Editor’s Note: We’re so happy to welcome a new writer Helen Berger to the Dear Handmade Life team for her fourth post! We loved her first few posts: our Gift Guide for Creative Business Owners, Gift Guide for Artisan Food and Drink Lovers and Gift Guide for Makers, Artists and Crafters. You can read more about Helen at the end of this post.
“I’d like to talk to someone about these boots. I think they might be alive.”
Five minutes earlier I’d wandered into the Hermes store in Beverly Hills. As I made my way to the shoe section, every employee had succeeded in avoiding eye contact with me. It was as if they could tell I had a negative bank balance and a penchant for sales at TJ Maxx. From a brown paper bag I pulled out a pair of boots and waved them around. “Hello!” I said to no one in particular. It worked. A sales lady approached, guarded, hands up, the way a police officer might a desperate criminal in a hostage situation. Her eyes seemed to plead “step-away-from-the-boots,” but through a forced smile she asked how she could help.
In a tone more matter-of-fact than intended, I said “I’d like to talk to someone about these boots. I think they might be alive.”
Clearly, they were not my boots.
It was my first real Hollywood job. I was the assistant to a world-renowned actress and because of it I often found myself in places I didn’t belong. Earlier that day, my boss called me into her couture laden walk-in closet. It was there that she handed me the mystifying pair of spotty rubber boots. “These boots are aliiiive!” she intoned, her accent dripping in southern charm. In televised interviews she softened the drawl to merely hint at Dixieland. That day, though, I got the full Scarlet O’Hara.
“What should I do with them?” I asked, knowing I was about to be sent on a mission that I would probably fail. Most of the elaborate assignments she sent me on – like locating rare books or finding a little person willing to dress as a pumpkin for her daughter’s Halloween party – were not things they taught me in college.
“I need you to go to the ER-MAY store and ask them why my boots are aliiive. Ask ‘em how to clean ‘em or kill ‘em.”
“Wait, you want me to go to the Hermes store?” I asked, dread setting in.
“And tell them ‘these boots are alive’?”
It was a fool’s errand. But I knew those well, so off I went.
Back in the store, the saleslady took a step back. “When I say alive,” I quickly explained, “I mean something is growing on these boots and I need help fixing it, considering they came from this store.”
As it turns out the $800 boots really were aliiiiive, kind of. They were made from a tree only found in the Amazon. The sap of this proud Amazonian tree was harvested and vulcanized then sent directly to wherever they make Hermes products. The rubber is rare and must be cared for with Amazonia lotion, according to a pamphlet provided upon purchase. This prevents the rubber of the boot from turning white and patchy, or alive looking. It is required of the owner – or her chamber maid – to apply it weekly. Because my boss virtually ignored the boots for a whole year, they had almost decomposed.
The sales lady fetched some Amazonia from the back room, then proceeded to rub the boots affectionately while complimenting the make and quality. It was as if she was experiencing what actors call an internal moment, where the character wants to reveal something of great importance, but looks away into the middle distance because the sentiment is personal and not for the listener. Then out came the sheepskin cloth. “Circular movements” she mumbled lovingly. Ten minutes later I was ready to leave, boots in a soft flannel Hermes bag, looking decidedly less splotchy. I was armed with Amazonia and the knowledge that it would take up to three months to restore the original sheen of the boots.
Upon my return I related the details of my excursion to the boss lady, she furrowed her brow and suggested we go to the rainforest and “give them back.” I quietly explained that this was not an option; it was now our duty to care for the boots not abandon them. The restoration job was given to the housekeeper, Graciella, who after 17 years of service was quite used to the inane things that were thrown her way.
Mission accomplished, finally. Another day was done and I began to look forward to the ice cold beer that sat in my fridge at home. I lived miles from the surreal world of celebrity and the privileges that came with it and probably always would. But at least my boots – scruffy and beat up -were dead. As they should be.
While this week’s gift giving guide is missing the perennial Christmas classic Vulcanized Amazonian boot, you’ll find a gift for just about anyone.
1. Macrame Plant Hanger by Hello Chiqui
2. Tiles Canvas Card Pouch by Social Preparedness Kit
3. Handmade Custom Word Sign by Kolorize
4. Adventure Awaits Green Key Chain by Slideshow Press
5. Hand Dyed Indigo Tea Towel by Dear Handmade Life
6. Artist Mug + Camp Mug by Helen Levi
7. California State Heart Necklace by [Un] Possible Cuts
8. Tag + Twine Kit by We Love Citrus
9. Awesome Sauce Card by Papa Llama
10. Unfolding Your Life Vision Kit by Jennifer Lee
11. Organic Fruit Print Linen Napkins by Tina Produce
12. Punch Surprise Note Box by Leafcutter Designs
13. Soy Wax GMO-Free Candles by Mr. B’s Luminaries
14. Pantone Journal Book by Pantone
15. Diana F + Instant Camera by Lomography
16. VW Bus Traveling Bag by The Monster Factory
17. Native Plants Calendar by Maria Schoettler
18. Wool Wall Pennants by Miriam Dema
19. Wilderness-Inspired Handmade Soaps by Jones Country Road
20. Save the Arctic Fox Kanken Backpack by Fjall Raven
21. Modern Black and White Industrial Concrete Planter by Badseed Studio
22. Home State Wall Art by Embitchery
23. Gold Dipped Concrete Coasters by by Badseed Studio
24. I Carried A Watermelon Mug by The Silver Spider Print Shop
Helen Berger is a writer, script coordinator and producer who has worked on several television shows and movies including 30 Rock, Royal Pains and The Blacklist. She’s half Brazillian and half Swiss which means she tans well and makes an excellent fondue. She loves photography – check out her pictures here: https://hlb323.tumblr.com/ and follow her on twitter: @hlb323