When I was around eight or nine, my father and I used to play catch on the front lawn of our house. He would stand on one side of the interlocking brick driveway, and I would stand on the other. We would toss the ball back and forth, try out some pitches, some pop flies, even some grounders, and then I would replace the equipment in its spot — in a pile of wood — in our two-car garage. Even now — fifteen years later — I can remember the feel of my father’s glove: the distressed tan leather cracked with long weathered veins, and the faded inscriptions of the company’s logo, something to do with MLB.
It’s been a long time since I’ve slipped my fingers into that mitt; I believe it’s stored somewhere in our basement, in a box, along with other long-forgotten keepsakes, like an old sprinkler attachment. But that’s not to say I haven’t thought about it. Because I have. Especially recently, by way of a particular pair of custom-designed leather sneakers that share the same consistency as my father’s mitt. Those sneakers I call my Custom Chiale Vans, which were painted by local Toronto artist Jimmy Chiale, who I have written about almost to the point of exhaustion.
Nevertheless, I feel as though I owe it to Jimmy, as well as the slim readership of this blog, to reevaluate Jimmy’s shoes, taking into account recent developments in their aesthetics. Just a couple weeks ago I was rolling with Jimmy in a receding alleyway along Yonge Street, close to Champs Sports, when Jimmy stopped and glanced down at my feet. His dark marble-ish eyes grew wide, and he grinned, exposing the little gemstone in his upper cuspid. “I told you those shoes would get better the more worn out they are,” he said. Jimmy was referring of course to my trip to his studio when I asked him to take a look at the paint chips that were showing up on the sneakers, as well as the first review I wrote that criticized the custom paint-job for its (lack of) durability.
I still don’t think I believed Jimmy on that occasion — that the “shoes would get better the more worn out they are” — even after acknowledging his friend’s comment, “Jimmy’s art is all about making mistakes look good.” In particular with the shoes, Jimmy used black KRINK graffiti marker to channel his animalistic impulses, manifested into line and pattern on the white backdrop of my white Vans sneakers. He completed the shoes in a feverish rush of inspiration — while he was KRINK’ing his entire apartment with the same designs — and blew caution to the wind when it came to the right lacquers and sealant. All Jimmy cared about at the time was getting his passion down on something, that something being my shoes.
However, as time bore on, and I began to scuff the sneakers — against the clutch in my car, the sidewalk, chairs at Starbucks, the step leading into my parent’s townhome — I began to scorn the shoes for their seeming lack of durability. The paint was chipping off! But now, months later, I recognize that those initial worries were only the insecurities of an amateur art collector. No piece of art is going to keep its original shine and luster — think Picasso’s Guernica — but hell, that doesn’t make it any less impactful. Taking a gander at Jimmy’s shoes now, under the light at the cineplex, I realize what a triumph they really are. Ten years from now, when the shoes are being stored in a box somewhere in my basement, along with long-forgotten keepsakes like first generation MacBooks and BlackBerrys, I won’t remember them as they were at their crispest. I’ll remember them after they got scuffed, and gained character, and stepped into some shit here and there. They’ll exist in my mind alongside that ball mitt of my father’s. Somewhere where nostalgia reigns supreme, and dust is an indicator of wealth.