As the days reach their maximum length and when the mercury passes 90°F in what my old engineering boss would jokingly refer to as “white man’s units,” the dominant male, of the Italic strain at least, would shift his base of operations to the basement level. Here he would gain a two-fold advantage. The obvious one is a 15°F – 30°F reduction in ambient temperature as compared to the upper floors but equally as important is the freedom from female annoyance. The lower level is the male domain. It contains a pool table, a floor that needn’t be kept swept clean of minute amounts of honest dirt and vast storage space crammed full of valuable possessions that do not pass muster from Camera Girl for inclusion in the various bric-a-brac that she favors for décor. Hundreds of old books, trophies of past campaigns, tools, and hobby, exercise and sports equipment of all sorts. A veritable treasure house.
I learned this paradigm from Camera Girl’s father, the Old Fisherman of the Sea himself. He would inhabit the basement in the summer almost exclusively and it was there that he was happiest. He had his wine making operation, which encouraged at various times of the year quite a healthy throng of fruit flies, his fishing lure manufacturing space, his tool workshop, his own bath and shower and his favorite old padded chair. He even had his own freezer and refrigerator to store the endless blue fish and striped bass that were the usual prizes from his frequent fishing trips. Here he would retreat from the cares of work and family and reign unchallenged by female frippery and the demands for ever higher standards of particle free existence. And in this environment, he lived to be ninety-five. And if he hadn’t taken it upon himself to increase his gout medicine dosage to unheard of levels to compensate for his love of wine and beef, he probably would be alive today and well over a hundred years old. God rest his soul.
Well, anyway in my version of the basement kingdom the lower level has direct access to the swimming pool and since the floor there is tiled there is no need to dry off after swimming. Drip dry in flip-flops is acceptable. If someone is exceedingly fastidious there is a bathroom and shower available here along with towels and changing area. Also, the spare refrigerator from which hidden food items can be stored and retrieved without any note. And the overstuffed recliner is available for periods of quiet reflection and deep thoughts. And finally, the lower porch is equipped with a propane grill to handle any meat related cooking that may become necessary. After all Camera Girl’s kitchen can be monstrously hot at this time of year. It’s only decent that I pitch in and save her the discomfort of summer cooking as much as I am able.
There used to be a television on the wall but we removed it almost ten years ago. There is so little worth watching that it never got used. The only thing it lacks is a full kitchen sink and stove. I say this with shame. Because every good Italian American basement had a kitchen built in. It was a point of pride and a practical feature. This allowed the holidays with the extended family to be cooked and served in the basement which is always the largest room in the house. Well, someday I’ll make the time and put the money aside to build this in. For now, it is my secret shame.
Now the point of this essay is not to regale you with the lies about my basement. The point is that in the hot weather (and to a lesser extent during all the other seasons of the year) a man can find peace and enjoyment hidden away from his loved ones in the dark and gritty comforts of the basement. Here he can retreat from his wife and the demands of our hectic world. Leave your phone and your computer off. Get your hands dirty and drink a beer or whatever you like to drink and forget your troubles for an hour or even longer if they won’t come digging you out. It is an amazing thing how they’ll leave you alone down there. Possibly the castle that a man is king of is really only the dungeon. But I’ll settle.