Posted by: Bruce Allen | December 6, 2007

Dear Troubled in Tucson–

Dear Mr. BruAl–

How did you get to be called BruAl?  And what’s with the short legs, the really long trunk, and the huge heed?

                                                                                          Troubled in Tucson

Dear Troubled–

You’ve been gone a long time, and we’ve missed you.  Same goes for your buddy out in Big Sky Country.  Seems like the last we’ve seen or heard from either of you was when you were groomsmen in our wedding.  Time flies.  Yes, it is pitiful that someone would choose to keep a nickname from the 60’s, but it wasn’t my doing entirely.  And, yes, we do shift casually from 3rd person to 1st person as it suits me.  Can we move on?

Most people wouldn’t associate our, ahem, physical characteristics and nickname.  You yourself are one of a handful of people who are aware of our somewhat strange physique and the origin of BruAl.  For you were there, at Rock Creek Palisades Elementary School, Parepa F. Linthicum, Principal (what the heck kind of name is Parepa, anyway?) in 1969 when a Legend Was Born.  On the asphalt, um, playgrounds jungle of the suburban jungle playgrounds.  With iron chains for nets, and 8 foot rims. 

8 foot rims.  Hardcore hoop for fantasy-ridden white sissies unable to play on regulation rims.

Those of you with any miles at all on your odometers remember the dominating presence that Kareem Adbul Jabbar was in college and the pros.  When he played at Power Memorial High School and UCLA he was known as Lew Alcindor, and he ruled.  Those of us who followed college hoop and attached nicknames to every player in every sport on earth–see Earl the Pearl, Honeycomb, etc.–began to refer to Alcindor as LewAl, purporting a thoroughly nonexistent familiarity.  He wouldn’t know you from a bale of hay.  LewAl ruled.

On the 8 foot rims of RCP, playing against the likes of Bengal, Christo, and Pickrell (again?), I was, at 6’2, a bit of a handful.  Goaltending was legal on 8′ rims, and dunking was fantastically simple.  I was generally unskilled at basketball, with short legs, a long geekish neck, and myopic astigmatism.  Short for my height.  Elementary school rims are, in effect, the Great Unequalizer, transporting a less-than-ordinary player to occasionally legendary status.  So dominating, in fact, that the contraction for LewAl morphed into the contraction for BruAl.  Karl said it first, Christo endorsed it, and Pickrell made it stick.  The second part of your question, having to do with what you might refer to as Gross Anatomy, deserves some attention.

The Boswell side of the family brings a lot of dominant genes into the marriage pool, some of which show up in photos from the early 20th century and run undiluted yet today.  Among these are a noticeable temper, short legs, a longer-than-average trunk, and a second toe which is roughly 1-2″ longer than the “big toe” next to it, and which over the years wraps itself around in front of the third and fourth toes so as to conform with the profile of your basic flipflop, the only alternative being to have cut nickel-sized holes in the toes of all your shoes since birth.  The enormous skull, too big for normal hats, and poor vision are courtesy of my father.  His vision on several levels, unfortunately.

Generic Disclaimer:  The rest of this story is in just plain poor taste.  If you are easily offended, please stop here.  Thank you.

As an aside, I discovered one day back in 2000 exactly how out-of-proportion my skeleton is, on a day I took our youngest daughter for a just-the-two-of-us day at King’s Island in Cincinnati.  Late in the day we got on the King Cobra, which involved sitting on a bicycle-like seat and having a belted steel cage drawn down over one’s shoulders and locked in place, securing one from a quick and violent death.  I was unable to get the cage to lock in place, and an attendant came over to assist.

As you enter King Cobra, there is the usual sign telling you that you must be at least THIS tall to ride.  They actually need a second sign that reads, “If you are longer than THIS from the bottom of your bottom to the top of your shoulders, STAY THE HECK OFF THIS RIDE.”  It took the kid a few moments and several tries to get the cage secured.  The resulting impacts virtually impaled me on the bicycle seat, and left me essentially suspended there on the King Cobra at King’s Island no less, in broad daylight, like a Trevanian novel, and the real ride hadn’t even begun. 

King Cobra takes off, the g-forces multiply, and my discomfort becomes more pronounced, going from painful to frightening.  All around me, people, including our youngest, are yelling and screaming, laughing and shouting.  Upside down, inside out, up and down, swinging wildly.  Sobbing quietly, my spine compressing, my eyes closed, my ________ orientation becoming cloudy.  I begin to feel nauseous, trying to recall what I’d had for lunch, when the ride suddenly stopped, then rolled quietly into the station? on-off place?  I wobbled off, feeling like I’d just spent a day in the you-know-what, Tom.  I also think I went from 6’2″ to about 6’1″ in my futile efforts to maintain my, unh, dignity.

Let’s review.  Short legs, long trunk, long neck, large head, crooked teeth, bad eyes, long toes, temper, don’t forget bad skin (and other genetic gifts I’ve bequeathed to my children, not all of which they’ve received in equal shares, PTL).  Good on 8′ rims, terrible on 10.  Became known as BruAl to those  who dared yell “Got next” at the ‘Palisades.  Back in the day, when legends were born.  In some people’s heads.

Thanks to the fictitious Christo for getting back in touch for the first time since, like, 1980. We look forward to hearing from you again in another 30 years.



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