Ode to a bathrobe


It’s grey and cold today, and almost all the trees are bare (there are a few leaves that  think November is the Alamo and are making their brave, but  doomed, last stand).  The light is already dim and it’s only noon, and this is the last possible to day to goof off before the serious pre-Thanksgiving rush sets in. It’s a good day for puttering around in your bathrobe.  Especially if you have a super duper bathrobe like mine (see above).

For those of you reading along at home (from my book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam) I’m talking about my bathrobe on page 178, and all the comforts to be had from one’s own everyday stuff on a cold and bluey November day.


Of all my favorite blue things in the world that I rhapsodised about — the lapis lazuli necklace that I bought for myself as my first serious piece of jewelry, my museum souvenirs of replicated ancient Egyptian faience hippos from around the world, the perfect footstool to go with my broken-in easy chair — the hardest thing to write about was my beloved bathrobe.  Because, as a rule, bathrobes are not very inspiring.

Unless you are J. Peterman.

bathrobe 2

This a white terry cloth bathrobe from J. Peterman from the 1990s. You might ask yourself, Who gives a crap, let alone $145, for a white terry cloth bathrobe??

You know who gives a crap and almost any amount of money that J. Peterman wants for a white terry cloth bathrobe?? Anybody with half a heart and who has eyes to read, that’s who.

Because this is not any ordinary white terry cloth bathrobe. This is a white terry cloth bathrobe that has been anointed by J. Peterman as:


The Road Not Taken: I always wanted to cross the Sahara, and the Gobi, by foot. But I didn’t. I did not swim the Hellspont. Didn’t ascend Mont Blanc. Didn’t read all the books I had to read. Ached to fly a Ford tri-motor anywhere, even to St. Louis, but didn’t. Did not modestly decline the Nobel Prize. Didn’t spend even one night at Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo. Not one.

Shepheard’s burned to the ground before I could afford to check in. That night, it became my code word for everything unobtained, undone.

In case there are a few things in your life you wanted but didn’t get, I offer as consolation The -Impossibly-Perfect-Night-at-Shepheard’s-Hotel-in-Cairo-Bathrobe. (With discreet Shepheard’s logo.)  $145.00.

This, my friends, is bravura writing. Amy Bloom, the novelist, got her start writing copy for J. Peterman; I’ve done my best to steal as much as I can from the Peterman catalog.  People think I’m joking when I bring this up at writing workshops, but I am serious: at its best, there is nothing las succinct and beguling as the story arc in J. Peterman catalog copy, besides the genius it takes to turn a white terry cloth bathrobe into an irresistible object ebmbodying secret erudite and picaresque desires.

So when I had to dig up something reader-worthy to write about my own bathrobe, I dug into J. Peterman. I put on my bathrobe and I re-read The Road Not Taken and, because I’m not very clever, I took a quick inventory of my pockets. (When all else fails, check your pockets.)  And I wrote:

The 8th Pillar of Wisdom.

I learned my lesson in the Sahara — when dressing for the elements, keep it simple: no buttons, bows, or belts. Think of this November Wrap as a caftan for the cold desert, with pockets for carrying the drawing pens & lip gloss, pate knives and cork screws that no desert nomad would be without.

OK, OK; it’s only a bathrobe. But Lawrence of Arabia would approve.

And the truth is, it wasn’t  really a pate knive in my pocket, it was only a Swiss Army knife. Which I use to spread pate when I’m trekking through the Air Mountains in Southern Lybia sketching the prehistoric rock drawings that the Tuaregs use as landmarks along this vast featureless expanse of the Sahara. 

But yes, there was a corkscrew in my bathrobe pocket. 

What’s in yours?

3 comments to Ode to a bathrobe

  • Vivian;
    You crack me up. I look forward to reading your posts. It is such a treat each morning when I find a new one. Thanks for your humor and flair, your imagination and wonderful artwork. It keeps me happy while waiting for your next book.

  • Rachel

    Ah, I thought I was the only one who was addicted to the J Peterman catalog and the stories therein. What a wonderful explanation of WHY they kept me on the edge of my seat. I am learning a LOT about writing from reading your blog. And really enjoying learning about you and TC and the kits. Thank you for the morning delight. Yes, waiting for your next book to come out, thanks for *preview Mondays.*

  • I loved the J. Peterman catalog, too, and spent my first Big Bucks on the leather mail bag–remember it? In the years since, it’s gone to live with my Best Friend From High School and then come home, and then gone to live with another friend whose artist daughter drew fine ink drawings on the flap. I lusted after the white terry cloth bathrobes, too; so when I found some thick, heavy ones on sale one January, I bought all three. Just last week I dyed the last one: they are now one purple, one chartreuese, and one hot pink.

    And I love your book–I ate it a little bit at a time, to make it last longer–

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