The Journal of Provincial Thought
jptHome, Issue 3
additional hilarity from the Glenda White apparel chronicles
she flipped for Carmen Miranda
Carmen, Sophia & Me
by Glenda White

Whenever the rare opportunity came to visit in New York City, I made it a point to return with at least one item of clothing or accessory “Au Courant” in the Big Apple. In this case, a pair of four-inch-high cork sandals known to the shoe industry as “mules,” usually open-toed, with no strap at the heel.

This kind of footwear was made famous by the vivacious—but miniature— Brazilian singer and dancer Carmen Miranda. She was at the height of her fame during my formative years, 1948-58, which I spent mainly at Saturday morning movies. She was the only actor (except maybe Mickey Rooney) shorter than me, and I always adored her films as a child. So when I had a chance to buy a pair of shoes like those worn by my idol, of course I snapped them up!
Glenda White's Remembering Carmen Miranda--William J Schafer
When I put on these amazing sandals, I was immediately transformed (at least in imagination) into my other female screen idol, Sophia Loren. At last, I could stride along up there with the long-legged beauty of my teen daydreams.

My husband John and I and our two sons were returning to Washington, D.C., from New York, after a stressful visit with friends in an apartment too small for two people comfortably, let alone four adults, three rambunctious boys, a miniature poodle and a white rat!

The boys were tired, cranky and quarrelsome, and my husband not much better. I spent much of the return trip trying to keep the boys from fratricide and my husband from killing them both. I consoled myself by admiring my new footgear, imagining how amazed and confounded both friends and enemies would be at my New York City shoes. This triumph would be postponed until we returned from our sabbatical leave in D.C. to our permanent home in Berea, KY, but imagining the hit I would make kept me from pushing the family under the wheels of our train.

I had purchased a very large overnight bag to take to the city and, of course, filled it so completely with trinkets, souvenirs, etc, that it resembled a boa constrictor after ingesting a goat. Somehow, I managed to get this fire-engine red boa-constrictor look-alike and myself safely off the train (no thanks to the gentlemen in my entourage, who lept from the train like frightened antelope, and took off down the platform).

Breathless, I panted, “John, slow down please, I can’t keep up!” He pretended not to hear, and never diminished his six-foot-two stride. I struggled to follow, but the combination of being four inches higher off the ground and hauling gargantuan luggage and a vast handbag kept me from catching up.

Unfortunately, the load did not keep me from trying, with the result that when we exited Union Station and descended the steps, I found myself on very uneven ground with a downward tilt. Since I had been hurrying, my forward momentum propelled me faster and faster. I recognized this was not a good thing, since I was already moving too fast to stay upright. Then I made a fatal error, believing that if I shed the cumbersome red bag, I would regain control of my forward motion. I decided to toss the bag to one side.

Well, it might have succeeded, had not Newton’s Law still been in effect. This particular law of physics says that for every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction. I gave a vigorous heave to one side, but forgot to release the handles. Naturally, the bag swung back to where I had begun the action, with exactly the same speed and force. When the bag struck my midriff, I dropped the handle—right in front of my still downward-hurtling body!

Here begins the Miracle: without a second’s pause, I found my hands reaching over the fallen bag, taking the rest of me along, in a perfectly executed forward roll—once, twice, and then for reasons I still have to figure out, my body lengthened, and I executed two more horizontal rolls, ending on my back.

This placed me delicately and precisely at the feet of a man who was quite drunk, being arrested by one of D.C.’s finest. They both blinked and stared. All I could think to do was to smile brightly, and wheeze out,” Good Morning!” They did not reply, but continued to stare. I discovered that none of me was broken, and the only injury, aside from a two-foot-long skidmark down the back of my white blouse from sliding on asphalt, was to my dignity.

I gathered myself, staggered to my feet, retrieved my colossal bag, purse, etc. and tried to exit as if I had planned it all along. John, who had not turned around, looked over his shoulder and grated out “Are you hurt?” and kept walking.

I didn’t blame him. Who wanted to be associated with a woman who would do that? The children stood around helpfully howling with laughter and holding their sides. Then I began to laugh, and continued, all the way to the car. I never really wanted to wear my Carmen Miranda shoes after this and decided Sophia Loren was not the role model for me. ###

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