This is the Shoe Doctor. He performs both minor and major surgeries (his words) in the lobby of the Arcade on Euclid Avenue (right across from E. 4th.) He changed my mind about the value of a good shoe shine. Here's why.
I haven't participated in third party shoe shines too often in my life - twice now, actually. Normally I'm pretty stoic about shoe health.
Those days are over.
Thanks to a few dreadful months in close contact with Neil McCabe at the Somerville News, I knew a quality shine, up to DInfoS standards was not only elusive and difficult to judge but the shine itself was subject to governing arcana, bandied about by army nerds and ditto-heads. Like a waxed up White Whale, army issue shoes, shined up for hours, inspired metric lunacy, entire theories and methods and debates and side-taking and all sorts of wasted time.
Neil being Neil, he completely alienated anyone within earshot of such a story. His passions turned quickly into hysteria and a respectable shoe shine took on the sheen of a symptom of a much greater madness.
As a result, and I do blame Neil for my shoe-shine anorexia, my shoes have remained untouched by anything other than a quick silicon grease-up before weddings or important meetings.
But I had an important event this past weekend. My fiance, Danielle Santiago, had her first performance with the Cleveland Orchestra as a member of its chorus this past Saturday evening at Severance Hall. It was glorious. The orchestra performed Beethoven's 9th. Afterwards, the crowd gave them a standing ovation for a full seven minutes. Five curtain calls. Amazing. So I needed my shoes in fair-to-middlin' shape.
Enter the Shoe Doctor.
I wandered over to the Arcade, where I knew a couple of shoe shiners rented a chair and was immediately greeted by said doctor.
"Shine 'em up!" he said.
"Let's do this," I said.
He applied conditioner, gently admonishing me for not having the sense to have applied it immediately after purchase.
He worked the leather with his fingers, applying layer after layer of polish.
He wrapped his fore and middle finger up tight in a cloth to massage the polish into the leather and bring out the shine.
He buffed with a damp cloth, giving the buffer a quick snap as it bounced off the toe of the shoe.
And slowly, steadily, the shoes transformed from dried out, beat up, painful reminders that I needed a new pair of shoes, into shining examples of my intelligence and personal good taste.
I was stunned.
All the while this was happening, the Shoe Doctor was busily defending his territory, protecting his personal customers from poachers and interlopers hoping to rent a chair in his district.
The Shoe Doctor changed my relationship with my shoes. He revived my sense of art. I think he may save the space program.
He comes highly recommended.