Image by Christian Smith (@dacspan)
This article is meant to be read with the following soundtrack gently played in the background:
I set my alarm clock for 8 am. It was Friday, June 8th. The Yeezy 2’s would be released the next morning. I considered that thought and set the alarm on my phone for 8 am as well. I closed my eyes and envisioned purchasing the Yeezy 2’s and putting photos up on Instagram and Facebook. I imagined all the e-props I’d get from people I’d never meet. I placed my Playoff 12’s by the front door. I went to sleep.
I woke up at 8:19 am that Saturday, June 9th, the earliest I’ve been up in six years. I was unfamiliar with the morning. It was very quiet outside. The sun was shined through from the opposite room of the house. Strange.
A dozen pairs of Yeezy 2’s, ranging from size 8-13, were being raffled off by a local sneaker store at a park in downtown Portland. Tickets were $3, sold from 9-10:30. The raffle would take place shortly after.
I started driving downtown. It was 8:24 am. Strange, the roads were empty. I was able to run a couple red light because I had to get to the Yeezy 2’s. There was no traffic on the highways in this alter-world of 8:40 am.
Downtown Portland was very unique as well. I normally come down around 11-11:30 pm on Friday and Saturday nights where it is very difficult to find parking. Now, I felt like taking two or three parking spaces at once to see how it felt.
I parked on an empty street. I breathed deeply. After months of rumors and anticipation, this was happening. Would we be the same after this? I got out and walked towards the park.
I arrived shortly before nine. Two separate lines stretched in opposite ways around the block. One line was to purchase a raffle ticket, the other was to take down driver’s license information.
I got in line behind two people in their early 30’s.
“It’s June? Time’s been flying like crazy. First the 12’s, then the 4’s, then the Yeezy’s,” one observed.
“I’m getting two pairs of the IX’s and then I’m done with the shoe game,” the other replied and shook his head at the line.
A lady carrying a shopping bag walked by.
“What’s this line for?” she asked.
“The Yeezy’s,” I said.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“The Yeezy 2’s. Kanye? Watch the Throne? The shoe?” I said.
“For a shoe?”
She made a face and walked away, swagless.
We moved forward.
I saw a man in a wheelchair get in back of the line. There were men, women, boys and girls (there was an age requirement of 14). There was an even ratio of snapback to no snapback.
We moved forward again.
The person behind me answered his phone.
“You bringing your lil bro? You know your odds increase exponentially if he comes.”
We moved forward.
A mini-van parked on the street near us. Eight people hopped out and sprinted behind me. I couldn’t see the end of the line from where I stood.
I eventually got to the front of the line and paid my $3. I received my raffle ticket. I was reinvigorated.
There were more than 500 people at the park at this time. I looked over my number and walked to the back of the other line. The person in front of me turned and said, “These numbers gotta mean something man, that’s the last three number of my social security. That’s a sign.”
He added “I need to get my eBay rep up.”
Then he explained how he had a dream the night before that there was a brawl during the raffle so he snatched a pair while no one was looking and ran off.
We moved forward. It was a little past 10 am.
“I live in Gresham. But that’s too far so I stayed at my boy’s place downtown last night,” a person behind me said.
“I don’t get it. Why are these shoes so hyped?” a girl asked.
“‘CAUSE THEY FROM THE FUTURE!” someone yelled.
A group of kids posed for a picture showing the Roc A Fella diamond symbol. One turned to the crowd.
“THROW UP THE DIAMONDS!!”
I took Instagram photos of people taking Instagram photos of me. The line moved forward.
We discussed what we’d do with the shoes if we won a pair. The common response was eBay.
“I’m not wearing them. That’s six months of rent. Well, I might wear them once to see what it’s like.”
More people kept arriving.
“I woke up without an alarm today. I went to bed at 1, and I just knew I’d wake up.”
A couple steps forward.
“I don’t give a fuck. If they have size 8, I’ll wear it. If they have size 12, I’ll wear it.”
I checked Twitter.
