HOLLYWOOD—A lot of years I’ve been driving to the hinterlands east of Vine Street to get my shoes shined. It’s worth it: Igor’s mirror-bright shines draw the complements and his wise words usually rearrange the furniture of my mind. Of course it’s not always feasible to drive to his place of business, and I’m sheepish after committing ‘polygamy’ and having my shoes shined by someone closer to Hollywood. Igor sniffs out the truth immediately.
Igor: I know you’ve been to someone else. I see they used saddle soap, and that dries the leather. So today I don’t give you a shoeshine, I do a repair job. He he. So now Igor add a new twist to his job description. I am a shoe shiner and savior of criminally mistreated shoes.
(I feel the cream being applied to my shoes and my whole body relaxes)
Grady: You once told me you are a philosopher and a demagogue.
Igor: There is a fine difference between a philosopher and a demagogue, just like on the human body the place of love and the place of defecation is very close. Do you know the difference between a mental and a genius?
Grady: . . .
Igor: The difference between the mental and the genius is the genius is able to explain himself to one person. A mental can’t find one single person to explain himself to. That’s the problem with the mental, he carries all this inside.
Grady: Can I write about you, Igor?
(He puts down his brush and looks directly up at me.)
Igor: On one condition: if you write about me I must remain incognito. Otherwise, you can write whatever you like. You see, there is only one person between where I am and being a big shoe shiner in Beverly Hills, with all the stress and people mobbed around my stall. One movie star comes to me and suddenly I’m the hot shoe shiner. Everybody from the Emmys and the Oscars wants a shine from Igor. It is strange: ask any of these stars, their perfect vacation is two weeks on a deserted island, one a private beach, away from the paparazzi and the agents, the cellphone turned off. I laugh because that is my life. I have the life Brad Pitt dreams about having two weeks a year. I like the life that I have and I want to keep it, so if you write about me I must remain incognito. You laugh when I say I’m one person away from the fame and stress, but I speak seriously. Do you know the difference between a smart guy and a wise guy?
(I’m not sure what kind of wise guy Igor is talking about, so I hold my tongue. As the shine nears completion, Igor’s rag squeaks across the shoe leather brought to an intense gloss. )
The smart guy is capable of doing everything, and will bend his rules to gain what he wants. The wise man sees what is coming and will never sacrifice morally or ethically. You know, human beings are special: we are the only animal designed to face each other when making love. We even call it making love. Not dogs, not horses or cows do this. We have the option to choose love. We don’t always make that choice, but we, the humans, have the option. In the animal it is an act of domination, even if there may be some love in it, but humans alone can choose love even if they don’t always.
The Bible says it is easy to love those who love us, we should learn to love our enemies. I turn that around: we should love those who love us. My daughter called me with a problem. She wanted to buy gifts for her boss and co-workers. She wanted to give them everything and she had nothing to give. I said these people would care nothing if you were out on the sidewalk; they don’t love you. There is no joy when we try to impress someone and show them who we are with a gift. Why don’t we show love to those who love us? They are there all the time for us, and we forget them. I say to my daughter, “You have a lawyer who’s there for you, there’s a cook who makes food for you, a roommate who puts up with you. Show them your love.” Love those who love us. I am not yet at the level of loving my enemies. That will be the topic for next time—enemies. (Igor taps his brush on the side of my shoe signifying the shine is completed—another Rembrandt or Matisse.) Yes, write anything you like about me. Oh, and if there is money, you can help with that. $1000 will help. And if I can spend $1000, I can just as easily spend $10,000. You are a good guy; you’ll know what to do. . .
Grady Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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