A couple of days ago, I put on my sensible brown walking shoes. A trip to the Hollywood Bowl to see Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell requires a hike up the ramp, and sensible walking shoes are just the thing.

It's not like Emmylou would care if she knew. She's all about sensible. Her feet have been on the ground as long as I've been listening to her.

The Hollywood Bowl is a sensible-shoe kind of experience, even if Emmylou hadn't been playing. People are picnicking outside on the grounds as well as inside the Bowl in their seats, on the brown wooden benches. People who picnic wear sensible shoes. At one time they might have been trying to impress somebody, but that was awhile back and there was a maitre d' and sommelier present.

Brown shoes -- Rockports -- and brown laces, laces that had been replaced after the previous soft brown laces had frayed and snapped.

"What size shoelaces do you want," I remember the shopkeeper asking. "Twelves or 16's."

I don't know. I've never thought about it. Heretofore I had always considered shoelaces to be one- sized.

Sixteens sounded long. I didn't want to have to lace the shoes, tie them and then wrap them around my ankles twice. At that point, sensible becomes ridiculous and then even Emmylou can't help you, and when Emmylou opens her mouth to sing, she can help just about everybody. Everybody that is except some guy with his shoelaces wrapped around his ankles twice.

"Twelves," I said, without much confidence, some voice inside of me saying, "You're making a big mistake."

I hadn't worn the shoes in months and now I remembered the "you're making a big mistake" voice and my fashion queasiness at choosing the length I had chosen.

I pulled the laces tight, starting at the top of the shoe and working back toward me. Then a big tug, gathering up any slack that may have amassed. When I crossed the laces in order to begin to tie them, I realize what I had.

I was the man who had bought the wrong length of shoelace. I had short shoelaces. Call me Shorty Short Stuff.

Short laces don't get any longer, no matter how hard you pull them. Do you know how I know that? I know that because I pulled them so hard that if the laces had been a Dewar's Chew, I could have wrapped the newspaper building six times over.

At first you think you're weak. But you're not weak. You just have short shoelaces, and short laces aren't going to get any longer no matter how hard you pull them.

Normally I like to tie a knot and then finish it with a bow, if not a double bow. A bow was out of the question. The shoelaces were barely long enough to tie a single knot. I could tie a single knot, but I had to execute a near perfect crunch, bending over with knees bent and my backside trending upward.

Why even tie them? Just leave them untied because tying them is not doing any good anyway. Leave them loose.

The only thing that makes short shoelaces worse is if you have highwaters. Highwaters and short laces make a fashion statement that goes on your permanent record in indelible ink: "Take this man into custody. He clearly does not know what he is doing. He can no longer take care of himself, so I suggest hiring an attendant."

The next morning, I pulled the shoelace out of the shoe. It didn't take long. A short shoelace comes out in one tug and almost leaves skid marks on the top of your shoe.

I'm headed for the drug store. Sixteen inch or bust. If I have to wrap them around my ankles, I will.

Emmylou won't mind. She sees the person behind the short lace.