Epiphanies

Flip-floppery

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Sounds make the season

By Brian Doyle

July 18, 2014


 

One of the coolest sounds of summer is the sound of a child clunkclopping along in his or her cheap battered plastic beach sandals, which is a sound that immediately evokes surf-shorts and boardwalks and gulls and immense bright towels and various horrifying fried foods, and somewhere in the distance the insistent murmur of moving water, be it river or creek or lake or sea.

We can call them beach sandals, but that is awfully formal for their shaggy cheap barely utilitarian nature; or we could call them thongs, but the word thong immediately sends your mind sideways, and who would wear the sort of thong you are thinking of right now on your feet? Not me. So let us stay with the ancient perfect onomatopoeaic American word flip-flops, for that is what they do, and why we love them, because not only are they wonderfully easy to don and doff, and not only do they not require any care and maintenance at all, and not only do they come in every blessed color ever invented and some that really should not have been, but they also make the loveliest summeriest sound, flip-flop-flip—just the thought of that sound can make the rain stop and the sun emerge and troops of dragonflies appear, and somewhere there is the prospect of a lawn chair and a beer.

You must attend to your winter boots, and clean them when they are muddy, and you must attend to your best dress shoes, and clean them and shine them and occasionally anoint them with mink oil or melted crayons, and you must attend to your sneakers, and clean them with your brother’s favorite shirt and replace the laces at least once, and you must attend to your various other shoes if any, and repair them and replace parts and buff them and insert magical medical things into them, and this is not even to get into the mysterious world of women’s shoes. But with your ratty old flip-flops you need do nothing but keep them from the eager maw of the dog, and find them waiting dusty and eager in the closet every June, when the rains finally cease and the sun crawls out and you hear the first ice-cream truck and the days get longer and basketball playoffs end and you hear a kid flip-flopping in the hallway; a delicious sound, a savory sound, a sound of the languorous shimmer and simmer of summer.

Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland magazine and the author of numerous books, most recently the novel The Plover.

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