The Many Lives of Man-Cave

Man Cave started out as a simple pavilion style covered outdoor patio.  Some of my earliest memories are of summer parties in this patio.  My mom would have the built-in grill going for burgers and hot dogs.  I also remember homemade french fries in the deep fryer with Lawry’s Seasoning Salt on them, and peach ice cream in . . . you guessed it, the hand-churning wood barrel ice cream maker. The patio was adjacent to a shuffleboard court that came with my folks’ house, which bordered our neighbors Fauna and Kieven’s back yard.  At the end of the shuffleboard court was the fenced in dog pen where our first family dog, a beagle named Happy, would run himself to exhaustion in circles, and a giant lemon tree.

The now Man-Cave was also the scene of my Dad’s “Big Four-Oh” (40) surprise birthday party . . . I remember the troops huddling in the patio and waiting for my Dad to come home from work, park in the garage which was next door to the patio, and ambush him with shouts and kisses.

Man Cave fell into sporadic use for years, although I do remember a brief renaissance occasion on my 22nd birthday where loads of my college friends make the trek from Eagle Rock to Santa Monica to eat, drink and be merry.  My mom, chef and entertainer extraordinaire, made steak, shrimp, tamale dip and thousands of other goodies, and we had the jacuzzi (where Happy’s Pen used to be) rolling.

Many years later Man Cave was lovingly converted into a guesthouse for yours truly at age 32.  As some of my readers may know I had some rough patches and at one particular junction when I found myself without a home or much else, and had put in my time in halfway houses, rehabs and anonymous couches . . . and worse, my father graciously offered me shelter in the mini van parked in the garage until the guesthouse was completed.  I wasn’t exactly to be trusted in their home at that point but I was making a valiantly humble effort and righting my life.  When that guesthouse was completed somebody drove me to Carl’s Jr. and I brought home my burger, fries and soft drink, sat on the floor eating it, and went to bed in the sleeping bag and I’d never been so happy.  Man Cave was truly a place of respite and rebuilding for me.  I wish I could say that my time in Man Cave was the beginning of an unbroken streak of good sober behavior, but alas, as with many recovery stories, that was not the case and it indeed got worse before it got better.  But I have many fond memories of that short time . . . . watching my little 12 inch TV, cooking soup on the stove top, making fake fires during the winter with duraflame logs.  Sometimes in the rafters at night I could hear little critter feet walking around.  Whenever it rained it was like a drum symphony and I also felt the cold and the heat more intimately, as the insulation was primitive (none).

Man Cave again fell into disuse after I moved out, probably marred by bad memories and broken hearts (my parents).  Eventually the shower drain was cemented over, and a Ping Pong Table and the dog beds were moved out there.

Funny thing happened though . . . one day two weeks ago I had lunch with my Dad and a fellow family law attorney who I see every day at the local deli next to my office.  In talking to this nice fellow over the course of a couple of years, I discovered that he had actually been in the freshman class of a law school course my Dad had taught at UCLA . . . when both of them were fresh out of college from the Midwest, my Dad from Illinois and Fred from Iowa!  So I arranged a lunch.  We had such a nice time and I enjoyed hearing stories of the young and naive midwesterner single men making the trek out West to Los Angeles.  I said goodbye to my Dad and returned to my desk with happy thoughts.  The next day my mother reported, in a somewhat defeatist and exasperated tone, that my Dad stopped at the nursery next door to my office and purchased a $700 fountain and other big ticket things (an antique soda vending machine for example) for the back yard and Man Cave.  I wonder when the idea to resuscitate the space actually came into being and if and/or how the lunch may have triggered the final move.  Anyhow, ManCave is now fully equipped for lounging around watching sports games, napping, reading and hanging with the dogs.


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