During our walks on the beach these past few months, Alma and I have found many strange abandoned articles, ranging from a fire extinguisher (talk about taking owls to Athens or coal to Newcastle!) to women's cosmetics (I'm talking the big, vanity-scale bottles of eau de toilette) to full-scale outfits of clothing (talking shirts and pants together).
But few man-made items we find are so weird as the spectacle of abandoned flip-flops. When we find them, we tend to find them in batches. Yesterday, for example, Alma found two and a half pairs. They come in all shapes and sizes -- one of the pairs Alma found yesterday belonged to a very little girl, as judging from their petite size and Little Mermaid imaging overlaid on top of pink soles. Another pair belonged to an older boy, as they were longer and had some sort of moto-cross insignia on them. But, as often as not, we will find flip flops that belong to adults, seemingly abandoned without a care. The half a pair was an adult-size flipflop, black with some neon colored design on it.
Now why we would find abandoned flip flops is a subject of endless conversation and theorizing for Alma and me. One theory we have is that they are from boats that pitch a little too violently, sending flip flops over the edge to wash up eventually on the beach. Except that, all too often, we find complete pairs of flip-flops. While the sea might cause a boat to tilt to such an angle that one or both flip flops washed off the deck, would that same sea cause both flip flops to wash up on the beach in close proximity to one another?
Another theory we bandy about in jest is that exposure to the California sun causes people to lose their minds entirely and simply abandon things they came to the beach with. This theory holds some attraction, but it presumes that people who abandon their flip flops have other footwear available to them for the walk across the sand and back to their cars wherever they might be parked. (There are beach parking lots, so presumably one could abandon one's flip flops, walk across the sand bare footed and reach one's vehicle in the beach lot without having to walk a long distance on paved surfaces.) But we find too many single flip flops for this to explain the matter entirely.
As often as not, the flip flops appear brand new, unmarred by any significant wear and tear. Sure, we find the occasional flip flop whose strap has broken from over-use or stress. But the flip flops we found yesterday all appeared to be in very good shape, as if their owners had abandoned them while the flip flop was still usable.
I do not mean to single out flip flops entirely. I have also found expensive leather sandals down there in the past. Again, while not flip flops, we are talking sandals (and pairs of sandals) in mint condition. The type of footwear one might expect to pay upward of $30-40 for. Simply amazing.
A final possibility is that flip flops and sandals are left on the beach whose owners fully intend to recover them after taking a walk. But then the sun sets and finding the flip flop one left in full expectation of returning them becomes a far more daunting proposition. However, this theory does not explain the curious case of the abandoned single flip flop. It is probably best that some things remain a mystery.
If you have lost or abandoned your sandals down at Venice Beach during these past six months, you can take consolation in the knowledge that Alma is busy turning them into found art. Or rather, the straps of the sandals. Yesterday, as we walked, Alma pulled the straps free from the soles and kept the straps, while chucking the soles onto the sand beyond the high-water mark. (The trash cans are so far removed from the part of the beach where we walk as to make putting the soles into the trash too time consuming for a walk intended to conclude before the sun sets. The authorities of Los Angeles County put the trash cans so far away from where the crowds congregate as to provide a disincentive to folk to police their garbage. More on this in a later post.)
If one or two great works of art emerge from the abandoned flip flops, that will immortalize them.