I walked out of El Burgo Raeno in the dark which was just as well. One of the less inspiring towns on the tour (even Led Zeppelin had to play Omaha once in awhile) although it had a cool church (of course-they all did) with huge stork nests.
The place I stayed at was run by some rail thin Italian guy with slicked backed hair, sort of like Steve Buscemi but not quite as good looking. Yeah that was a joke. Bridget was out in front of me, having left the auberge a few minutes before.
I had met Bridget two nights before, after dinner at Templarios when I was trying to go to my room. She was sitting with an english chap and a French woman (Dominique and Arthur). They forced me to sit down and sample some local hooch that tasted like a cross between tequila and whiskey.
It was actually pretty good, especially coming from someone who doesn’t drink hard booze except when all other options have been exhausted, unless the drink is made by a mixologist in Healdsburg.
They were all more or less on the same itinerary as I was, walking at about the same pace, although I hadn’t seem them before. Dominique and Arthur did most of the talking as Bridget spoke only French. All I heard was that Bridget said that I was very good looking. I’ll take it when I can get it, especially from a French broad. I figured she thought I was Tom Hanks.
Anyway, I headed out of El Burgo Ranero and met up with Jacomo and Katia, who I had seen a time or two over the past few days. Jacomo didn’t speak much of the Engilish, but Katia was quite fluent – I feel like the ugly American since most can speak English, as well as their native tongue, no matter where they’re from, and my Spanish is not as up to snuff as I had hoped it might be. Damn, Mr. Diaz’ high school Spanish classes stuck about as well as a Donald Trumps toupee on a windy day .
We walked along paved roads using our flashlights to spot the yellow arrows painted on the street. Apparently some crazy monk took it upon himself to paint these arrows all along the camino back in the ’80s, deciding, I guess, that the signage in place at the time wasn’t sufficient. Legend has it that Don Elías drove across the whole north of Spain in his Citroën GS packed with some faith, yellow paint, and a full tank of gas. I thanked Don Elias for his guidance, and his thankless giving to a bunch of meatheads like me that he would never know.
I continued to walk along a paved road through farmland. Harvesters were at work in the dark, throwing their flotsam and jetsam of chaff in the air. There was a crescent moon to the right and fields to both sides. It was cool (after all, it was 6 o’ friggin a.m.!), although not cold enough for long sleeves and pants. I thought about starting a trend that might stick: hiking in bright blue speedos with the ubiquitous scallop shell emblazoned over the crotch, in yellow. On the back over the ass could be the familiar camino greeting: “Buen Camino!” I plan to be the first manufacturer of said garments. Potential investors please contact my lawyer Swifty Shwartzkoff at Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe.
Over the last last few days it seems the American in me was trying to push myself to walk far, get further. Today though, walking along a long, flat road caused a lot of emotions and thoughts to come flooding in. I’m hoping this is one of the days when I start to let some things go. Maybe this is the day I begin to forgive.
I thought about how my life might be different when I get back home. Janice keeps saying that she wants to promote a healthy relationship with Hanna and I. But her actions don’t attest to that. She’s allowed me little visitation, relying on the excuse that it took Hannah from the second she got home until bedtime to do homework, often having to do her homework while eating dinner.
And as I’ve noted earlier, I have no idea where my relationship with Amanda will be when I return. It’s been a roller coaster ride due to both her and my need to experience personal growth, which is even harder to do when you’re in a relationship and have the encumbrances and baggage that decades of life have piled on. Instead of a suitcase it looks like Jed Clampetts pickup- piled high with all the shit that he brought with him from Tennessee to the Hills of Beverly.
And then you’ve got this foolish dream of becoming a writer, which requires throwing away a lot of that baggage, who I used to be, and embracing becoming a writer. At least I’m doing some of that right now, as I sit and write this blog. And while dreams are wonderful to a hopeless romantic like me, they don’t pay the bills.
But over the last year, as this blog has hopefully attested to, due to therapy and my relationship with Amanda, I began to come out of my victim stage (more about that later) and take some responsibility for myself, and not just be a doormat. So, when it came to visitation with Hannah, I did what any red-blooded ‘Merican would do- I went to court. And this is what transpired:
A stipulation was created for me to see Hannah 3 days a week.
-Over the weekend, I would see her for a few hours as we had in the past.
-On Tuesday and Thursday, I would see her after school until 8, overseeing her homework.
Now here’s where it gets interesting:
There are blanks to fill in on the court form when the visitation will occur. While discussing what these times would be, Janice requested for Hannah to come home (instead of me picking her up at school) to make sure she was prepared for her homework. This was not necessary, but wanting what’s best for Hannah, and to be nice, I agreed. So, in the blank where the pick up time goes, my lawyer wrote “after school”.
There were three weeks left in school, and for those three weeks the visitation worked as planned. When it came to picking up Hannah on the Tuesday of the forth week, Janice told me this: “As far as I’m concerned, the stipulation stated that you were to see Hannah “after school”. Since there is no school now, the stipulation is moot”.
