This afternoon, my friend Kim took me to the Alamo Square shoe garden, (her shot above, from http://flickr.com/photos/kimu/). There, succulents grow out of cowboy boots and sequinned pumps. (Check it out here on someone's Brightcove video to see for yourself.) More than just whimsical, the garden had this emotional weight for me and it took me a little while to figure it out.
Then, I started thinking about all those abandoned shoes I see around the city. Dirty and squashed, they usually sit, bereft of mate, right at the edge of the curb. Sometimes a car is parked at the curb and sometimes not. I was told once that the shoes belong to people who crawl under cars for to get a few hours' sleep or to get high. They come back out in a dazed state some time later, before the owner of the car retunrs I guess, and they leave there shoes behind. This doesn't explain why the pair isn't left, why it is often just one shoe, but it seems like a plausible story. And so seeing stray shoes in the city always gives me this exposed, cold feeling.
By contrast, the slippers and Mary Janes and high heels have found their mates again in the Alamo Square garden. The shoes here are kind of battered and weathered too, but placed with care. Instead of being precarious, they are like Cecilia Vicuna's precarios, those little sculptures of detritus that become a wish or prayer. So, the shoe garden feels like found object landscaping with all the redemptiven connotations that word 'found' might carry.
This article was written by a aother friend of mine who lives near Alamo Square. Read it to discover how the garden came to be.