Thank God the heat has broken because desperation makes you do incredible things just to stay cool. Like last night, when it was still too hot out to head home but we were certain madness would set in were we to spend another hour at Espresso Royale. Thus, Chris and I hatched the plan -- neither, in retrospect, will claim responsibility for it -- to drive to Dundee and finally check out the outdoors/hunting/fishing spectacle that is Cabela's.
We had, of course, heard tell of this place at the beginning of the fellowship and were told tales of its cavernous interior, amazing selection of outdoors gear and whatnot. Yet somehow we didn't make it along on the trip some fellows made last fall.
But it was a good 20 minute drive in guaranteed air conditioning and we knew we could wander around and kill and hour or so in the cool. Arguably, we could have gone to a bonafide museum, but the University of Michigan Museum of Art is undergoing renovation and the Detroit Institute of Arts is simliarly closed.
One could even argue that Cabela's is a museum itself. Certainly a site to behold, starting with its giant log cabin-esque exterior and tasteful gigantic sculpture of two bears rasslin'. Toss in a parking lot full of good ol' American-made, gas-guzzlin' monster pickup trucks and you realize that you've struck upon a certain aspect of modern US culture that is, in a word, terrifying.
Part enormous Wal-Mart, part taxidermy museum and part serial killer training ground, Cabela's is a large enough place. The ceilings are about a zillion feet high and everywhere you turn, there's something in camouflage - tents, radios, shirts, fudge. The heads of dead animals are mounted on just about every available surface, complete with tags identifying them in case, I suppose, their families come looking. Display cases feature scenes of ducks and other foul who clearly weren't fast enough but are now to spend eternity posed mid-step by a fake puddle.
In the middle of the store is the piece-de-resistance, a tremendous mountain reaching up to the ceiling serving as a backdrop for all manner of dead animals. From goats to lions to bears to moose to foxes, dozens of beautiful creatures are positioned up and down said mountain, many posing on the cusp of attacking one another.
Around back of the mountain is an African safari scene, complete with lions digging into their supper, an elephant that looks considerably less friendly than Dumbo and more animals fiercely attacking one another. Why on earth would you bother taking your kids to a zoo or wildlife preserve, when you can get much closer to 'em all dead like this? Makes no sense. None whatsoever.
There's also a lot of stuff there, much of which I don't understand. More guns and ammunition (the mere sight of which makes my stomach flip) than I've ever imagined. Plus archery supplies for those who prefer a different approach to ending the lives of God's creatures. Upstairs, there's a restaurant that was (regrettably) closed, a shooting range game at which I proved pleasingly terrible, and such must-have items as meat grinders and sausage casings.
Topping it all off is a furniture section featuring not only the ugliest furniture I've ever seen -- picture uncomfortable couches upholstered with dreary outdoors motifs and tacky mountain scenery -- but uglier than I'd ever even imagined furniture could be.
For Chris, the fishing section brought back memories of his childhood, making lures and dreaming about what kind of boat he'd like one day. And a walk through the small aquarium hallway proved mildly educational for me as I tried to grasp the differences between a large-mouthed bass and, well, some other fishies. The lesson didn't exactly stick, clearly.
Yes, I was alternately appalled, confused and amused at Cabela's. And now I know for certain what I suspected all along: it's not the sort of place for people like me to ever, ever go.
But it was 91 degrees outside and the A/C in Cabela's was constant and generous. Thus, while the retail monstrosity brings outdoors people closer to their idea of nature -- gearing up to infiltrate the natural habitats of wildlife and kill 'em -- it at least helped me escape.
*Side note: when we passed this buffalo display, a kid walked by, looked at the buffalo and said to his dad, "Wow, that looks just like our dog!" The dad nodded.
What the hell kind of dog do these people have?