Hey there folks,
After many hijinks, detours, and just general tomfoolery, I finally made it to Leon. I can’t tell you how many times I had plans for coming to this city only for them to be dashed in pursuit of a better thread. Not mad by any means for the Way has been quite the experience. But here I am – the big city of Leon.
As I walked through the plaza towards my preferred stop for the day, I heard it again. That increasingly popular call I cannot seem to shake no matter which direction I go on this trail. “Bruno!”
Yep, one of my pilgrims from El Burgo has been volunteering as a hospitalera for several days. The Way – nothing is linear out here I tell you. And would you believe it: she was volunteering at the Benedictine Monastery, the exact lodgings I was looking for! That’s Providence for you: I wanted to stay at this joint, had trouble finding it, so the All-Father took pity upon me and sent me a guide and a friend.
But why the Benedictine Monastery? My reasons are twofold: religious joints are usually a more charming and enlightening stay than a private albergue can offer, and I wanted a credencial for the Camino San Salvador.
Oh Christ, you may be thinking, what silly idea have you got in that warped head of yours now?
San Salvador? Yeah, I know, it’s a silly name: Saint Savior. Hey, I didn’t choose it.
Oh, right, what is San Salvador? Well, dear reader, sit right on down and lemme ‘splain it to ya.
Back when the Mohammedans first invaded Europe, the Spanish locals fled to the northern mountains for safety, taking many of their relics and icons with them. A great deal of these are stashed in Oveido, a destination one can pass through via several pilgrimage routes on the way to Santiago. In this city, there’s a great deal of relics related to Christ Himself, hence the Salvador nom de plume.
A good medieval pilgrim would visit the Master on his way to visit the Disciple – extra blessings, you understand. Today this route is known as Camino San Salvador and if you ever get the chance, go take a gander. Expect a write-up on this short (~130km) route once I finish it.
The Benedictine Monastery can get you a credencial for this route. It’s small – only has room for about 16 stamps – but also includes a list of the cities you pass through, their amenities, an elevation and distance scale, and some information about the Way I can’t read because I only speak Common. Handy doodad, really.
I look forward to filling this fucker up.
Since I showed up with more time to kill than a North Korean labor camp worker, I decided to wander about Leon. And I do mean wander. I took a mental note of where the monastery was – give or take – and walked about with nothing more than my journal and camera. I had no plan or time frame – I just wanted to see what would happen, really.
There’s a lovely article about the lost art of getting lost, and with this in mind, I stepped out into the Leon wilderness. It’s so easy to always know where we are headed: GPS, cell phones, fucking yellow arrows. It’s almost impossible to discover something new on our preordained path because we don’t get lost anymore. It’s beautiful, really, to just pick a direction and see what is around the corner.
Might be nothing. Could be something of interest.
But it’s better than glaring into a screen and knowing exactly what is just ahead. Humans, bah, we’ve lost our knack for adventure.
With testicular fortitude, I braved the billowing clouds of Spanish (cigarette) smoke, and made my way towards the nearest street. Well, alleyway, really for these European roads are stupidly small – even a horse cart would struggle in these things.
The first bar I passed by was blaring Ozzy, so of course I was obligated to stop and have a drink. Black pudding (or blood sausage, as you like) is ubiquitous in Spain, and every city seems to do it differently. As I had my first glass of lovely red wine (at 11AM), I dined on the local moracillo, letting all worries flow away into nothingness. Hell, with red wine and blood sausage, what could possibly trouble anyone apart from a teetotaler vegan? Ozzy was followed by this lovely, soothing ditty: Hijo De La Luna.
I then lost myself in a local open-air market, admiring the many goods I didn’t need nor could carry; it was worth it to look on from afar. But the crowds were immense and I have never cared for such things. The clouds of smoke were choking and the constant yelling of the Spanish were beginning to become too much. I decided I would take the first street that looked abandoned and see what lay ahead.
The fewer the people, the bigger the adventure.
Look at that shit. How does this city function with these midget streets? How can you get fat American tourists through here? Christ on a stick, it’s unbelievable what they call streets on this continent.
Naturally, I went that way.
As I wandered about the many midget streets, I reflected on what I’ve been doing for the past couple months. In a way, I’m not so different from these chaotic streets. They follow an ordered path, but everything in between Point A and B is just a mess. You’ll certainly get to wherever you’re going by following said street, but don’t act surprised when the route changes drastically and without warning. We all get there in the end, but our paths might be a wee different.
So, in essence, I’m a Spanish midget street. Goddamn, I should write philosophy for a living.
This particular alleyway seemed to have been ordained by the All-Mighty for it led me directly to what my heart needed. You see, I am a prolific letter writer, but my good pad ran out of pages a week ago. My current writing pad is this hideous graphing paper monstrosity I cannot stand. It’s too structured, leaves no room for innovation, and makes me hate engineers for their bullshit orderliness.
I needed something to reflect my writing persona: compact, chaotic, good looking, and a hit at parties. And – bam! – a fuckin’ calligraphy store on Diagon Alley!
Kid in a candy store, I tell you, for my heart was aflame looking at all the stationery and fine pens I could potentially use for my letters. Writing is an outlet for me; I need to write lest I slip back into self-destruction mode. There’s always plenty on my mind and heart that I must get out onto the page – I used to bottle such things up and I was an absolute wreck. Yes, writing, my therapy.
I write my Soul on the page almost every day, and here was this store that was a literal godsend, with exactly what I needed to write my Heart. And all because I decided to wander around without a fuck to be given.
Fuck, I love getting lost.
A few bars and tapas later, I wandered back to the monastery where I was greeted by a Lebanese American girl as the “famous Bruno.” Yeah, that literally happened.
Seriously, people call me that? Who the hell is talking about me out here? “I know you! You’re Bruno,” is a phrase I’m hearing way too much. Camino is such a strange place, and to be greeted by random pilgrims as if we were old chums is even stranger. We chatted for a bit before parting ways. “See you later,” she said.
Yeah, I don’t doubt that, I thought.
I went back to my quarters to grab my fully charged lappy, intent on writing about this lovely day getting lost in a foreign city when suddenly: Beatniks!
Mystified, I sat and watched these people sing, dance, play, and just having a rightful ball for the better part of an hour. I had wandered about the city for several hours, but sitting in front of these artists made me feel truly lost.
I couldn’t understand a word they were saying, but I found that didn’t matter in the slightest. Per one of my favorite books, The Fault in our Stars, “The important thing is not what nonsense the voices are saying but what the voices are feeling.” And watching these smelly hippies doing interpretive dance and playing the kazoo, yeah, I felt just fine. I felt as they did.
Tomorrow I start San Salvador, but today I was utterly lost in the beauty of getting lost.