Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Thursday, 29 May 2003

Saturday night, Jackie and I camped out in the rain.

Having read the forecast, I set up our tent as soon as we arrived. I didn't want to find myself trying to put it up in the rain. As it turned out, though, it stayed dry most of the day.

My strongest memory from camping there last year is of the noise at night--bullfrogs, crickets, whippoorwills, wild turkeys, coyotes, produced a cacophony so loud and so various that it kept me awake. This year my memory is of the sound of the rain on the tent. It wasn't loud, but a steady, even, white noise that drowned out almost all the other sounds. (It also threatened to drown anyone whose tent wasn't adequately waterproofed. Ours held up okay.)

Despite the lack of noise, I didn't sleep well that night. That's always the story with me; I don't sleep well my first night camping. After one night I seem to adjust to sleeping on a thermarest pad and do pretty well, but that first night is hard. I did get one fairly long period of sleep from 2:30 or so until after 5:00. Around 5:30 Steven came to the tent to deliver coffee to Jackie. She liked that.

Steven's boys, Charlie and Daniel, were there. I haven't seen as much of them as I should have, I think this is just the second time I've seen Daniel.

Children live in an interesting world. Late on Sunday, Steven asked Daniel if he knew who I was. He didn't. Steven told him: "Just like Charlie is your big brother, this is my big brother." Daniel nodded, and I think he understood, but I don't think he considered it important. I was just another grown up.

That may have changed when he and Charlie stole my hat. I chased them and got it back, but when I tried to stash it in the car, Charlie leapt through the half-open car window in a feat worthy of an action hero and escaped with it. Steven thinks they'll remember me for a long time as the guy with the hat who played with them, even if the concept of "uncle" doesn't mean a lot.

One phase of the hat-stealing event took place in the room where the kids and their mom slept. For reasons that I don't completely understand (maybe just because it was permitted there), Daniel took his clothes off. When I managed to temporarily recover my hat and dash off toward the car, Daniel and Charlie both chased after me. Only too late, after sprinting past a half-dozen relations (including his great aunt), did Daniel realize he was naked. He responded like a cartoon character: crouched, arms crossed in front of himself, looking back and forth as discreetly as possible, wondering if anyone had noticed, trying to spot the shortest, most private route back to his clothing. Clearly an event to document and remember and threaten to discuss in great detail with his first few girlfriends.

I'm writing this sitting in a coffee shop in Champaign. There's some guy taking loudly to the girl behind the counter about his pit bull that bit some other dog and was nearly taken away by the city. It's kind of an interesting story, but pretty distracting. I've temporarily given up on the writing I was doing when he came in. That wasn't so bad, as the writing I'd meant to do--the story rewrite I was working on last week--fell through because I'd grabbed the wrong file to copy to my laptop before we left.

I've always thought it would be a worthwhile experiment to try writing someplace like a coffee shop, but hadn't given it a try until now. This place, Verdant Cafe is a combined coffee shop/newsstand/art gallery. I wanted to bring my brother anyway, to see the art gallery, and thought it might be a good chance to give the coffee shop thing a try. Except for that few minutes with the dog story, it's worked pretty well.

We all started the day lifting weights, then Steven and I had breakfast out, did our writing, and went to the art gallery at Parkland College. A good day. We also rented a Medabots DVD (highly recommended by Steven) and watched most of that. Jackie and I have been showing him "Buffy" episodes since he got here. He just may be hooked.

Steven heads out early tomorrow morning. I'm taking a day of vacation to spend it with Jackie.


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