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Shirttails, shoes and ferries home

Jun 29, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

Twenty-five years ago Wednesday my wife and I stood near a big cottonwood tree on a hot Wyoming afternoon and said our wedding vows to one another. Today we are in San Francisco in the mist and the breeze to celebrate the quarter-century occasion with a few nights at a nice hotel (the shower has neither curtain nor door -- now that's fancy).

Thursday afternoon I sat sipping something warm in the handsome old Ferry Building along the revitalized stretch of bayfront property called the Embarcadero. The gigantic Bay Bridge, for my money the equal of the more-famous Golden Gate, and far more important terms of transportation (it is at the Bay Bridge where Interstate 80 begins) loomed overhead.

Suddenly, in a near stampede, a rush of San Franciscans poured through the Ferry Building, weaving their way among the shoppers, sightseers and tea-sippers. They were, I realized, hurrying to get on one of the several huge ferry boats docked on the bay side of the building. These were not tourists. These were commuters.

A certain urban uniform was apparent. There were some suit wearers from the nearby financial district, but most of the men getting off work and hustling toward the ferries had the same wardrobe style: long-sleeved dress shirts, usually with sleeves rolled to the elbows, long shirttails untucked. Blue jeans. And hard-soled leather shoes, black or brown, with prominent square toes noticeably upturned.

The shoes look a couple of sizes too big for these men, the better to accommodate the square-toed prows.

They reminded me of the old-style pro football kickers of my childhood who put on a special shoe when it was time to kick a field goal. Off would come the regulation football cleats shoes they wore when running, and on would go the one with the hard, blocky toe section well-suited to foot-punching the oval ball through the goal posts.

Today's kickers are all soccer-style, approaching the ball at an angle and kicking more with the side of the foot than the toe, but if there's ever a renaissance of the old straight-ahead kicking style, I know where the teams could find the appropriate shoes. They are here in San Francisco, on the feet of the 30-something commuters, hustling to catch the ferry home, their shoe fronts protruding forward like alligator snouts as they board the boats that will take them home.

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