1.27.2006

AND WE ALL SHINE ON

I love getting massages, manicures and pedicures.

If you want to call me a metrosexual, be my guest. I don't think sexuality has anything to do with it. I just love being pampered.

I get my head shaved once a week. I could do it myself, but I prefer paying a Russian guy $15 to do it. My barber also does old-fashioned, straight razor shaves. I love sitting back in that barber chair, with the warm lather on my face, having a craftsman work on me. It makes me feel like a gangster. If you've ever seen The Untouchables (1987) you know that Al Capone had his own private barber shop in the Lexington Hotel in Chicago.

Are you gonna call Al Capone a metrosexual? I don't think so!

There is a fine line between effete and elite.

I spent last Saturday night in Port St. Lucie, Florida at my parents' house. The next morning I was heading up to Orlando for work.

Before I went to bed I was ironing some shirts and my father asked me if I needed my shoes shined. I said yes, and my Dad pulled out the black wood shoeshine box his brother Joe made in shop class in 1937. That shoeshine box was always close at hand when I was a kid. My Dad worked as a mechanic in a bus garage for 44 years, but his shoes were always polished.

As my Dad shined my shoes he explained to me that he used to shine his father's shoes when my Dad was growing up back in the 1930s. And he told me a little bit about my grandfather.

His name was Joseph McKinley Sr. and he was a Depression-era saloon-keeper who liked to dress up for work. My grandfather died before I was born and, since I'm adopted, I don't really feel a blood connection with family members I have never met. But there was something very touching about watching my 76 year-old father shine my shoes and talk about his father. I felt connected to family history in a way that I don't often feel.

On Wednesday, as I was leaving Orlando for New York City I found myself in the airport with time to kill before my flight. I noticed a shoe shine stand.

Thanks to my father, my shoes looked pretty good. But the shoe shine was only $5. And I love sitting on those big high chairs. It's like sitting on a gigantic baby's high chair.

So I sat down and got a shoe shine from a gentleman named Jose. As he rubbed the black polish on my shoes, Jose told me about his life. He came from Puerto Rico to New York in 1979. He spent a few years living in a rat-infested basement apartment in the Bronx until he emigrated to Central Florida in the late 1980's.

I learned a lot during my chat with Jose. Did you know that shoeshining is a seasonal business? It's true. Jose explained to me that he does a lot more business in the winter than in the summer.

"You know what's the worst thing that has happened to my business in the last twenty years?" Jose asked me, rhetorically. "Flip flops!" he said in heavily accented English, in answer to his own question.

I sat there and read the paper as Jose plied his trade. I enjoyed it, but not as much as when my father did it.

When Jose was done I came down from my throne, pulled out my wallet and noticed a sign next to the cash register.

So remember, if you ever need your employees shined, look for Jose the Shoeshine Man in the Orlando Airport.

But if you ever need your shoes shined, why not give my Dad a call? He's retired now, so he's got some time on his hands.

2 Comments:

At 1/28/2006 03:59:00 PM, Blogger Nancy Kersey said...

Will, I really liked the story about your father talking about his father.

Nk

 
At 1/28/2006 07:30:00 PM, Blogger Will McKinley said...

Thanks nancy! I really liked the comment telling me how you liked the story about my father talking about his father!

 

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