Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Eight Feet Under

We just returned from a Thanksgiving trip to my wife's parents' home in Boston. For some reason (probably under the influence of large amounts of red wine) we decided to drive the 2,200 miles up and back. It was a very long haul, replete with the usual highway adventures, but that is material for another blog posting. What I really want to write about this time is "the cellar", my in-laws' basement. I love that place.

Here in Atlanta, the most common form of basement is the "daylight" variety, which is in effect a terrace level with a door to the outside. Basements are quite common here, and many are beautifully finished as media or recreation rooms. Our own basement is, at least for me, the best place in our entire suburb to watch a movie. But "up Nawth", many basements are called "cellars" and are actually dug out rooms below the main house with limited openings to the outside. They can be spooky places, indeed. In the exquisite documentary TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", one particularly memorable episode involved Buffy being changed into some kind of rodent and taking cover in a real cellar, where she promptly shape-shifted back into a human female, the consequences of which are another story altogether.

What I truly like about my in-laws' cellar is that is it REAL. There are shelves of packaged foods, newspapers ready for recycling, a clam pot, a washer and dryer, old books, scores of National Geographics, and a hobby room, in which my father-in-law builds incredibly detailed scale models of airplanes. At some point in every trip, my mother-in-law will ask me to fetch something from or carry something "down cellar", and I always enjoy this. To me, the cellar is like a microcosm of life at ground level, effectively a time capsule for stuff that you need at some point but which doesn't get top billing.

Don't get me wrong -- I truly enjoy my finished basement with all its accoutrements, and I can think of no place I'd rather watch a film. But when I'm in the mood to get down with it and go underground, give me that Massachusetts cellar.

Under and out.