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John Torreano, Clinical Professor of Studio Art, NYU

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Sock for a Sock

"We were inseparable, having a ball in the spin cycle
and that was the last time I ever saw her."

There are at least two ways to lose a sock. The first is when you wash them. Don't you just hate it when you put a pair of socks into the washer/dryer and only one is there when you sort the laundry? I am really miffed when that happens. I sympathize totally with my sock's lonely lost mate, who has to join Socks Without Partners in the Land of the Lost Sock and live out its remaining life as either a single or part of a mismatched pair. Please see illustration directly above.

The second way to lose a sock is even more infuriating, and it is not so good for the wearer. This happened to my brother,Tommy. During suck–I mean sock, that is, said–incident, my mother, a careful laundress of socks, didn't know how it got lost, nor did my sister. My father was away, saving less fortunate sock-wearers at the hospital, so he didn't even know about the loss. Fortunately for Tommy, I, his older sister (who later somehow turned into his younger sister) knew how to handle this sock situation, which sucked. Feeling plucky and hoping for a a little sock luck, I searched far and wide until I finally found the other, more treacherous, sock domain–The Land of the Wrongfully Taken Sock. It was there that I knew I would find my brother's lost sock.

When Tommy was in second grade, he made friends with a group of older boys who seemed very nice at school but were, in fact, bullies. One day they told Tommy that they wanted to walk home with him and maybe play some ball. Tom was flattered that the older boys had befriended him and readily agreed. When they came to the bullies' treehouse in the woods, they invited Tom in. As soon as Tom got inside, the boys blocked the entryway and held Tom prisoner. They were in the mood for capturing someone and he was a convenient victim. These bullies then made Tommy take off all his clothes. After a while they apparently got bored and decided to release him. Tommy told them he couldn't possibly walk home nude and asked for his clothes. The bullies told Tom that since they were nice guys, they would give him one sock to wear for the walk home. (It is at this precise moment that Tom's socks separated, with one ending up in the Land of the Wrongfully Taken Sock.) Poor Tommy, one sock on, one sock off, and with no other clothes, had to crabwalk all the way home, bent over into a contortionist's dream, with only his hands to cover himself.

When he finally got home, Tom explained what had happened. I was horrified and furious. Fortunately, I was familiar with lex talionis, the law of retribution, from a former life in which I had been a Babylonian princess. As a Babylonian child, I had studied the Code of Hammurabi, which laid out the concept of equitable retribution. Before Uncle Hammurabi came up with this idea, if a person were hurt, then he or his family would exact revenge. Usually, the retribution was much worse than the crime, perhaps even death. For example, if someone stole one of your cows, you might steal all of his cows in retribution. Or if you were having a bad day, you and your family might just kill the thief. Uncle Ham put an end to this, restricting the retribution to be no worse than the crime. Some years later, this softened law was incorporated into the Hebrew Bible as "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."

Reminiscing like this about the old days in Babylon, I decided that lex talionis was the way to go. I not only had Babylonian law with me but I had the Bible on my side as well. I realized that I could punish those bullies just as they deserved. All I had to do would be to slightly expand "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" principle. I immediately sat down and drafted the first amendment to the Code of Hammy in several thousand years: "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a sock for a sock."

Armed with my newly-adopted sock legislation, I went directly to the bullies' lair, stormed in and retrieved my brother's clothes, including the lost sock. Just at that moment the bullies returned and menacingly yelled (not quite as politely as I am recounting the incident in this post) "Hey, what do you think you're doing?" The Babylonian princess in me looked at these transgressors and presented them with a clay tablet setting out my new legal doctrine, which I had written in cuneiform. (You can see what the document looked like in the accompanying illustration.) The bullies, who were barely literate in English, let alone Babylonian, didn't have a clue as to what the tablet said. Taking advantage of their bafflement, I swiftly punched each bully, giving each of them a sock for a sock. Then, I removed from each bully's foot one of their socks, banishing them forever to the Land of the Wrongfully Taken Sock.

Damn, its fun being a princess!


  1. Your logic in this post is worthy of Sockrates!

  2. Loved your site and your blog, and you have a great sense of humor too! How true about socks! Your work is filled with joy.