Thursday, July 13, 2006

an open letter

Dear Birkenstock

How are you today? Me? Well I'm peachy. I've just spent the last few weeks touring through your beautiful home country of Germany. Deutschland! What a marvelous place to visit. The summer time weather was so glorious and warming it reminded me of my home country Australia, just without the nasty sunburn. Although the frequent storms were something different. We don't get those so often down in Adelaide, but it is really sunny there. The weird part is I've seen more houses equipped with solar panels in Germany than I have in my own sun burnt country. Just another example of how far ahead you Germans are thinking. Does it get cold during your winters? It must because on TV I've seen some nasty accidents on your infamous Autobahns when things get a bit icy. Now those Autobahns are a curious oddity of German culture. I get in trouble with the man for opening a bottle of water in a Walmart and you still allow people in their massive German built speed machines to go as fast as they want. Weird. The locals told me it was the last unregulated part of German society and was considered sacred. Well, considering the people who could afford such powerful cars probably have enough influence on your government to keep things freed up.

But the country seems to have changed, or at least the people have. I guess "Germany" is a relatively new thing, with the whole wall coming down and reunification bizzo that went on a few years back. While you still can't mention the war, or be an American, the recent well educated and open minded German youth are leaps and bound away from their parents when it comes to attitude. Everyone seems to be happy, smiling and peace loving. That Rudolf Steiner chap (An Austrian, but we all know that's really part of Germany), has produced some wonderful flower children who are slowly seeping into the world, spreading that Steiner love. One issue kept on creeping up: The economy. Every German I spoke to had a grim outlook on how the country was doing financially, but blamed different things (The Turks, the students, the lack of students, the old people, Asian car manufactures, the EU). What's your take on this one? Seeing that you've been wrapping your leathery contoured insole around the German foot for around 120 years, you might have an idea on what goes into the Germanic sole (no pun intended).

You have so many churches in your country. I never really imagined Germany as being the religious type. And your roads have a sign every 500m telling drivers how far it i to the next major town. This is great for me, as I'm a cyclist. Oh.. Did I mention that I built a bike in Munich and have ridden it across the border into Austria? Yeah, that whole travelling by planes, trains and automobiles wore off pretty quickly. Besides, I wanted to actually see your country, rather than it being a flutter of colour out of a dirty window in one of your expensive trains. Do you use the English "colour" or the American "color"? It's one of those things you can pick who a country likes more when English is the second language. In China it was all over the place. It seemed they didn't care who's it was. As long as they could copy it and ship it out at fraction of the cost, they were happy.

Talking about happy, I haven't been too happy of late. I had an uncomfortable experience. And no, not it wasn't in the back of Volkswagen. Mind you, I only saw two classic bugs during my three weeks in Germany, and all the new ones are so roomy and spacious. That entire "back of a Volkswagen" joke doesn't work in the country of origin. Getting back to me and happiness, it seems to fluctuate more than it used to. Up and down - In and out. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe depression is contagious? The last few days I've had this uncomfortable fear of being homeless for the rest of my life. You know, falling through the cracks in society and living under a bridge and all that. Thankfully today was an up day. Why? I don't know, but I did remember what a Japanese friend of mine told me when we were talking about homeless people in Japan. You see, Japan is very safe, and there is a blind eye approach to homelessness there. So people without a place to call home simply build makeshift tents in public places (usually parks) from discarded tarpaulins and other things they find on the street. And it's not the stereotypical dirty, disorganised shambles that is so often the sum total of a western homeless person's makeshift shack. Being homeless Japanese style entails order and precise placement of your meager personal belongings around your refrigerator box and collection of neatly folded shabby blankets. Plus there is a mild respect given to homeless people by Japanese society. Teenagers don't burn their tents down and the police leave them alone. Even the word occasionally used to describe homeless people, "Kojeki" roughly translates as "to be free from the system". So even if I feel like I am homeless at the moment, I am free.

This is the best thing about the shoes you make. Your feet feel free. I'm told that in Austria, it is encouraged by companies that Birkenstocks are worn by office workers in the workplace. Of course this wouldn't cut it in a factory, unless you could come up with a steel-cap version. I guess if Dunlop can put out a steel cap version of the KT26 sneaker, you could produce an ultra comfortable yet safe work footwear. My recent purchase of your sandals (or Mandals as I have affectionately dubbed them), have been great. They are surprisingly warm and are really comfortable. The only thing I can fault them with is the phenomenon of the "Birkenfart". No, that isn't a typo, this is something serious that should be addressed. They got a little wet during a rainstorm about 4 days ago and ever since then, after a few hours of wearing them, they make a small raspberry sound as I walk. This isn't so bad in normal day to day walking around, as most background noise covers up the small indiscretions coming from my feet. But in the silence of the Modern Art museum here in Linz (which doesn't have the Magritte or Warhol works that were promised in the Lonely Planet), the farting noises coming from my feet sounded rather pronounced and life like. This attracted a few disgusted looks from the ultra trendy gallery attendants and made the inevitable disappointment that is so often associated with modern art that much more unpleasant. I've tried drying them out in the sun, but no good came from it. If you know of a way to stop this from happening (other than using folded up toilet paper between my feet and the shoes), I would love to know.

I hope this letter finds you well and that you enjoy your job as a shoe manufacture. I'm glad that your shoes are appreciated for the comfortable footwear they are in their homeland rather than the wanky fashion statement that seems to be connected to them in Australia.

Yours sincerely

dan murphy


Eleanora Martinez said...

The Birkenfart as you called it is an issue which I am sure most of us have grappled with in out Birki wearing time. I'm sure the Arty peeps are all the better for a bit of wind up 'em. I must say that in contrast to your pedantic problem, once any number of my pairs have dried out from their regular soakings in rainy season wet the noises also disappear(unfortunately the pursistent stink of feetiness that doesn't occur with other footwear is ever present). Roughing the inner lining up with sand that was stuck to my feet seemed to help at one point but otherwise I'm at a loss for suggestions!
Birkis aren't much a classy fashion statement over here either but they use have a whole variety of them for the choosing . . . It could be time for pair number 4. I have worn the soles through on the 2 pairs I have bought whilst in the country and the other that I brought with me . . . . Any ideas on getting souls . . sorry, soles repaired ?

Keep your chin up matey!

Are you out of Germany already ?

ElmoreGirl said...

aahhh you're a classic Dan