A man with no shoes | Selangor Times
Monday
26·06·2017
Issue 118

 

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A man with no shoes
Writer: Lee Lian Kong
Published: Fri, 25 May 2012

He didn’t have shoes on. A pair of rubber soles with the top part of what used to be a shoe, hanging by a thread or two, hardly count as shoes. On them were his feet, his black feet covered white, only possible through the harshness of the cold, chapping away at skin. I could not take my eyes off them. For three months, I’ve only seen smooth feet, covered in proper shoes or the eye-rolling hipster Toms. Feet and shoes that belonged to the haves.

I’m guessing this plastic train seat was his bed for tonight, or has been for many nights. His hands were clasped but the same white marred his big, clumsy hands. His clothes were a homeless mismatch. Torn, old, dirty. Those feet …

No one would sit near him. Granted there were other seats available, away from him, preferably. The train rumbled on under this city called New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of. Hush-hush, my iPhone deftly concealed, snap, I Instagrammed this man. Shame came over me immediately. Who am I to use a man’s suffering to add to my stupid collection of vintage-fied photos on my middle class iPhone app?

“The other side of capitalism,” said Vanessa, my traveling companion and who later grew to be a close friend, from Venezuela. The anti-Chavez, proudly middle class, fire-breathing capitalist Vanessa was not exempt for this scene.

We had just returned from the Empire State Building, running through Fifth Avenue, thrilled from our view from the 86th floor of that famous landmark. Had we seen an architectural marvel or the product of years of marketing gimmicks? The audio guide which spoke proudly of the millions of dollars involved in the building of the Empire State building, played like a sinister soundtrack to my sight of the homeless man in front of me now.

Was he the rule or the exception? We have placed a black man in the White House built by black slaves but have we taken the blacks off the streets? Was he the man Vanessa and I were so afraid of being mugged from just a while ago? In the capital of this developed nation glorified by so many, we beat ourselves up for not arming ourselves up with small pistols and pepper sprays, you know, those type that would fit just nicely into a woman’s handbag. And he had the mugger’s look : unrefined, smelly, black, scary. In a different light, in the subway, seeing his “shoes” and feet, we now offer him our sympathy. We probably want to give him a meal, find him a job, offer some money. And later put this in our resume as our philantrophic kindness. Our sympathy was handed down vertically, from our comfortable enclave above to him in the pits below.

I looked around to see if others were looking at him or at me looking at him. None were. A desensitized mass of commuters? Oh, but I caught a guilty peek from a man just to my right. Were they desensitized or just really good at hiding their uncouth busybody-ish behavior? Was the ability to feel something for your fellow man no longer a virtue but now an unsophisticated vice?

The train stopped at 157th Street. It was our stop. We stepped off the subway and walked back to our hostel. The homeless man is forgotten. Until I used him again for my own selfish reasons to write an overdue column.

 

 

 Selangor Times

 

 

Also by Lee Lian Kong:

A Critique on KL : It’s Alive

A 20-something year old girl, dressed in the current trendy look (loose patterned blouse, denim shorts, aviators, brown highlighted hair) walks with her DSLR camera in her hands. She flings it to the sky and the video sweeps into the (as per usual) spectacular aerial view of KL’s cityscape, highway and suburbs.

Music lost on KL

That Kuala Lumpur exists and her beauty lost to so many is beyond me.

Erykah Badu and the free speech paradox

Free speech has its limits. That’s the paradox of the First Amendment.

America

It had been a 14 hour long flight, after an earlier 6 hours flight. I was flying to Evansville, Indiana, to undertake a one semester study grant by the US Department of State. So there I was, jetlagged and tired but finally, on United States of America soil. It was my first time on a plane and crossing oceans. There was excitement but my tired body was struggling to keep up with it. It didn’t help that at the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport where I was transiting, there was a long line at US Customs. I was not in the best mood.

A Lawyers’ March … Fuh!

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Why I don’t enjoy nasi lemak any more

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Our merciless society

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They’re everywhere! Flying, reading minds, attracting metals, smashing buildings into pulp. It’s hero-invasion season now. X-Men: First Class had barely ended before The Green Lantern swooped in, and soon, we will have Captain America.

Girls and subcultures

Don’t accept the old order. Get rid of it.So says Johnny Rotten, vocalist of the Sex Pistols. That’s what subcultures are all about: rejection of mainstream society, whether in the form of music, fashion, visual arts, dance, literature, films, etc. A subculture’s intention is to differentiate itself.

Young and Sarawakian/Malaysian

Good things come in pairs. In my case, they came in threes. They came in the form of three close friends from St Joseph, Kuching, who flew across the pond to pursue their A Levels.

A refuge for the young ones

"We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!” - Sean Parker, The Social Network

 

Let's create more P Ramlees

This song will continue to resonate timelessly. P Ramlee was not a one-hit wonder. His songs spanned decades, from the infectious Bunyi Gitar to the aching Di Mana Kan Ku Cari Ganti. His is a genius sorely missed in today’s creatively barren music industry.

A fun riot, indeed

"We can do what we like, no one can stop us." Early last month, London and a couple of other cities were held hostage by rioters. The English's castles were looted by 14-year- olds in hoodies.

Though this sounds comical, the underlying issues of the youths involved are gritty and not to be taken lightly.

 

 

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