Day 19 – Shine

Day 19 – Shine

2016-08-02 16.18.22I 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.2016-08-04 18.54.25

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.

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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.

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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.2016-08-04 19.00.37


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).2016-08-04 19.01.26

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.

Day 20 – …that each Tomorrow Find us Farther than Today.

Day 20 – …that each Tomorrow Find us Farther than Today.

I stayed late in Leon, catching up on my writing, picking up a few supplies in town, stuff that I had left behind. I picked up a new pair of Ray Bans in town, then walked to a sporting goods store on the outskirts, that was close to the camino to get a new long sleeved pullover, as I had lost the old one somewhere along the way, and it was getting cooler as we neared the coast.

It seems as I journey on, I am more conscious, my actions more germane, thoughtful, dare I say, I’m a bit more graceful. I mean that in the sense as I’ve come to define grace: not just being like a finalist on Dancing with the Stars, but existing in a state of grace.

It’s kind of like, usually, we’re fighting against the grain, doing battle with the forces of nature. And I guess my definition means your just more in tune with the flow of things, and so you go with it. Maybe it’s that you’re listening to your heart, instead of that immature voice in the back of your head.

Evidence of this is in my packing. Out here, you learn the ritual of packing quickly, and how to prepare for leaving early in the morning. It makes for a more graceful exit from the auberge, not waking your fellow pilgrims, those who have chosen to sleep in. In the beginning, this process was about as graceful as a fish riding a bicycle.

Since you’re usually in a room with at least 4 other pilgrims (often more) you create a routine quickly. Mine is as follows (take note those who have decided to take to the camino based on this scintillating account of my journey).

Lay out clothes you are going to wear the next day-
underwear (I wear the underwear I slept in, put on clean the night before)
overshirt/jacket if it’s cold.

In your pants, pack the following when you return from dinner:
Front right pocket: Cell phone, and Brierley
Front left pocket: Reading glasses, loose change
Lower right pocket (cargo type pants): iPod and headphones.
Lower left pocket: Snacks (nuts, trail mix)
Rear right hand pocket: Wallet.

In your backpack:
Top small pocket: passport, pilgrim passport
Top large pocket: towel, sleeping bag liner (a lightweight, thin liner that substitutes as a sleeping bag). In my case it’s no thicker than a sheet, but it’s bedbug resistant (something I read has been a problem in the past but I haven’t heard of anyone who has been affected this trip). Since it’s hot here in the summer, a full on sleeping bag isn’t necessary

The main compartment of the pack:
MacBook is in its own small backpack
Pack the stuff you’re not going to use on bottom, although this stuff can be accessed clumsily by a zipper on lower/bottom of compartment if necessary)
Dirty clothes,
ziplock with underwear (3 pair)
ziplock with socks (6 pair- I double up on the socks when hiking),
ziplock with t-shirts (3), long sleeved overshirt (for mountains),
short pants (my one pair of hiking pants are long pants but the bottoms zip off converting them to shorts).
bag with toothpaste, soap, etc
bag with phone charger, etc

Left pocket of waistband: headphones and other misc electronic stuff
Right pocket of the waistband: flashlight.

I have a separate water bladder/backpack that I attach to the outside of the pack. If I was to do the camino again I would rethink my water portage. The hydration backpack was cumbersome, and always got in the way.

Also hanging on the outside are my flip flops. You put them on in the afternoon, after you remove your boots, to air your blistered and weary feet. Your toes and arches usually break out in the hallelujah chorus. Make sure to be sensitive to the, uhh, olfactory receptors of the other pilgrims when transitioning from hiking boots to flip flops!

Anyway, since I screwed up and my alarm didn’t go off, I found I had 2 less hours than I thought I was going to have in Leon. So I got a fine machine made espresso from the office/lobby of the place and rushed through some writing for a few hours, did some other business, and finally got out of my hotel by 1130.

I found an ATM in the busy plaza. People were hustling and bustling, doing their thing. As I was reaching into my wallet for my card I looked up and there was Bridget walking towards me, showing off her newly manicured toenails. I may or may not have mentioned it but we ran into each other a few random times on the path, or maybe at a cafe, so this was another of those funny coincidences.

We both laughed and wished each other a buen camino. She was sort of like the 3rd Kento (if you’ve been a loyal reader up to this point you know what I’m talking about), popping up unexpectedly somewhere along the way. She was staying an extra day in Leon so I probably wouldn’t see her again.2016-08-01 09.56.37

I left the center of old Leon and felt more at ease on the outskirts, where life wasn’t as harried, but shit still seems to get done. I walked over to a sporting goods store (found once again by good ol’ American type advertising) and bought a new pullover to replace the one I had lost, since I was headed into the mountains, in fact to the highest point on the camino.

I left the store and walked towards the camino but couldn’t find it, although I knew it was close by. So I got out my phone and was checking out the GPS, trying to coordinate it with my guidebook, when a young girl with a backpack walked by with some authority, and it seemed like she knew where she was going, so I flagged her down.

She was tall and blond, I figured she might be from California, but no she was Polish. She chastised me for using the GPS, it being very uncamino-like. We walked out of town together as she told me about her country, her life, and how she was untethered by a schedule. She was sort of meandering, but we were moving too slowly for my western sensibilities. I stopped for some lunch and she moved on.

As I walked through and out of La Virgen del Camino, sort of the last outpost out of Leon, and into fields, I saw her off in a field just wandering. It seemed like she had followed a wayward path and was coming back to the camino. I waved and moved on. It was already later than when I usually like to walk, and getting hotter by the minute.

Just out of La Virgen del Camino, I took an alternate route that didn’t straddle the highway. It meandered through fields, then hit a roundabout. But none of the roads leading out were going to towns that were in my guidebook. As I was trying to figure out which route to take, a car that was swirling around the roundabout honked its horn and pointed.

