I headed out Tuesday afternoon of last week. The van, despite being packed full of all of my artwork for no apparent reason, was surprisingly easy to handle. Nearly a minute went by for each mile that passed, and the fear that I would have to wear the same pair of socks for seven days grew stronger. Is it possible that someone would buy the last pair of socks in Tucson, forcing me to be stuck in this condition for an entire week?
Midnight approached, and my eyelids began to develop their own agenda. Being at the opposite end of the body, they knew nothing of the creeping discomfort that the same pair of socks would bring for days on end. But it was inevitable; I had to stop in Amarillo. At any minute, I would start to dream, whether or not my body was asleep.
Google Maps said I could shave 100 miles off the drive by branching south off of I-40 at Santa Rosa, New Mexico. Passing not only a half-hour from the Trinity test site, but also downwind, put a kick in my step. I tried to apply this new urgency, but the speed limit along US54 was an abysmal 55mph. (Was the country really this slow twenty years ago? It’s difficult to think about such things while nuclear radiation is looming – and while socks are on the brain.)
The drive across the bottom of the White Sands Testing Grounds from Alamogordo to Las Cruces contained the straightest 26 mile stretch of road man has ever created. This stretch was obviously put down after we created lasers. It seems impossible that two guys and a piece of string could have done this with such precision. In any event, it gave me time to ponder the outline of the mountain range in front of me, at the east edge of Las Cruces. It looked a bit like the stock market — it went up, bounced around a bit, and slipped back down into oblivion.
Before entering Las Cruces, I encountered a Border Patrol checkpoint and told the guard I was going to Tucson for socks. He understood and waved me through. (Maybe he had once been in the same situation. Who knows.) The sun went to sleep once again, but there was no time to waste. Tucson was only a few hours away.
Was it midnight or 2:am? Arizona doesn’t do daylight savings time, and I had five clocks with four different times. Anyway, time to rest; I hoped to get socks the next day.
Went out in the middle of the street and set up a tent. Exhausting work. No time for socks.
..didn’t have time to purchase socks that morning either; had to do the next best thing: stand out in the middle of the street and tell thousands of people there’s been a recall on socks! “Don’t buy them! They will cause foot cancer of the foot.. on your feet!”
There were about 400 other artists in that same street, but there was no way to tell who else was in the same footwear situation as myself.
The package of socks patiently waited for me at a Wal-Mart about ten miles across town. The stars seemed to line up — I woke up earlier than usual, the TomTom GPS software on my cell phone gave me turn-by-turn directions without losing its signal, the van was much easier to control since it was mostly empty due to its contents having been dumped in the street two days ago, and there wasn’t much of a crowd since it was Saturday. (My recall warning may have taken effect, it was hard to tell.)
This specific Wal-Mart did not contain a grocery store; a surprising sight given the massive construction effort for most of their stores over the past three decades, but irrelevant nonetheless. It did have a men’s clothing section, and that’s all I was looking for.
White, low-cut, ankle — all of them were in the way. Then, on the second-to-bottom rack, there they were: A package of black crew socks, 10-pair for $6.50.
Purchasing them was half the battle. I had driven 1,000 miles for this moment… When I got back to the van, it was a nearly instinctive motion to rip open the bag and grab the first pair. My van was now a changing room. After replacing my now five-day-old socks with new ones, I didn’t immediately have a reaction, I simply drove back to that street where I was standing the day before. But looking back on it, it must have felt like installing new feet entirely. I could go and stand in that street for an entire year!
There were only two more days where I had to stand there, and by god, I was going to make them a comfortable two days!
As a sidenote, my mother has spent the last few years researching genealogy and piecing together our family tree. She has a database of about 30,000 names. When you follow the tree up a few generations and back down a different direction, one of those names belongs to a woman living an hour away from Tucson. She and her family stopped by my booth and we got photos with distant relatives!
The situation was perfect because I was able to stand there in comfort. (It would have been different without those socks!)
Another day in the street. Another day with smiling feet. They were happy enough to make disassembling that tent a breeze at the end of the day.
The Fire Marshal estimated that the attendance for the show was similar to last year: 300,000 people in three days.
Days 7 & 8:
The drive home — and the realization that after gas, hotels, meals, a ridiculous booth fee, and 2000 miles of driving, that package of socks cost me $1,500.