraph avenue.

We proceed the first ten blocks with only the bothersome noise. After another five the pace slows. We are nearing our destination but Kim is not happy. A few more blocks and a sudden stop. He breaks out into a virulent tirade against the shoes, then the entire Dutch nation, and then one in particular. As he tears them off we are both surprised to see a pair of blood-soaked socks.

We conjectured that you would need to have pretty near wooden feet to wear such things, not flesh and blood. We were not too far from where he got them, so he stormed off in his bloody socks, shoes in hand, to the girl’s house. I don’t know what scenes transpired nor cared to ask, but at the end of the day when I got home, he was calm and fitted out in another pair of sneakers, brand new.

“Sic transit gloria eundi”

that means, “so goes the glory of walking”.

A pun on:

“Sic transit gloria mundi”

a famous Latin saying which means, ‘there goes my worldly fame, (or reputation), and a clever journalist in the sixties who came up with:

Sic transit Gloria Swanson”,

‘there goes Gloria Swanson’,

Even though my life at this time was happy, it was not sustainable. We were dependent upon a well of kindness from others that would soon dry up and we both knew it. Kim had a standing offer to move in with Norma in Marin. I, with my long hair, my purposeless course and a farrago of erudition decided to join the U.S. army.


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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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