I left the auberge in Pamplona at 630 and walked across the street for a cafe con leche. Penny and Rachel had left earlier so I sat down for a coffee alone. After a few minutes other pilgrims streamed in. I sat at the bar and listened to their excited chatter, knowing that I would not be continuing on with them that day. Not that I knew any of these folks, but the groups of pilgrims that start off together kind of fall into a rhythm, and if your walking more or less the same pace, you end up in the same places. It’s sort of like a grove of Aspens. Their all really just one organism, connected by their root system.

And maybe that’s how we are, as humans. But we’re connected by the etheral and incomprehensible (at least to science) energies of emotions- love, hate, empathy, compassion, et. al.

The pilgrims sat at their tables talking about what lay in front of them for the day, where they were headed, where they would end up at the end of the day. Of course it was in Spanish and French and a few other languages so I didn’t understand much of it. I started to feel a little melancholy, knowing that I wouldn’t be continuing along with them, until after about 2 seconds when I consoled myself thinking about lying on the beach in the beautiful town of San Sebastian, which is where I was headed.

My original plan was to take a bus to somewhere in the middle of the Camino and walk a few days, then take another bus to Santiago and walk to the coastal town of Finesterra. The “official” end of the Camino is in Santiago de Compostella, where St. James is buried, the dude who brought Christianity to Europe. But the additional 3 day trek I’m going to make is supposed to be less traveled and scenic, and ends up at a beautiful little seaside town, where one is supposed to burn their clothes and swim nude in the ocean. I had chosen to lose the middle portion of my trek in favor of a “day off” in San Sebastian.

At the bus station I ran into Roberto who was also heading to San Sebastian. He was Spanish, about 65 or 70, tall, thin and gangly with a bit of a grey beard. He reminded me of many of the illustrations I’ve seen of Don Quixote. Except he wasn’t going to slay any dragons. He was going to lay on the beach.

We talked for a little while waiting for the bus. About the town, about the Camino (he had a bum leg so hadn’t walked more than a small portion) and about rock n’ roll. It’s weird how often music comes up in conversation. Rock n’ roll might just be the universal language among us on this planet.

We parted ways and soon I was off, on a short bus ride to San Sebastian. After getting off the bus and taking a short walk, I emerged out of a tunnel to sunshine, and a beautiful town on the other side of a bridge.

I lingered on the bridge, taking in the sun, the cool breeze, and looking down into the wide river flowing underneath to the ocean. Once I got to the other side I walked through a little square. In the middle was a fountain, and beyond it down the street, an old cathedral with spires reaching to the sky. I continued on through an upscale shopping district to the pension Gagbai, where I was staying.

The pension was awesome- clean, modern, with an epic espresso machine in the common area. And the proprietress, Christina, was gracious and super helpful. I checked into my room and was feeling a little tired so I opted for a short nap.

Upon awakening I threw on my short pants/ swimming trunk hybrids (Costco- $18.99) and proceeded to the beach. Everyone was out, either walking along the esplanade above the beautiful crescent of a beach, or down on the beach, sunning and swimming. The city was teeming with life, everyone seemed to be happy, in the moment. I felt like I was being washed down the promenade, just soaking it all in. I walked down stairs to the beach and walked along the water from one end to the other. After going for a little swim I headed back- there was still a lot of the town to see.

Then I headed to the old town and walked through it’s thin, cobbled streets of shops, bars, cafes. There were people everywhere, tourists and locals walking, talking, eating drinking, enjoying each other and life. It felt a little sad not having someone to share it with, but I decided to sit down on a boisterous square with cafes and have a glass of wine and some tapas and get over it.

I did some writing and soaked in the afternoon. After awhile though I felt a little queasy. shook it off and walked over to a restaurant for dinner- “La Mafia”. It was somewhat upscale, fortunately I was a little dressed up in Michale Stars beige slacks and a white linen shirt, which I had brought with the intent of shipping back home upon leaving Paris but, well, the only box the post office had was too small, so I shipped off what I could, left to carry some non-essentials with me on the Camino.

