My Boots Are Disco

May 25, 2011 by

My Boots Are Disco

I know when you hear the phrase disco boots, your mind goes in a very distinct direction. For the purposes of this blog post, it’s the wrong direction.

My new hiking boots are disco. This is not a compliment.

Years ago (hell, who am I kidding–decades ago) I was watching something on TV. Two young men got into it. Just about had a fistfight. The bone of contention? One of the guys insulted the other guy’s truck. Called it “disco.” Then of course, they had to explain to an older man what that meant. “Disco” equals “too clean.” They tried to explain to the old man that trucks like that (high-suspension, 4-wheel drive) were meant to be driven in the dirt. But the guy never got it. Clean just wasn’t an insult where he came from.

Unfortunately, I totally get it. It’s something like being all hat and no cattle.

Years ago, back when I used to fish, I lost my basic saltwater rod. I’d had it as long as I’d fished. It was battered, little bits of paint flaked off from its contact with the rocks. You could tell it had been put into action. Then one day I cast off the San Simeon Pier and leaned it up against the railing. The way I’ve always done. The way I’ve always seen all fisher-people do. Next thing I knew, it flipped over the edge and disappeared. I’ll never know what was powerful enough to do that, though I strongly suspect a seal. Anyway, I replaced it with a brand new one. It was in my trunk when I drove to the local Madonna Inn to give a talk. A man with a strong back accompanied me out to my car to help carry a huge bin of books. His eyes landed on the rod, and he commented on it. I don’t remember the comment word for word. But the gist of his observation was that the rod didn’t look like it had ever seen any action. The subtext was clear. Obviously I didn’t really fish, or my rod would be beat to hell. I tried to explain, but no matter what I said, it just wasn’t as good as a battered fishing rod.

Back to my “disco boots.” My old boots had character. To be fair, I need to remind myself that they didn’t come out of the box that way. They had to wade ankle-deep through a few hundred streams. Scrape on a thousand rocks. Sink into an untold amount of mud. And see miles. Upon miles. Upon miles. You can’t buy character at the store. It has to be earned, one mile at a time.

In a web chat a couple of days ago, I made a crack about my own age. Suggested that a younger author might not like vlogging (video blog posts) as much when she was my age. A 16-year-old blogger made my day by saying it wasn’t about age or looks. It was about being interesting. Now isn’t that a nice thing to say?

My old boots are more interesting than my new ones. But give me a couple of years and at least a thousand miles to show them the world. I’ll check back then, and we’ll see what they’ve learned.

Catherine Ryan Hyde’s most recent book is Jumpstart the World