Some people think the shoes on the lines mean "gang territory" but in my observation it's more like kids with time (and shoes) on their hands. But outsiders THINK the shoes mean "gang territory," and when it comes to something like house-hunting, perception might become reality.
Thus the need for an elite shoe patrol unit. Peter has two long wooden boards he uses for footwear extraction, and it's quite an art. Taking the shoes off the lines is the easy part. Gingerly de-tangling the laces with a 12-foot board is the difficult aspect.
Last night, we took four pairs of shoes off lines, including some near the intersection of 4th and 30th. A kid about 11 years old said one of the pairs was his...he told a story as tangled as the laces of how it got up there, but finally settled on a tale that some other kids had been responsible. He wanted his shoes back. So that pair was a "catch and release."
I told the kid, cheerfully, "I don't expect to see those shoes back up on that line."
All the shoes were in decent condition, so last night I dropped 'em off at the Salvation Army Thrift store in St. Paul. I've seen plenty of kids in Mexico without a decent pair of shoes, and even if I weren't as frugal as I am--fanatically frugal, radically frugal--I'd probably still want to recycle shoes just because of the sights I've seen in Juarez and Hermosillo.
If the "shoe patrol unit" ever takes down a pair which is truly beyond usefulness, I'll probably contribute to the "shoe tree" on the U of M campus, where dangling shoes have a different meaning altogether...not that anybody agrees precisely what that meaning might be. But the shoe tree is pretty cool.