I followed the car and it got off the roundabout where there was…the ubiquitous yellow camino sign. Again the camino provides. Maybe it should have provided a better guide book. Like a new friend who you find hanging around too much, Brierley was beginning to get on my nerves.2016-08-06 21.51.44


At least the road was paved for awhile, which my blisters thanked me for. After awhile though, as it got hotter, the path turned to dirt and rock.
2016-08-06 21.54.54I walked a few more kilometers through fields into a small quiet town called of all things Fresno (actually this neck of the woods looked sort of like Fresno on a good day, just no raisins). The road I was on was a dirt road between farm towns, so there was virtually no traffic short of a dude on a moped whining by me at a good clip.

At this juncture I should mention the scallop shell. It’s the symbol of the camino and everyone has one tied to their backpack. It’s said to be a metaphor, its lines representing the different routes pilgrims travel from all over the world, all walking trails leading to one point: the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela.

However, it is open to interpretation. One other thing that is fact: The pilgrims of yore would carry a scallop shell to drink from (dipping it in streams and rivers) and eating from it. As the camino becomes more popular I can see a new line of scallop shell plates and dishes for sale at Crate and Barrel.

I had decided that I wouldn’t purchase a scallop shell, but wait until the camino provided one for me. As I mentioned, I was somewhat of a mess when I got to Madrid, and then to St Jean and the beginning of my trek. The best way to describe my state of mind might be spiraling out of control, but sort of in a good way.

I felt I was on my way to learning things about my myself through my marriage (I’m not going to say “failed” I’m going to call it “a learning experience”), and the last year of my life which began to turn me around due to therapy and my relationship with Amanda. I was waking up.

Anyway, I didn’t think I deserved a scallop when I arrived in St. Jean, so I didn’t purchase one. (thinking I didn’t deserve the scallop was sort a hangover from the end of my marriage. I always felt like I deserved nothing, because I was a piece of shit).

So I left the status of my scallop shell up to the camino. I’ve mentioned that an oft-uttered phrase is “the camino provides”. So I decided that if I allowed the camino to show me the way and make it’s way into my eviscerated heart (no easy task) and start teaching me the lessons I came here to learn after walking and reflecting then…well…the camino would then provide. I wasn’t quite sure how but I decided to leave it up to the gods, and that saint buried at the end of the road.2016-08-06 21.52.25

After a few more k in the hot sun, without much shade, I hit Oncina. I walked through the town. Must have been siesta. There was not a sound in the town. I passed by a silent playground. I expected to see one of the swings on the swing set gently swaying back and forth and the echo of children off in the distance, like in a horror movie. The only sound was that of dirt under my feet as I tramped another few of my million steps on the way to Santiago.

The path turned into a nice, dirt road, without too many rocks. As mentioned earlier, I was walking later in the day and now it was getting really toasty. But I was walking through what had now turned into manicured fields of shorn hay and wheat which made me realize that I was getting closer to the town.
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I wandered into town, stopping to get sprayed by a sprinkler that was watering shoulder high corn. I looked around and saw…some good ol’ American style advertising (have I been trained by the Americancorporatocracy, or what?).

Tio Pepes’ signs led me right to his doorstep. I asked for Tio Pepe, but the broad behind the bar shook her head “no”, but took my money and my information anyway. At each auberge they take your actual passport and recored the number in a book, and then stamp your “pilgrim passport” with the stamp for that town.

I took a shower and went down to write, when I ran into Clive and Jerique and John. Clive had seen me drag in and invited me to sit down. A Welsh gentleman with a quick laugh, a slightly cynical sparkle in his eye, and a bushy grey mustache, he was instantly likable.

Plus, he had the additional attribute of speaking English, which was becoming more and more uncommon as I moved along. Then he launched into some Longfellow. It reminded me of how beautiful life can be, if we can just push away the clouds to see things clearly and embrace the things that we know are true and right, that are meant to be.

After a beer or two we went in and had dinner- the usual pilgrims meal. Clive told me that he had seen me drag in earlier and that I had looked haggard. And I was, due to the later than usual walk in the late afternoon heat. We had a good time finding out about each other and our journeys. Later on after retiring, I  went to sleep with a smile on my face and dreamt for the first time on the camino.

A Psalm of Life
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Day 21-  A Habenero Souffle in Hell

Day 21- A Habenero Souffle in Hell

I left Villar de Mazarife and walked out though corn fields in the dark. At 6 in the morning it was warm enough for short sleeves. I don’t know about you, but walking through cornfields in the dark in Busted Whistle Spain makes my mind wander.

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I thought about every one I know, and why in this godforsaken world we beat each other up, why we beat ourselves up, and put each other through so much shit when all we want to do is be happy. I guess everyone has a different idea about what makes them happy and they’ll do what they need to do to get it. I may have written about this before, but I’m tired and I walked 30k with a shin splint that caused me pain with every step I took so I ain’t checking my past posts (that would be a foreshadowing- am behind on my posts so I’m writing this a few days hence).

In the end, it’s probably ourselves that’s holding us back. For me I guess it gives meaning to my life by understanding that those bruises and wounds are the lessons I need to learn from. And in the end, hopefully they teach us to stand up for ourselves, love ourselves, and figure out what it is we need to make us truly happy.

2016-08-07 22.06.19As the sun came up and lit up the fields around me, Amanda’s voice whispered to me. Sometimes, when we’d be sitting somewhere, say a bench at the Starbucks where we used to meet during the day for a coffee break, she would shove my shoulders back, reminding me to have good posture- remember how she’s always right?