The meal was excellent, a lovely boursin and greens salad with bread and a truffle aioli, followed by a mushroom, chicken, and something else risotto which was nice and thick. I paired it with a Crianza, which was luscious. Cost me $35. Does it sound like I love this town? Well, except for the hangover.

The next morning I felt like I had been run over by a truck. I looked at myself in the mirror and had huge bags under my eyes, like I had been sick for a week. My stomach was in knots, and I didn’t feel like getting up. At first I thought it was the wine (I had had two glasses over a 4 hour stretch) but in retrospect it was probably some water I had drank on the Camino. Last year I had no problem drinking from the local fountains, but there was one near Pamplona that tasted a little funky…

Of course this is when everything else went to hell. I had no motivation yet I had to get my shit together and walk over to the train station to catch my ride to Santiago at 12: 20. Unfortunately, the train had already left the station, literally. Due to a miscommunication with the dude who sold me the ticket, I had bought a ticket for a bus that left while I had slept, just after midnight.

With Christina’s help, we pieced together what options I had. It pretty much boiled down to taking the same bus that night which meant I would be hanging out with a backpack until midnight, and remember I felt like crap. There was a train that left the next morning, but the web said it was sold out, but Christina said that they often have tickets if you go to the station.

So I trudged over to the station with visions of barfing over the side of the bridge dancing in my head. When I got there I took a number and waited. There was a young blond woman from Germany wearing a backpack with a scallop shell- the sign of a fellow pilgrim. She looked confused so I asked if she needed help, due to my firm grasp of the language, and veteran Camino experience. Okay, well due to the fact that she was hot. She was under the impression that her train to Logrono didn’t exist, or that she had missed it. She took me up on my offer to talk with Mr. ticket counter guy when her number was up.

The dude was having a bad day. Or maybe every day is a bad day for him. Anyway, she and him started instantly not communicating. He was gruff and was the type who didn’t suffer fools easily. Not that she was, but he had that condescending attitude, and was just spewing out stuff in Spanish that she obviously didn’t understand. So I asked him if their was a train with the number she had identified. He said yes. She kept asking if she needed a ticket. He said yes. She pulled out her ticket. I said, is that her ticket? He said yes. I asked him where it was leaving from, he pointed out the door to the tracks, and the waiting area.

We retreated, she put her ticket away and thanked me, looking at me with big blue eyes and kissing me on the cheek. I wished her a “Buen Camino” (the calling card of pilgrims on the Camino) but it didn’t seem like she knew what it meant.

I went up to the counter when my number was called. It was easy to understand him when I asked him if their were any tickets for the train to Santiago. No is pretty much the same in any language.

So I bought a bus ticket for a 12 hour bus ride along the Galecian coast, figuring I would catch up on some writing at the very least. I had to move out of my pension to a more “traditional” one, but it was still in a great area. I still felt like crap so I laid down, getting up just long enough to get some tapas and walk up the hill to visit Jesus. He overlooks the bay, and helps provide miraculous cell coverage to the city, due to the cell phone antennas placed on him.  I got to bed early hoping that a good nights sleep and a few prayers to Jesus would set me straight, or at least get me better cell reception.

But I dreamt of getting lost on this more desolate stretch of the camino, not finding a room, running out of water…all the things that the unknown present to you, if you’re in a bad state of mind. It never lets you dream of sunny fields, meandering paths, and bright beautiful days if you’re feeling like crap. I think it is most difficult to “feel good thoughts”, be centered, be closest to your “authentic self” (the self we spend our life trying to find) when you don’t feel good physically. The other thing that does this-the emotional reactions we’ve trained ourselves to have to various stimuli in our own personal milieus (how’s that for a fancy word- I’m such a writer). I finally fell into a fitful sleep, hoping that the Camino would indeed provide.


