Some Like It Hot
I’d like to think that I won’t make this mistake again. I’d also like to think it’s a universal experience among young women across all kinds of cultures, in all kinds of places, and throughout all time periods. This story is about sexy, miserable shoes.
You know, the kind you try on at the store and focus on how fabulous your legs look so you can ignore the pinching or teeter-tottering or intense stabbing pain shooting up through the balls of your feet. In college, I could wear these shoes. I’m not entirely sure if it was because I had a drastically different body, a different sense of balance, or just drank so much Vanilla Stoli that I couldn’t feel my feet. Whatever the reason, let’s go back to the summer of 2003 when I purchased a pair of such (very hot) shoes and wore them out to a comedy show in the East Village of New York City.
This comedy show would end up going down in the history of great comedy shows. Really, like I bet you even Lorne Michaels knows about it. It took place at this crumbly little hole in the wall on 11th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues at a place called Riffifi. The decrepit marquee sign always read “Invite them up,” and I’m just now getting it. The show was free with a two-drink minimum and if you had to use the bathroom, you had to walk up onto the stage because that’s where the door was and everyone could hear you pee. It was dark and old and so very New York. This was a show with a bunch of young, no-name comedians, mostly out of UCB, The Upright Citizen’s Brigade, an improv school founded by Amy Poehler and Matt Walsh. And that’s where the name-dropping in this story only starts.
The show was hosted by the funny guy who lived directly upstairs from me on 7th street and his very sharp friend. The show consisted of a series of five-minute stand-up routines and sketches for a crowd of 20 hipsters every Thursday night with the same group of friends. The funny guy upstairs was Nick Kroll, his sharp friend was Jessi Klein (producer of Amy Schumer’s show and a phenomenal writer,) and that was where Nick and John Mullaney’s Oh Hello sketch was born. (A decade and a half later, it became a very successful Netflix special.) Aziz Ansari performed regularly, as did the hilarious actress, Kristen Schaal. Even Colin Quinn from SNL came to occasionally try out new material. It was to this specific show that I wore those specific shoes.
A summer night in New York City possesses a magic all its own. Something electric in the air makes you feel like anything could happen at any time. After a brutal winter of being holed up in the world’s smallest apartments, the 20 and 30-something inhabitants of the city are frothing at the bit to go out and play. The restaurants move tables outside, street performers play music, and the city that never sleeps lives up to its name. It was this kind of a Thursday, in mid-August, with two weeks left of the summer, when I hobbled to the comedy show in the aforementioned shoes. I had enough cocktails that I should not have been able to feel my feet, and Nick and I walked back to our apartment building somewhere around 2 am.
Limping past Tomkins Square Park in the humid night, imposing as much of my weight as possible onto Nick’s arm, I’d had enough of the shoes. They’d been in my possession for 36 hours and I no longer wanted them in my life. Sober Jo would have taken them off, carried them home, and tried again a week later with strategically placed Band-aids. Drunk Jo was having none of that. Drunk Jo wanted to be free and comfortable and run through the streets of her glorious city with utter abandon as the sweet summer breeze tickled her bum under her too-short skirt. That’s when drunk Jo took off only one of her painful heels and chucked it over the park fence with all of her might.
The hurt-foot problem was solved. The try not to step on anything that might give you rabies or hepatitis was not. I hopped around the street and sidewalk, mostly trying to avoid broken glass, rusty nails, and the occasional rat (remember, this was Alphabet City 20 years ago.) As I jumped from spot to spot from foot to foot, Nick dancing along on this ridiculous drunken game of hopscotch, I landed squarely on a fiery hot manhole cover. Manholes are those two-foot wide metal covers in the streets that people can climb down and fix the sewer system or get into the Subway or the hundreds of tunnels tracking below Manhattan. A quick Google search just informed me that these covers have been measured at reaching up to 180F. The same search calls them "Sewer drains," but that isn't as much fun as MAN HOLE. Anyway....
I cannot verify the actual temperature of the burning metal I found my foot on, but it was what I imagine falling on an iron turned to the ‘silk” setting would feel like. Luckily, my body was somewhat numb from the fabulous summer night and I managed to hobble back to the apartment on 7th Street without any other memorable injuries.
The next morning’s sun greeted me like a punch in the gut, not because I was hungover, I was 22 and still felt fine after behaving like a maniac until all hours of the night, but because of the tennis ball-sized blister on the bottom of my right foot. It was white and puffy and took up a solid third of my foot. I could put weight on my toes or on the outside of my foot or strategically balance on the back of my heel but, as far as walking goes, that was it. I tried soaking it in a bowl of ice, slept with it raised on a couch cushion, and even tried to pop the giant thing with a sewing needle but my foot was not having it. It was going to punish me. In addition to the physical pain,
I had to make up eleven different stories to explain the cause of my situation because my ego couldn't handle the truth.
It took a solid two weeks for that thing to heal, the last two weeks of summer, where I could wear nothing but old man sneakers with three pairs of socks for padding while holding onto someone’s arm to walk. Not hot.