And it’s not just me, she’s had other people tell her that she was intuitive. I hope I don’t sound like a fool, or like I’m slobbering over her I’m just stating facts here. And hell, I’ll probably always love her (now’s not time to get into the “being in love”, etc discussion).

Another habit of hers- she used to tell me things, things about myself I didn’t want to believe. And it was usually the bag of shit I was holding that I indeed needed to think about, to consider, but didn’t want to.

Men know there’s things we need to fix but we don’t want to because it takes work. And it’s easier just to have another beer and not think about them. And frankly, most don’t have the time or energy. I mean we do the work we must to get paid, and then we barbecue and get drunk on Saturday and then watch football and get drunk on Sunday. Vice Versa when it’s college football season. Thats just the way it is.

Once in awhile Amanda would even, well not go into a trance, but her voice would change a little and she would go into a very stream of consciousness monologue about certain things (Hannah, my divorce). She would couch things as “I think”, but It seemed like she was touching something, someplace i couldn’t reach.

Like I say, she’s usually right. And I’m not just saying that. We went through some shit together, and I even knew deep down at the beginning that she was right although I didn’t want to admit it. After awhile, I just stopped disagreeing and started to admit it.

I agreed with her on the posture too. But my argument always was: telling me to have good posture is one thing, but how do I change my habit of standing, walking, something that’s been ingrained since birth is another. I think back and I believe my dad sort of stooped, so I probably simply copied him.

So, I took a deep breath, pushed my shoulders back, and walked on. And you know what? I felt better. Now if I could just keep doing it, and change that habit, along with the other million things that need changing…

I walked on an came across yet another field of sunflowers so of course I had to stop and take a million pictures: 2016-08-07 22.08.22
20160802_090909I walked on a dirt road in between two farm towns. In the morning light everything looks beautiful, so it makes walking more enjoyable. That and the fact that it’s not as hot as eating a habanero souffle in hell. Since I was consistently walking east to west, the sun was always behind me.

Off in the distance I could see the mountains I’d be climbing soon. I’d been hearing about them for a few days now. It would be difficult but worth the effort. I’ll reach the highest point on the camino and it shouldn’t be too tough- after 2 weeks I’m in much better walking shape and my posture is excellent (little did I know, at this point, about the fore-mentioned shin splints)

I walked through the town of Vilavante and caught up with Clive and Jerique. We walked over the bridge out of town, and they moved on ahead. There were new pilgrims all over the place, many having jumped on the camino just recently. I just hoped that perhaps St. Peter would give me preference at the gates of heaven since I will have walked the entire path.2016-08-07 22.09.50

I passed over an ancient roman bridge that had been restored to it’s original glory. Well, maybe not glory. It didn’t hold a candle to the glorious Spanish bridges I’d seen. It was much older, and was simply an efficiently built bridge.

I walked on the original cobblestones that Charlemagne had trodden. By the way, his ol’ man was named Pepin the Short. I think his brother was Fred the Portly. The bridge went down into the town, a thin, two storied street like the towns from the first days, beautiful cobblestoned streets, many bars and cafe’s waiting for eager pilgrims.

At the end of town, the path turned to dirt and went alongside a garden where a woman was tending to her vegetables. She offered up a “been camino” as she dug out a rutabaga. Probably wasn’t a rutabaga. I just think “rutabaga” is a funny name for a vegetable. Kind of like kumquat.

After a few kilometers, the road straightened out and was wide open. There were newly graded roads heading in a few different directions, unmarked, making it difficult for us pilgrims, although by this time I was going more and more with my gut (translate right side of brain) as opposed to over-analyzing the map in Brierley (left brain).

Has this ever happened to you? You look at something like a map, and you can sort of feel your brain pulling you away from your in depth analysis of a map and hearing it say: “trust me, just listen to me. Go that way”. It happens to me. It’s your heart trying to override your brain.

I chosen to take an alternate camino so I didn’t have walk along side the highway. which went straight into Astorga, hence the lack of the ubiquitous yellow arrows left by the mad monk. There was no one else around, and I wanted to confirm that I was going the right way so I pulled out Brierley and studied the guide.

After a few minutes, an older smiling gentleman seemingly out for his midday stroll appeared out of nowhere, dressed in long pants and a button down shirt. He spoke no English, and my Spanish is certainly circumspect as discussed in an earlier post.

But he insisted on giving me directions, pointing in both directions down the road at different times during the conversation. When I asked him questions it only led to more confusion. We laughed, I said gracias, and went on my way, heading in the same direction I had been. I think he just wanted to talk to someone out on that lonely road. I was glad I obliged.2016-08-07 22.11.44


I walked through a town called Santibanez de Julio Eglasias, or something like that. I tried to duck int he church just to feel the silence but it was locked. It made me think- should a church ever be locked? I thought the idea was to be accepting of everyone- the rich, the poor, the sinners, the saints, the meek, the obnoxious. And in their time of need. I guess you have to schedule your time of need these days.

2 or 3 kilometers out of Julios’ place, I walked through rolling hills. There was a lot of broken shale on the path so it was slow going. A lot of other pilgrims were on the road with me, sweating in the afternoon sun. lot of shale and rocks on path. At lest there was some intermittent shade along the way. I passed a few places with some interesting iconography.2016-08-07 22.14.26


2016-08-07 22.16.35



A note to hopeless romantics: Don’t do it. Don’t walk off that cliff while your gazing at the stars. Be careful when you sing your song with reckless abandon. Remember to wash your shirt when you wear your heart on your sleeve…

…after the recession, we were better off than most it seemed. But maybe that’s just my shitty assed opinion. I thought love would get us through. But it lost out to money. And at the time, I was susceptible to the shit that was thrown in my face, and was unable to fight back. And it scarred me. And it hurt me. But it was one of the things that put my boots on the camino and helped force me to face myself.2016-08-07 22.14.59

Some say love is a burning thing
That it makes a fiery ring
Oh but I know love as a fading thing
Just as fickle as a feather in a stream
See, honey, I saw love,
You see it came to me
It puts its face up to my face so I could see
Yeah then I saw love disfigure me
Into something I am not recognizing…

A little while ago, I got released from prison. I’d been in for awhile. Going in, I didn’t know much about it. I was like the Tim Robbins character in “The Shawshank Redemption”. I was as naive as an accountant. And, like Robbins character, I was unjustly accused of a crime. Yeah well, so is every inmate in every prison movie ever made.