When I walked the Camino last year, Cormac reminded me of something when discussing Hannah: she’s a teenager. And I guess it took awhile for that to truly resonate with me. I just wanted her to be the same she had always been with me. When Janice and Hannah returned from their summer vacation in Cape Cod, Janice and I took the recommendation of Hannah’s therapist and started to see a parenting counselor.

It’s funny, I never thought, in a million years that I’d ever go to therapy, and now it seems like I can’t escape it. Not that I don’t think it’s done some good, but I think if I was reading this, I would think that me and mine are going a little overboard. And in fact it seems a little ironic that Hannah is in therapy, I am, and Janice and I are going to a therapist/counselor for co-parenting. It’s especially ironic since Janice told me that she had been to therapy once but didn’t see a need for it. I guess times change.

My relationship with Hannah has improved slightly, it seems to have coincided with the divorce and since that’s winding down, so it seems is her hatred of me. A little interesting research about the teenage brain: In the June 2015 issue of Scientific American, Jay Giedd, from UC San Diego, explains the teenage brain “is a unique entity characterized by changeability and an increase in networking among brain regions.” The adolescent brain is neither a big child nor an incomplete adult. It is unique to itself.

He further explains that there is a mismatch in growth rate between the limbic portion of the brain, which is the center of emotion, and the prefrontal cortex, which controls logic and reasoning. This mismatch explains the adolescent proclivity for risky behavior. Teenagers are impulsive because the emotional part of their brain develops faster than the logical part.

Now, if they can only figure out why teens like Justin Bieber. Much to her credit, Hannah doesn’t. I can only hope she continues down this path, and in the future we can agree on more than just the Justin Bieber thing, and she continues to grow into the beautiful woman she is already becoming.

Amanda decided that maybe we could still have some sort of a relationship, and that maybe we could just “be in the moment”, not have any strings, no dependence on each other. What she might have been talking about was trying to have an interdependent relationship, but at that time we were both incapable of such. At least I probably was. I knew deep down we needed to be apart to heal and work on ourselves, but at the same time we enjoyed being with each other, and we all need closeness sometimes.

By the way, I only throw this shit out there in hopes that it might help someone better understand themselves, their lives, through what I’ve learned from mine. I certainly am not an expert. But I’m sure you’ve figured that out by now.

According to Psychology Today, In an interdependent relationship, each party is able to comfortably rely on the other for help, understanding, and support. It’s a “value added” kind of thing. The relationship contributes to both individuals’ resilience, resourcefulness, and inner strength. All the same, each party remains self-sufficient and self-determining. They maintain a clear identity apart from the relationship and are quite able to stand on their own two feet.

We tried to be in the moment but we still were acting more or less like a couple. Amanda’s mom and sister came into town for a month, so it too was convenient to have me around. I was confused, and still codependent, and being selfish, not knowing where I stood. In retrospect it wasn’t working for me. So I did what any man-child would, I started acting out like a child, in essence being a dick.

Amanda hosted a halloween party, I didn’t want to go, but it was a big deal to her sister, who was visiting from Sweden, and loves the holiday, and Amanda wanted me to go, so I attended. I was entertaining at the party, dressing up as Bruce Springsteen with a toy guitar and leather jacket, iPod and speaker in pocket playing the karaoke version of “Born to Run” as I shrieked the lyrics. But being there really just served to confuse me more.

A few days later there was another party for a mutual friend that I was expected to attend. It was kind of a big deal for her, so I did. I didn’t know too many people, so I had a few drinks, talked to a few people, and left. I found out later that Amanda was upset that I left. Ill let you do the math- let’s see, we had broken up (pretty much her idea), still I went to the party for her and our mutual friend (who I knew through her) and I left at 10 or so to be somewhere else. Again, I was confused.

And hurt. I was reacting not only to us being apart, but also old wounds from before I even knew Amanda. But at times like that, sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. But I sure felt like a selfish prick when, a day or two later as i mentioned in an earlier post, Amanda was taken to the hospital with meningitis and almost died.