Cormac and I left Santo Domingo and picked up the camino just outside the door of the auberge. We opted to wander around a bit to find an ATM after being told there wouldn’t be one until Burgos, two days away. After we found it, we were out of town quickly, heading over a bridge back into farmland. it was a straight road, the crops were more diverse than in the past (more than wheat and grapes). We saw some lettuce, chard, peas, even some hops.
After a few kilometers we continued on through wheat fields, down the relatively straight, paved road that ran along the highway between Logrono and Bergos. I walked with a couple from Buffalo for awhile. Retired baby boomers looking for adventure. The sky was still overcast but not threatening, the familiar rolling hills rose in distance. As I wished the couple “buen camino” and moved on, the village of Granon came into view.
We hit Granon about eight. Another old cobblestoned town, two storied, those classic Spanish balconies. Looks sort of like Hermosa Beach, at least like my place- Spanish influence, places with wrought iron balconies. We paused for a brief rest before continuing on into a pretty valley. Fields, rolling hills, rows of trees off in the distance where there must be a stream. I slowed down, and Cormac moved on ahead.
Some of the fields were freshly mowed, golden, and about waist high. There were brightly colored plants along side of road- purple nettle, yellow dandelion type weeds, some blue flowering plants. It’s funny, nature made this land wild and man imposed his coordinated, rowed, symmetric version of nature to nourish himself.
After another 2 K I hit a big sign that showed me the way to Bergos, the next big town where Im going to take a day off. Off in the distance, beyond the wheat fields there were tree lines on top of rolling hills. It kind of reminded me of Nebraska. I was walking with Jenny, from Cologne and she told about her life. A teacher, but she was working on becoming a life coach. Sort of like a holistic therapist- helping people not only with their emotional state, but also with their physical and mental health. She would keep tabs on the person as a whole, recognizing that all aspects of ones life works together, and affects the other parts. Sounds kind of crazy to a westerner like me;).
It seems in America, we compartmentalize everything. Like a big business, which by necessity becomes more and more bureaucratic as it grows. Unfortunately, bureaucracies seem to be rather inflexible when it comes to individuals. Check out Kafka: The Trial, or The Castle. And, well, I thought that individuals (you and I) are what this country is supposed to be about.
So when individuals (read humans) are out of the picture, bureaucracies become more and more like a huge hurkin machine. And like any big machine, it gets the job done well, but sometimes it belches out smoke, makes a lot of noise, and pays no heed to anyone or anything. It just needs to get its job done. And any human emotion just mucks up the works. So it goes.
I rolled down the straight path to Viloria de la Rioja, half way in between Logrono and Burgos. I caught up with Cormac and we stopped at a place for breakfast and cafe con leche. We ate excellent the poppy/sunflower/egg sandwiches we had gotten in the last village we had stopped in.
Viloria de la Rioja is famous for being the birthplace of Saint Dominic de la Calzada, a good dude who spent all of his life in the area helping pilgrims by building bridges, making roads, etc. More importantly he made a roasted chicken dance.
As the story goes, back in the 14th century a German 18-year-old named Hugonell went on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela with his parents. A Spanish hottie at the hostel where they were staying wanted to bang Hugonell but he rejected her advances. She was pissed so she hid a silver cup in the unsuspecting slobs bag and then informed the authorities that Hugonell has taken it. So he’s sentenced to hang in accordance with the laws of the day.
The parents sadly decide to examine their son’s body which is still hanging on the gallows. Suddenly they hear his voice –he tells them that Saint Dominic has saved his life. His parents haul ass to Santiago de Compostela to see the magistrate. The magistrate, who at the time is shoving some mashed potatoes into his mouth says: “You’ve gotta be kidding me. Your son is about as alive as this rooster and chicken I’ve been feasting on before you interrupted me.”
And in that moment, the two birds jumped from the plate and began to sing and crow happily. I assume they were doing the chicken dance. This might be something of a fable, apparently “King Herod and the Cock” is an earlier story along the same lines. I decided I’d look for roast chicken on the pilgrims menu that evening in honor of St. Dominic de la Caldaza, patron saint of roasted roosters and dancing cocks.
The road ran straight into Belorado. We met up with Sven (from dinner the other night) and his friends and rolled into town which lay in a little valley bordered by cliffs on both sides. The first auberge was sold out so we moved into the center of town to the Cuatro Cantones auberge. It was the same place that had sent out a van that gave us bottled water with the name of the place on the label- good ol’ ‘Merican style advertising. My meal at the restaurant was the best I’ve had so far, a fresh salad, paella, a bottle of wine, and dessert. Not only was it tasty, the presentation was like at an upscale California restaurant.