Before being thrown in prison, I was convinced I had committed the murder. I was ashamed of what I did. I closed the windows and locked the doors waiting to be arrested. I didn’t talk to anyone, or look anyone in the eye. I could only think that with one slip they’d discover me, and I’d be banished to solitary forever.

They never found me. They didn’t have to. I finally gave my self up. They arrested me and interrogated me. I had a trial. The jury of one found me guilty and they locked me up. They didn’t even need a key. I gladly stayed in my cell. It felt good to be isolated. Who in the fuck wanted to talk to me anyway?

Prison, though, is a good place to reflect. I thought about the things that got me there, the things that convinced me that I didn’t deserve to live out in the world. I got mad about a lot of things, laughed about a few, and cried about my losses.

And then after I had pretty much cut off communications with everyone, it happened. You’ve heard this story before. Someone started writing me. Me, the inmate, guilty of the crime, banished to prison. I started getting letters.

What sort of person starts communicating with a dude in prison they don’t even know? Maybe somebody who’s a little crazy. Or, maybe someone who’s been imprisoned themselves.

All I know is that those letters gave me something I hadn’t felt in a long time. They gave me hope. They lit a spark, they gave me an inkling that maybe I do have something to say, that maybe I am worth listening to. And most importantly, that I didn’t commit any crime.

They also gave me courage. And strength. The strength to let go. The courage to stand up, to dance, to sing, to write, to say “I love you” first. It might not have happened overnight like it does in the movies. but it did start happening, one beautiful moment at a time.

And I’ve got the letter writer to thank for that.

Day 22- Banjos, Butterflies and Boxcar Willie

Day 22- Banjos, Butterflies and Boxcar Willie

2016-08-10 09.14.34I left Astorga walking the cobbled streets of the ancient town. Being from California where anything older than 50 years has been torn down and replaced by a strip mall or McMansion, it was cool to step out onto the street and see this:

Well, it would have looked like this if it was light out. I walked out of town, and once again the city turned to fields. It was still dark out, so of course it sent my mind to wander. But, I was out here to wander.

After about 5 clicks, I reached Muruias de Rechivaldo. The town was quiet as I walked through. At the end of the town was a fountain and a little square, and a place to have breakfast.2016-08-09 16.36.22 I stopped for a cafe con leche and the waitress was singing to some fine ‘Merican rock and roll. It was so cheery, albeit the internet slower than a sloth on quaaludes, I decided to stay and finish my previous days post.

I walked off with the sun directly behind me, casting my shadow directly on the path, and my future, the sun throwing a beautiful yellow/orange hue on the yellow and greens in the fields around me.

The camino reminds you that the only certainty in life is the footstep you are taking, in the moment. Behind you is the past which has taught you some lessons, but also given you wounds that haven’t healed, that you’ve been hiding, you’ve only bandaged, and not fixed. The future is still a choice- the choice of healing those wounds, or simply carrying on. It’s up to you.2016-08-09 16.38.28

Around Santa Catalina de Samoza I met up with Michael (as I refer to him) and Maciaj (Hebrew for “gift from god”) his wife. In case you forgot, I referred to Michael as “the polish dude” in a previous post.

Michael did more of the talking than Maciaj, partly because his English is impeccable, and partly cause he’s got a lot to say. Michael reminds me of the Kerouac quote: “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars”. So of course I love conversing with him.

We got off on a tangent talking about the West Coast Jazz movement of the 50s and 60s, which was big in Poland, artists such as Chet Baker et al. One of the places it gestated in the states was The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach. My dad, who lived in San Bernardino at the time, used to travel to Hermosa and go to The Lighthouse back in the 50’s, which i didn’t know until after I moved there. Theres a large picture inside of 4 cool looking guys with shades. I swear one of them could be dad.

Michael was also a font of information about the camino, and informed me that the first American to understand the cultural significance of, and walk the camino, was a woman who did it in 1917, although John Adams mentioned while hanging out on the Galician coast, said that he always regretted that “we could not find time to make a Pilgrimage to Saint Iago de Compostella.”

2016-08-09 16.47.42After awhile, Michael, Maciaj, and I moseyed (finally, an opportunity to use the word “mosey”!) into to El Ganso to check out the Cowboy Bar. Yup. Shit howdy. There were no cowboys. There was a bar. And a sign with that said “Cowboy Bar”. It did have some western shit on the wall, and there was a dude out in front plinking on a banjo. I thought of asking him if he knew any Boxcar Willie but then thought better of it.

The three of us moseyed on. Both Michael and Maciaj are smart, funny, and great to walk with. After being with them for awhile, I noticed how Miciaj lightly and laughingly ropes Michael back in when he goes off on a tangent for too long. They seem to have a great relationship, you can just tell from their banter. We walked together for awhile longer, talked about more of everything under the sun, and had a great time. I knew I would see them again.

After awhile i walked on ahead alone, through a shady grove, past a homemade fence with wooden crosses constructed from branches lashed to it. Sometimes when I’m out here I feel at peace with myself. I feel like there is nothing negatively affecting how I feel and what I say. Life just flows. Like it’s supposed to. Its the good, the right, the free person – you’re speaking and acting from the heart. Hopefully that feeling will stay with me, and inform my soul, and maybe even lift up those whose lives I touch when I get back home.

