Sunday, April 11, 2021

Thinking Tall

In this shot from the 1980 opening of my second Pizzeria Uno in Cambridge, Massachusetts I'm bracketed by a couple of college footballs gods, on the left is Ike Sewell an All-American guard at the University of Texas from 1923-1925. He founded Pizzeria Uno in 1943. On my right is Mark Olivieri, an undersized but ferocious linebacker at Tulane. He was the star of the Green Wave's 14-0 win over mighty LSU in 1973, the first since 1948. Mark played at 5'-11" and 220 and was the last cut of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974. At that hot moment when I was 38 I was taller than Mark. 

I’m obsessed my height or more correctly by my lack thereof. My obsession has worsened as I’ve become a gnome. One of the markers of osteoporosis is that you’ve lost more than 1-1/2 inches of your former self. I qualify and then some. I’ve gone from a person who thought of himself as a little tall to someone how realizes he’s short. Yet I still feel a little tall despite evidence to the contrary.

I also seem taller than I am to others. I think it’s that I have the legs of somebody 6’-2". Even as the withering that has accelerated the last fifteen years people will say things like, “You must be close to six feet tall.” Or when I lamented about my diminution to a couple of painter friends from southern Colorado, they responded, “You’re not short!” Even a close friend whose husband is 5-9ish recently guessed, “You’re 5’-11” aren’t you? Uh,no.

When I joined the Army Reserve in the summer of 1960 the weighing and measuring folks called me 5’11”. I don’t remember the specific event, but I guarantee that I stretched my back, lifted my head and put some air between my heels and the floor. I always elongate by back, tilt my head to its tallest disposition and raise my heels off the ground to get maximum altitude. 

For the last five years since I got my osteoporosis diagnosis, I’ve tallied 5’-91/2”at my Osteo doc’s office. Then in my February visit the bone density tech measured me at 5’-81/2”. Is that even possible? Can a person actually lose an inch of height in six months?

You know you’re short when people that you have always considered short are taller than you are. That happened as recently as last Monday. When we left our new accountants office, we ran into acquaintances we know from the art world. John Crouch, the husband of the couple has always seemed short to me, but when I stood across from him, he was as tall as I am. His ever-present Stetson and cowboy boots may have contributed to the illusion of height.

And speaking of cowboy boots, they have been my favored footwear since I was 10. When I was in Manhattan during the summer of 1966 I was dubbed “Tex, the singing cowboy.” But you can call me Tex or Mister Tex.

Assuming that I was a legit 5’-11” at some point in my life, when I wore boots, I was 6'-1" to my fans and to my deluded self. Then when I gave up my cowpoke affectation five years ago and returned to the sneakers of my collegiate years, I lost two full inches.

So, it’s cowboy boots starting now, pilgrim. As my late friend Jim Crivits liked to say, "Win if you can. Lose if you must. But always cheat."

1 comment:

Blacks Crossing said...

Even in the late 1960s, you must have known what cowboy boots do for your spine. Fred has always said (after many visits strolling around Indian Market with friends in Santa Fe, stopping at, heaven forbid, every single booth) that cowboy boots are the only footwear for standing any length of time. There is something about the structure of the boot that forces a body to lengthen and straighten. In my mind's eye, they are the only footwear in which I envision you, except the occasional pair of flip flops. So ride and write on, Cowboy!