It was one of the nicest places I’ve stayed at. The usual bunks in a room with 20 or so others, good showers, a courtyard in the back and a pool, beautiful tiling, a great kitchen. Comfortable, family run. I slinked off to the old town square to write. I thanked the universe for bringing me to this place at this time, and for those I’ve met, and have yet to meet. And for the bottle of Rioja I had bought, that I was going to drink when I got back to the auberge.
Such is the way of the world
You can never know
Just where to put all your faith
And how will it grow
Gonna rise up
Burning black holes in dark memories
Gonna rise up
Turning mistakes into gold
From my journal a few months into Amanda and my relationship:
MY LIFE WITH AMANDA
It’s crazy. She’s got 4 kids (3 at home).
And I love them. And her. And the two dogs.
It’s nothing I ever would have expected.
Nothing I ever would have wanted.
If life is supposed to teach you something, well…
It’s a swirling, roiling, mess of feelings, activity, growls, laughter, tears.
It’s dog shit on the lawn.
It’s wine and ping pong.
It’s sitting outside watching the dying ember of the day.
It’s holding hands.
It’s feeling her warm breath on my neck.
One of the first times i realized that something was up with my marriage was the summer Janice made arrangements to see her parents in Cape Cod, our usual summer sojourn. When our frequent flyer mileage was cashed in for tickets there were only two- for her and Hannah.
I didn’t argue about the “oversight”. By this time I had learned not to. I thought about it and decided that it would be a good time to think about things, look for work. It was a few years after the recession, and I had pretty much closed my company, having halted any sales efforts. I thought I might be able to repurpose my career.
While they were gone, I started to to think about what had happened to myself and Janice. After failing to teach Hannah to sleep alone (it worked for a little while but then one night she wouldn’t go to sleep, she kept crying, and Janice slept with her). I guess maybe everything changed that night.
I would sit in the kitchen, drinking a glass or wine or two, waiting for Hannah to fall asleep and Janice to come upstairs. Never happened. I brought it up several times, still, after that, I pretty much sat at that kitchen counter every night and went to bed alone. Those days did produce several fine youtube videos that I wrote, shot, and edited at my kitchen counter as I drank myself to sleep.
Then in the spring, I met Craig, who would become my good friend, and whom I subsequently heard was partially responsible for breaking up my marriage. He lived across the street and was only a few years younger than I. Most of the other guys- fathers- I naturally socialized with were at least 10 years younger.
Craig just happened to stop by one night. I had known him in passing, but never really got to know him. He wasn’t one of the fathers on the street, just single guy locked to his work, who lived across the street. I joked that he started coming over to my house because his best friend had moved 2 blocks away, which was true, and it was simply a shorter walk to my place to have a beer. He’s an engineer after all and would appreciate the efficiency of it all. My nickname for him is hypotenuse man.
We became good friends, and instead of sitting at my counter alone, we went over to his ramshackle deck across the street and drank beer, often tackling the worlds problems and pretty much solving them. If you want the answers I’ll email them to you. In addition, he was someone I could talk things over with to help me understand better what was happening to me.
When spring turned into summer, and Janice and Hannah left, I started to think more about our fighting, the marriage, why Janice was treating me like she was. I mean I know that money was an issue (it seemed like it always was) but I tried to remain positive, looking at the big picture, recognizing that we were better off than most, and that everyone had lost money from the recession, and that maybe we needed to understand that the world had been shaken at the foundation and was different, and that we should look at things a little differently.
That suggestion ended up in many fights, and much pain and hurt. When I look back I now see that I was bullied and belittled. But as I’ve said before, I hold nothing against Janice, I think this was simply the way she learned how to deal with the world, the things she had no (or maybe was losing) control over. But at the time, all I could feel was a numbness, and a sadness.
What’s funny is, at that time, I really didn’t understand what was happening to me. But one morning I woke up and there was a song in my head. No not one of those that you’ve heard that keeps replaying over and over. Like the Special Olympics PSA I told of earlier, these were lyrics to a song that had been written in my brain overnight.
I jotted the lyrics down, grabbed my guitar (the one I play badly) and strummed some chords that I thought might go with the lyrics. I had never really wrote a song before but this one had just spilled out. What get’s me to this day is that the song revealed the state of my subconscious mind at the time, things I had not articulated, I had not recognized, that I had certainly not come to terms with. It was as if my subconscious was trying to tell me something.
Maybe I didn’t get to go to Cape Cod that summer, but I was given this song for what it’s worth. I play if for people and they always laugh. It’s a little mean spirited, so at some point (maybe during the forgiveness portion of this blog alluded to in the title) I will put it away, never to be heard from again. But for now, please enjoy it, and have a laugh on me.