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Archive for Monday, March 5, 2007

Laces wild

Shoes dangling from power lines in Lawrence probably represent harmless college pranks

March 5, 2007

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The white Adio tennis shoes, size 9 1/2, stood no chance of making it to a Dumpster.

One night, when Alex Busche decided the shoes were finally worn out, he tied their laces together, walked to the sidewalk outside his apartment at 14th and Tennessee and heaved them skyward.

On the first try, the shoelaces settled on top of the power line.

Score.

"My shoes were already pretty messed up," says Busche, a Kansas University junior from Olathe. "I thought I'd just leave my mark."

That was more than a year ago, and the shoes are still dangling from the power line like a silent wind chime. Now, two copycat sets of footwear - a pair of black tennis shoes and a pair of brown work boots - also adorn the line.

This isn't the only place in town where the power lines have a little extra decoration. Drive around Lawrence long enough, and chances are you'll probably see a pair of shoes hanging from a power line.

You might ask yourself: Why?

"Shoefiti"

That's the same question Ed Kohler's been pondering seriously for three years.

After he bought his first home in Minneapolis in 2004, he started noticing that a lot of shoes seemed to be popping up on power lines in his neighborhood.

Long story short, he became fascinated with why this happens. He coined the term "shoefiti," thinking that the shoes, when left unremoved, resembled graffiti that isn't painted over.

He even started a Web site, www.shoefiti.com, which tracks shoe/power line news.

Kohler isn't surprised the shoes show up on Lawrence power lines. The town he's seen with the most shoefiti is Bloomington, Ind., another college town.

An old pair of boots dangle from a power line as pedestrians make their way down 14th Street near Tennessee late Wednesday afternoon.

An old pair of boots dangle from a power line as pedestrians make their way down 14th Street near Tennessee late Wednesday afternoon.

Kohler says four reasons typically given for shoefiti are fairly well-founded:

¢ A celebration for a rite of passage, such as a graduation.

¢ Hazing, such as throwing a freshman's shoes over the line.

¢ A memorial, to commemorate someone who died near the site.

¢ A simple prank.

The other two theories are more controversial:

¢ Shoes signify a place to buy drugs is nearby.

¢ They're a sign of gang-related activity, such as marking territory or commemorating a gang murder.

"I'm uneasy about making definitive statements about the last two," Kohler says. "First, it's hard to prove, and second, it's bound to create hysteria among people who will assume all shoes on power lines are somehow gang-related."

But even that perception, he says, might make shoefiti removal important.

"A lot of people correlate shoefiti with drug or gang activity whether it's actually the case or not," he says. "This is one of the reasons cities should pay attention to shoefiti. Why would you want people driving through your city to think there is drug dealing or gang activity based on something that can be easily addressed in a few minutes with a utility truck and some scissors?"

Kohler says cities such as Cleveland and Los Angeles have made an effort to remove shoefiti as quickly as possible.

He says some of the less desirable elements in Minneapolis find the shoes to be an eyesore.

MORE pairs of shoes dangle from the power line near the intersection of 14th and Tennessee streets. Westar Energy spokeswoman Karla Olsen says the company doesn't make special trips to remove shoes from power lines unless they cause a power disruption.

MORE pairs of shoes dangle from the power line near the intersection of 14th and Tennessee streets. Westar Energy spokeswoman Karla Olsen says the company doesn't make special trips to remove shoes from power lines unless they cause a power disruption.

"When in a tougher neighborhood one time, I asked a hooker why she thought the shoes were on power lines," Kohler says. "She said she didn't know but thought it made the area look 'ghetto.' That was ironic coming from someone selling sex on the streets."

Not an issue

Despite the perceptions, don't expect the dangling shoes in Lawrence to come down anytime soon.

"We don't make special trips to go out and get shoes unless it's causing a power disruption," says Karla Olsen, a spokeswoman for Westar Energy.

Olsen says she doesn't think most of the shoes were tossed with malice.

