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A best friend and a Man Cave

I have a new best friend.

I call him “i.”

He stays in a room in the basement.

He’s large.

Large, as in 27 inches.

He’s the very best, best friend I’ve ever had.

Even better than my imaginary best friends.

I and i get along great. I can’t wait to dash down the stairs and see i. Spend quality time with him.

My new best friend is a new iMac computer with a 27-inch screen — a stainless steel, sleek brute with a major league high-def display and all the bells and whistles. A terabyte of hard drive and a humdinger of a processor makes i a super-responsive and engaging companion.

I parked i in what can laughingly be called an “office.” The first night I hooked i to the Internet, my brain exploded. I mean, I knew all that stuff was out there, I just hadn’t had a friend like i to get me to it. To lead me to the garden.

It wasn’t a half hour after we met that the two of us tapped into sources for music, movies, television programs, etc. We watched a film by Truffaut, and three episodes of “Weeds” in one sitting.

Time flies when you have a pal who shares your interests.

I and i have been hanging out together for about a month now. I try to sneak away from work as early as I can in order to get home and join i for some Web cruising. We have a photo editing project going that looks promising, and we are beginning to catalog my columns and other writings. I discovered that i has an editing function on a word processing program. I am asking i’s advice on some project ideas.

The problem?

Kathy.

Kathy does not realize that i is my best friend and that I am very protective of him. Somehow, she got the idea that she, too, can spend time with i.

Not so.

I made it abundantly clear that, when I welcomed i into our home, Kathy got to take over our (admittedly pathetic) iBook G4 laptop, with the 12-inch screen.

Imagine my dismay when I hit i’s on button the other day and, as the desktop appeared, I discovered pollution, clutter, the evidence of nasty doings.

There it was: a folder on the desktop, labeled “Kathy’s files.”

I immediately launched an investigation. I went to the Photo Booth application and, sure enough, there were some goofy photos Kathy had snapped of herself. She was sitting at i’s keyboard, mugging for i’s camera. She had transformed one of her photos with the x-ray effect.

I was aghast.

Borne along on a surging note of panic, I went to iPhoto and was greeted with photos in the library — Kathy’s favorite shots of Capri, Rome, Venice and our grandchildren, Forest and Banzai.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: my pal, i, used and abused. Defiled, if you will.

You can imagine how far I got when I breached the subject with Kathy.

“The laptop is too small and too slow. I don’t like it anymore and I don’t want to use it.”

“But … but … it was clearly understood that the laptop is yours to use and the new computer is mine.”

“Understood by …?”

“Well, I have been calling it ‘my computer,’ haven’t I?”

“Yeah. That’s real amusing, considering ‘we’ are paying for it. Did you happen to notice the snapshots I took of myself. How about the one where I have my finger in my nose? That x-ray effect is a barrel of laughs, don’t you think?”

I couldn’t bear the thought of Kathy touching i’s keyboard, of Kathy having a photo session with i — alone — of her going online with my new, best friend.

It’s so wrong.

Worst of all, I couldn’t face the prospect of hearing what I’ve heard with each new computer we’ve taken into our household. If Kathy messes with i, it is inevitable.

“Karl, something’s wrong. I’m not sure which keys I hit … but the computer screen went blank and the machine won’t do anything. I can’t even shut it off. Do you think there’s a problem? ‘Delete hard drive’ doesn’t mean anything, does it?”

Computercide.

My wife kills computers.

I can’t let her kill i.

There is only one solution: an idea suggested by my pal, Toby.

“Create a Man Cave, Karl.”

He explained the concept: take a room in the house, empty it of everything not directly connected to my pursuits and pleasures, fill it with the items needed to ensure comfort, indulge said pursuits and pleasures, and fix a lock on the inside of the door. Tape a crudely-lettered sign on the door saying “Go Away! No Girls Allowed!”

Sounds like a great idea. Toby is one clever fellow.

