I wear boots to work, whether the day’s work calls for boots or not. Most of the time, the day’s work demands it, but I wear boots to work no matter what I’m doing. They are leather and rubber and nylon and solid. My boots are worn in, weathered, battered, and scuffed. But they are not worn down. And they are not beat up. When I got them, they were waterproof. Now, they are mostly waterproof except for that big hole in the leather on the right toe, which got ripped open on some sharp edge of a loading dock ramp in the bowels of some fancy-schmancy hotel. I didn’t feel a thing when it happened, but I remember looking down at my feet and swearing, a lot. Later that day I had to cut the resulting leather flap off the toe because it was catching on things as I walked by. I used a utility knife, a sharp as fuck utility knife. It sliced through the old leather like my boot didn’t mind at all, like the knife was imposing its will and the leather just agreed. I was not going to use scissors; safety first, rounded tips, plastic ergonomically formed handles, no way. There is still a layer of thick nylon mesh covering my toes, keeping them partially dry, but when I walk through a thunderstorm and absentmindedly tromp through a puddle, water now sneaks under the leather. It saturates the hide from behind. The formerly impervious sanctuary of my boots has been corrupted. That means my right foot gets wet. It also means that the boot has additional cracks in the leather, on each side of the ball of my foot, where the toes bend. They are getting worse, these cracks in the damn. I like it, I suppose. Looks tough, looks honest, looks good. My boots are deep brown and the leather is marbled and shines where it’s been rubbed thin after years of work. Rubbed thin by hundred pound steel boxes of audio gear and pallets of poured concrete gargoyles and Venus De Milo fountains. The leather is thinned by the day-after-day ritual of getting soaked, drying out, getting soaked, drying out, and getting soaked again. My laces are the same ones that came with the boots. Over the years, they have gouged channels into the surface of the boot’s leather tongues, as if to say, “I know where I’m going, I’ve been going there for years, get the hell out of my way.” Parts of the laces are worn thin and stringy from where they pop into the shinny brass clips near the top. They aren’t threatening to break, just showing evidence that they have popped in and out of those damn clips too many times to count. I tie these boots in the dark, half asleep, exhausted, at ungodly hours, before the sun rises or long after it has set, in a lethargic blur, on my knees, always on my knees. I can’t get them on otherwise. It always takes a long time. It is always a process. When I finally squeeze and stomp my way into them, my feet feel right at home, instantly. At first they feel like dumbbells, slow and lumbering, graceless and ungainly. But the weight feels good; pulling my legs down, making me walk with purpose, making my gate mean something, adding force to my stride. Half a block later they have balanced themselves out, half keeping me grounded, half pulling me forward; each step landing with a satisfying thump on the surface, no matter what surface it is. I love going up and down stairs in my boots. I don’t look for staircases and run up and down them for no reason at all, but I will always take the stairs rather than an escalator. My boots reverb out along my apartment hallway as I stumble down the stairs in the day’s first light, or trudge up them after a long day of work. They pound out each wooden step with a cave-like echo, the opposite of stealth. Stomp stomp. I feel bad for my neighbors sometimes and take the back stairs, outside. Stomp stomp. Attic steps creak and whine underneath my boots and with little to no effort on my part, and I can completely disrupt the concentration of anyone on the floor below me. My boots never fully fit on any one step. They never slip, even on ice. They are never too tight. They never let my feet get cold. They never stop me from running. They make winter better as I don’t give a second thought to walking through snow or slush. They leave prints of mud and water and salt and dirt everywhere I go. They feel legendary going on, and feel even better coming off. They always make me feel like I am doing real work, no matter what the day’s work might be. They are leather and rubber and nylon and solid, and they are going the way of all flesh.