"That seems to be a traditional prank by college students," she says. "We don't take it that they're out to get us or anything."

Kim Murphree, a spokeswoman for the Lawrence Police Department, says none of the officers she spoke with could remember a complaint about someone throwing shoes on power lines. And Lisa Patterson, a spokeswoman for City Hall, says nobody she talked to there thought it was a particular problem in Lawrence.

"It could be a community issue," she says, "but they're not coming to City Hall to complain about it."

That's fine by Busche, the KU student and shoe-tosser. He doesn't see the harm in it.

In fact, he might not be done with his shoefiti.

"I'm waiting until my shoes crap out," he says, "and I'll probably throw them up there again."

Comments

Scott Kaiser 7 years, 9 months ago

I was told that here in Georgia, it is a way to mark gang territory. Different color shoes mean different gangs.

Crossfire 7 years, 9 months ago

("KID, HAVE YOU REHABILITATED YOURSELF?") And friends they may thinks it's a movement.

grubesteak 7 years, 9 months ago

"You might ask yourself: Why?"

I did. "Why is this in the newspaper?"

trvlronda 7 years, 9 months ago

Last summer, I was riding my scooter and my shoe fell off. By the time I got back around to pick it up, the kids in the car behind me had picked it up. I thought it strange. The next day when I was at the intersection, I saw my shoe dangling from the powerline. I thought it was funny and never before had I thought about the "why" of shoes on powerlines until that day. Thanks for the little write-up, it reminded me and gave me a giggle.

Kat Christian 7 years, 9 months ago

We laugh at them and the game is if you spot shoefiti you get a point - (the most points gets an ice cream cone). One day I hope my grandson can imortalize his shoes on a powerline.

Michael Throop 7 years, 9 months ago

Well, the urban legend has been that it marks a spot where a gang member has been killed,or should be killed,or may be killed. This one is right up there with the side-by-side UR that if you're driving at night and you have a vehicle coming towards you with its lights off, you should NEVER blink your brights to warn them about their lights. The legend is that it's a gang initiation and that the occupants will turn around,come back and shoot up your car and kill you. Amazing..

silent_fool 7 years, 9 months ago

Has anyone ever worn a pair of brown work books? Are the comfortable?

You would think a semi-reputable publication such as the LJW would proof read their stories.

"- a pair of black tennis shoes and a pair of brown work books - also adorn the line."

lilchick 7 years, 9 months ago

Crossfire, you got a lot a d@mn gall to ask me if I've rehabilitated myself, I mean, I mean, I mean that just, I'm sittin' here on the bench, I mean I'm sittin here on the Group W bench 'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein' a litterbug.

lilchick 7 years, 9 months ago

And for those of you who don't know, Group W's where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after committing your special crime, and there's all kinds of mean nasty ugly looking people on the bench there. Mother rapers. Father stabbers. Father rapers! Father rapers sitting right there on the bench!

ronwell_dobbs 7 years, 9 months ago

Is this in celebration of the "Good Ol' Shoe?"

Courage, Mom.

otto 7 years, 9 months ago

sad-sad-sad that the kid in this article doesn't see this as littering, he's the same type of person that urinates in public after leaving the bar. Parks in residential neighborhoods to get to the bar. Wakes up the neighbors at 2:00 am leaving the bar. All while thinking this is normal behavior for a college kid.

pelliott 7 years, 9 months ago

selfishly I wonder if it could somehow interfere with the service. I like my electricity to come regular. Was funny in that movie "Wag the Dog" how they incorporated the urban practice in. Somehow it must be fun to successfully hang a pair and go by and see them there a year later. in Alaska they hung a moose.

classclown 7 years, 9 months ago

I remember this was something done by little kids back in the 70's. Now it's catching on with college kids around here?

budwhysir 7 years, 9 months ago

Man, all the problems the university has with maintaining the buildings, and this is what the students have time to do, um thats classic

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