I can see everything from up here you know, all the way to the door at the back where Frank’s not bothering to check most of the IDs. I’m as drunk as the rest of my fellow revelers, probably more than most, as I’m breathing the fumes rising from the trough of fermentation that is the bar well. Not that you can tell because at 6 foot 9 I’m drunk at altitude. I’ve barely filled myself up to just above the knees. Blessed be the tallest man in the bar. Not only can I clock the birds, scout for the girls from up here, I’m also handily above the majority of the inane drunken babble that’s going on down there. I can though, with a slight bend of the knees and a bit of a lean forward, lower myself to give or even on occasion receive a bon mot, a bad joke or a cool quip.
Being drunk in America is different when you’re 6 foot 9. Being anything or anywhere in America is different when you’re 6 foot 9. Different from the land of my birth. England. Not so sodding Great anymore if it ever was in the first place Britain, those Septic Isles set in a sea of phlegm-colored effluent. In Britain the different, including the physically different are derided, sneered at, taunted , laughed at as freaks – all out in public in loud voices. These supposed inhibited little titchy people will loudly yell “fuckin’ ‘ell Barry, look at that freak over Thayer. Hey lamppost what’s the weather like up there. What a state, look at him, shouldn’t be allowed. Fucking freak.” The denizens of this land of conformity hate anything or anyone that by daring to look different reminds them of the crushing weight of their conformity. Children will dance and chant and taunt down around your ankles and girls will call you Frankenstein while they go off to pub with the normal sized captain of the cricket team on the back of his motorbike.
In pubs in my car factory hometown of Birmingham I was often picked on by drunks who were too drunk to care whether they beat up or were beaten up by the biggest fucking freak yow ever saw. Just as long as they had something to tell their fellow morons on the track at British Leyland, or in the dole queue, next day.
But that’s England, it’s different here in America where everything’s bigger anyway, right? Just ask a Texan. There is though a cultural crossover where I encounter an increasing number of Indian and Pakistani people who grew up under the crushing yoke of the legacy of colonial British rule. They tend to peer up at me, not quite yet assimilated into the cultural mores of their new country, and I see the flicker of astonishment, the knee jerk reaction to smirking derisive laughter, hastily quelled by the sudden realization that they are now in the land of the free and the home of the brave, and the tall.
In America there’s this whole pantheon of tall heroes, men who have their heads in the clouds of ambition from long legged Texas rangers to basketball players, being tall in America is admired not sneered at.
In American bars being this tall means you often get served quicker at a crowded bar, it means with a bigger body mass you can hold your drink, and girls? Well a lot of the time American girls look up to you, look up at you … while trying to gauge the contents of your pants.
I was picking up a pizza at Big Kaisers the other day and there was a gaggle of high school kids behind me. As I turned to leave clutching my box of tasty Americaness one of them said: “Excuse me sir, are in the NBA.” I smiled modestly and said, “well I used to be.” “Wow,” said the youth nudging his buddies as I went out through the door “he was in the NBA dude.”
Yep I thought as I folded my foot too tall ass into the interior of my Mazda 626, as a man who has never played a game basketball in his life I was nevertheless once NBA, National British Aberration. Not any more though, not now I’ve found where I truly belong, where I fit in, the US of A. The tallest man in the bar.