FROM A NEWSPAPER ARTICLE:
Some of you may have seen the TV special about primordial dwarfs, people like a 14 year old boy named Bradley who is 38 inches tall and a mere 30 pounds or so. What's interesting is the fact that the tallest person in the world right now is also a 14 year old boy, but his height is nothing less than staggering. Put it this way: he's over 92 feet taller than the _second_ tallest person in the world. And he's still growing!
His name is Mike Rowe and he lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh. Needless to say, he used to get teased about his name-- "micro", eh? To be sure, at 5 foot 3 and 125 pounds he was not exactly huge. He'd get teased by bigger kids; pushed around. But then the growth started. Now those who teased him...fear him.
It was a medical mystery. Tall people usually are that way because of genetics, but Mike's family wasn't known for being tall. Some grow to 8 feet tall or so due to weird, often risky tumors near the pituitary gland. But for Mike it was simply a matter of going through a growth spurt that didn't end till he was 100 feet tall. And he still could grow some more in the coming years!
"Maybe he's like Clifford the Big Red Dog," Mike's mom mentioned. "He just kept growing because people loved him."
"Aw, Mom, that's nice," replied the vast adolescent. But nobody knows the real cause of his growth. A scale's not big enough to weigh him, but his weight is estimated at 45 tons using a math formula. His feet went from 9 inches long to 171 inches. His hands are now 6 and a half feet wide and 10 feet long. He towers over cars, homes, and buildings. The little twerp the bullies picked on is now a huge mass of power who scares his former tormentors--though Mike is really a nice kid who wouldn't want to hurt anyone. (And his friends at school take pride in saying they are pals of the Giant.) It's good being a giant but there are drawbacks, though, as Mike is just too huge to do too many things. He can pick up a car (or squash one, if he so desires) but he's now too big to be able to ever drive one. Too big to attend school though he does get homeschooled by tutors (but occasionally he drops in on his former classmates at his previous school). Food is a problem and so are clothes. Mike is now like Gulliver in a kind of modern day Liliput where he has to watch that he doesn't step on anyone or get snagged in power wires--and he hopes he doesn't ever trip and fall. He could wipe out a whole neighborhood if he isn't careful. Now, people seemed about 5 inches tall to him. He often has to sit or lie down on the ground to be able to see or hear them and sometimes he can't quite hear what they're saying. The vastness of Mike can't be totally appreciated till one meets him in person, as this reporter did. I walked up to him and stood between his 16-foot-long sneakers. They're custom made as is all of his clothing. White socks extend up; above that, some shorts and an impossibly huge T-shirt...then far above what would look like the youthful face of any 14 year old boy, though magnified greatly. He greets me in a voice that sounds not much different than what any kid his age would have (in terms of pitch) though he has to speak slightly softly since his voice, like anything else he has, is much more powerful now. Mike crouches down slightly and extends his hand down toward me, motioning me to step on it. I suddenly feel like The Indian in the Cupboard. His head is about 15 feet tall, maybe more, almost seeming like the face on a billboard. I step onto his hand and sit down; his thumb gently presses down on my body to serve as a kind of seat belt and keep me from falling off. "Don't worry," my photographer tells me. "He's already eaten..." That makes Mike laugh and this reporter cringes slightly at the suddenly loud voice he has. Mike brings up his hand with yours truly aboard and holds it next to the center of his chest. He stands up and I think I'm probably a good 60 feet off the ground at this point. Mike's massive red T-shirt billows behind me, with a four-foot-deep (maybe more) shirt pocket slightly up and to my right. It must have taken an amazing amount of fabric to make that shirt. Mike recalls when the growth first started, about 3 months ago when he was a couple weeks shy of turning 14. It was jarring at first, almost like he had grown 3 inches overnight. His clothes felt a bit tight and he had a tough time getting his sneakers on. When he got to school he saw a classmate who was maybe 5'6" and he could look him right in the eye...suddenly they were the same height. Growth spurts were one thing but this was a bit ridiculous. Mere days later he found he was an inch shy of 6 feet tall and he had to