As I’ve written before, I love to go camping—partly for its own sake but partly (probably mostly) because it was something Ken introduced me to. I’m not a deep woods camper, but a give me a beautiful state park and some friends, and I’ll pack up all my camping gear and head out.

In spite of the fact I’ve lived next to Wisconsin for the better part of my life, I’ve only been there twice. (Except for my imaginary visits with Laverne & Shirley back in the day.) This marks the third time.


(Though along with my excitement to head out for a camping weekend, Kallie always senses something is up and isn’t quit as excited about it as I am. Since she stays home. I think she was hoping I’d load her in the car with the rest of the gear.)

My friend Mindy and I set out on Friday afternoon to Wisconsin to meet some other friends north of Milwaukee at a lakeside camp ground. She moved here to Chicago from Oregon earlier this year. We met in 2003 when we worked together in Los Angeles. It’s fun to live in the same city again, and it was a fun road trip to take together.

Mindy is special to me in many ways. We each struggled living in Los Angeles. But more than that she and Ken had a special affection for each other that I’m reminded of every time we spend time together.

Our trip didn’t turn out as we’d planned because of the unending rainfall in the area. The campground was soaked with no signs of drying out. After paying a visit to the site, we concluded that there was no way we could set up camp and remain dry. We met the rest of our group at a restaurant nearby and decided to staying a hotel that night and hope for better luck the next morning.

Mindy. My bunkmate for the night
Mindy. My bunkmate for the night
Making wine out of lemons.
Making wine out of lemons.

Mindy and I bunked together and made lemonade out of lemons…with wine and a game I’d brought for us to play at the camp ground. Ken and I got Mad Gab for Christmas the first year we’d move back to Chicago. And we loved it. We played it all the time—just he and I. When I opened the lid, I was pulled back in time. I’d forgotten all about this game he and I used to play all the time. On our tiny back porch at the apartment, sipping martinis and laughing.

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I found these score sheets when I pulled everything out of the box. And there like pieces pulled from a time capsule were scrawlings of scores of the past between Ken and me. Mindy cooed and awed at them. As did I. But what I appreciated most was that it didn’t hurt. It was a reminder of something joyful. I pulled a little of that joy from the past and Mindy and I sat on my bed in the hotel room, taking turns, laughing and drinking wine. Ken is never an off-putting subject for her. In fact, his name usually comes up in some fashion or another. And in the way that has happened since he died, he was with us while we played Mad Gab.

As for camping, we woke up the next day to continuing rain. By the time we’d checked out, it had stopped so we took a drive over to our campsite to at least look at it. We’d already decided it wasn’t worth settings up all our stuff in the mud and muck for just one night.

The campground was replete with rolling hills and lush green trees and vegetation from the generous rainfalls we’ve had lately. It was beautiful and would have been such a fun place to camp. Maybe next time.

Also published on Medium.



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