Travis Bickle's Rules for Everyday Living, Lesson #1: How to Shine Your Shoes

My dad was big on Simonized shoes. Decades before Marty and Nick Pileggi popularized the term, Larry Marks had a wooden shinebox parked on the floor of his closet.

I'm warning you: no cracks about Larry picking up a few extra shekles buffing the Florsheim's of his landsman in the Beth Hamedrash. His shinebox was strictly for home use.

My dad and I watched Goodfellas together before he died. (It would have been pointless afterwards.) When it was over, he begrudgingly confessed, "You know, that was a pretty good picture." I'm glad you like it, dad," I said with a smile in my voice.


After a Frank Vincent-inspired pregnant pause, I turned and defiantly added, "Now go in the bedroom and get your fuckin' shinebox."

The lighting fixture began to sway as his booming laugh careened off the living room walls. Everything from the neck up grew redder than the box of Pall Malls that loosened from Larry's shirt pocket and toppled to the floor. It wasn't easy, but I sure did love making the old man cry from laughter.

Pop taught me the necessity of the spit-shine, but when it came time to master the art of how to lay down a proper first coat of polish I turned, as I must for all knowledge and enlightenment, to the films of Martin Scorsese.


Long before plastic daubers or shine-wipes, shoe polish came in glass bottles. A wire rod with a fabric ball at its tip was attached to the screw-cap. Dip the applique in the polish, rub it across the surface of the leather, and in no time your shoes look like they were given a flat coat of primer at Earl Scheib's.

Not much changed when the system converted to self-contained, one-touch polypropylene applicators. Press down with force until the bubbles churn against the shoe. The upside-down, scuff-resistant contoured head coats the footgear with a murky, non-reflective shell.


Buff as one might, it was like coloring a shoe with a Sharpee, impossible to achieve a mirror-like shine. All that polishing and the end result remains duller than a Merchant/Ivory marathon.

The seminal Kiwi shoe wax that comes in a metal tin is the way to go, but how many times have you pried open an aging can only to find the contents dried and caked like a piece of the Mojave?

I ask that you consult the two-disc set of the Book of Travis, and scan to DVD chapter 23, verse 1:32:19.

Here is...


Step 1:


Remove the cover. Place a lit match to the polish.

Step 2:


Wait a few seconds until the top layer of polish liquefies. Without burning your little piggies, quickly replace the metal lid to extinguish the flame.

Step 3:


Using either a brush applicator or cotton rag, apply the polish using a circular hand-gesture. Wait a few minutes for the wax to dry before buffing it out with a soft flannel cloth and/or horsehair shoe brush.

Follow this with a light coating of saliva and repeat the cloth and brush buff routine.


Don't forget to stock up on Sport laces!

When you can see yourself in your Oxford's, take a moment to celebrate your work with this complimentary musical number. Never has the act of getting a shine been more joyous (or polished) than in Vincente Minnelli's The Band Wagon. Here are Leroy Daniels and Fred Astaire putting a smile on your face and a Shine on Your Shoes.

Other promotional polishes:

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Everything's "Cosi-Cosa" when Marx Bros. romantic lead, Allan Jones, and his family hit the pavement with their best Shinola shine!


We all love America's favorite redhead, but when it came time to get a buff job, Lucy loved the wild handiwork of William "Shakes" Frawley.



Available on Xenu, Battlefield Earth, and better planets throughout the Gallactic Confederacy.

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Talk about coincidence! I uploaded this instructional/hysterical shoe-shining clip to my YouTube account last week.

Your teachers are Jerry Lewis and Scatman Crothers:

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