get some new pants. He was now a couple inches taller than his dad; weight wise, he had gone from 125 up to 162...in one week. He kept getting bigger and bigger T-shirts and shorts, and the biggest sneakers that could be specially made. Days after getting them, they'd feel too tight. Five days after he was measured at 5' 11", he found his head was just shy of the ceiling in his bedroom, which meant he was now almost 7 feet tall. His classmates were shorter than the height of his shoulders and often barely taller than the height of his armpits. At 240 pounds, Mike was now almost double his previous weight. And that was only because he was on the slender side; he could have easily been close to 300 had it not been for that. His arms and legs grew longer, and he seemed to have the biggest hands and feet around. Ducking under low doorways became common. And then, well, then it really took off. Despite doctors visits (they could find nothing to cause his incredible condition), the growth continued and seemed to get even faster and higher with each day and week. By 8 feet tall he was deemed too big for his house and he could only enter his school through one entrance that was tall and wide enough. Too big for any desk, he sat cross legged on the floor. The girls looked up to him, dreamy eyed, and the guys--the ones who tortured him before--gulped at the idea that he might take revenge. At 10'6", he was exactly twice his previous height and the square-cube law (twice normal height equals eight times, or two cubed, the weight) meant he was now exactly 1,000 pounds. The bullies who used to tease him seemed as big as four year olds to him, now. Did he feel like a freak? "In a way, yeah. Nobody in the world was as tall as me then, or now of course. I was too big to get in to lots of places and I had to be home schooled. Had to live in my back yard... Clothes specially made, and food--well, my parents had to really buy a lot more to suit my appetite. Of course we were getting some money from TV interviews and I did some work, where I was able to put my bigger size to good use. So that helped pay the bills..." And this was when Mike was ONLY 10 and a half feet tall. He's now almost 10 times as tall. "We were scared of him," admitted one classmate, Todd Renato. He used to be this little pipsqueak and we'd elbow him in the halls, take away his backpack and throw it around, try to trip him up when he went after it...he'd fall down and we'd laugh." How did it feel to see the target of their ridicule grow so big, so fast? "It freaked us out. It's like, one day he's suddenly our size then even bigger and then he's 10 feet tall and like, half a ton." Did Todd get pushed around by the suddenly-big-Mike? "Not really--he's not a mean kid, though he gave us some glares and a couple times made a fist and shook at me as if he's sayin', watch it, pal, or I'll beat the crap out of you. Now, like I said, he's not the type to do that but we didn't want to take any chances." I asked Mike about that. "Yeah, I don't really wanna hurt people but I was upset because they used to tease me and push me around just because they were bigger. And then when I got bigger than them, they freaked a bit. A couple of them kinda apologized to me, but I wonder if they just didn't want me to beat them up...you know, they didn't really mean to apologize but they were getting scared." Todd told me he dreamed one night that he was just riding his bike when suddenly a shadow fell over him. He stopped and looked around and found a 100 foot tall Mike smirking down at him-- Todd said Mike was only 20 feet tall at the time. He said that Mike reached down and grabbed Todd with one hand and then with the other, he crushed the bike as if it were a piece of paper and threw it off into the distance. Todd recalls Mike saying, in the dream, that "maybe I can throw you all the way into one of the rivers" in downtown Pittsburgh. It was a good 15 miles away, but Mike said he could do it--and then Todd felt himself flying through the air, the skyline of the Steel City ahead of him...and suddenly he felt himself falling into the Ohio, or was the Allegheny or Monongahela River.... End of dream. Another of Mike's former tormentors dreamed that Mike was looming above him and the boy started to run away but Mike easily caught up. As the boy tripped and fell down, he looked up and saw a sneaker some 16 or 17 feet long starting to descend on him. The indentations in the sole were pressing on him, and he-- well, let us say that the dream ended suddenly as the boy arose in bed, covered with sweat. "But you'd never do something like that, right?," I ask Mike, who at that point is sitting cross legged on the ground (and I am