I am going to put all the office furniture and supplies in another room in the basement (who needs a guest room when your best friend lives with you?) I will put Kathy’s iBook G4 laptop with 12-inch screen in the new office, along with the filing cabinets, the bookcase, the computer “hutch.”

For The Cave: i, of course, will be provided with all the latest wireless doodads and peripheral hardware, and will be enthroned on a simple, aesthetically unobtrusive table (I want nothing to detract from his high-tech, oh-so-modern beauty). I will purchase a super-executive model swivel chair for deskside labor, and one of those leather couches with the recliner/sleeper function (and cup holder).

I’ll need to install a home theatre sound system.

I’m not sure I want to break away from i long enough to go upstairs to find food or to cook in the kitchen, so I’ll purchase a small, two-burner electric range and a restaurant quality microwave oven. A small fridge should do the trick for food storage; I can keep dry goods and canned goods in the closet. There is a bathroom adjacent to The Cave, so I’ll knock a door through and seal off the current bathroom door leading to the rest of the basement, thus creating a suite, with sink, shower and toilet.

If I and i are really busy with a project, or we’re holding a film festival, and I am too busy to cook, I can have food delivered through the window. There will be an extra-generous tip waiting for the pizza delivery man who negotiates the steep slope at the side of the house during the winter months.

I think this is going to work out well.

It’s not that I’ll ignore Kathy or family members, or my now lesser friends. They can call me. I have voice mail.

And, on occasion, just to be a sport, I will invite Kathy to Movie Night in The Cave, with me and i. We can have dinner and watch obscure Japanese films from the ’60s.

What to eat, though? There’s no room in The Cave for a dining table, so we’ll have to chow down while reclining on the couch.

Nothing too sloppy — leather, you know.

Nothing that requires a lot of cleanup — after all, you can wash only so many pans and dishes in a bathroom shower and sink.

Utensilwise, the perfect Cave food will involve a skillet, a pan, small plates or bowls, a fork and/or spoon.

You can strike salads from the list. This is a Man Cave, after all.

Soups or chili? Since there is certain to be some serious drinking going on in The Cave, soup spells trouble (See “sloppy,” above).

Sandwiches (or, “sangwiches,” as they are known here in Siberia With a View)? Sure. But, a bit pedestrian, don’t you think?

Pasties, empanadas?

No oven.

One thing comes to mind — actually a theme comes to mind, a template with many possible variations. And it can be cooked with the use of two pans.

The essential ingredient: egg roll wrappers.

Sure, you can make the regular egg roll filling if you want to stay just this side of mundane, but think of all the things you can put inside that wrapper.

If you want to remain close to the original idea, you could do some mu shu fillings, with minced chicken, beef or pork as the meat, sautéed with garlic, minced onion, some scallion, ginger, and other traditional mu shu flavoring, added to some finely cut napa cabbage with a few bean sprouts thrown in as an afterthought. Roll the mix in an egg roll wrapper, seal the deal with a bit of water or egg wash, fry in 3/4-inches of hot, neutral oil, drain on a paper towel. In an hour’s time, you’re slamming egg rolls in The Cave.

But, hold the phone: Why not expand the egg roll horizon?

A stiff curry? Thai or otherwise. Load up the chicken or beef filling with tiny chunks of cooked potato, or squash, or eggplant.

Go Middle Eastern: sautéed ground lamb, chopped eggplant, onion, garlic, cumin, mint, pine nuts.

A taco filling. Or, better yet, roll up a mix of grated cheddar and asadero cheeses mixed with finely minced onion, garlic and a big wad of chopped, hot green chile. Olé.

I can it in my mind’s eye: I kick back in The Cave, whip up some chile relleno egg rolls, perhaps mash up a bowl of guacamole (if the market ever offers a decent avocado). I’ll take a trip with i to one of the Internet movie providers while the rolls sizzle in the fat (I’ll need to get a cleaning product that will remove grease from i’s 27 inches) and keep an ear out for Kathy.

I’m pretty sure she’ll try to put another lock on the door.

On the outside.