I walked another few kilometers to Rabanal del Camino. The camino always goes by the church. The church is always at the top of a hill, the town having grown around it. Rabanal del Camino was not exception, so I stopped for coffee and OJ on the street heading up to the church.2016-08-09 16.52.13 Otis Redding was blaring in my ear. I tried to order but the guy at the counter was on the phone (maybe the girlfriend, or perhaps bill collector) and the wife came out from the kitchen and helped me, while giving her husband shit in Spanish, looking at me and shaking her head like I was a sympathetic ear. I didn’t understand a word she was saying but I smiled and nodded my head in empathy.

Clive and Jerique were there, and Asia showed up, so we got caught up, and then she moved on. I finished up and joined Clive and Jerique on the camino. We began to climb. The trail was dirt with a lot of shale, making it hard to walk. There were a lot of butterflies. Clive and company moved ahead, I lingered, walking at a leisurely pace.

After walking through brush, Foncebadon emerged. Hmm…a very rustic town. The few buildings that existed were sparsely situated along the road. 2016-08-09 16.53.51I checked into one, taking a lower bunk below a young girl from Wyoming – Aviva. It was nice to meet another American /English speaking person, besides the fact that she’s a cute, young kid (ok, young adult) with her whole life in front of her. And she was walking the camino alone. That probably says more about the kind of person she is than anything.

Anyway, I went across the road to eat and write, then went outside to finish my wine on the deck, and watch the show that was the remains of the day. There were clouds out west, so there wasn’t much of a sunset, but there was a cheerful South Korean guy named Lakchung who spoke pretty good english (bad grammar intended- supposed to be funny).

I shared some of the bottle of wine they had plopped in front of me for dinner (even if there’s only one of you they plop down a bottle in front of you). He kind of reminded me of a sunflower. You can’t help but be in good spirits and humor when you’re with someone who loves to laugh and smile like him. We shared a few stories about our journeys, and bid each other goodnight as we finished the wine. I went back to my bunk. It was cooler up here in the mountains, and I drifted off to sleep easily for a change, dreaming of dueling banjos and sunflowers.

Day 23- The Wind

Day 23- The Wind

I stepped out of the auberge in Foncedebadon onto the camino alone and in the dark. The path snaked up through the town and kept climbing. I was surrounded by …darkness and the sound of the wind rustling through the brush. There was no one else around, I was in a strange country, I was climbing up a mountain in the middle of nowhere, hopefully I was going the right way… I guess I could have been scared. But I chose not to be.

In the past I probably would have thought too much, freaked out a little, and maybe in this case I should have. In fact, fear is a great example of what Alan Watts spoke of in the video I embedded many posts ago. I think it’s important so I will use this situation to elaborate on what he said.

Out here in the dark, perhaps I should be assuming that anything could happen – a wild animal could attack me, a Spanish gypsy could rob me of all my valuable stuff, a Sasquatch (are there even any Sasquatches in Spain? Is Sasquatches even a word? Wait a minute, does Sasquatch even exist?) could jump out of the darkness and take me to his lair and force me to watch Threes Company reruns with him…

You get the picture. My brain could have come up with a million things that could go wrong, and turn me into a shit bag of defensiveness, ready to lash out at the sound of a snapping twig, going over and over what could happen if I didn’t have my guard up, and consider options as to how I could defend myself.

Or, it could accept that I’m here in the moment, and simply put one foot in front of the other. As Alan says, no matter which way you choose to be, “it’ll all come out in the wash”.

And I think this is a testament to the camino and what it does to a person, at least the way being out here on my own has begun to affect me. What are the odds of something happening to me? Based on what I had experienced up this point, about 0, since nothing even close to bad had happened. In fact, the only thing that had affected me negatively has been…myself. So, I decided to put one foot in front of the other and get on with it.2016-08-12 18.57.36

I kept on climbing uphill in the dark and came to a great cross. Nobody knows for sure who put the cross there or why, which makes it even better. There’s not enough mysteries left in this world. I thought maybe it had been some lonely pilgrim who’d had his heart broken. Maybe someone close died, maybe a lover left him, maybe he had begun to lose faith. So he traipsed up here and built this cross as a reminder to all not to lose hope. Or maybe it was just some dude with too much time on his hands.

Another half a kilometer brought be to Manjarin, a funky place, from the outside. It’s essentially an abandoned village that’s been converted into an auberge, but a rustic one with mattresses on the ground and an outhouse. Very basic. Asia stayed there and said it was rather primitive, although it sounds like she had a good time with the California girls (you haven’t met them yet) sleeping outside under the stars.2016-08-12 18.55.55

I took a few photos and walked down the mountain as it got light, although it was still foggy. I hit a paved road, and sat down for breakfast at a mobile food truck as the fog rolled by. It didn’t have the glamour of some of the other places I’d had breakfast, but it hit the spot. It was a little cold so I didn’t stay long.2016-08-12 19.00.03

After another kilometer or two, the fog still rolled in, but it wasn’t too foggy to see some fine advertising- a good sized sign (4X8 feet or so) advertised “the best auberge on the camino”. Being from ‘Merica, sign2where advertising is a constant barrage, and affront to the senses, the lack of advertising here reminded me of how much we like our stuff. We like to buy stuff. Hence the “need” for advertising, for companies to compete for our dollar.