After that, I got to see Hannah once during the week for a few hours if I was lucky, and we had our usual weekend bacchanal at Dave and Busters. So apparently, as far as Janice is concerned, I went to court to see Hannah for a few extra hours a week, for three weeks.
I didn’t bother to go back to court for clarification as we were both going on our vacations in short order. I could only shake my head and wonder if Janice would ever see clearly enough to understand that she certainly wasn’t promoting a positive relationship between Hannah and I no matter how much she thinks (and continually tells me) she is.
And so it goes, as some other writer wrote. I walked along the long straight road out of El Burgo Ranero. It was 8 kilometers of nothing. There weren’t many cars except the occasional band of young folks driving by and honking, either making fun of another stupid American trying to find himself, or maybe they were truly celebrating the sincerity of us pilgrims making this trek.
I hope it was the latter. It seems in the states we don’t hold onto a whole lot of tradition, or respect a whole lot. Except for money, of course. If there is some respect for something it’s usually (two dollar word alert) transmogrified into something someone can make a buck off, and the essence is lost. Just watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” if you want to be illuminated.
I walked on down the long road, and while I was talking a short break, a tall, thin black dude, probably around 30 strolled by, dressed almost nattily. He was wearing a charming derby, and offered me a “buon camino” and a big smile as he passed by I could smell the scent of pot. I looked after him and saw a joint in his right hand. I had to laugh at the gloriousness of this magical universe and every star in it. I wish every star could shine.
Everybody is a star
I can feel it when you shine on me
I love you for who you are
Not the one you feel you need to be
Ever catch a falling star
Ain’t no stopping ’til it’s on the ground
Everybody is a star
One big circle goin round and round
Shine, shine, shine, shine
-Sly and the Family Stone
And so it went. I do have to back up and pay homage to the man who uttered/wrote the phrase “And so it goes” and offered it up to us. Kurt Vonnegut first used it in, I think, Slaughterhouse-5 which was, I think again, about the absurdity of war and by extension, life (there I go thinking again). I think the phrase is used to show that the universe doesn’t care one whit about our lives and it’s up to us to make of them what we will. Sometimes it’s shitty, sometimes it’s wondrous. So it goes. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry. So it goes. Sometimes beautiful things happen to awful people, and vice versa, and so it goes. And every once in awhile, everything works out just the way we want it to.
The road continued on straight. 17 kilometers, no town or anything. Finally, there was a bar/cafe open for breakfast. There was no town, just a lonely cafe, so I stopped for breakfast and a rest. After 15 minutes I got up and walked a few more kilometers, running into Katia again, and I walked with her for awhile. By now you’ve gathered that one of the most awesome reasons for doing this is walking and talking with so many interesting people from around the world, most often with a more noble purpose than say…being a writer, or whatever the fuck I am. Katia was no exception.
Yet another teacher (I admire and respect teachers even more now, considering how many I’ve seen out here), she taught technology (which is what they call it in Poland) which I guess is about all the innovations over the centuries that have literally powered our growth, and the effect that growth has had on us.
We walked to Mencia de los Mulas together and parted, and I still hadn’t decided whether or not I was going on to Leon. I crossed over a beautiful stone bridge into town, and squadrons of birds performed synchronized flying as the river swiftly flowed under the bridge. The town was spread out, and I walked to the end of it. The air was still and hot, I still had the remnants of blisters, and I was somewhat miserable. Since I didn’t want to backtrack to the auberges which weren’t open yet, I opted to move on to Leon.
At first I was walking on a nice path off the highway. There was a cool breeze, and puffy, maybe thunder clouds. Nice rolling hills, cornfields, a bridge over a river that took me into a little wetlands. But as I got closer to Leon, the fields and rolling hills were replaced by car dealerships and factories. I could see why many pilgrims bypass this chunk and take a taxi.
It’s funny, I used to look forward to the bigger towns, sitting in a plaza with a glass of wine and writing. Now they just caused me a little anxiety (I had been happily anxiety free out here for the most part). By the way, I have several ways to reduce anxiety. The list is, in no specific order:
Watching Ryan Reynolds romantic comedies
Running (7-10 miles a day at times)
Wine and cigarettes
Masturbation (or sex- preferably sex).
I don’t know if these will work for you, but I’m passing them along anyway. Consider it a public service.
I got into Leon a bit ragged since I had walked almost 40k. I stumbled into one of the mad plazas bustling with people, and ran into Jane and Bridget who were having beers at a table outside. I sat down and thought about where I was going to stay. I decided to book a 35E hotel room and lick my wounds, and take a little extra time to write the next morning (the auberges typically make you leave at 8).
After a shower I hobbled over to the little Plaza Torres de Omana. You know, it’s right over by the Burger King San Francisco Leon. I was tired but managed to bang out a few words at a little table on the street and marvel at how alive this city felt, a swirling, sweet mess of humanity out at 10pm on a Sunday night. I could only gaze out at the wonder of it all and hope to remember this moment for a long time.