Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Paint Me an Ann Arbor Winter's Night

Feeling particularly nostalgic for winter nights in the college town as seasonal change is upon us once again.

I woke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain't it funny how the night moves
When you just don't seem to have as much to lose
- Bob Seger

The last leaves clutching to autumn dangle from the oak trees lining the diag. The campus paths that bustled with energy and vigor just weeks ago have grown somber and lifeless; only a few bundled up students scuttle down the lamp-lit paths, on their way home from class or on their way to stow themselves away in some library cubicle.

Turning the corner onto State Street, a chilled gust of wind reminds me once more of seasonal change. The buildings on State tower over the street, emanating a sense of history and tradition. I can almost picture John F. Kennedy delivering that speech on the steps of the student union. Or some lofty-minded student groups protesting on the lawn in the sixties, triggering the wheels of revolution. The pillars of the fraternity mansions speak of their own history, where well dressed young men once signed up to serve their country one night in the forties.

Yet nothing seems to be happening in Ann Arbor now. Students tucked away in the warmth of their houses sit aimlessly staring at the television. Or drinking cases of beer, drowning out the lack thereof of our generation.

Those thoughts of State Street's past are flushed away as I walk up the steps of my front porch and open that front door. Inside, my friends and roommates, dressed in our school colors, take swigs of whiskey concoctions while dancing around to the tunes playing from the speakers, drowning out some unnamed sporting event on the television. Feeling behind in the pregame festivities, I disregard the stack of unwashed dishes piled up in the sink and the beer spills covering the countertop, dispose of my backpack, and embark upon the evening unfolding in the living room. The night seems alive again.

With our whiskey overcoats draped over us, we walk amongst the throngs of students down Hoover, taking sips of whiskey from our flasks along the way. Though we walk among strangers down in the chilly night, there is a proud sense of community among us. The lights of Crisler Arena guide us to our destination - that evening's sporting event.

The winter nights go on that way. And though it seems like nothing happens on those November and December nights, and though maybe no one but us will look back on those days like one looks back upon the students registering for military service in the forties or the student protesters planting the seeds of change in the sixties, we create our own piece of State Street history on those cold, dark Ann Arbor nights.

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