A Shoe In

Seth Milstein, contributor

 Poverty isn’t funny. At least not the third world, malnourished version. Nothing funny about a distended belly… unless you draw it in a cartoon, but then it’s an image that is instinctively comical until the brain kicks in to remind us that that’s a real situation and then that instant hilarity turns to distastefulness. It’s hard to be funny about anything serious.

Being poor can be hilarious, though; it just takes a little perspective. For instance, in the 7th grade the coolest shoes to own were Asics. We couldn’t afford them, so my mom headed down to the redneck bazaar known as the flea market and bought me a pair of “Asix.”

That alone is pretty funny, but the best part is that upon closer inspection the “Asix” logo was painted-on. In fact, the entire surface of the shoe was painted. The original shoe prior to its paint job was a Nike, which was still a completely acceptable, cool brand. Someone had actually painted the exact design of the current model of an Asics Gel over a year-old model of Nike running shoe.

I’d never wear them but I made mom take me to the flea market the next week because the $15 she paid for these was at least going to buy me this story. Mom pointed me in the direction of this forgery artist, and as I approached, he was already bragging about his entrepreneurial skills. Apparently, he bought the older model shoes from Outlet Malls at $10 a pair, then spent 3-5 hours painting each pair before selling them at a 50% mark up (the flea market was a perfect fit for this captain of industry). I asked why he didn’t just paint “Asics” on them since he was going through all the trouble.

“I ain’t about to get sued, kid,” he responded.

Wow. So, from Outlet Mall to Flea market with a labor intensive stop-off at a trailer park, that’s funny. Only because enough money was diverted from this guy’s public school system to deprive him of the distributive education to know that his business model is crap. The only not-funny part is the impoverished children that had to make the shoes to begin with… unless you drew them in a cartoon. Then it’s funny, if only for a second, until you think about it.


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