A promotional video for my blog/book I created to show to agents/publishers:
Last nights dinner in Rocenvalles was awesome. One might not think so considering what I had to go through to get fed. It was sort of as if the Keystone Kops were on Kitchen Confidential . I had been here last year and had experienced some sort of strange organizational schema about rooms, dinner, etc, and my meal last night was no exception.
There are a few places to eat at the monastery, and if you buy dinner you’re assigned one of the three places to eat. So, I left my bunk before the appointed time and went downstairs and asked one of the “attendants” where to go (there’s always someone with an officious orange vest hanging by the check in area- maybe they do flagging when their not working at the monastery).
I was told to go to La Posada. They let me into the room, but just as I was told to go sit by Rachel and Penny, at the last second some dude looked at my ticket and told me I was in the wrong place. As I mentioned, they are strangely organized in some sort of authoritarian manner. They seem very regimented, but no one seems to really know what’s going on, so when there is a breach, or a question, no one seems to be able to deal with it.
Anyway, I went to another building, and just as I was to be seated with Bridgette, who I had met the first night in St Jean (we didn’t see each other during the walk that day, so I was looking forward to catching up), I was whisked away, saying again that I was in the wrong place. I was instructed to go to a third place, so I dutifully went.
I got inside, they checked my ticket. I was in! Then the young waiter was trying to explain to me that there were a bunch of pilgrims in the back, but that there was no more room. Then he asked me if I would like to sit in the back. We went back and forth not understanding each other. Finally, I just said I would sit in the front room alone, not one soul at another one of the tables.
I could have got pissed. I could have bemoaned my bad luck. Instead I enjoyed a good meal and finished last nights blog, which I had been stuck on. In fact, I felt somewhat inspired, and that my writing had lived up to last years material, the stuff that resonated with people, the stuff that made me come back out to the camino and turn these posts into a book. So once again, it seems that the Camino had provided what I needed. Oh, and the Tempranillo was awesome.
The final irony: I was sitting at dinner, in a thousand year old monastery and heard Joan Osborne singing “What if god was one of us…(just a slob like all of us…). The perfect capper to a somewhat absurd, but awesome evening, relative to the crazy dance of life were all caught up in.
The next morning I left Roncenvalles in the rain. Since I was walking alone I put my headphones on and turned my eyes to the ground and picked up the pace. “January song” by the Decemberists came on-
What were the words I meant to say
Before you left
When I could see your breath lead
Where you were going to
Maybe I should just let it be
And maybe it will all come back to me
Seeing, oh, January, oh…
It made me think of Amanda, and how I hadn’t heard from her in a few days. Not that she had to call or text me via WhatsApp. Its just that we usually talked to each other often, and this was probably the longest gap, well, since we met.
I thought about the times we had spent together, the long talks late into the evening, waking up with her head on my shoulder, how close we used to be. Or seemed to be. I thought about how it seems she used to hang on every word. And how I used to listen to her, how she would show me things about her that had been hidden for a long time (her creativity, her empathy and insightful nature) and how she would listen to me and tell me things about myself. Things I didn’t want to know, but that were true nonetheless.
And I thought, well, if that was real then, we’d probably still be together. I guess need and want and just having someone to share with is a powerful thing. Especially after both of you have been hurt. Pain is pain is always pain. That’s the way it is. We probably never really even had anything like I had imagined. It was just my heart wanting so much for something that was never really there.
Maybe we are just thrown together for awhile to help each other through hard times, to help us to understand ourselves a little better by putting our hearts in the hands of someone else. Although, it sounds to me like a simplification of things, something a gypsy or psychic might say. Don’t get me wrong. I love psychics, witches, warlocks. Hell, I even love bigfoot. But, well, if psychics really knew, uh…they’d be hanging out on an island in the South Pacific living off their lottery earnings.
After walking through the woods, the Camino merged with the street again and went through Burgette. The rain started up again, albeit only a drizzle. After Burgette, the path went over a little stream about 10 feet wide, it was overcast and cool. Finally, I was in farm land again, and the rain was going down.
There were a bunch of adult cows scattered out in one field, standing in the rain. Closer to me just on the other side of a fence, there were 3 young cows huddled together. I told them (not sure if they were listening) that they might as well get out in the rain. They’re going to have to get wet soon enough, and the sooner they got used to it, the sooner they would embrace it and realize it’s a part of life. If you don’t learn to love it, you’re gonna hate it. And if you learn to hate it, you’re gonna learn to hate life. So you may as well…
Another song came over iPod that resonated with me as I walked down into the valley floor. Its about a gambler (I swear its the only Dan Fogelberg song on my iPod). I had heard the song a few years ago and had thought of myself.
I was gambling when I moved out of my home, away from my old life.
I could have stayed with the situation I was in, muddled through, but something inside me made me leave. I still don’t know what drove me to do that, I don’t know how I had the guts. At that time I was somewhat codependent on Janice, and the life we had created, and it suited us both just fine. But time has away of creeping in and fucking with things. Speaking of time- 2008 did just that.
I walked on through farmland and saw a herd of sheep off in the distance. I wondered what they thought of us, probably something like: “there go some more stupid humans again. Where the hell are they going, and why?