sitting crosslegged in his cupped palm.) "Naw, but hey you never know!" How can a giant like Mike live in our world? Adaptations must be made. This is why he now lives in a hanger on the edge of Pittsburgh Airport. The hanger was abandoned--it had been used for some repairs of smaller airplanes--but it was just long enough and tall enough to house him. He sleeps on the floor and uses stitched-together tarpaulins as a makeshift blanket. When he wakes up, he makes himself a breakfast of cereal using a titanic bowl and specially made spoon, hundreds of gallons of milk (trucked in), and gargantuan portions of cereal. He only has about three sets of clothes (washing them in a nearby river when needed), all of them specially made in his dimensions. Each of his socks, for example, is about 24 feet long and as wide as four feet in diameter. It would take about 4 or 5 people to carry the sock; it's surprisingly lightweight but just rather long. Some days he attends his previous school but on others a tutor is sent to the hanger. In the case of the former, he sits down cross legged outside the window and listens to the teacher inside through an interesting device: a gigantic headset radio set to an empty FM frequency. The teacher uses a microphone in his or her room which feeds into a mini-FM transmitter which then sends the signal outside so Mike can use it. The headphones are similar to those that this reporter uses for his mp3 player; extremely lightweight. They're just made in a size big enough for Mike. He can still socialize with his classmates when they come outside. "What about written assignments, or if you have to take a test?" "The tutor deals with that. Actually I'm using the tutor most of the time these days." For lunch or dinner, Mike has a special unit back in his hangar. There's a refrigeration unit containing microwave dinners, and an oversized microwave oven to cook them. "The Lean Cuisine people make these for me." He showed me one that had immense portions of pre-cooked steak tips or "tuscan chicken", with vegetables on the side. MIKE ON THE TOWN In his Pittsburgh suburb, Mike likes walking around (being careful not to get caught in high tension wires). He towers over the houses, churches, and commercial buildings. Mike is pretty light on his feet for a guy his size, or he tries to be, but inevitably the colossal size of this fourteen year old can be noticed in several ways: He makes boom noises as he walks, whether in sneakers, socks, or barefoot. Even when he "slinks around". The tons of weight simply make it impossible to conceal. This is why people can tell he's coming. That, and the shadows that fall across their streets and the blotting out of the sun. Indentations show up on the ground and in the street. More than just deep footprints in the grass--he can cause cracks in the pavement. "How do you bathe?" "I go into the river...over there, the Ohio River. When it gets cold I don't know what I'll do, other than have people hose me down inside this hangar or something." Mike takes off his clothes except for swimming-trunk-like shorts and wades into the river. Even at the deepest spots it's only thigh deep to him. He lays down and splashes water around and specially made bars of soap help out. And...drying off? Not so easy. Usually he lets the sun take care of that, though--much like a dog would--he can "shake off" some of the water by wiggling around a bit. Hopefully nobody gets in the way of that... So Mike just walks through his town as any teen would, though his immense size makes it very tough. He has to look down on either side of the street to make sure he doesn't step on any pedestrians,and cars can make it a challenge. "When I hear the boom, boom, of his feet, I just pull over," one motorist told me. "Even if the car stereo's up loud, I can hear him coming." He walks along, with this reporter riding in his shirt pocket. Below is is a small movie theatre on our left, and a gas station on our right. Fortunately most of Mike's town has buried their phone and cable TV wires underground... A businessman walks out of a Chinese buffet, concentrating on his cellphone conversation, but suddenly he stops short when he hears the boom! boom! He glances up at us and backs up in a daze, fearful that he might get stepped on. "Liz! Stay close to me--Aaron, where are you going--watch it!" A mother tries to keep her two kids by her side but the ten year old son dashes out into the street, gleeful that The Giant has shown up. In his zeal, he almost collides with Mike's right sneaker, as his frantic mother dashes after him. From up here, the boy looks as if he could be a mouse. Come to think of it, the adults don't look much bigger. to be continued