(photography by Daniel Davis)
THE WEEKEND I SPENT LEARNING HOW TO BE A MAN…
Our intrepid Chicago correspondent recently took up an offer from Camp Wandawega in Wisconsin to spend the weekend learning how to be a man. (Never mind that he already is one.) This is his tale…
I am a man.
Well, the last time I checked anyhow. Sure, I may clock in closer to Nathan Lane than Paul Bunyan, but I still qualify.
So it was exciting for me to be invited to a retreat in the backwoods of Wisconsin called “The Six Skills Every Man Should Master” held at Camp Wandawega, outside Elkhorn.
This sounded right up my alley—what with both my X and Y chromosomes in good working order.
First, however, let me say some words about the twee-rustic glory that is Camp Wandawega. Its backstory: a onetime speakeasy turned mob hideout turned brothel turned Catholic retreat for Latvian refugees, since 2003 it’s been in the loving hands of Teresa and David, two Chicago advertising creative directors. And they’ve done amazing things.
From the 1950s Boy Scout memorabilia scattered about the lodge to the canvas tepees overlooking the lake, this makes the camp in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom look like Friday the 13th’s Camp Crystal Lake by comparison. A weekend here should be on your bucket list.
Now back to learning how to be a man. The gathered attendants—a handsome crew of gentry that included music executives and bloggers, filmmakers and chefs from Chicago seafood spot Kinmont—had all gathered here to learn to:
1) Handle a compound bow; 2) throw a hatchet; 3) split a log; 4) clean a trout; 5) shoot skeet; and 6) build a fire.
Our instructors were world-class. Sharpshooters. SWAT team members. Archers. Fish farmers. And a nine-toed world champion lumberjack by the name of Carson Bosworth whom you might’ve seen on ESPN2. (Ask him about his missing toe sometime. Great story.)
Now, after a grueling day fueled by nothing but sheer determination and a lunch of cassoulet and red wine, here’s what I learned.
I’m pretty good at gutting a fish. Not great. But good.
When it came to actually filleting fish, well, a rabid raccoon would have more finesse.
I couldn’t hit a target with either a hatchet or an arrow, though I did giggle like a schoolboy anytime “cock feathers” were mentioned. And no pigeon (clay or otherwise) was felled by my gun.
Still, if you give me enough time with a sharp axe and plenty of diesel fuel, you’ll get yourself a roaring fire.
Though I may also eventually lose a toe in the process.
Still, rather that than my manhood.