2005.12.14 This is between me and you, Meatball.

Written by David Green.

By JEFF PICKELL

They say you should always wear clean underwear in case you get in a car accident. I agree, and would like to add that you should also pay attention to your socks, especially if it’s snowy out, and especially if you have to interview the mayor.

I learned this the hard way last week after I ditched my snow-soaked shoes on the doorstep of Fayette mayor Anita Van Zile’s house and found that my socks looked like a nest of rats had been fighting over them. Whoops.

Thankfully, mayor Van Zile has raised a few sons of her own, so she knows that the minds of young men are sometimes occupied with things more important than footwear—like seeing how many meatballs we can stuff in our mouths.

At least, that was the case for me Sunday. I was at the annual Pickell family Christmas party (also known as the Pickell Family Funeral: Christmas Edition) and my tongue had its sights set on my Aunt Patty’s cheesy meatballs, which have always been something more special than regular food to me.

Since the Pickell family only has potlucks once or twice a year, I have to make sure I consume the meatballs in proper dosages when I get the chance, or else risk going into withdrawal sometime around mid-March. This has only happened once, but was so unpleasant that everyone involved would prefer it didn’t happen again.

So, I didn’t take any chances Sunday. In fact, I ate so many cheesy meatballs that my molecular structure began to shift and my appearance changed. By the end of the party, I was no longer human; I was something between human, meatball and sick to my stomach. When we left, my dad and brother had to roll me out to the car and attach me to the roof with a giant toothpick.

Which didn’t bode well for my drive back to Morenci that night, since, in the state of Michigan, it’s unlawful for meatballs to operate motor vehicles. I must admit, though, I was more concerned about my stomach ache than my transformation into a delectable combination of processed meat and cheddar.

The sensation in my belly wasn’t severe enough to describe it as “fiery torment,” but  it was well past the “mild discomfort” mark. I really didn’t want to drive, but I did anyway because I didn’t want to commute two hours to work on a Monday, a day which, at the Observer, can be described as “fiery torment.”

I made it to the I-94 Manchester exit before a slight rumbling toward the end of my large intestine told me that it had, indeed, been a bad decision to depart for Morenci. Experience told me that the area between Manchester and Adrian offers few rest areas, fewer still on Sunday nights, so I knew I was in a bad way. Compounding my situation, too, was a certain social timidness I have concerning these matters, especially when it comes to using bathrooms not my own.

I had no choice by to plough on.

About 25 minutes after that initial rumbling, I had made it to the outskirts of Adrian. My situation had escalated from “Hi, Jeff, this is nature calling” to “Listen Jeff, if we don’t do something about this right now, you’re going to get in a car crash, and the underwear they find you in will not be clean.”

My only hope was Scott Whitehouse, brother of former reporter Brad Whitehouse, who lives in, you guessed it, a white house off of M-52. Sadly, though, the windows were dark and the driveway was empty when I passed. I clenched the steering wheel tighter, imagining tomorrow’s newspaper headlines:

“GIANT MEATBALL FOUND EXPLODED OUTSIDE OF ADRIAN; UNDERWEAR SOILED” or “HOLES IN MEATBALL’S SOCKS BESPEAK POOR REARING.”

I resolved, then, to make it home, no matter the cost. I was not going to drag the sterling Pickell reputation into this, so I steeled myself, gritted my teeth and drove.

And twenty-five minutes later, I galloped up the stairs to my apartment, smashed the door in, and made for the bathroom. From the onset I could tell I was going to be there awhile, so it was a good thing I had the Essential Captain America within arm’s reach. I opened it and tried not to pay attention to things happening elsewhere in the apartment, most significantly right below me.

What were the first words I read? It was good old Cap. “Thumbs up, soldier,” he said.

Thumbs up to you too, Cap.

Tune in in two weeks for “Jeff’s Adventures with Chex Mix!”

   - Dec. 14, 2005 
  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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