This goes back to my early days as a PI, after my dad retired from the business.
There's an old carnival art known as glass walking. It involves a performer—usually a girl—walking barefoot on glass shards. Because I'm barefooted a lot, I decided that would be a good talent for me.
Doing some research, I discovered there used to be a carnival called the Mystic Caravan, and they featured glass walking. I was able to find the former owner, He told me that a woman named Madam Wanda—real name Wanda Goldberg—did it, and she was still alive, and lived locally. I called her up, and she agreed to teach me.
She lived in a retirement community. I drove there and knocked on her door.
She was still very attractive, despite being in her 60's. She had long platinum-blond hair. She must've been a real beauty, in her prime.
"Hi, I'm Jennifer Mason. We talked on the phone, earlier today."
"Ah, yes, Barefoot Jenny! Come on in, dear."
She escorted me in.
"Want a drink? I've got some iced tea, freshly brewed."
"Thank you, that'll be nice."
She prepared the drinks. Then she took me into the living room, and we sat on the couch.
"So, you're a private eye?"
"A girl-PI—I'm impressed!"
I smiled. "Thank you!"
"And you'd like to learn the art of glass walking."
"Yes, ma'am. Because I go barefooted a lot, I feel it would be useful to learn it—in case the need ever arises. I'll pay you."
"That won't be necessary, dear. You say you go barefooted, a lot?"
"As much as possible!"
"Let me see your feet."
I took my sandals off. She looked my feet over and nodded. "Yes, they look like they have nice tough soles. All right, I'll teach you."
We finished our drinks. She led me into the kitchen and washed out the glasses. Then she rummaged in one of her cabinets until she found a half-empty bottle of wine.
"I think I've had this for five years!" she commented.
She went to the sink and emptied the bottle's contents down the drain. Then she cleaned it out with water.
Carrying the bottle, she went to a closet and pulled out a hammer. Finally, she picked up two towels. Then she led me to the back of her house.
She put the bottle on the cement porch and smashed it with the hammer. It took several hits, but she eventually reduced it to small pieces. Then she took her shoes off. (I was still barefooted.)
"I haven't done this in a while, so I'm a little rusty."
I smiled. "That's OK."
"Now, the trick is to take it slow. Pick your way carefully. If you feel a particularly sharp piece, you can move it around with your feet."
She walked into the glass. She practiced what she preached; her movements were slow and careful. At one point, she was able to turn over a particularly large piece so that its sharp edges were on the ground.
"Now, it's your turn, dear."
I was scared, I don't mind admitting that! I slowly walked into the glass. I followed her advice; I stepped carefully and deliberately. And I must say that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I was even able to manipulate a large shard, like she did.
She watched me and smiled. "Very good, darling!"
We continued for a few more minutes. Then we sat in chairs that were there and wiped our feet off with the towels. To my relief, I didn't see any pieces of glass embedded in them!
"Some of the girls who do this cheat," she said. "They use breakaway glass."
"An old movie trick. It's actually rock candy; you can eat it!"
After resting a bit, she got up and got a broom and a dustpan. I helped her clean up the glass. Then she put her shoes back on, and we went in the house.
"Well, thank for your lesson, Wanda."
"You're welcome, dear. Oh, hold on, let me give you something."
She went into her bedroom. A couple minutes later, she returned with a photo. It was a promo photo of her from the 1970's. It showed her standing barefoot in glass. Her hair was black, then; as I suspected, she was a real beauty! With a pen, she wrote on it:
"To Barefoot Jenny. Good luck with the private eye business, and may your feet never be harmed! Love, Madam Wanda."
"Here you go, my dear!"
I gave her a big hug!
We remained friends for many years, and we sometimes practiced glass walking. I was eventually able to give her a promo photo of me. It showed me sitting with me feet on my desk. I wrote on it:
"To Wanda. Thanks for your lessons! Love, Barefoot Jenny.
Sadly, she died in 2010. RIP.