Our Man Cave
Man Cave Defined: “A room or other part of a home used by a man as a place to relax and pursue hobbies away from the rest of the family.” or “a room or space (as in a basement) designed according to the taste of the man of the house to be used as his personal area for hobbies and leisure activities.”
You would never know it looking at it from the street. You have to look down a long narrow shady driveway squeezed between two houses and populated by a couple of cars.
If you take a long enough look you will see front of a simple wood clapboard single car garage, painted white with a planter in front of the garage door. That’s your first clue that it’s not used for storing a car.
It’s not until you open the door on the side of the garage that you begin to grasp what makes this tiny space special. Remember, it was built to house a single car garage. If you could actually maneuver a tape measure wall-to-wall-to-wall, it’d stretch maybe 10 feet wide and 18 feet long.
Two walls are devoted to tool storage. Power tools, electric saws, every possible size and shape of screw driver, wrench, hammer, pliers. Six cordless power drills and a drill press. Eight tool chests, the ones that roll on wheels and have foam lining so you don’t scratch your Stanley Fatmax 120T Gun Metal Chrome Ratchet, 1/4-in Drive--and so the attachments don’t rattle when you open or close the door.
Of course there is the old beat up fridge that used to live in the household kitchen so many years ago (I think this one is so old it was banished from the cottage). In it, the essentials for a man cave. Beer, bottles of water, some aging soft drinks. In case my friend John wants to chow down on something without venturing back into the house, they can find a couple of packets of sliced deli meats, cheese and bread so work doesn’t need to be interrupted when he gets hungry. The freezer is filled with various sized ice cube trays--period. On top is an industrial strength boom box with the bright yellow and black markings of DeWalt. I never knew that a power tool maker would also build sound systems. The unit can act as a backup battery when charged, so buying the radio would have been easy to justify.
Against the back wall is the mandatory TV screen, 42 inches, connected into Cable. Below it is a work bench that probably is used for constructive activities most times, but when we are crowded in around it, - it’s usually stocked with a few glasses, a bag or two of salty snacks and an assortment of Scotch Whisky bottles (No Rye or Bourbon here please).
In the middle of the room sits a motorcycle chassis, raised up and clearly in the midst of a major overhaul. It’s some kind of Middle European model that has a few unique features that I can never remember. But for our purposes, it’s a great coat hanger and at some point in the evening our attention will drift from the hockey game that we’ve gathered to watch and have a discussion on how far the machine has advanced in its rebuild and for the clueless, like me, a review of what those unique features are.
Did I mention the posters of motorcycles tacked up on the ceiling? It’s the only available space for decorative touches. They are carefully positioned between the cross beams. When your attention is drawn to them and you crane your neck back, AND if you stand in just the right spot you can see an entire poster.
But on Saturday nights when hockey season is on -- within a few minutes of 7 pm (that’s Eastern Standard Time folks) it transforms into our Man Cave. A social setting where guys gather, drink beer (or in our case Scotch Whisky), wonder how quickly it will take the Leafs to blow this game and discuss the critical issues of the day such as home maintenance, woodworking and motorcycle maintenance (politics, family and religion are left at the door).
These days our core group is John, Paul, Dave and myself. Others, such as Jeff or Linus, join us from time to time. Linus has small kids so he’s got bedtime duties and rarely stays beyond first period. Some, like Mladin, have moved away for work, and others have been banned for bad behaviour.
Rituals have evolved. Nothing as elaborate as a Catholic mass or as mysterious as Freemason ceremonies, but our own rituals based on the needs of our little community.
For instance, the decision on which scotch to drink. Often there is a choice of several -- some single malt and some blends. You won’t hear much of a discussion on the subtleties of the 13 distinct flavour characteristics -- we’re a bunch given to appreciating more obvious stuff--how smooth a whisky is or whether the taste is so peaty it seems like some strands of the celebrated moss made it into the bottle.
Don Cherry’s suit choice always merits a comment or two and; if we can actually understand what he is saying, a comment or two on his commentary.
Every Saturday night, you have to expect at least one snide remark from the sole non-Leaf fan in the group (you know who you are) and, okay, several from the Leaf fans themselves.
The hundreds of tools in the cave are actually used when the guys aren’t around, and John will often set out an unusual or newly acquired one on display. Only Dave has any chance of guessing what the tools do -- the rest of us wait for John to regale us with how he came across it, why he needed it and possibly show the results from using it.
It is a hockey game, so stats come into play. A long while back, someone would wonder out loud how many games Frederick Andersen had won, or who was the highest scoring Leaf of all time. That was until Google came along. After that I took on a new self-appointed role: ask and I shall find. I can’t stand not knowing.
An old wood burning stove used to provide the heat (until the insurance company found out). John would start stoking it an hour or so before the game so that by the time we arrived the chill had been driven from the little garage. Whoever sat next to the stove -- or stood (space is too tight for enough chairs and we take turns standing)--was responsible for stoking the flames and if you weren’t paying attention to your job then John made it known in subtle ways like “Do ya think you could put a stick of wood in, ya dumb ….”. For the occasional newcomer asked to stoke the flames, there was a discussion about the best shape and size of wood and how to feed it in from the top. After, more than one of us would invariably peer in and comment on the quality of the fire.
Occasionally someone would bring some simple food that needed heating up -- like chestnuts. On one occasion Mladin proudly brought home-made spicy sausages that he cooked on the stove. Mladin, until he moved away for work, always made the evenings interesting because he liked to gamble. He would bet you on anything, but just for a loonie or a twoonie. The most ridiculous wager, now approaching urban-legend status, happened when he and John were lined up at a food truck and he bet John on what sandwich the guy ahead of them was going to order. So when Mladin was around on Saturday nights, the games were peppered with him challenging us to bet on whether the Leafs would score the next goal.
John and Dave are both motorcycle enthusiasts. And both have extensive machinist skills. Dave reputedly has 27 bikes in various stages of repair, some in his living room. Dave, needless to say, is single. John has managed to keep the number down to three -- hence he’s still married -- two in working order and the one on the rack at any given time. So when the motorcycle talk happens between periods, it gets serious.
Jeff, when he shows up, brings his dog -- Samba. Fortunately Samba is really small because with 4 to 5 guys, a motorcycle and a workbench/bar, there isn't much space. I forget Samba’s breed, but he’s quiet. Actually, too quiet, as we often forget he is there. At least three times a night, he almost gets stepped on .
Oh, and there have been women in the cave at least twice. Once John's wife wandered in to say hello. And then quickly left. Andy, who pops in a couple times a year, brought his current girlfriend for a brief visit while they were on the way somewhere apparently more interesting. It’s a round of introductions, a few reminisced moments from our collective past before they disappear through the side door and back into the night.
The siren goes off signaling the end of the game and our evening. The game winner is declared (and yes, occasionally it is the Leafs) and before the lure of hotly-contested second game grabs our attention, we state in our own way, "Well, that's it for me tonight." Paul will probably already be gone, he usually leaves after the second period. Dave will hop into his red Ford pick-up truck and either drive home to Brampton or head out to a favourite greasy spoon in deepest darkest Etobicoke for a late night burger and fries. I'll trudge up the hill on foot to my home a few blocks away while John cleans up. The Man Cave is muted and it's just a garage workshop until the next gathering.