Mad River Union
ARCATA, APRIL 1 – An unmistakable stain of manliness now inhabits a remote corner of City Hall, its mahogany-like paneling and overstuffed seating a husky, musky contrast to the rest of the building.
Welcome to Mister’s, a small sanctuary for men in the mostly female-led government of Arcata. The club, membership in which is available via Parks and Rec, is modeled after the early Plaza’s old-time “card clubs” for the town’s menfolk.
These male enclaves let men be men to impress each other with sporting games of chance, tales of derring-do, imaginary valor, multiple appalling -isms and other testosterone-infused, shouting-based camaraderie.
The idea was born in the former Public Safety Task Force, attempting to find harmless diversions for the less cost-effective gender. “They need a safe place to blow off steam, and not hit rocks at trucks with a stick,” said Task Force Chair Norva Noatall, citing one popular pastime of Arcata males.
The man’s man for the job
Appointed as City Council liaison to the effort was Councilmember Brett Watson, the sole male among Arcata electeds. As such, it was theorized that he was uniquely qualified to “relate” to the targeted demographic.
An old supply room in the deep back bowels of City Hall’s basement was requisitioned, and Mister’s was furnished with funding from the city’s graffiti abatement account. The location’s close proximity to APD, ready to respond to any outbreaks of chest-thumping, was a key consideration.
Under Watson’s direction, the room was cleared of musty old water bills and mops, and decorated in a retro-posh men’s club motif, suffused with the scent of victory, or something. The latter may be emanating from the club’s multiple wastebaskets overflowing with wadded-up Kleenex.
To save money, photos of the Ingomar Club’s ultra-bourgie interior walls were blown up into wallpaper, and pasted to the clammy concrete sides of the new club space. If you squint your eyes – almost mandatory in the feeble lighting – you can almost smell the spittoons bubbling in the shadows of the dank, old school elegance.
Furniture was hand-selected from sofas, chairs and tables left out on streetcorners in various Arcata neighborhoods, with preference for pieces pre-infused with spilled beer and cigarette burns.
A few of the pieces being somewhat crawly, Watson said plans to have them de-loused have been deemed urgent, are “moving fast,” and this will be done at some point, possibly after post-COVID fundraisers in 2022.
Amenities are many, and manly, at Mister’s. In one popular attraction, an open can of SPAM invites one to dip in a spoon, scoop and slurp. A roving sommolier dispenses splashes of vintage Bali Hai and Thunderbird.
Random sporting implements – a hockey stick, a football helmet, tangy jockstraps, bottles of steroids – are scattered about the room, further enhancing the nose-tingling athletic cachet.
Tiered memberships are available, from the entry-level “Mister’s Mister” to the affordable “He-Man” tier, going up to the prestigious “Major Dude” level, topped by the elite “Brettsters.”
Each tier comes with an array of negligible privileges, mainly involving access to cufflinks and menthol shaving cream.
Plans for a secret handshake were set back by the COVID-19 pandemic, but a secret elbow bump is in active development by the club’s R&D wing.
Beating a new path
A stringent code of conduct is enforced. All participants must pledge to open doors for all non-Mister’s members, to rarely if ever steal tip jars and to change underclothes on some sort of routine basis.
Speaking of attire, Watson said he plans to pump up the pomp at Mister’s with themed costume nights. “Call it cosplay, call it dress-up, call it modern menswear,” he grunted manfully. “We call it fun, son.”
One recent night saw a crisply attired Watson chumming it up with a pack of similarly clad sophisticates, with brandy, cigars and baboon-like virtual grooming and affirmation a-flowing.
Several obscenities were uttered to great amusement, along with throaty hoots, spittle-flecked screeches, cackling laughter and a smattering of slammed fists on the road-tested furniture.
Police view the incessant wall-pounding as proof of concept, and hope the heavily video-monitored clubhouse will help expend the energies of A-town’s bad boys, bringing immediate savings through drastically reduced need to hose down vomit throughout the city.
Science is stepping into the manpile as well. A state grant is allowing installation of one-way mirrors, behind which a Humboldt State cultural anthropology class may track the curious interactions between the manic man-mammals.
Optimally, gains in reduction of yelling will benefit Arcata’s overall quality of sleep, boosting health, productivity, the economy, tax revenue and eventually helping finance thrusting new features for City Hall’s new testosterone sanctuary: Mister’s, for men.