Are we materialistic? I don’t know, Which feeds which? Our incessant need for stuff (to replace, I suppose some void in our collective souls), or does the advertising promote the idea that we NEED stuff? I’ll let you ponder that one. Refer to the classic George Carlin monologue about stuff if you need help.2016-08-12 19.04.08

About a kilometer later, I started a great downhill slog. At the bottom was another picturesque little town (Acebo). It seems the success of the bar/restaurants that line the camino in these small towns isn’t dependent on advertising, but simply on which place is first. I went in and grabbed a drink and sat down. I talked a little with both Asia who I hadn’t seen in a day or two, and Aviva who I had just met the night before.2016-08-12 19.09.41

After I left, I caught up with Aviva, who told me she was going to be studying in Madrid, and that her program orientation was going to be in Santiago so…you do the math. She had heard about the camino and decided to just do it. And as mentioned, doing it alone. I gave her some sage advice- I reminded her that, when faced with tough decisions in life, remember to reflect on this walk, and to consider her instincts and her heart to help her make that decision, instead of overthinking it. Then again, what the fuck do I know?

Since I was on a roll, I told Aviva my theory of how emotions evolved (ok, well hypothesis maybe. Well, how about unfounded conjecture based on a whim?). An Australian dude named Jimmy-san (he made it clear this was his camino nome de plume) overheard me and recommended reading a book called “Sapien”. He said it has to do with how brutal a species we really are. And if we’re truly happy. Hmm….2016-08-12 19.12.27

Aviva and I walked out of the hills and into Molinaseca. We stopped at the bridge and snacked, I walked on alone and into rolling hills, and started to see vineyards, which reminded me we were nearing Bierzo, another wine region becoming famous in Spain. I walked on and started thinking about Jimmy-san and his book, the crazy species (humans) that I am a part of, how we perceive ourselves, and the effect it has on our actions. This was also due to a few comments I had gotten on the blog.

I had gotten a few positive comments on a recent post. For example: “…it made me cry” (they may have been referring to the grammar). I had been struggling as of late, trying to be consistent in posting, and trying to get back to where I had started, I felt like I had sort of lost my way, my voice wasn’t clear.

The post I had written was, I felt, pretty good and I had rediscovered some of the spark that was there at the beginning. But it made me look at myself in a new light. Other people actually think I know what the fuck I’m doing. And they like it. And it’s this light that the people around me back home have told me shines at times, but gets dimmed by dark clouds from my past.

I always used to discount everything else I did in life, for the most part. I never thought of what I had done as a big deal, even though it may have seemed so to others. This may be a curse of low self esteem. But maybe it was because I just wasn’t passionate about the other things I was doing. Maybe there really is true callings in life, and maybe I’ve discovered mine.

To write a post, refine it, and be satisfied with it, makes me feel like I really did accomplish something. it makes me whole. I guess it helps heal some of those scars I’m mending. It certainly seems like one of the things the camino is supposed to be teaching me.

I got into Ponferrada, a decent sized town, and checked into the municipal auberges which is where everyone was staying (that is if your a pilgrim and only have 5 bucks to spare). It started to sprinkle, the first rain I had seen since the Pyrenees. After showering, I sat down to write at a cafe and thought about calling Amanda but decided against it.

I thought back around the time the “chemistry had faded” between her and I. It so happened, that at about that time, something i did changed everything. We were sitting in Amanda’s backyard, a blanket wrapped around us as the night had grown cool.

An then, in the blink of an eye, all the bullshit, all the insecurities, all the hurt and anger from my past came rushing in causing me to say something that could never be taken back. I don’t know where it came from.

To this day I can’t figure out how it happened. i just know that it cut into the very fabric of our relationship, and the heart and soul of the woman I loved. After it happened there was no going back to the way things were before.

But I still thought there was hope. I thought we were both dealing with those lingering emotional scars and wounds from our pasts, and helping each other become more mature adults and possibly have a mature relationship (neither of us really had had one before) and to understand better our past relationships and how they had fucked us up.

I thought that in the end we would help each other figure things out, and, who knows? Amanda always said that hope was the one thing that got her through. And I believe her. Didn’t I say she’s always right?

I got back to the auberge and ran into Katia and we chatted for a few minutes. Clive and Jerique were in town but I found out the next day that they had found a private auberge that was new and…well not the standard municipal joint. But hey, this was part of the pilgrim experience. I climbed up into my bunk and felt the wind from the window next to me, reminding me of that cool night not that long ago…

In my dream, our love was lost
I lived by luck and fate.
i carried you inside of me
prayed it wouldn’t be too late.

Now Im standing here on this empty road
Where nothing moves but the wind.
And honey I just want to be
Back in your arms again.

Once I was your treasure
And I saw your face in every star
But these promises we make at night
Thats all they are

Unless we fill them with faith and love
There as empty as a howling wind
and honey all I want to be
Is back in your arms again…

Day 24 – Watchin’ the River Flow

Day 24 – Watchin’ the River Flow

Today was to be one of the most beautiful walks out of a town up to now on this, my personal chautauqua. The previous night, I had ended up at the municipal auberge in Ponferrada. Every town has one and it is the standard- bunks, showers, a place to hand wash, a kitchen to prepare your own food, some dude in the bunk above you snoring.

I stepped out in the dark and walked across the parking lot adjacent to the auberge and got fueled (my usual cafe con leche) and headed over to the camino- many of the auberges where smack dab on the camino, this one was more camino adjacent (like the places that are in Hawthorne but say they’re Manhattan Beach adjacent).

As I walked towards the camino I passed a new auberge with some pictures of the place in the window. For a few euro more I could have had relative luxury. My guess is the place even had paper towels in the paper towel dispensers. When I ran into Clive and Jerique later, they confirmed it’s pleasures, since they had happened upon it and stayed there.

