The steaks on Chris and Lynne's Surf 'n' Turf had tiny plastic steers driven into them that read MED. RARE and MED. WELL. When you pull these out, the juice bubbles from the wound. Taylor looked around the restaurant before addressing himself to the meal. He swept his fork about and intoned a quiet, heartfelt benediction, "Chow down."
We labored mightily and it was some time before we surfaced. Taylor had consumed several glasses of water while eating, the glass being replenished by Lois who seemed to have a sixth sense as she wielded the styrofoam pitcher. "I drink about a pint of water with a meal," Taylor said. "Helps wash it down. Also, I love salt."
As we warmed to our task, Taylor took off his blazer. The question of clothing came up, a terminal misery for the fat. That problem for Taylor is compounded in inches: 54" waist, 60" chest, 23" neck and a 14EEE foot. "I have to send away to Big Man shops," he mused, "or go to one when I'm in the area. Probably the best thing for a fat man would be to go nude, but I don't know if I'd like that, either. Fat people don't turn me on."
There are for Taylor, as for the rest of the overweight underworld, endless small humiliations that emphasize his uniqueness. The fatty wanders around in a world that resembles a child's room full of dolly teacups and beds that end at the knee. Take, for instance, the Lilliputian demon who invented the tourist-class airline seat. Normal-size air travelers stoically endure this bow to economy, but it is agony for the fat man. "I've ridden tourist," said Taylor, "but I don't anymore. It's kind of embarrassing. You can't help grossing out the guy next to you."
And there are problems raised by the "straight" world regarding how to treat fat people. People always are offering you food. "Here, do you want these toast crusts?" Or "I can't finish this pizza. Want it?" It's like those grannies in supermarkets who whirl around in the checkout line and offer you their green stamps.
Coming back on the airplane from the NCAAs in Seattle, Taylor was faced with just this situation. 'They passed around this tray of little sandwiches, and they were awful. Some sort of fish paste. Nobody wanted them so the stewardess gave them to me. The whole tray for the airplane. I'm not a garbage can, but I took a bite out of each one so they couldn't pass them off on somebody else."
It was a week after the meat boycott as we hunched over our slabs of Iowa beef. "I ate meat through the whole thing," Taylor grinned. "Every time I pulled into a McDonald's for double cheeseburgers, I was helping the farmers. Those guys need to make a living, too, and I just did what I could." As I spread some more butter on my potato skin, a young fan came shyly to the table to ask for Taylor's autograph. Chris turned back when he had finished. "Now where were we? It's hard to get any time to yourself when you're so good-looking."
Lois arrived to take the dessert orders and I was amazed to see that Taylor hadn't cleaned his plate. There was a lone French fry and a shard or two of lobster. But it is quite true that most fat people don't eat enormous quantities, they just eat more often. "Before a match we sit down and have a steak and potatoes," said Taylor. "Then after the weigh-in, I go home and eat another meal. When I'm nervous, I don't even notice it."
Taylor comes close to the oldtime image of the strong man. He can press 750 pounds with his legs 25 times at a go. He can even stand on one leg. Try 450 pounds on your toes sometime. But if there was any doubt in Taylor's mind about his strength, he invented a muscle test for the 450-pound class.
Chris has a friend who also weighs 450 pounds. They drove out to a lake near Ames, presumably not in the same car, and dove in. The other guy, who is not an athlete, was a sort of control fatty. The idea was to float. The one farthest out of the water was the less muscular. "This guy was hardly getting wet," Taylor recalls, "he was so far out of the water. But I went down like a rock." Can you imagine a crazed bass fisherman stumbling into his local tavern: "Boys, you'll never believe the monsters out there in Crystal Lake!"