Just outside the gates of Camp Ames is a little village named Chang Dong Ri. The road leading to the main gate (basically the only gate) winds its way alongside a muddy stinky little river. Just outside the gate, the road goes through downtown Chang Dong Ri, a row of ramshackle little stores on either side of the street. It is obvious that Chang Dong Ri had seen better days at some time. Most of the stores are no longer open. The empty dusty windows gaze sadly out onto the deserted main street. The entire place looks tired and dusty and like it is remembering happier times past. . In the midst of this is B.O.B.’s shoe shop. B.O.B.’s shoe shop stands out from the general despair. It is a cheerful, lively place with shoes of many different styles and many, many different vintages perched on tiny shelves in the crooked front windows. Over the front door is a huge weathered sign that reads: “B.O.B. Shoes Store” Inside, in the middle of the room, is a rusty Yon Tan (charcoal) stove with several chairs pulled up around it. Over all this domain rules B.O.B., a genial, godly, Korean man. B.O.B. is the English name he has taken to make it easier for his customers, who are mostly from the small American remnant stationed at Camp Ames. At any time of the day, most of the chairs are occupied by American or Korean folks engaged in a Deep Philosophical Discussion about any subject to be found. This Deep Philosophical Discussion never ends. As people go home or move on to work, they are replaced by others who come in from the street and fill the vacancy in the chair. There is a theory that the Deep Philosophical Discussion has been going on continuously since the 1950’s, with a slight pause for the Korean War. Some times the weather, sometimes politics, often God himself is the topic. Every once in a while, someone will buy shoes. Buying shoes at B.O.B.’s Shoes Store is not a ready-made experience. You do not buy shoes that are pre-fabbed in a faceless factory somewhere.
The procedure for actually buying shoes is as follows: You find a lull in the Deep Philosophical Discussion, or work the idea of buying shoes into the conversation. B.O.B. brings out his ancient Brannock Device and measures your feet. Then you pull out the PX catalogue clipping that has a picture of the shoes you want to buy and give it to B.O.B. He can make any type of shoe known just from looking at a picture of it. He takes your order on an ancient yellow pad of receipts that has somebody else’s name at the top and gives you a delivery date, usually a couple of weeks away. During future visits he takes time out from the Deep Philosophical Discussion to apprise you on the progress of your shoes. Certain milemarkers, such as the acquisition of the leather, the finishing of the soles, the cutting of the uppers are duly noted and reported. Finally the great day arrives, and your shoes are completed. You try them on and they always, always fit perfectly. You have never felt shoes as comfortable as what B.O.B. makes. They are like walking on the streets of Heaven, or the clouds in the sky. One of the great pleasures of life is walking in a pair of B.O.B. shoes. They are durable too, I still have boots that B.O.B. made fifteen years ago and they are in perfect shape. Once you have put on your new B.O.B. shoes, you go outside, walk the streets of Heaven for a while, then come back to B.O.B.’s Shoes Store and rejoin the Deep Philosophical Discussion for a while before moving on the more mundane things of life….like going to work.