I snaked through a few streets then came upon a castle that looked like it was straight out of Disneyland, or that crazy knights in shining armor restaurant in Buena Park with the Lipizzaner Stallions. I’ve never been, I just remember the TV ads screaming about the Lipizzaner Stallions, and I could never figure out why I was supposed to get excited about Lipizzaner Stallions. 2016-08-12 19.45.56

The castle actually dated back to the Knights Templar- a real thing, not just something Dan Brown made up for the Da Vinci Code (I’m one of the 14 people on earth who hasn’t read the book). Apparently they were the original wall street guys, and came up with financial techniques that were an early form of banking, amongst other things, so should be revered by us out in the west.

I walked by it the castle half expecting to see a guy trying to pull sword out of a stone or at least a dude with some white breeches and a codpiece playing a flute and dancing around like a madman. Or maybe I was just flashing back to the last Jethro Tull concert I went to decades ago.

Just after the castle, the camino snaked through old Ponferrada- several beautiful little plazas that looked like sets from movies, they were so picturesque and perfect, not to mention well lit. There was a sign for a hostel which means I may have been able to stay at a place right in the heart of this beautiful little city. I cursed Brierley who I had been using to inform my choices on places to stay up to this point.2016-08-12 19.56.18

Over the past few days I had began to notice that his information regarding the auberges sucked. I’m pretty much going to rescind my application with the pope for his sainthood. There were often considerable more auberges than he mentioned. From what I understand, since the camino has become more and more popular over the past few years, things have evolved considerably. But hey, I had bought Brierley’s 2016 guide and I expected it to be relatively up to date.

He also seems to favor the traditional (usually the municipal) over the private auberges, which incidentally have probably been popping up due to supply and demand, again relatively recently. I decided that from now on I would do more research and be better at choosing where I would stay. Hell, the municipal auberges were for the kids, I could afford a few more Euros and sleep at a private place. They both offered the same amenities, just a little nicer. It’s like the difference between Motel 6 and Best Western.

I walked through old Ponferrada in the coolness of the morning, it was still dark, and the sun was behind the mountains to the east. About 15 other pilgrims were in front of and behind me- they were stacking up like 767’s at Kennedy in the afternoon, as more and more people joined the camino. Like me, some started at St Jean Pied de Port, the jumping off point for the traditional “Camino Francis”. But others do shorter versions, or walk the camino segment by segment, coming back year after year.

In addition, there are several other Caminos, and most merge with the one I was on. If people do shorter segments, they often start at one of the larger cities (Leon, Astorga, Logrono). Many walk only the final 100 k, since walking the last 100 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago means that you can request your Compostela, or certificate of completion of the pilgrimage. All in all, this means that as you move along the camino, more people join in.

The route I was on- the one that started in St Jean Pied de Port in France and ended in Santiago was the old, traditional route. Many of my new fellow pilgrims looked like they were out for a day hike/jaunt. Hell, they didn’t have any of the the determined look, the blisters, or the stench of us “real” pilgrims.

After walking through this beautiful, old part of Ponferrada, the path traveled alongside a river lined with trees. It was idyllic and ancient and unyielding, and reminded me of an old Dylan song;

People disagreeing on all just about everything, yeah
Makes you stop and all wonder why
Why only yesterday I saw somebody on the street
Who just couldn’t help but cry
Oh, this ol’ river keeps on rollin’, though
No matter what gets in the way and which way the wind does blow
And as long as it does I’ll just sit here
And watch the river flow

Apparently Dylan had more time on his hands than I did. After the castle, the beautiful little ancient city, and the idyllic river I walked by, I wondered if the morning could get any better. Maybe if there was another spigot with free wine flowing…2016-08-17 09.27.18

After leaving the river, I climbed up out of this beautiful little valley where the city lies and hit daylight. The path paralleled one of the arteries feeding into the city, but not too many cars interrupted the morning, as it was still early. Soon the sound of the river would be replaced by that of noisy cars.

What do blisters have to do with epiphanies you might ask. Well, I think its only after the blisters have healed, when you’re calloused, you’re lean, your kind of floating that you can even be open to epiphanies. Before that, you’re fighting everything, mainly yourself. Kind of like what we do in life, in general.

But at some point, you finally have to give in, give yourself to the camino. Then your blisters will heal, your mind will calm, and you can look at yourself knowing that your existence on this mortal coil means something, and that you are loved. My blisters hadn’t quite healed but were well on their way…

After about 5 kilometers I met up with Clive and Jerique again as we entered
Fuentes Nueves. We didn’t stop, and soon we were walking through small farms, talking about the mountains in the distance we knew we would be climbing soon2016-08-12 19.58.48, the highest point on the camino.

The part time pilgrims (as I was now referring to my clean and perfumed co-walkers) were falling behind. I watched an old, stooped farmer drive up on a little tractor, stop and unlock a chain, and drive the tractor into a field to go to work. It struck me as something he had probably been doing all his life. His father probably did the same.

In the end, how do we value our lives, the lives we’ve lived? What about that little farmer, perhaps working those fields every day of his life, compared to us and our hyper-speed, stressed out lives of great import? I’m probably romanticizing the life of the farmer, and perhaps stereotyping the lives of us modern folks. I guess it’s up not up to me (or anyone) to judge.

I guess most of us don’t look at the big picture, look at things this way. We are brought into our lives, we learn the ways of our world, we deal with shit, hopefully we enjoy some shit, get to live and love a little. I guess it is what it is. Both lives are just different, one no better than the other, one getting no more out of their life than the other. Hopefully we’re each souls passing through a body during a lifetime and picking up a few pointers about life along the way.

2016-08-12 20.02.28I left Clive and Jerique behind, walking ahead. After another kilometer or two, I stopped in a small town named Cacabelos. I was by myself and I stopped to get a snack. It was after breakfast so there was no one around. I set my pack down under a window and, well… on the window sill was a scallop shell.

