Hungry Ghost-a cautionary tale of empty extravagance

I haven’t written on this thing in a while. I don’t really have any good excuse. New home, frenetic work and I still haven’t even set up a Wi-Fi connection. Though I doubt anyone is keeping tabs it certainly doesn’t hurt to keep you in the know. I have a lot to say about my journeys last year but it’s still metastasizing into something that might be palatable. In the meantime here’s a little cautionary tale from 2020.


In Japanese folklore, there exists the legend of the hungry ghost. Generally thought to be a person who led a wicked existence in the flesh, there was a world of being constantly craven. Everything that sparkles shines and shows isn’t good enough, and they were forever pursuing that next fix. Be it drugs, alcohol, cars, money, sex, food, the list was endless. In the Japanese afterlife, they become the hungry ghost. These are grotesque beings that have bulbous bodies, and pencil-thin necks. Hunger roars within them all the time, but they are unable to satiate themselves due to their impossibly thin gullets, and so are forever condemned to do what they did in life, instead of perfecting themselves, becoming loving and escaping the wheel of karma,  they chase a craving that has no end as self-imposed starvation rules their days.
There’s a quote from the film “The lion in the winter” where Katherine Hepburn says with much pathos, “I wonder if I am hungry out of habit”. A line that sears itself into my being with the alacrity of a red hot poker. Why am I so craven? I have a personal parable about hunger and want that ties into this rather well.
In 2020, the year of the great quarantine, I came into some money. Alot of money. Receiving a succession of stimulus payments in tandem with unemployment backpay,  I had more pin money than I had ever known. Rent was on a pay-as-you-go basis, since most people were out of work, so the funds added fast. I watched my coffers triple. Yet, travel was still not an option since the virus raged. So in lieu of this, I sat home like a glutted prince and indulged every whim short of crossing borders and timezones. I took to grocery delivery and made gourmet dinners on the fly. I bought wine by the box. I bought things I didn’t even fathom wanting but somehow gathered I couldn’t be without. Clothing. Artwork. Artifacts. Like Mr. Havisham, I wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but dammit if I wouldn’t be perfectly dressed.
Then one day, I came upon a posting for a pair of boots. Not just any boots, reader. Jimmy Choo Moto boots. They were metallic gold, calfskin leather, as though suited for the feet of a flamboyant though gritty dandy. Something about them struck me. My inner Midas reeled. I wanted them. Nay-HAD to have them. As with most gluttony, you have no rhyme nor reason as to why you’ve indulged. Had that second bottle. Cleaned that second plate. Snorted that first line. Maxed out that 5th card. You just operate on pure tactile adrenaline. You rationalize. You say “I deserve this because (…….)”, but there is no because. There never was a “because”, nor shall there ever be. Nothing justified such a purchase. I wasn’t going anywhere. The places I frequented were few and even so, nobody would care- but this was poppycock to my inner Midas. Every time I listed a reason as to why this was an idiotic unrealistic extravagance, he countered with an aesthetic counterpoint.
“Overpriced”
-Italian leather
Ostentatious
“Gold brushed leather”
Where would you where them?
“You DESERVE them!”
Well, I succumbed. I clicked a button. I put in my card info. I checked the tracking daily. After what seemed an interminable time, I got the boots. Yes, they were attractive. Yes, the leather smell was divine. Yes, they sparkled like the eyes of Tantalus reaching for the fig tree. Yes, the buckles with polished, so beautiful.  …yet, well, thy didn’t really fit. No really, I fought and fought and tussled and thrust and could BARELY alight one boot to its twin. Instead of celebrating my new sartorial treasures, my newfound obsession was making them fit. I took large bottles of water and thrust them into their recesses and places them into the freezer so as to open them up. I crammed my feet into them and reeled in pain, hoping they would expand on their own. I had nowhere to go, so this was my project. My heels were red, my toes blistered, and my arches in woe. But- dammit if they didn’t look wonderous…expect, well,, they didn’t. They looked-silly. I looked, foolish. Nobody looked down at my feet and said what wonderful boots, how they sparkle and look so fine on you.  In spite of my wincing, nobody noticed.
I may as well have been wearing 30 beat up 30 dollar sketchers. I tried to make them work. …yet, I felt- foolish. I shed my boots, along with perhaps a layer of skin, and placed them next to my trusty flip-flops, running shoes, and second-hand combat boots. Footwear that was much less feted but had still served me.
These goddamn boots.
They represented all that was wrong inside me, made flesh- or shall I say, gold. I looked at them. They were so lovely, but I could scarcely wear them- and even if they fit like tailored gloves, they were still extravagant to an almost grotesque level. This thing I felt was the emblem of me, WAS in fact me, but the worst possible version. Heedlessly grand and vainglorious. Seeking validation from a world that could really give two shits. Fashion houses, name brands, and fine leather mean nothing in the grand scheme of things if you aren’t comfortable in your own skin. I wasn’t. …and my skin throbbed-particularly, my feet.
The months passed. I collected my money. The boots sat there, like some sort of statue. How poetic. I should have grabbed a pen and gone full Byron…. “every morn I gaze at the glistening boots I couldn’t wear….”.
One night I had a gruesome dream where I whipped out a knife and determined to fit them, vanity overtook sanity and like cinderellas sisters, hacked off hunks of my heels and toes. Blood gold and beauty made into a macabre fantasy. I woke up shaken. There they sat. As if to say “why don’t you like us? Why don’t you wear us? Don’t you love us?”

– It was all too much.
I contacted a nearby consignment store. Well, consignment is speaking too well. It was a snotty hipster thrift store-but that offered cash trade-ins. I wasn’t expecting a financial boon, but I would be glad to cast them off. I couldn’t deal with the mental hula hoop game they thrust me into. Sending them back wasn’t an option, as no larger sizes existed and the return process was interminable.
So I brought them to the store, along with a few other items. No harm in purging. There, amid bottles of topo chico and cardi b music playing, I was offered a paltry 60 dollars.  Apparently, some scuffs from one of my many forays in and around my neighborhood had lowered their value significantly. I reluctantly accepted and handed them over. I couldn’t grasp the owner’s indifference. Didn’t they see what I saw? The burnished leather, the metallic finishes, the Jimmy Choo London logo?
These arent a Nike shirt or some fubu you brat, this is ART!!!  I went home in a daze. Thus ended my great gold boot sojourn. I went in and out of the store several times in the intervening months. There they were sat, marked up to 80, and on a shelf next to some forgettable Steve Maddon sneakers.  The plots of numerous “silly symphonies” ran through my head.  Would they converse with the other footware when the store lights went off? Would they speak well of me? Or would they say ” he brutalized us, scuffed us and sold us for cheap? So glad we got the HELL out of there!”
In the end they went to a middle-aged woman from the suburbs. Maybe she wears them to her kids soccer practice. Or meeting the girls at Panera. Or getting Yankee candles at Target. To be sure, she has the fanciest feet at Hobby Lobby. She is, to say the least, progressive.
All I know dear reader, is as of this moment of writing, my feet are bare. I have what I need, some of what I want. There a bottle of wine on the counter but just one and frankly Im not craving it. I no longer live in that apartment, not that city. When I sat down to write this, I wanted to use this boot story as an allegory for want…. like the hungry ghost…Its never fullfilled. Or we think it is and that which we want ends of being a lopsided contorted caroonish version of what we truly need. ….and I can tell you, there’s much I have and much I desire, but the only thing I genuinely want, is the finest version of myself…..and that comes in just the right size.

C.Cipollini
7-16-22

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