Thursday, November 13, 2014


There are certain things that are intrinsically Wisconsin: Friday night fish fries, meat raffles, cheese heads, and bubblers. I thought I had uncovered and catalogued most all things Wisconsin but the dairy state can always find a way to surprise me. Lets talk man caves. It wasn't my goal to join a men's group. Burning Man is such a west coast idea. Wisconsin men are  more handshakers than huggers. What I was really in need of was garage space for the winter. Now that Emmy is driving and has a car of her own there wasn't a chance in hell we could shoehorn her 2009 Chrysler Sebring into our two-car garage that is already crammed with two mini Ford Focus' and a ton of vintage tableware we've been carting around for the past five years. Looking for something local and nearby I called our local community association to see if they had any ideas of how I could put the word out that I was looking for garage space. She turned me on to a web site the community belonged to called Nextdoor. Neighborhoods from around the country set up links through Nextdoor that give you access through email to other residents in your immediate neighborhood. You can find out all sorts of things much of which you probably don't want to know. Things like someone stole the halloween candy bowl from our neighbor two blocks down during Trick or Treat and they want it back, or one block over someone has a La-Z-Boy recliner out on the curb free for the taking, or across the street our neighbor's four-year-old daughter made her first batch of  sugar cookies - Yeah! Usually it's TMI, I don't need to know that Mrs X would appreciate it if Mr. Y would close his bathroom drapes while shaving naked every Tuesday morning. Sometimes the topics get a little heated like the back-and-forth postings over the jerk we've just elected for a second time as governor of our once liberal minded state. I tend to delete most of the postings since they have started to fill up my inbox with a minimum seven to eight notices per day but I decided to type in garages to see if anything might come up.
What popped up wasn't exactly what I was looking for. This is what I got, "Come to the man cave for pancakes, sausages, and made-to-order omelets! Wednesday mornings, 5:30 - 10am. Spread the word and stop on by!"  Set up in a neighbor's garage and sprawling out into their yard is Wisconsin's version of the Promise Keepers without the religion
It seems this "Men Only" hangout has been going on for a while. It even has a name, Dads at Dave's. At 5:30 am every Wednesday from April through October the garage door rolls up on Meadowlark Drive,
the duck light gets switched on and the coffee urn starts percolating.
There's a spread of sweet rolls, fruit, and donuts laid out on a counter covered with vinyl tablecloths. Men start filtering in once the automatic garage door's wheels have made their journey up their track and locked into their open position, real men. It's mainly a jeans and work clothes vibe with a sprinkling of retirees.
The steam rising off of coffee mugs winds its way around conversations about the Packers, what local truck dealer has the best deal on a 2015 Ford F-150 SuperCrew XLT 4x4 2.7L EcoBoost, real man stuff.
It's not that suits aren't welcome it's just that they'd feel way out of place even as orders for exotic omelets are made by the chef at the back of the cave. I ditched my Banana Republic scarf before I got out of my car and did my best Sylvester Stallone imitation saunter into the yard and on into the garage.
The host here is Dave, a real connector, glad handing everyone who stops by with a smile and an introduction. Initially you get the sense there must be an ulterior motive, he's trying to sell insurance or worse he's a politician looking for your vote. It's not the case. There's a real generosity on the part of the host and a sense of camaraderie on the part of each pair of callused hands gripping its miss-matched ceramic mug.
A metal pot is suspended between the donuts and the coffee maker for donations and everyone seems to drop a buck here and a five spot there. As an interior designer with no knowledge or interest in most guy talk you'd think I'd feel like the sore thumb but once I decided to plunge in the water wasn't too deep or too cold.
No one takes themselves too seriously here and let me tell you the decor bespeaks the tongue-in-cheek quality of the ambiance. There was a real effort that went into making the quintessential man cave and I have to tell you I really appreciated the effort, right down to the plaid sofas that reek of manly comfort defying a woman's touch or a gay man's sensibility.
The memorabilia wall says it all and pokes fun at itself all at the same time.
I have to hand it to Madison and Dave, as hokey as it appears there was a real sense of welcome to anyone who wanted to stop by. Where else could you see a guy in a Bears jacket being offered a genuine handshake in the midst of a bunch of cheese heads.

*In the interest of transparency, I asked Rick to edit this post as he usually does but he declined sighting that he does not speak the language.

The union banner for the mining town in "Pride" has an image of two hands coming together in a handshake. It's this symbol that provides the theme for the film based on a true story of an English gay and lesbian goup's outstretched hand reaching out to the displaced families of a Welsh mining community during the strike of 1984. The film is brilliantly crafted with pathos, insight and a good bit of humor without being didactic or preachy. The film was released for general distribution at the end of September to high critical acclaim but it has yet to make it out of the primary markets and into smaller secondary venues. I'm including  the trailer for the film:

with the hopes that somehow this film will get a push and find an opportunity to make it into some theaters where those of us limited to a narrower selection of movie fair might get a chance to see film that shows a kinder world at a time when our world seems a little more closed, a little colder and lot more red than blue

Removing a Well Head, Greater Burhan Oil Field, Kuwait, 1991
Sebastiao Salgado, photographer
Represented by Peter Fetterman Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

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