There was no string (traditionally they have two hills drilled through them and a sting placed through to hang from your pack.) which made it seem even less like it had fallen off a pack or someone had left it. No one was around so I decided this was the camino presenting me my shell. I grabbed it and threw it in my pack. It’s funny, I had thought a lot about the changes I had started to make, the things the camino had taught me. So I guess it was time for me to receive my scallop shell (I wrote of the significance of the scallop shell in a previous post).2016-08-12 19.59.37

After leaving with my shell in tow and getting out of the village, I started walking through rolling hills which became more and more planted with grapes. I realized I was walking through the heart of Bierzo, probably the 2nd most known wine region in Spain, behind Rioja. At one point the camino went through the middle of a vineyard, where I caught up with some jolly Italian dudes who were laughing and carrying on. We had sort of a conversation (one of the guys spoke some english) but it didn’t matter, their laughter was infectious and made me smile and laugh. Music and laughter are two universal languages…2016-08-12 20.06.29


2016-08-12 20.04.47I happened to catch up with Clive and Jerique again just outside of Villafranca de Bierzo (they must have passed me somewhere along the way). We scoped out auberges together and settled on a place called auberges Leo. Besides the fact that it was a lovingly restored place 5 minutes from the river and 5 from the major plaza, the fact that I had an upper bunk next to a window overlooking the street that provided a cool breeze, and the fact that it had a bar as you entered made it the best place I had stayed at up to this point. What put it over the top was the fact that it had a paper towel dispenser. Not only did it have a paper towel dispenser, there were paper towels in it.

Pretty much every auberge I had been to, if they had a dispenser, did not have paper towels in it. It’s as if the auberges consultant told the owner it was a good idea to have a paper towel dispenser, but forgot to inform then they had to refill it once it ran out of towels. It’s a nice perk if you forgot to bring your towel to wash your hands or face (a necessity with 20 days of growth). Yes, packing your own towel on the camino is a necessity.2016-08-12 20.08.51

After a short nap, since the afternoon was hot, I put on my trunks/shorts (I have a pair that doubles as both – Costco/$14.99) and went to the river. the locals had damned it up and made there own swimmin’ hole. It was…glorious. I’m not really sure why Spain seems to have so many rivers and water flowing all over the place. The parts I had walked seemed relatively dry.

The owners of Auberges Leo were over the top nice. Maria was Spanish, and her husband was an Irish guy who stopped in and never left. He was effusive in giving out advice about tomorrows walk to Clive and I at the end of the night at the bar (he served as bartender too) as I sipped an awesome red from Bierzo. We found there were 3 options, two of them mountainous and they needed careful consideration.

I went back to my bunk, was looking forward to sleeping in a little as tomorrows mountain route prescribed a shorter (and cooler) walking day than usual, and I had decided to write in the bar before leaving in the morning. Sleep came easy, as I laid my head back and closed my eyes, giving thanks, imagining I was sitting next to Dylan, watching the river flow.

Amanda and I had discussed and compared each of our past relationships, and the effects on they had one us. I can’t speak for her, but it seemed to me there were similarities between the two. I know that my relationship caused me to devalue, doubt myself, and made it easier for me to be hurt and controlled.

And I truly think that, just as I didn’t understand what was happening to me, Janice may not have realized how she was affecting me. I really don’t know (only Janice does) if the purveying wisdom, which indicates that she may have been “…projecting their words, attitudes or actions onto an unsuspecting victim usually because they themselves have not dealt with childhood wounds that are now causing them to harm others…” was a factor in our relationship. I can only relate my experiences.

As I’ve mentioned, my healing accelerated when I met Amanda. I was already seeing things more clearly due to therapy. But I think that getting into a new relationship bolstered some insecurity and esteem issues I was dealing with, and moved me to a different, better place, perhaps simply because I was seeing life from a whole new perspective. I was with someone who valued me, who cared for me.

But I think due to my past (and Amanda’s) we became a little too dependent on each other. Maybe codependent. We both overlooked what was probably best for ourselves, individually, in deference to what was best for the other. Not that some give and take is important in a relationship. But we were both more than willing to give too much.

There seems to be a fine line between “dependance”, and “codependence”. Codependence “… is characterized by dependence on outer or external sources for self-worth and self-definition. This outer or external dependence, combined with unhealed childhood emotional wounds which get reactivated whenever an emotional “button” is pushed, cause the Codependent to live life in reaction to, give power over self-esteem to, outside sources.” – Codependence Defined.

At some point we both realized that something was wrong. The fact that we had both ran head on into each others arms and didn’t look back was somewhat due to each of our emotional makeup at the time. Both of us were recovering from our past relationships, so for me to find someone who was emotionally open, someone who cared, someone who wanted me (forget about the fact that she was beautiful) was, well, I can’t really put it into words.

But when you’ve been hurt in the past, you probably jump in too fast, throw a little too much caution to the wind, don’t use you’re best judgement. But it’s because suddenly you’re feeling something you’ve been missing, something you’ve ignored, something that just feels so damn good, so you just go with it.

And at first we clung to each other. We couldn’t keep our hands off each other. Just sitting around a fireplace we had to be touching, holding hands. Not that that’s not a good thing. But I think some of that may have been a manifestation of the beginning of our codependence.

Finally we stood back and realized what we had done. And how we had been too dependent on each other. But it’s also probably something we both needed to learn about ourselves, and each other. I still have to believe that we were put here to learn these lessons, and that they are good and necessary, if you choose to look at them that way.

Where am I going with this dear reader? Well, hopefully I will be able to tie up some loose ends and make sense of these three journeys as I originally intended, but got off track due to partly, finding out how fucking hard it is to write well (or at least mediocrely-yes it’s a word) after walking 25 kilometers day in and day out.

Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope you will finish this journey with me.