Monday, May 30, 2011


Pete stood in the market, staring at a shelf of unfamiliar but discernible items, studying the products for clues. "What is that..." he mumbled to himself "Olives, pickels, corn...whoa is that asparagus, white asparagus? How´d they get the color out of that? Must be pickled." He walked slowly down each aisle like a person in a new world.

At checkout the cashier turned the little LCD monitor toward Pete as she gave him the total in Spanish. Pete was clearly a foreigner. He squinted his eyes and pulled out a handful of euro coins from his pocket, which had been accumulating at a fast rate. "Here I got too many of these coins. I keep handing ya´ll bills and ya give me back coins. See, where I´m from it stops at 25 cents. You can only get dollar coins at banks. I know ´cause I collect them." Pete left the supermarket with a bag of spaghetti, tomato sauce in little cardboard carton, and a package of hotdogs.

He timidily walked into the hostel kitchen, which was packed with women in their late 60´s cooking dinner. Pete politely reached beside these women who were blocking the drawers. "Um...hi...can I just-"
"Oh, si, si" the lady stepped back, bending her body aside.
Pete pulled drawer after drawer learning the new kitchen.

When Pete was a kid his father used to take him camping. His sisters were not interested in the outdoors in that way, and even if they were, his father wouldn´t have taken them. Camping was a man´s activity; a way to reconnect to one´s true being, a master over nature. On these trips Pete´s father would bring a cans of baked beans and a bag of hot dogs as backup in case no fish could be caught and no small game felled.

Pete sat at the large dinning table enjoying his hotdogs sliced into his spaghetti, and thought about those nights in front of the fire with his Dad. He watched from the end of the table as the older women sat down with their plates. "Bon appetit!" one said to him.
"Bone Appa-teet!" he replied.

After dinner pete took out a postcard of a map of Spain with the route drawn in red and pictures of the things you´re supposed to see. He wrote:

Dear Ma,

How are you? I am fine. I know you think I´m crazy to be walking across Spain, but I think Dad would be proud. I took Cody´s boots from Becky´s house. She didn´t want me taking them to Spain, so I snuck into her house in the middle of the night and took them from the war memorial bedroom. I know Cody would have wanted me to wear them, so I am. I think if the lord didn´t want me wearing Cody´s boots he would have locked Becky´s front door that night.

I´ve made a lot of friends here already, a lady from Spain, a real skinny man from Germany, and a lady from Canada (I only know that because she had a Canadian flag on her backpack). Not too many people speak english over here even though it´s supposed be the international language. I´m still getting along though.

How´s the farm? Did Billy get the corn in yet? I think he´s a real son of a bitch, but if Amy wants to marry him then who knows? Any news from Carla or Jane? Okay, time to go to bed. They turn the lights off here at 10p.


Pete slurped up the spit from the end of his mini-mag lite, which he held in his teeth as he wrote. He scooted the rest of his body into his sleeping bag and twisted around to find a comfortable position. Pete finally settled on his back after a full 360, inadvertantly turning the sleeping bag upside down so the bib covered his face. Pete fell asleep within a few minutes like an exhausted toddler. He snored deeply through the back of his throat with his tongue nearly choking him after each inhalation. This was normal for Pete.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 1

The young Spanish woman sat next to Pete and caught her breath as she transitioned from the intensity of chasing her only ride out of town, to just riding a bus. Pete thought of something clever to say but sat silently looking out the window.
"Gracias" the Spanish woman said softly.
"My name is Pete, this is my first time to Europe." he offered.
The Spanish women spoke slowly with a heavy accent "My-name-is-Estella." Pete shook her hand which felt soft and lifeless. They rode silently for three hours to St. Jean Pied de Port. Pete looked out his window, studying the rolling fields with precision, that´s wheat, that´s potatoes, that´s soy, he thought to himself.

The walk began the next day at 6a as the lights of the albergue turned on and mystical music played from a small boom-box in the hallway. Pete packed his bag, which looked liked like a clump of canvas pouches attached to a metal frame. Pete walked alone for the first hour, which was entirely up hill, panting heavily and mustering "Buen Camino" to each person that passed him. He came to a church and wandered inside. It was cool and calm compared to the warm air outside. Pete sat next to another sweating pilgrim.
"This is some walk, don´t ya think? The hills, ya know?"
The Canadian women whispered "Yah, I´m going to sleep tonight."
Pete responded bringing his voice down to her whisper level "Geez, I´ll just be glad to make it up the next pass. Ya know, I´m going to be the first person in my family to walk across a country. My uncle walked to Canada once, all the way from Iowa, but he´s kind of crazy because he´s actually homeless, so my family doesn´t really talk about him much." Silence grew between Pete and the other pilgrim.
"This place smells just like my Grandma´s basement." Pete announced. "Especially after it flooded after this big rain we had in ´97 and she started having these little black spots showing up on the ceiling. This place must be a 1000 years old. Can you imagine what it was like to live here 1000 years ago?" Pete asked. The woman shook her head without breaking her gaze from the alter. "I sure can´t. I mean, what did people even look like a 1000 years ago? I know they weren´t another species or nothing like that but seriously, they had to look different than you and me, right?" The woman looked down, and cordially said "Well they probably didn´t have high-tech clothes like we do." Pete sniffled a laugh with his breath.
"No way. They were wearing leather and wool. You couldn´t pay me to wear that stuff, well except leather if was like a black leather jacket for riding a motorcycle or something. Ya know, I heard they didn´t even have shoes and they still walked the pilgrimage. I´ve got these high performance army-issue combat boots, and you don´t want to see what my feet look like. Believe me, you don´t want to see my feet."
The woman winced. "Do you have blister´s already?"
Pete took off his boot, peeled away his white sock and pulled his foot above his knee "Look at this. I didn´t even start the Camino and I got these. See, I went on this cultural tour of Spain two days ago. They had us walking all over looking at sites and that sort of thing."

