By JEFF PICKELL
Now that it has gotten chilly out once again, I can go back to focusing on the creature comforts—something that’s hard to do when we’re stuck in the middle of a 90-plus degree summer swelter, when I take to sleeping on the wood floor in the living room because it seems a little cooler than my bed.
No, mid-September is right around the time I start breaking out my pajama pants, hoodies, long john tops and bottoms, slippers, and the most important garment of all—my robe.
I relished those chilly weekend mornings in Ann Arbor; my roommate Pat and I raced to be the first up—Pat so he could defend his Cheerios, me so I could steal them.
My three roommates and I were the flock of poor, black sheep in a flock of rich Ann Arbor liberals. Our lawn was never mowed so much as it was trampled, or suffocated by leaves our landlord never raked. Despite our house, it was a beautiful neighborhood, full of beautiful people, all of whom hated us.
If all went well, I would be up by around 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning, robe-clad, bowl of Cheerios in hand, lounging on the front porch. About nine o’clock is when people started crowding the neighborhood, looking for free game day parking (we lived about five blocks from Michigan Stadium).
Ann Arbor is probably already the best people watching city in Michigan, but game days elevate the fun to a new level.
There were the hardcore, already drunken fans who probably split a twelve-pack of beer on the trip in from metro Detroit. There were the elderly men and women, neatly dressed with Michigan sweatshirts tied around their waists; SUV-driving soccer-dads, two or three kids in tow; the occasional emo kid stumbling home with a hangover.
There was me, the unbecoming but altogether non-threatening, pajamas-wearing college doofus, eating pilfered Cheerios on his front porch.
One of the small pleasures I indulge in is saying “hi” to people I don’t know. Which is easy when clad in pajamas and, especially, a robe.
Why? Because people know you aren’t trying to impress them. You just want to say “hi” because you’re friendly and it’s a friendly thing to do. Pajamas are also comfortable and physically concealing. I don’t have to worry about looking attractive in them—I’m not trying to.
“Hi,” I’d say, waving my spoon.
“Good morning,” they’d say.
Eventually, I’d finish my Cheerios, head back inside, switch on ESPN and glower at Kirk Herbstreit. Pat would wake up.
“Jeff, if you’re going to steal my milk, could you at least put the carton back in the refrigerator?” he’d say.
“Sorry. I was gonna put some water in it to make it look like I didn’t drink any.”
I was always the first to leave from the football games. I’m not a big fan of the mob mentality, and to be honest, it’s much, much more comfortable watching the games at home.
Also, I got first crack at the shower. And I could steal some more of Pat’s food. Back in my pajamas and robe, relaxing on the couch, I almost felt sorry for my poor roommates as they filed in, looking haggard and, often, disappointed.
Hair tousled and bleary-eyed from the cold wind, Pat would step into the kitchen for a bite.
“Jeff, if you’re going to steal my frozen pizza, could you at least not leave the empty box in plain sight?” Pat would say.
“Sorry. I was gonna barf into the box to make it look like I didn’t eat it.”
I can’t remember what evening it was last week, but I remember shivering as I read through the final pages of a book.
Because I knew I would never finish the book if I stopped to find my comfort clothes, I read on. In college, I would’ve stopped right there, dug them out, and never looked at the book again. Too many distractions—good friends, many places to walk, movies to watch, cable television.
My stay in Morenci has given me the time to finish off all those half-read books. It’s almost like I’m going back and completing the intellectual journey I started in Ann Arbor.
After a few turns of the page, I flipped the book shut and scrounged out my PJs. I picked a new book from the bookshelf, and settling into the couch next to the open window, covered myself with my robe.
I was in a warm place and it was getting cold outside.– Sept. 20, 2006