Sinead and Cormac decided to splurge and have a “real meal” and asked me if I’d like to join them and I accepted. Up to now I had pretty much dined on the Pilgrims meal- usually 3 courses, a choice of 3-5 dishes for each course. The first would typically be a choice of salad, pasta, paella (rice with a little seafood).
Second would be a meat: pork, beef, or chicken, and then a dessert. I always went with ice cream since it was still usually at least 80 even at 20:00 or 21:00 (that’s fancy european time telling which means 8 or 9 when dinner is typically served).
Cormac had read about the restaurant in the gospel according to Brierley, and we walked through the deserted town to the place. We arrived and were seated in a room to ourselves until a couple showed up half way through our meal. It was rather formal, white linen tablecloths, dark wood walls circa a long time ago.
I chose a $18E red blend of tempranillo, syrah, and merlot to start out with. It was tasty, the syrah and merlot giving the tempranillo a much needed kick in the ass Tempranillo by itself can be pretty neutral unless enhanced- sort of like a beautiful woman pushing 40.
The waiter was very serious and did the whole shuck and jive with the opening of the wine, pouring a little for himself, holding the bottle like a newborn, decanting it (I mean, it was a 18 buck bottle!). I loved the fact that the dude had passion for what he was doing- something many of us don’t get a chance to do, spending our lives at jobs we don’t really enjoy. And yes, I know this is an idealistic rant by a fucking hopeless romantic..
I had tuna, medium rare, Cormac had beef in a dark, tasty sauce. We argued about what was in the sauce, and decided it was maybe nutmeg, cranberry, xmas spices. Somewhere in that realm anyway. Sinead had pigeon, a local delicacy. All dishes were delicious. Yeah that was intended.
We got back to the auberge a little after 10 and it was locked up (somewhat typical). I felt a little anxiety coming from Cormac’s direction, but I kind of knew that the camino would provide. So I walked around to the back and knocked on the door to the garden and someone who was still out in the courtyard opened the gate for us.
It’s funny, I realized at that moment, hearing the anxiety in Cormac’s voice, how I had, so many times in the past, experienced the same thing. When we’re confronted with a situation, and something, usually from our past, causes emotions to stir up, and the VITBOYH raises his voice and starts to chatter endlessly, our minds get cluttered, confused, which causes that pessimism, that hopelessness. The mind can only obsess about the problem and not offer any solutions. Our minds literally get closed off, clarity is diminished, and we cant see the positive, the possible options. That way of thinking had become a big part of how I had learned to perceive the universe during the past few years of my life.
The next morning, I left Fromista in the dark with Sinead and Cormac. Besides the dinner and concert, the town itself was not very interesting. It kind of reminded me of Rialto without the junkyards. I saw that I had a call from Cape Cod, where Hannah and her mom were vacationing. I was hoping that Hannah had called as I had suggested to her mom, but doubted it. Turns out it was a telemarketer. We left town, walking over a highway and into the country.
On Cormac’s suggestion we opted to take an alternate camino, 500 additional meters, but along a river. It ended up being a straight shot, there was a sort of forest of trees to the left (they looked almost like crops, they were so well organized and laid out), but it was definitely more peaceful and enjoyable than skirting the highway.
There were colorful wildflowers along the sides of the way- blue yellow, white, red. The breeze was cool it was to be an easy day (20k). Beyond the river were mild rolling hills, some with hay, some mowed.
It reminded me of a Robert Louis Stevenson quote- author of Treasure Island, a drug addict and pissed off divorcee who walked around France with a donkey – I guess the donkey replaced the wife. He had this to say about travel, and it applies to the camino: “Travel for travels sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints”. (Thanks for the quote Sinead).
We veered away from the river a hundred meters into a town and reached a little oasis. There were ducks, roosters, chickens, a few dogs, some geese. I sat on one of those hammocks that are kind of like swinging chairs hanging from an eave. I closed my eyes and heard Stairway to Heaven playing. The gregorian chant version. Yes there is one. Not sure if they were involved with the recent lawsuit. It was apropos, since it sort of foreshadowed the monastery of the singing nuns we were hoping to stay at that night.
