Unlike some of my pals, I don’t need to walk into the local pub to get my nose whacked. I mastered the art of the self-inflicted nasal wound using that ubiquitous instrument of the Nomaville experience – the wine glass. How I transformed this delicate and otherwise benign vessel into an instrument of blunt trauma has little to do with the glass itself, but everything to do with the apparent enormity of my nose.
The Roman arch, as it turns out, is not limited to architecture – it’s been fixed to the abutment of my face since the earliest of my days. Its genetic derivations remain something of a family mystery, though I once spied a photo of camera-shy great-grandfather cowering behind a tree. At first glance it appears to be obscuring his profile. A second look, however, reveals that the trunk is merely camouflaging the bridge of his nose – I had mistaken the rest of it for a branch extending far out of frame.
Since transplanting to the wine country, I’ve learned to avoid certain types of glassware on account of my proboscis. Champagne flutes are a particular menace, since the mouth of the glass is too narrow to clear the tip of my nose. Thus, to sip, I must tip my head (and the glass) back about 75 degrees. The result is that I appear to be guzzling the sparkling, which, in point of fact I am, since the angle causes the wine to spill from the glass like a whitewater rapids. Likewise, stemware impresario George Riedel apparently has a grudge against those of us with larger endowment. Of the glasses he manufactures for specific varietals, it is only the wide-mouthed line created to showcase cabernet sauvignon that I can drink from with relative ease (though I have to be mindful not to let my nose get wet).
Due to a freak tetherball accident in the third grade, my nose lists a little to the left. This creates the optical illusion of being larger from certain angles, rather, any angle except one. Through years of diligent study and experimentation with mirrors and other reflective surfaces (the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial, say), I’ve learned how to counteract the effect by slightly cocking my head to the right. When I first spotted my future wife, the Contessa, I attempted this subtle corrective, but turned too far and inadvertently grazed my nose against a light switch, which momentarily dimmed the cocktail party we were attending. I tried to save face – or nose – as it were by suggestively chirping, “You know what a big nose means?”
“That you’re a liar,” came her retort.
Damn, the Pinocchio Reversal. Well played. I fell instantly in love. The Contessa herself has a fairly prominent nose, but its aquiline shape, even bridge and striking resemblance to Greco-Roman statuary amounts to a classic beauty and what some have commented is an aristocratic bearing. Mine just makes me look like a snob, seeing as I have to keep it fairly high in the air, counterbalanced by the long hair I’ve grown for ballast, lest its weight drive my chin to my chest.
But tell us what happened to your nose, Cyrano, I hear you collectively cry. Okay, but you have to promise not to laugh. I was having a candlelit dinner with my wife on our back patio. After making a toast, I returned my glass to the table near a candle – too near, as it turned out. Later, I went for another sip, but the lip of the glass had become heated to the point that when it met the bridge of my nose (alas) a crescent shape was seared just below my brow. That which we call a tetherball by any other name would smell as sweet.