These Boots

The famous Haight Ashbury street signs - San Francisco, California

A pair of boots popped up on my side bar.
They were covered in peace signs and paisleys.
The next thing I knew I was typing in the three-digit code off the back of my card.
Because it is I, Millie Noe, marketer's dream.
What I didn't realize is that I was shopping in downtown, China.
And in case you have ever wondered, if you click on a Chinese tracking number, you aren't going to know any more about the whereabouts of your paisley boots, than if you didn't click on a Chinese tracking number.
Unless of course, you can read Chinese tracking numbers.

If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're going to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there

I couldn't be upset about the grade I got on that collection of paintings I did my senior year.
I mean, I had painted one of them in ninth grade.
And I did hand it in four years later.
But you know how it is.
I needed three more paintings for my independent study, with just three days to go.
It had never occurred to me that it would be a problem to hand in ten paintings.
I had a whole semester to paint them.
I loved to paint.
And I was right.
It wasn't hard handing them in.
It was just hard coming up with them.

I guess I got too busy.
And then, in panic mode, I spotted it.
Number ten.
It was leaning against my closet wall, right there behind a pile of shoes.
It was an acrylic painting I'd done on a store-bought canvas.
It looked just like that magazine picture I'd copied.
The red bridge was the forefront of a golden-yellow sunset, with just a sliver of the sun left on the dip in that hill. And the bay water reflected all of it.
Unfortunately, Mr. Lawrenz knew that I didn't hammer the frame together and stretch the canvas over it, the way we were taught in his class.
Because the corners were squared.
And the canvas was stapled onto the side of the frame.
It didn't help my cause that the style of the painting was more like my younger days, before I met him.
"Why do you want to paint a picture of a photograph?" was the very first thing he ever said to me.
"Well, I like this picture," I said.
"Yes, but you already have the picture. So why paint it?"
At the time I was holding a photo of our beloved, frowzy Airedale, who went by the name of Tali.
He was sitting on our braided living room rug.
I'd been in Mr. Lawrenz's art room doing the mandatory independent study program, known as IS, and I was painstakingly brushing the tiny details of those speckled braids, during my free time between nine and eleven, for a couple of weeks, avoiding any and all eye contact with the man.
But then he came over.
"Where are you planning to put your dog?" he'd asked.
"On top of the rug," I said, feeling my arm pits starting to soak and my pimpled face turn into a horror film shade of red.
"Your rug isn't lying flat."
He did have a point.
"Can I give you a little advice?" he says.
"I think you should get a bucket of black paint and paint right over the whole thing and begin again."
"Well shit," I thought.
"And paint something else," he said.
And now, four years later, on the last day of my senior year of high school, there stood Mr. Lawrenz, my favorite teacher.
"Millie, are you sure you painted that one," he says, pointing at the dust covered Golden Gate Bridge on a store-bought canvas with a knife-hole slit in the bay, "this semester?"
"Yeah," I said.
"Yeah," I said again.
And then he waited with his gray-green eyes and his oversized mustache for me to change my answer while I stared blankly at his shoulders that always slouched just a little bit and waited for that hope of his in me to go away.
And then he said, "All right."
He gave me, Millie Noe, his star student, a, C, for my final IS grade.
Lesson learned.
If you're going to lie.
Dust off your painting.

For those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there

There were railroad tracks not far from Kirsten's house.
When we weren't busy reading books that we shouldn't have been reading because we hadn't been told about the birds and the bees yet, we would busy ourselves making elaborate plans in her bedroom while Arlo Guthrie sang on about coming into Los Angeleeez, to run alongside the train and hop into an empty box car, the way they did in the movies.
And to leave our dull little lives behind.
Unfortunately, we were born on the right side of the tracks.
Our parents were good to us.
They were not at all supportive of our secret adventure.
Our fate.
Our destiny.
They wouldn't give us a reason to sing the blues.
But it wasn't all their fault.
We couldn't sing anyway.
And we couldn't play a harmonica or a guitar or even those little finger symbols.
Our dream of living among the hippies on the corner of Haight and Ashbury, were pretty much screwed.
But not for long.
You see, my son Rene and his wife R.Z., landed jobs in sunny California, just fifty years later.
That is why I ordered that pair of boots covered in peace signs and paisleys.

In the streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair
All across the nation
Such a strange vibration

Dawn came early that day.
But we missed it, because it was dark as night when my sweet Sven, my son Marques, my daughter-in-law Nicolette, and I, drove to the airport.
Change of plans.
It is more convenient to fly these days, than to run alongside a train and grab that ladder or hope that a pair of hobo hands will reach out and pull you in.
So, due to Sven's recent rotator cuff surgery and the fact that my glory days of holding the fifty-yard dash record at Crestwood Elementary is just a memory. And also, not to mention that Nicolette would have had to downsize her luggage a bit. Because you can't be running alongside a train with enough change in your purse to look like a large metal object, when x-rayed.
So, while Sven was busy being patted down after walking through the scanner and Nicolette was over there praying that she hadn't packed anything too embarrassing, as security rifled through her bags, Marques and I were putting our shoes back on.
And I don't mean to sound bitter when I say, SHOES.
But the last time I'd checked that Chinese tracking number of mine, which was when I woke up that morning at three AM, I got the feeling that my boots were not going to make it in time for the trip.
Rene picked us up from the San Jose airport and took us to Fremont, where we ooohed and aahhed at their two-bedroom 1980 vintage apartment.
It was Thursday afternoon and he and R.Z. had more work to do.
"No problem," we said.
And we hoofed our way down their stairs and out onto their street.


And we made a new friend named Will.

Who we called Dave.

