I have gone insane.

You probably thought the pressures of the down economy had kept me from shopping (and writing about it) of late, but the truth is far scarier. Much has happened, dear reader, since my last post – and I’m now ready to tell all. It began months ago during a routine trip to NY. I had an hour to kill before a lunch meeting at the Hard Rock in Times Square (which rocks, btw), so I decided to use Yelp on my iPhone to find a great shoe store near my hotel. Yelp pointed me to Benedetti Shoes on 34th, near Macy’s, that, according to the reviews, sold “exquisite, Italian hand-made shoes.” Bingo. So I hacked through 10 blocks of sidewalk-fashion-district insanity only to discover that my destination had “relocated,” due to the fact the building was being renovated by some Korean multinational. Destined to be a retail Mecca sometime in the future, no doubt. But for now, there I stood, heartbroken that there was no shoe gold at the end of my rainbow.

Then I noticed Famous Footwear.

Famous Footwear? I know they sell a lot of shoes to a lot of people, but Burke Andrews had never darkened the doorstep of an FF, likely for fear of being spotted slumming by TMZ. But desperate times call for desperate measures. I was in NY with no time to get to 8th street, I freakin’ needed some shoes, bad. So, I sucked it up and jaywalked 34th right in the door of Famous Footwear.

It was as bad as I feared, mobs of be-socked shoppers promiscuously trying on white Reebok high-tops and late-model Timberlands. I scanned the tops of the display shelves looking for something truly interesting. What’s this? A decent looking shoe, in FF? I pulled on the pair of side-zip black boots, with the below-ankle style of a clip-toe cowboy boot. $95? I quickly took a picture with my phone and emailed it to my personal assistant. “What do you think?” No answer. F-it, who cares that I never heard of Zodiac shoes, they look cool, pointy and booty, and I was jonesing. I would have bought a pair of Capezios just to stop the shouting in my head.

Back at the hotel, after lunch, head finally clear of the initial NY-shoe-shopping rush, I tried them on again. Not bad.

But, as they say, you get what you pay for. While they may well be the coolest looking shoes I’ve ever owned, they’ve given me nothing but trouble, operationally. Toes scuff way too easily, and I’ve already had the heels fixed twice. And now the left heel has a squeak. A squeak?! Who gets a squeaky heel? Charlie Chaplin?

Anyway, what they did do was introduce me to a new look that’s got me totally psyched. Dare I say, Urban Cowboy? The low-roper heel and smart-toe profile have spurred me to give these boots a lot of mileage since that NY trip. And because of their less-than-stellar durability, I’ve also had many long searching sessions on Zappos and other shoe sites (including some hard core Western-wear sites) looking for something similar that might be more sturdy. At one point, I had no less than 10 pair of boots in my house and sent every one back. (Sorry, Mr. Hsieh.)

During this process, however, I did discover a heretofore latent obsession with Frye boots. While I’ve seen many great pairs of Fryes over the years, every pair I tried failed to fit the bill. Too tall, sole not thick enough, heel too high, too hard to pull on, whatever, I just couldn’t get ‘em to work. But it never stopped me from coming back, hoping someday I’d find the Frye for me. Meantime, I scoured the web for something in an Urban Cowboy boot to take the place of the Zodiacs when they died — which was clearly imminent. Nothing. I pondered, “How could this unheard-of, mass-market store brand come up with the absolutely perfect boot?” I even toyed with the idea of sending them to Texas to get some high-end boot company to build a custom clone (still not entirely out of the question — I am going to Santa Fe at the end of the month). But I soon abandoned the idea, as it seemed too difficult (read: expensive) to execute.

With nothing to replace my rapidly disintegrating Zodiacs, I slipped into a kind of shoe depression. No longer interested in footwear, no longer shopping for footwear, no longer caring about the one thing Burke Andrews has always cared about most in his life. Each day I desultorily zipped on my squeaky-heeled boots, somehow not concerned that I was making silly noises as I walked or that these noisy-but-beautiful boots were not-so-slowly wasting away.

Then, early one morning — the sun must have been shining — I was moved by a power greater than myself to take a peek at Zappos. Just a peek. Lo and behold, almost immediately I discovered two pair of boots. The first, brown Steve Maddens with a great cowboy look – probably too pointy and too high in the heel. But they were on sale, and the site only had 10.5 left. Add to cart. The second, to my surprise, a pair of Fryes, ones I had never seen before. Were they a new style? Kinda cool. Zip-up, but with a buckle, too, and a really nice heel and sole. Add to cart. Still, having ordered and returned so many boots recently, even this act of fetishistic faith did not lift my gloom. The box arrived while I was away, so I forgot it was even coming (imagine!). But when I returned, there it was.

And so was the happy ending to this tragic post. Because — amazingly — I love them both. They’re quite different for me: the SMs, a more extreme boot than I’ve ever had, and the Frye’s, leaner and more biker than I’ve ever worn. But they’re both great. My shoe depression has lifted. I’m rejuvenated. And, more importantly, so is my commitment to my relationship with the stuff I wear on my feet.

In short, Burke Andrews loves shoes again!

Epilogue: The too-beautiful-to-live Zodiacs finally gave up the ghost. I took them to a cobbler (oooh, that word), and he said it would be at least $170 to repair, with no guarantees. The news left me with a hole in my newly expanded shoe quiver, as my experience with those ill-fated Famous Footwear boots had uncovered an ongoing need for a pair of clip-toe cowboys. Which leads to my visit to Santa Fe. While there over Memorial Day weekend, I visited the famous Lucchese boot store on Water Street in downtown, more on a whim than because I thought I’d really find something. Well, find something I did. Thanks to the incredible knowledge of the salesman – sporting a killer pair of Stingrays, btw – I found a beautiful pair of Mad Dog leather boots — actually made of goat skin — in a chocolatey black color, with the perfect toe and heel. The bad news: I have to wait four months for them to be custom-made. The good news: they are awesome and are going to launch me to a whole new level of boot love.

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