Monthly Archives: October 2007


The most expensive sneakers I ever owned were a pair of Converse Larry Johnson basketball sneakers back in 5th grade. They cost a little over $100, and I think the only reason I was able to get them was by asking my Dad instead of Mom, who would never have sanctioned such a purchase.

Among my group of mostly Korean American friends in elementary school, sneakers were important status markers. I remember my fresh-off-the-boat Worldcup (it was one word on the shoe, I think) sneakers from Korea with no shoelaces and two strips of velcro – they made me an instant target of ridicule in 2nd grade. When we all became crazy about the NBA, kids started wearing fancy basketball shoes to school. Air Jordans were by far the most popular, but since I was a loyal Knicks fan, I never came close to owning a pair. I did own a pair of Shaq sandals one summer, and it was probably the most useless pair of shoes I ever owned.

The $100+ Converse LJs, for at least the first two weeks I owned them, made me feel like a superstar. My friends inquired about how my feet felt, and I could swear I played more aggressively on the basketball court after school.

As much as I reveled in owning my LJs, I soon became careless and the pair became incredibly dirty and worn out. My Grandma threw it in the washing machine once and the shoes never felt quite the same again. I eventually moved on to other fancy sneakers endorsed by players such as Penny Hardaway, Grant Hill, and Tracy McGrady, but none of these surpassed the $100 mark (mostly because I bought them on sale).

Fast-forward more than a decade, and I find myself at Steve & Barry’s in Manhattan Mall shopping for basketball shoes because there’s a pickup game happening in Midtown, and I don’t have the proper shoes. So I buy myself a pair of Starbury low-top basketball sneakers. For how much? $14.98. Yes, $14.98 – and there is no tax on shoes in New York City, amen.

I remember reading about Stephon Marbury and his mission to market and sell affordable sneakers – a very noble and business-savvy effort which seems to be paying off: I was lucky to find a pair of 9.5 basketball sneakers since almost everything sizes 8 through 10 were sold out. And judging from the sample of people I saw waiting in line with Starbury boxes – there were middle-aged men with large bellies, European tourists, and children of every shape, size, and color – it felt as if the low cost had made the shoes a sensible buy for those who normally would never have considered sneakers endorsed by an NBA player. The lowest I had paid for a pair of sneakers prior to the Starbury was about $50 for a pair of black Reebok cross-trainers that was on sale at a Foot Action. That could have bought me three Starburys and at least two pairs of socks.

It’s no secret that sneakers are cheap to make. I’ve read that a pair of Nike sneakers costs less than $5 to produce, and yet they can easily charge more than a hundred dollars because such demand exists. We’re paying, of course, for the brand name – for all the superstar athlete endorsements, cool commercials, sexy graphics, and inspirational soundtracks that have come to define Nike over the years. They’ve earned it, so I don’t think Nike, or any other athletic shoe company, is doing anything terrible in charging what they sometimes do. But I like what the Starbury has done. It’s made cheap a kind of cool thing, and, thanks to its exclusive distribution at Steve & Barry’s, not an easy shoe to get. So kids who’re in 5th grade, who could be comparing their hundred-dollar sneakers, can now walk around in $15 sneakers without feeling insecure. How refreshing is that?

Nothing Gold Can Stay…

Mel and I went to Vermont this weekend. We arrived in Middlebury late Friday night and spent all of Saturday walking around town and stuff ourselves with fresh local breads and cheeses. On Sunday, we left Middlebury and enjoyed a 3-mile hike that began with the Robert Frost Trail and veered off into other mini-trails. One of these mini-trails was called “Afternoon Delight.” (see photos)

There were poems by Frost mounted on wooden posts along the trail. This one stuck in my mind:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Let’s Get Visual: Working at Home

After 3+ years of updating this blog, I’ve decided to finally include photographs as part of my posts. Why? A few reasons: a) I was having trouble coming up with interesting things to write about – my most recent posts have been a bit whiny; b) I got a new digital camera (the Canon SD1000 – fits perfectly in my pocket); c) visual aid is an easy way to write about things; and d) I want to become a better photographer.

I worked from home today because the water at the office was scheduled to be shut off the whole day. Where there is no working toilet, I find it nearly impossible to work – and I did not like the prospect of walking to Starbucks each time nature called. Working from home, which saves about 30 minutes of commute, afforded me the opportunity to make myself a luxurious breakfast (1). I sauteed baby portobella mushrooms and cherry tomatoes in olive oil and had whole wheat toast with fig jam. I also brewed some coffee I bought from Grab, a gourmet specialty shop on 7th Ave (5). I love a good breakfast, and I was inspired to take this pic after seeing this collection of breakfast photos and the people who eat them.

After getting some work done – I’m usually more productive when alone – I called Kiku Sushi to order some lunch just before 3PM, when the lunch menu expires and dinner prices go into effect. I got myself the two roll special, opting for spicy crunchy salmon and the eel cucumber rolls. On my way back, I saw the storefront for Greenjeans, a small crafts shop that I had read about on Iridesco’s Hear, Hear site (interview article here). The store looked very tiny, and I was tempted to check it out, but I was starved, so I decided to check it out another day. The stuff they sell look really nice, but they’re very pricey.

While walking, I had a great time just shooting photos of the neighborhood (most came out blurry or washed out – I need to get better at taking pics on the move). A large bird feeder (6) caught my attention because its sun-drenched red transported me momentarily to somewhere very rural, like a farm in the Midwest. I took a snapshot of this corner of 7th Ave and 15th Street (5) because I’ve frequented the wine store, Slope Cellars, a few times, got my coffee from Grab, and tried the lamb kebab sandwich from Laila the other day (it sucked). An action packed block for sure, and just two short avenues from our apartment (4), which doesn’t look too pretty sitting on top of Blockbuster, but it gets good sunlight – maybe a bit too much.

For dinner, Melanie cooked up a delicious turkey chili (3). I went across the street to the grocery store to pick up some cheddar cheese and scallions. There’s still a big pot of it left, and I’m tempted to have some at 1:39AM, but I shouldn’t, since I forgot to work out earlier tonight. It’s actually great to see all the things I ate today – I think it was a pretty healthy day overall, although the midday beer I had with the sushi roll lunch was probably unnecessary.

Working at home is nice, but I appreciate the fact that it’s an option rather than the only resort. I’ll be back at the office tomorrow since the water is back on, but it’s great to know that there’s a very fluid mobility to getting work done – it almost makes me want to pack my bags and travel around the world while doing work on the side. But for the moment, I am content with two very comfortable and familiar environments where I can get things done.

How does it feel with photos?