And then Rene joined us.

"Here's a store you'll like," he says, facing a window, in a city named Mountain View.

We went in.

"Ask it something," he says.

"Will my boots be at my house when I get home?" I said.

He let go of the metal ball suspended on a wire.

It went back and forth and back and forth.

Then it circled this way.

And then it circled that way.


And then it stopped and was frozen over the top of...
"I knew it!"
I carried a delicate glass sun of a sun catcher and a dragon-fly purse up to the cash register.
The woman picked them up together as if they were one unit.
But they were two units.
That is why the sun catcher went flying and it crashed.
And that is why the sun catcher turned into many little stars.
"Oh, I am so sorry," she says.
"That's okay," I said. "But, I will still take the purse."
And then the same woman tried to remove the shoplifting device from the blue-green leather strap with everything she could find in her Mary Poppins drawer, as the line behind me grew into a parade of silent but deadly eye rollers.
"It's okay," I said. "I don't really need to have it."
"It must be fate," she said.
I turned to leave.
And there at the end of the line was my sweet Sven, reading a cardboard card about the solar system, completely oblivious of the fact that it was impossible to buy anything at that store.
"I don't really need it," he says, putting the solar system back on the rack.

People in motion
There's a new generation
With a new explanation


The next morning was Nicolette's thirty-something (eighth) birthday.
We walked to the train station with coffee in hand and the sun on our faces.
We stood on the platform.
The Bart train pulled up.
The doors parted.
We walked right in.
And we sat down.

People in motion
People in motion


Forty minutes later the doors parted.

And we stepped out into rain.

For those who come to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair


Did you know people in California ice skate anyway?

And did you know that you cannot get over to the Rock unless are wearing orange and in shackles? Or, you've made reservations on the ferry?


We didn't either.

That's okay.

We hopped onto a three hour tour, for a half an hour boat ride.

Did you know that I would like a sea lion for Christmas?

And did you know that not all ship catpains have a sense of humor?


"There are three reasons why the prisoners could not escape," says our skipper at the wheel.

"Number one, the water temperature is a constant forty-five degrees.

"Number two, the under currents are very dangerous. They are among the top ten most deadly currents in the world."

"And number three, my favorite reason. Sharks. All kinds of sharks.
Including the great whites. At certain times of the year they all mate, right over there."

And he points to the far side of the Rock.

"That's when I would make a run for it," says Sven.

That captain didn't even crack a smile.


If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there

R.Z. met up with us at The Stinking Rose, an all garlic restaurant.
To her dismay, this was where Sven was able to show off his unique style of eating an entire crab, which brought back memories of the last time I let him eat ribs in public and he received that standing ovation.
It was by nature also a place that it was impossible not to reminisce about that time that Sven learned the hard way the difference between a clove of garlic and a bulb of garlic, by making that forty clove chicken recipe, that he'd clipped out of the Sunday paper. We calculated by referencing the world Guiness record, braided clove chain winding it's way throughout the Stinking Rose, that Sven's recipe was closer to a four hundred and eighty clove chicken.
"Did you really peel all of those cloves?"
"Well some of those really tiny ones, I didn't," he says.
It was also the perfect place to make a toast.
Here is a very important tip.
If you are going to bar hop before hiking back to a train, it doesn't matter if you pee before you leave your last stop. You are going to have to pee before you get to the station. And when you get to the station, do not count on finding a bathroom.
And when you have to make a transfer, do not count on finding a bathroom there either.

And then came day number two.


Four AM comes early.
Rene drove away in the dark as we boarded our plane at the San Jose airport.
Did you know that if your plane is asking for people to check their bags at no charge because your flight is too full for all the carry-ons and you go up to the counter to agree to it, and they put a sticker on your bag and send you to the next station where they scan your boarding pass, that you cannot go through that door and set your luggage down on top of Marques and Nicolette's luggage that is already sitting there? And that you are only allowed to run back to grab your purse and your phone that is still charging, and your husband has to wait right where he is? And that you get to be seated right away, along with first class people? But you still have to sit in your assigned seats at the back of the plane? But then, when everybody else comes on board and they start trading seats and you let your daughter-in-law sit next to your son, where you almost got to sit because another lady wanted to sit next to her husband, where you had been seated, but instead, you take Nicolette's middle seat between a woman who is asleep and a guy who is plugged into his TV, that you will score major points with your daughter-in-law?
And also, when the stewardess says the bathroom on the left is unoccupied, she is not referring to the door that opens to the outside.

"No. Not that one!"

I didn't either.


If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there


In case you are still wondering about my boots.
They were not at my house when I got home.
They are still not there.
If anybody has seen them, please give me a call.

On a serious note.
We are going through some dark times.
Our family is no longer complete.
Because we are now missing one.
In my stepdaughter's memory, I ordered a special charm.
I'd hoped that it would arrive in time for the trip.
But I learned that it would not.
Then at my last stop at the bank the day before departure, I received a phone call.
And just like a drug deal, a man in a black suit stepped out of a black car that pulled in behind the funeral home.
I stepped out of my car.
He handed it to me.
And then, I slipped Adrienne's thumbprint onto my chain, setting her right next to the dragon fly that represents her spirit.

That night, at that Stinking Rose Restaurant, as we clinked our glasses together for that toast, all three of our kids were present.


These boots are made for walking
That's just what they'll do
One of these days, these boots
Are gonna walk all over
San Francisco too

Does anybody know how to read Chinese?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send Millie a Message!

Inspired by the blog, a story, or an artwork? Don't hesitate to contact Millie to discuss a writing or creative work or just to have an enthusiastic conversation about the world!

Get in touch

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.