The tenth of fifty fictional places to visit in Vermont you won’t find in any travel guide, because even the locals don’t know they don’t exist.
Get Lost in Vermont: The Man Cave on Humpback Whale Street
Soon after outing the Shelburne Tunnel in my previous Get Lost, Ed the gentleman who revealed its location in my last Get Lost story, phoned me. Of course, I didn’t pick up the phone not recognizing the number, but eventually, when I listened to Ed’s Voice Mail three weeks later I was surprised. In the spirit of radical transparency, I transcribed the entire message.
Yo, Get Lost Guy. This is Ed. I sat next to you at the keto beer cheese tasting at the alpaca farm. You probably think I’m upset you wrote about the tunnel. I’m not. I didn’t realize I was sitting next to a journalist (ed. note. Ed said Journalist sarcastically) or I would have told you about a house we’re working on right now. Still can. You’re gonna wanna write about it. Call back and we’ll talk.
When I called Ed he told me to meet him up in Newport. He gave no details or explanation; only an address – 82 Humpback Whale Street; a concession made for approval was it had to name its streets after endangered animals.
It was a slow ride with twisting roads and icy intersections to Newport. I was disappointed to find the house was a McMansion with four different window styles on the front of the home alone. How Vermont, the state that banned billboards, allows such ugly housing developments is a mystery. Work trucks and a mini-van line the driveway. We were a month-post Christmas but Santa is still chilling on the lawn, embedded in the compacted snow.
Ed greets me exiting my car and says, “Here’s the deal. You gotta pretend you’re one of my crew. That’s the only way I get you in there.” he explains handing me a tool belt. “The family is at home. We’re going to the sub-basement area where the dad is. My guys are installing new air ducts”
“Why is Dad in a subbasement?” I asked, quickly following. “What’s a sub-basement.”
“It’s the basement under the basement,” Ed tells me in his gravelly voice. “I built all the homes in this neighborhood, but this one’s special. It’s got a real man cave.”
Ed didn’t explain. He guided me into the home, right past the normal-looking family; Mom and two kids playing connect four at the kitchen table. We went down into the fully finished basement, walked into a laundry room. In the laundry room, there is an extra-wide spiral staircase.
Ed tip-toed down the iron staircase, but work boots meeting iron floor made noise and he shushed when I didn’t tip-toe. The subbasement was darker, classical chamber music piped through hidden speakers. There was a long carpeted hallway with wood-paneled walls. An odd amenity in a modern home.
Hung on the wall were family photos. The father wasn’t upstairs but he was in the photos. In some photos, he was massively obese and in others he was thin. The photos of him at Thanksgivings he took one whole side of the table. He was dressed as the Kool-Aid Man in a Halloween, but at the Easter egg hunt, he was thin as a rail.
I followed Ed down the hallway. I could hear a beep that came out of an EKG machine, but slower. There was a large window at the end of the hall. The window looked into another room, similar to what you’d see at a radio station; a fish tank to spy on the DJ. Outside the room, built into the wall I saw a stack electronic equipment you’d see at a hospital. Including the EKG.
“Four beats a minute,” Ed whispers pointing to the green bouncing line.
I try to see what’s on the other side of the window, but it’s too dark. The kids’ artwork is taped to the window. “Four beats?”
“His heart beats four times a minute while he hibernates,” Ed shows me a small monitor above the EKG. In the frame filmed with a low light camera a man sleeping in the fetal position in a massive bed. The man is currently a smaller version of himself. By some miracle of all the humans on earth, the only one with the ability to hibernate did so in a Vermont McMansion
I had so many questions, but Ed answered no more. He escorted me back to my car. Riding home I wondered why the man even hibernated. Bears do it for lack of food, but food is not scarce for dad. There is no reason to stay in bed for three months, then fatten up by eating donuts, ice cream, and hamburgers for the next nine so he can hibernate. This man missed all Christmases, all those days getting the kids ready for school, and shoveling snow during brutely cold winters just so he can snuggle in the warmth of his man cave. The sacrifice he made was truly heroic.
For the curious, you won’t find 82 Humpback Whale Street on the map any more since that whale is off the endangered list. The name of the street had since changed to 82 Borneo Pygmy Elephant Boulevard.