Pete arrived at the municipal hostel 6 hours later, taking slow painful steps inside. "Get me in the shower!" He joked as he walked through the door. He unbuckled his large bag with exagerated gestures like a beast unchaining itself from its captors. The hospitalero instructed pete to take off his boots and put them on the rack with everyone else´s "Um, you mind if I just keep them in my bag. See these are kind of special and I don´t want just anyone walking away with them. They´re offical army-issue, served a tour in Iraq, that´s all I´ll say about that."

Pete found his bed. Only top bunks were left that late in the day. His neighbors were sleeping on top of their sleeping bags. The room smelled thick with an odor like a gym or a used sporting goods store. He stretched the sani-sheet over the mattress only getting three of the four corners to catch, and climbed up the end of the bunk straining himself and shaking the bed violently as he crawled into place. Pete flopped down, bouncing a few times to check the softness of the bed. "This will do." He said out loud.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


"I´m from the great state of Iowa, and that´s not a province but it could be." Pete answered. "Where are you from? You sound like Jean Claude Van Damn, you know who he is?" The german stood there in his underwear, casually as though he were in a locker room. "I´m from Hamburg." he said. Pete was silent. "Dats in Germany" the man added.
"Okay, okay, I´ve heard of that." Pete said.

Pete brushed his teeth and opened each little bottle the hotel sink had to offer. The german was in bed breathing deeply and slowly with the lights still on in the room. Pete turned off the lights and climbed into bed. He lay on his back in the pitch black of the hotel room, listening to his foreign neighbor and wondering when, if ever, god would speak to him. "Good night." Pete whispered to the german man.

In the morning Pete awoke to find the German man gone and the his bed made neatly as if he had never slept in it. "Hello?" Pete called out, but there was no answer. Downstairs in the lobby Pete found his roommate in the restaurant eating the free buffet breakfast. "Just toast and jam? That´s no kind of breakfast. I´ll be weak in the knees by 10a." Pete circled the food table and took several pieces of toast, and filled two glasses with orange juice. He sat down with his roommate. "Is this what ya´ll eat in Germany for breakfast?" Pete gleaned at the German. "Of course." The german replied matter of factly. "Well god damn, that must be why you´re so thin. See, back in USA we eat all sorts of things like eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes... I guess I´m on a diet now, right?" The German man dipped his toast into his coffee mug and took a soggy bite.

The tour bus waited outside the lobby and people began to board. Pete put his backpack in the cargo hatch underneath the bus and got on. He sat in a window seat and stared out. As the bus pulled away he saw the young Spanish women running after them. Pete´s heart raced. "Whoa! Whoa! Amigo!" he yelled to the driver as he sprung from his seat. "Halt-eh the bus-eh! Stop!" The bus came to a bucking stop and the Spanish woman gained some ground and finally reached the door. She got on board. "He was going to leave you." Pete said pointing at the driver "Loco, loco. But I talked some sense into him."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Farmer Pete stood in front of the Guggenheim Museum, fishing for his disposable camera inside his fannypack. "It´s better in real life if you ask me." he said to a young women from his tour bus. "Como?" She replied. "I seen this once on this show called Modern Marvels, I think it´s on the discovery channel 'cause I watch this other show about logging, and I was waiting for that one to come on, and there is this architect who scribbles on paper and they make buildings out of that." The yound spanish women looked puzzled, "No english." she said apologetically. "Okay, then. Me neither."

It was late in the day and the musuem´s facade glowed a lazy yellow in the fading light. Pete´s feet hurt from all the walking that day. He borrowed a pair of combat boots from his middle sister, Becky. Her husband never came back from Iraq, only his belongings. Pete thought it would be symbolic if he wore these boots on the camino even though they were one size too small.

The tour bus pulled away and delivered the group to the Hotel on the edge of town. Pete signed up for the budget tour, which puts two people to a room. "Whew, good thing there´s two beds in here!" Pete said to his German roommate, a thin man with gray hair. "Vwhat Province are you from in America?" he asked carefully.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Camino Dos

I´ve already blogged about this trip once, just read below. I did play by play accounts of my thoughts, impressions, things I found strange and odd, and experiences that stood out. I don´t want to do this again, for my sake and yours. Like most things done twice you sort of know what to expect. If there are some good surprises along the way, like another robbery where justice is immediately served, then yes, I´ll blog about that, but this year I want things to be different.

I will create several fictional characters that will instead take the place of my first person accounts. This will also allow me to share their letters to loved ones, thoughts about others and others thoughts about them, and re-tell the story of the camino through different cultural subjectivities that will to some effect tease out subtlties and nuiances that I can´t capture as easily through the previous blog entries. Plus, I want to start writing more fiction, which I haven´t done since my brother and I used to exchange weekly stories through a series called ´sandyasssundays´ about six years ago.

These posts will also come more regularly and more frantically as I´m constantly using internet on borrowed time, either paying by the minute with euros, or with the looming pilgrim hovering above my shoulder silently wondering when, if ever, will I be done with the free internet on the lone computer of the hostel. Right now, fucker.


Character Introduction #1:

Farmer Pete was born into an Iowa farming family just outside of Des Moines. He and his five older sisters learned to work the land from an early age. After Farmer Pete won his age group in the 4-H hog show 14 and under, his confidence carried him through a threshold in which possibilities were limitless, to him at least. This kept school work at distance, and concerned Farmer Pete primarly with girls who had large breasts and Ford trucks, also the bigger the better. Despite Pete´s repeated failures at acquiring ownership of either prize, his path was clear; get a truck, get a girl, get a house. For it is with these things that one´s life truly begins.