Bear naked? A bold fashion statement.

Thanks to a couple of bears and a bird feeder, last month we learned two important things about our Governor: He does not sleep in pajamas. And he really cares about his bird feeders.

For those of you who were so focused on serious news – i.e., Krispy Kreme’s expansion into Russia and a people’s hope for the first ever vodka-glazed doughnut – on the night of April 11, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin saw four bears besieging the four birdfeeders just outside his Montpelier home. He had already gotten ready for bed, and apparently the Governor sleeps in. . .not pajamas. “Real Vermont boys don’t wear pajamas,” he told this newspaper, while hinting to WDEV radio personality Mark Johnson that he was about as well dressed as the bears. The Governor rushed outside and was able to retrieve the bird feeders, while keeping his masculinity – literally as well as metaphorically – intact.

So, why am I rehashing this month-old story now, since it was (forgive me) barely news four weeks ago? The other night, at 2:42 in the morning, I was awakened from a sound sleep in my hotel room in Saginaw, Michigan by the air raid siren that passed for a fire alarm. We’re talking a deafening, mind-addling beeping. I went straight to the door and opened it.

Just for the record, I did not touch the door first to see if it was warm. This was a mistake. Always touch the door first to be sure it’s cool. If it is hot, it might be a really bad idea to open it. (There are books and websites that offer practical advice on what to do if you are ever in a hotel fire. I have read some, found them interesting and wise, and clearly forgot everything I had learned when actually confronted by a possible hotel fire. I was this way with high school chemistry, too.)

In any case, I was one of four guests who opened our corridor doors almost simultaneously. We were all male. Two were super hairy and might actually have been bears. One guy was wearing tighty whities and a t-shirt.

And me? I was wearing pajamas, thank you very much.

Now would I have been wearing pajamas if my wife had been traveling with me? Possibly. Thanks to my wife and my daughter, I have a couple of pairs of very hip pajama pants.

Here, however, is my point: There are at least two times in this world when, if you’re a man, you don’t want to be naked. The first is when you are confronting large wild animals with claws or any bad-tempered dragon, giant, hellion, or demon. Seriously, are male superheroes ever naked when they’re taking on Cloverfield monsters or the Wolfman? Of course not.

The second time is when you’re evacuating a hotel because the fire alarm is causing a permanent, noise-induced hearing loss. There have not been many moments in my life when I was the best-dressed dude in the room, but between 2:42 and 2:51 a.m. in Saginaw, Michigan, I was. I rocked that hotel corridor confab. I was the most charming guy in the hall. We’re talking Jon Stewart charisma. After all, I wasn’t standing around awkwardly in tighty whities. . .or less. I was dressed in stylish pjs my NYU fashionista daughter had picked out for me.

Fortunately, there wasn’t a fire. Nor, just for the record, were there bears. According to the gentleman behind the front desk, another guest had left the shower running to try and unclog his sinuses and fallen asleep. And the steam, I was told, had triggered the alarm.

Now, is there a moral to this story? There is. Real Vermont boys can wear pajamas.

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This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on May 13, 2012. Chris’s new novel, The Sandcastle Girls, arrives on July 17. You can learn more about it here.

Chris Bohjalian
Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of eighteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Guest Room. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, and The Double Bind.

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