I lingered for a little while after Cormac and Sinead left, chatting with Michael, a polish guy who spoke excellent English, and his wife, for a few moments.
After another 5 or 6 kilometers of walking in the baking sun, we reached Carrion de los Condes. The auberge of the singing nuns was near the first plaza we reached. it was promoted as being the auberge where nuns sang you to sleep. I was in, since I hadn’t been sleeping more that 4 or 5 hours a night and I thought this might just be what the doctor ordered- take two Ave Marias’ before bed, preferably not with alcohol.
The nuns didn’t sing us to sleep, but the pilgrims did join together in a rousing sing along the nuns held (every night) in the ante room of the auberge. They had a printed out sheets with songs from different countries. We sang along with French, Spanish songs mostly. The sisters wielded an ax (acoustic) ukulele, tambourine, and some other percussion. They were spirited, and had beautiful voices. When you see people singing like that, with such joy and abandon (especially typically reserved nuns) it reminds you of the joy of music.
Before the sing along we all introduced ourselves, where we were from, and told why we were there (if we wished). The son of the journalist who was held captive for eight years was staying with us and performed a beautiful guitar piece.
Near the end they said that they hadn’t played an American song yet and looked to me for a suggestion, being the only American in the crowd of 30 or so. I thought better of getting up and playing WTF Did you Do to My Life, or You shook me all night long (which I do know) on ukulele. I didn’t volunteer either, so we sang “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen (hey, he’s Canadian but, close enough).
They sang in Spanish, and I’m pretty sure they made up some of their own lyrics (am pretty sure the verse that goes “Maybe there’s a god above…” wouldn’t sit well the be big guy. I had always wondered about the song, and now thought about the first verse which goes: “I heard there was a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the lord, but you don’t really care for music do ya’?” Of course he’s alluding to David from the bible, known for his musical prowess, and who wrote most of the “songs” (psalms) in the bible. He also slew goliath, went on to become king, etc.
My interpretation of the first verse is that it’s as if he’s imagining a conversation, or something he might tell a woman that he’s recently broke if off with, if they were speaking face to face. And the message is that she isn’t hooked into the beauty, the thrill, the ecstacy of life that’s provided by things like music, dance, art. The things that remind us of the moment, the things that, if were lucky, hint at what our existence here means. In this case in fact, it’s something that, by the way, is the songwriters raison d’etre. So maybe he’s pointing out the profound differences between him and his ex-lover.
Anyway, we finished with a song about pilgrims and the camino:
After the sing-along, I walked through town and to the supermercado and walked down to a beautiful park on the river and sat against a tree to write. Even though it was around 8, it was still hot out, people were having fun, swimming in the river. When I had finished I walked back towards the auberge, found a place to eat, and finished the days post over a pilgrims meal and some cold white wine.
I went back to the auberge and Cormac told me about an altercation he had with some drunk dude who was sleeping it off on a mattress in the hall. I guess the sisters were sisters of mercy and trying to help him- he was a local, not a pilgrim.
Cormac had noticed that his phone was missing from the charging station. He confronted the drunk guy (who had been sleeping next to the charging station and was now walking up the stairway.
The drunk dude pleaded ignorance. As Cormac was wondering what his next move would be, Sinead walked up, having overhearing the conversation. She quickly dialed Cormac’s number, and his phone rang noisily from the back pocket of the drunk. He gave up the phone, and was reported to the nunthorities.
I climbed up to my top bunk and tried to sleep in the sweaty heat. I’m not religious, but I love the fact that there are religious people in the world like these nuns, who seemed to overlook some of the anachronistic traditions of the church in favor of doing things like bringing together people who are seeking some meaning (like most on the camino are) from this fucked up world by getting us to sing along- the universal language of the cosmos.