I met up with Rachel and Penny, and we stopped for breakfast and cafe con leche. After we left, the camino became a stone path, about 8 feet wide, going downhill at a decent grade, to get us to the valley floor.
We crossed a highway and stopped at a little food trailer, decorated like a rock, with astroturf to cover the tires, I guess so you couldn’t tell it was a trailer. A son helped his father on with his backpack. I thought about my dad and how I never got a chance to do anything like walking the Camino with my dad. By the time I got my shit together and could have, he was gone. Never take anything for granted. You never know when it’s going to slip through your fingers.
Rachel, Penny and I walked over the bridge to Zubiri together and checked into the first auberges we passed, the one I had stayed at last year, and a favorite of Rachels’. I was grateful for these new friends I had met, even though our paths would soon part. Maybe we do cross paths for a reason, to learn a few things from each other. Or maybe we’re all just futile stars colliding in a galaxy of random and meaningless collisions.
Thomas Wolfe said, “You Can’t Go Home Again” (always quote a great writer when you can- people will think you know what the hell you’re talking about). I think what he meant was that when you return home after being gone, you’re not the same person. It’s you that’s changed, not the town. So that nostalgic perception you had of your home just doesn’t exist anymore.
I know that when I returned after walking the Camino last year, I felt like I didn’t have a home anymore. I know I had changed, but as I got back into the rhythm and hues of my old life, I imperceptibly sunk back into being the same person I had been, confronting the same demons I had thought and wrote about last year on the camino. But I think my that time on the Camino, at the very least, gave me pause to think about the issues, the heartaches, the wounds that were already beginning to rear their heads. Things I knew I had to deal with.
And as I mentioned at the beginning of my first post, one of the things I had to deal with were my first real relationship after my separation. And not to bemoan things, at that point my self esteem had been whittled down to nothing (I’ll get to that later too).
So when Amanda told me on our second or third date that she was Swedish (I had kind of figure that out by then) and so was perhaps more open, more sexual, more straight forward than most of the American women I had known, my head should have exploded. I mean, here I was, not even looking for any kind of relationship, and this beautiful creature, through some cosmic implosion, landed in my arms.
I don’t remember what went through my head at that time. I can picture the scene very clearly, but my emotional state at the time, I don’t know. I was probably overwhelmed. After starting to coming to terms with the man I had become (through abuse, bullying, etc) here I was with probably the most beautiful woman I had ever been with (well, there was Janine, the crazy Polish broad I had dated while at NBC, back in the day, but that’s another story), who was clinging to me and I to her, who listened to every word I said, who actually respected me as a man and human being, and who, well, for want of a better word, wanted my companionship.
But In the long run, the rocky road Amanda and I were about to run down with dizzying abandon was probably the thing that made me start to look deeper, to question myself, assess myself, try to figure out what the hell I was doing on this piece of dirt called earth.
When I think back about those first days with Amanda my head spins. What happened? What led us down that road of discovery, that ruddy dirt path we walked together for awhile? I know we both needed someone to hold, to mend. As I mentioned before, in the beginning we’d always be sitting next to each other, holding hands. It was like both of us were hanging on for dear life. I should have known that things couldn’t stay the same. If they would have, nothing would have healed for either of us.
And it seems like, in life, the bigger the lessons we have to learn, the bigger the events which trigger that learning have to be. That became clear to me the night Amanda almost died.
I’ve lived in a dump for 3 years (I’ll be moving upon my return). It was the prison I built for myself, the metaphor for me, my life. I know though that I had to be there. I needed that place to hide, remind me, laugh at me, and, after time, to recognize it for what it was – a necessary place to be, while I contemplated and licked my wounds, felt sorry for myself, faced myself in the mirror. It was another place that finally, after all that time forced me to understand that it, there, was really not me, and that I needed to get out.
I know now what i was: a prisoner that could not, for whatever reason, escape. in this case, I couldn’t escape from myself. When we build walls for ourselves, we build them well. Listen to “World Leader Pretend (REM).
I sit at my table and wage war on myself
It seems like it’s all, it’s all for nothing
I know the barricades, and
I know the mortar in the wall breaks
I recognize the weapons, I used them well
This is my mistake
Let me make it good
I raised the wall and I will be the one
to knock it down
It was like the prison movie you’ve seen before, where the warden comes to finally let the guy out. The prisoner is dressed in a new fedora and suit (pretty ironic for a hardened criminal), and holding a suitcase. But you can see the fear in his eyes. He’s not ready for the outside world. Because he’s changed, the prison has changed him, darkened his soul, it hasn’t rehabilitated him. Yet he goes, because they tell him to. And a week later he’s found, swinging from the rafters, a noose around his neck.
But I stopped being that prisoner awhile ago, by deciding not to be a victim, and with the help of others showing me the way. With the decision to stand on my own, take up my own space, be calm, but move forward. Take responsibility for myself. To act with integrity and love. I know what I have learned is good. And I am lucky if only to have lived the life that I have thus far.
The walls of the prison still have a few bricks left to be removed, but for the most part they’re gone. At least enough are gone to allow me to walk through the wall and see the outside world again, as if for the first time. And it’s beautiful.