“I don’t know the names of any shoes out there. I know heat.”
A few steps forward.
“I won a raffle before, an iPod back in middle school. My heart was racing when they called my name. I got this.”
A car drove by.
“They taking credit card out here? Where’s an ATM??”
The college aged student turned to me again. He lowered his voice.
“It’s 11:11. Make a wish. But you can’t tell anyone you wished for Yeezy 2’s or else it won’t come true.”
I eventually got my information taken. Then we waited some more.
#yeezy2: The Game Within the Game
Both lines were complete around 11:30 am. Many athletes talk about a moment of intense peace before the start of big games. I felt it. Several hundred people circled around the play structure in the enclosed park. An employee ascended to the top of the plastic slide. A hush. William Golding wrote about a similar situation in “Lord of the Flies”. Except instead of a conch, the leader had raffle tickets for the Yeezy 2’s.
At first, I didn’t give a shit because I wasn’t going to win. There were over 600 people in the raffle. I didn’t have a chance. I wasn’t going to wear the shoes. But the person next to me made a deep point: as long as we had a ticket, we had a chance. Then I imagined it – my number would be called, and I would walk to the front of the crowd as people stared in awe. I would hold up a pair of 10.5’s and drink champagne from it like it was the Stanley Cup. I would be on the cover of Sneaker Freaker, maybe Sports Illustrated, maybe Time Magazine getting breastfed in Yeezy 2’s. Which lead to the…
I was convinced I was gonna win. I was there for a purpose. It was my time. Everything that I had worked for in my life lead up to this day.
The raffle started. This person won, then that person, then another, then another, then another. Which lead to the…
The realization I wasn’t going to win.
Which lead to the…
After the last number was announced, everyone walked straight to their cars and left. Hundreds of pissed off with nothing to show but a ticket. The park cleared out in minutes. I walked back up the street empty handed which lead to the…
I haven’t ate in two days.
The eBay-ification of Life
We talked about how stupid it was to wait in this line for this shoe while we waited in line. Then we talked about what shoes we were looking to camp out for in the near future. Did you camp out for the Concords? Did you get the Military 4’s this morning? How long would you have camped out? We asked “Do you think this shoe is actually nice?” and responded “This shoe is ugly.” And yet we all waited, for three hours, for a raffle. For a pair of shoes few planned to wear.
One of the early winners pumped his fist while his friend yelled “EBAY!” A guy with two female friends stood near the slide during the raffle. When one of the girls won, the guy turned to the crowd, pumped his fist, and said “That’s my shoe! That’s MY shoe!” Later in the raffle, employees announced there were only three shoe sizes left – 8, 11.5, and 13, to which the response was “I’LL TAKE THEM ALL!!!”
Many in the raffle, especially those who grew up with Kanye’s music, genuinely like the design and the inspiration of the Yeezy 2’s. I wouldn’t have sold them or worn them. It’d be a keepsake of the summer I waited in line, checking updates on Denmark-Netherlands on my iPhone. Actually, I’d have worn them a couple times for Instagram sake, then stored them, and they’d be the crown jewel of my collection (props to @dacspan for the art above). Yet there was no question where most of the shoes would end up. There was a rumor that a pair sold for $90,000. Shoe culture is a balance between personality and design – what you like and what it says about you. But making thousands of dollars by buying a raffle ticket on a random Saturday morning? The market over everything.
I needed to cleanse my soul from these ideals of greed. Powell’s Bookstore, perhaps the most famous bookstore in the world, was a few blocks up the street. Three stories of ideas, stories, and human endeavor. This would save me. I walked to the fiction section, straight to the “F”. Ahh, Faulkner, the great writer who said that man will live forever because of a “soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance”. He’d never desert me in this darkest hour. I took “Light in August” off the shelf. The seminal work, his famous exploration of the human prejudices that span and define generations. I found a used copy for $8.95. I grinned as I walked to the checkout counter. $8.95? I could get at least $14 for that.
Number of t-shirts that said “Turn My Swag On” – 4