Monday, October 4, 2010

Tim McAvin, amateur soldier actor, is holding hostage my shoes

As the King/McAvin shoe hostage crisis enters its second week, I have taken to wearing my dress shoes to work. This situation is getting serious.

It all started on location in Cuba, Missouri, one week ago yesterday. It was our first day of shooting the new Poetry Scores movie, Go South for Animal Index. After a long day down at the creek, shooting our Coyote character (Kyla Webb) trading his moonshine to PFC Sack (Thom Fletcher) for hamburgers and to Badger (Roland Franks) for fresh fish, we moved up to the McPheeters' house.

I had picked out an upstairs porch to shoot the country dance scene. Our movie is based on a poem of the same name by Stefene Russell that is about the atomic bomb. My storyline centers on Lost Almost, as the soldiers called Los Alamos, where the first atomic bomb was invented and tested. The scientists lived a fairly active, if insular, social life when they weren't splitting the atom and weaponizing the resulting energy, and I wanted to reflect this fact with a mad scientist country dance.

Lost Almost was a secret military installation, and since we make silent movies, the best way to make this clear to the viewer is to have armed soldiers present at almost all times. So I asked for our soldier actors (Fletcher, Thomas Crone, Tim McAvin, John Parker) to make this shoot so they could surround the scientists and their wives while they danced.

We were just about to start shooting when I reviewed our soldiers' costumes. Everybody was looking pretty good. Then I looked down at McAvin's shoes. They were brown sneakers. When I asked the soldier actors to costume themselves, I specified black boots for their footwear. Brown sneakers absolutely would not do

Photo by V "Elly" Smith

My fussing about this costume blunder called attention to Tim's shoes. Since I was standing right in front of him, this also called attention to my shoes. Barbara Manzara, who is playing a scientist wife but also had been helpful all day with costumes, pointed out that my shoes - my beloved, lovely shoes - were black. At a glance, which is all the viewer would ever give the shoes of any of our soldiers, they would pass for boots. So Tim and I switched shoes.

Photo by V "Elly" Smith
It turns out we have almost exactly the same sized foot. The show went on, and I am quite certain no one who ever sees our movie will guess that one of the soldiers is wearing beloved, lovely black shoes that are not boots.

Directing a movie all day is a heady, exhausting experience. It takes you out of yourself. I stopped think about my feet or my shoes. By the time I started thinking about my feet or my shoes again, the shoot was over and Tim McAvin was gone from the location, he was absent from Cuba, he was on his way back to St. Louis wearing my beloved, lovely black shoes. I was stuck with the brown sneakers.

I am certain that Tim was able to walk off with, and in, my shoes because they fit so well. Tim and I carry our weight in a remarkably similar fashion. I have a long history of neck and back injuries and am unusually sensitive to how I bear my weight. I wouldn't last an hour in the shoes of a man who carried his weight in a way that felt wrong to me. I am sure my shoes felt right on Tim, because Tim's shoes felt pretty right on me.

They felt pretty right on me for a day or two, that is. Then, they started to feel wrong. The small differences in how we bear our weight and have imprinted our shoes began to become obvious to me. Tim's shoes began to bother me. My back began to ache. I don't really have any other comfortable, casual shoes. I was stuck with Tim's brown sneakers.

So I started to take my shoes - that is, Tim's shoes - off at work. The people who work with me began to object to this, and who could blame them. And so I, a week now into the McAvin/King shoe hostage crisis, I have started to wear my dress shoes to work.

I like my dress shoes. They are perfectly comfortable shoes. But they are not my beloved, lovely black shoes. Those shoes are in the custody of - in effect, being held hostage by - one Tim McAvin. And I want them back!

I have tried to get them back one time. One evening last week, This is where it starts to get suspicious. Oh, sure, Tim said. You can come and get your shoes. No problem. But you'll have to come and get them, he said. He didn't have a car that night. I took down his address. I drove toward his home in South County. As I drew near, to nail down directions to his door, I called Tim.

And, suddenly, there was no Tim on the phone. Suddenly, his phone was doing that thing when the person who has the cell phone plan tells the cell phone company his phone isn't going to be a working phone for awhile. Tim dodged me. Tim is dodging me. Tim is holding my shoes hostage! Tim, bring me back my beloved, lovely shoes!

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