Barefoot in the Park…Arkansas style…

Call me a sap, but my absolute fav Robert Redford movie, “Barefoot in the Park,” probably won my heart because of where I was in my life at the time I first saw it—right after we first moved to Pittsburgh after honeymooning in New York City.


Johnny and I got married on May 2, 1968. It was just a quick ceremony at the Newman Center in Fayetteville so that when he left for his new job right after graduation, I could go with him. We had plans…big plans…plans involving mostly travel with a captial T…and we had a list of places we wanted to go. Mine was bigger than his but his was pretty significant too. (Africa was number 1 and 2 on my list. South America was top of his.)


However, New York City was way up there for both of us…and coincidentally, his sister Bobbie was going on a cruise to Europe leaving from NYC. So we ended up driving her there as we had time before Johnny started his new job in Pittsburgh.


After Bobbie left on her cruise, we spent a week in New York City…seeing “Fiddler on the Roof” off Broadway, having dinner at Tavern on the Green, cruising around Manhatten, going up top the Empire State Building…and generaliy getting used to traveling with each other…and traveling in general. It was a gas.

But let’s face it. Being married is an adjustment. We were used to dating…had that down pat…but spending that first week together…alone…24/7…in that way cool city was full of unexpected ups and downs.

The one I remember in particular…actually we remember it differently of course…involved our first foray into Japanese food. (An interesting appetizer since within two years we’d live in Japan for almost a year—but I digress.)The restaurant was many blocks away from our hotel but it was a beautiful evening and I suggested that we walk. That was my first mistake.


As we were new to this married state of affairs, how I looked to him was far more important than comfort so I wore a garter belt, nylon stockings, a straight skirt and pointy-toed flats with no arch support. That was my second mistake.


By the time we found the restaurant, I was hobbling. I’m pretty sure it was on the fiftieth floor (no elevator that we ever found) which Johnny disputes, maintaining it was only six floors. Then, when we got there…we had to wait. I maintain it was six months…Johnny says twenty minutes. What does he know? He wasn’t standing in my shoes at the time. Then, to my surprise, there were no chairs to sit in—just a squat darkwood table on some kind of a woven-grass mat—and getting down and back up in that skirt…well you can imagine the logistics of that.


Now, I was nineteen. Where I came from, restaurants jes KNEW I was nineteen and didn’t even bother to offer me a drink. My only prior drinking experience was a mouthful of beer—given to me by an overly-eager teenaged boy who I never went out with again—which I spit out in disgust. But in the Big Apple they brought me saki. Hot. In wee tiny cups. And encouraged me to swallow the whole scalding mess in one gulp. That was my third mistake.


And when the waitress left, Johnny continued to pour me teeny little gulps. After a time or two, my feet didn’t hurt anymore. In fact, nothin’ much hurt after that…but I’m pretty sure that was my fourth mistake.


I don’t remember what we ate. I do remember that getting up in that straight skirt without exposing my garters was a process—as was going down those steep stairs which was complicated by the fact that one of my swollen feet no longer fit into my pointy-toed flats.


Once we got to the street, Johnny suggested we take a taxi. My feet hurt but my head was spinning and I was afraid that a taxi would make me throw up. So we headed back to our hotel at a hobble. Definitely mistake number five.

After about 12 blocks, we realized we were lost, being as we were on a street lined with row houses and apartments instead of on a main drag. That was mistake number six. I recognized mistake number five as being a mistake along about then but since there were no taxi stands or bus stops in sight, we needed to correct mistake number six in order to correct mistake number five…I think. 🥺 And in order to correct mistake number six, I needed to be able to walk which I couldn’t because of mistakes number two, three and four.


So I did what any 19-year old Arkansas kid faced with NYC challenges like these would do. I sat down on the curb and cried. Now Johnny was alternately concerned, since I was clearly drunk—and pissed since he’d not realized he’d married a teenaged pain in the butt—and he was afraid to leave me alone on an abandoned street corner in the strangest of strange cities to go find a taxi—because you know rapists and murderers might be idly passing by, scoop me up and subject me to any number of nefarious and ignominious activities—and how would he ever explain that to my dad?


All these issues were resolved unexpectedly when I threw up a foul smelling-combo of saki and whatever else I’d eaten. I won’t say that solved mistakes 1 and 2, but it was an enormous help with the rest of them.


Johnny helped me to my feet. Then we chose a direction, committed to it and after a few blocks ended up on a busy avenue where we caught a bus heading toward where Johnny calculated our hotel was. That was probably his best move yet since I would have chosen a bus going the other way—but I digress.


So as we arrived at the busstop nearest to our hotel, I realized that my other foot was too swollen to fit into that shoe too—and that the foot parts of both stockings were shredded into nothingness. So I slipped my shoes and stockings off, handed Johnny my flats, tossed the shredded nylons into my purse and ran across a big wide NYC avenue barefoot. He followed me, head down as we rode the elevator up to our room.

“So,” I said as he closed and locked the door to our room, “Did you have fun?”


That was mistake number 7.




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