MY THEORY OF HOW EMOTIONS CAME ABOUT
Something I’ve mentioned about Amanda: she is intuitive. Like I said, she’s told me things about myself that she couldn’t have known. I can’t count the times I said to her (or repeated in my head) “your right”. It became a joke. It was almost like she kept saving me from myself, saving me from making bad decisions for myself. The reason I would joke about her being right is because…she always was. My instincts were sending me in the wrong direction, it seemed like always. Why is that? I think because the we are continually fighting against our authentic self. But our old self, our inauthentic self, the self made of old habits and emotions, is clinging on, trying to defend us from getting hurt. It is the voice in the back of our head, the one that’s operating from lessons learned when we were young. Most of them are not relevant anymore.
Theres’ probably something hard wired in men that makes them always fight this attempt, wrestling with themselves to reconcile their inauthentic self with their authentic self. Maybe it’s just men trying their damnedest not to grow up. It seems that most women have come to terms with this. Back when this stuff was becoming hard wired (were talking over millions of years), men were the providers, the ones that ventured into jungles, the wilderness. They had to see the natural world as dangerous. If they didn’t, they would be killed. The scared and weak might not be killed, but they wouldn’t be able to provide for their mate and continue their lineage. And this seems to be one of the things that is at the base of men, at their core. So they developed strength, and they were naturally (physically) built to deal with the external world.
On the other, women, by virtue of being mothers, have always been the nurturers. Some modern women fight against it, or because of upbringing, perhaps combine some of these survival traits of man. What if, as men developed their physical strength to survive in the jungle, women developed emotions to help them survive and combat the brutality of men, and of nature when they had to. It may have been the first round of women’s liberation. It would also explain why men, for the life of them, can’t figure out the complex emotions of women.
We often jokingly refer to men being simple (food, fun, and fucking), and women, as well, more complex. Which explains why men cant figure them out. The physical world (where man is king) is tangible, concrete, therefore “simpler” than the hidden, nebulous world of emotions. We can’t see or touch emotions, for they exist only in each of our minds. And again, just as men developed strength, women developed emotion. And which do you think is stronger? Usually it’s the things you can’t see.
Later in the evening, after I was I was served my papers at the wine bar where I work a few days a week (if you can call sampling a little wine and telling customers about it work), I went over to a bar that’s walking distance from my house. I was ambivalent about being served. Janice and i hadn’t really discussed divorce as a certainty up to this point, so I was taken by surprise. I guess she had made up her mind. I ordered a beer and sat by myself. There weren’t many people in the place.
I got up and went downstairs to the bathroom. Then I went outside to breathe, walk a little, and then walk back to the bar, taking the outside stairs. When i got to the landing up top, just before entering the bar, a woman was standing there, crying. She stopped me and asked me if she could ask me something. I said sure. She told me that she knew something devastating had happened to me earlier. I was startled. I hadn’t spoken with anyone, and I wasn’t crying in my beer.
She proceeded to tell me that she saw a man standing over my shoulder. She went on to describe my dad. What’s funny is that it was a description of my dad when he was much younger, before I even knew him. The description perfectly matched a picture of my I had ran across a week prior, one that my mom had given me. I had hung it up on my wall, and saw it every morning when I woke up. Tears welled up in my eyes.
Then she told me that my dad was saying ”you can’t let past mistakes get in the way. You have to do the right thing right now, for yourself, and Hannah”. It was similar to the first experience I related, in another post. But then she diverged from the “script” of the last psychic. She went on to tell me that I was still to meet the true love of my life, and that she would be a beautiful woman with an accent. It’s funny, I’ve told this story to a few people, and by the time I met Amanda (with the crazy Swedish/ Slovenian accent) I had all but forgotten about it. The host of the party (one of the few I had told the story to) reminded me of it after Amanda had left.
I went back into the bar and had one more beer. After awhile, the daughter of the woman I had met out on the landing walked over and told me that her mom had been in a car wreck, and in a coma a year prior. Apparently, when she had come out of the coma, she started seeing things, and approaching people and telling them things. Like what she had told me. I went home and talked to dad for a little while, wondering what the hell was going to happen next.