The following is a talk I gave today at the First Presbyterian Church in Lovington, New Mexico. It’s a long wall of text, so power through it, eh?
Ellen told me that I have to keep this short, that I could not ramble on for an hour like I did last time. So hopefully I’ll stick to this document and not stray too far from the message I’m trying to impart. I’ve had about two months to pen this – naturally, I waited until the last minute.
Earlier this year, after what seemed less than a month of planning and forethought, I embarked upon my second international solo journey. Yes, I had certainly kicked the idea around many a time afore, but it wasn’t until late January that I decided – impulsively – that I needed to once more take to the road and see the world as only a lonesome pilgrim can.
Do forgive my lack of posts and updates as of late. It’s been a very busy week for me and I’m only now adjusting to a schedule that forces me to write in my rare moments of leisure.
And what sort of schedule might this be, you ask to no one in particular (save maybe your lone cat or blow-up sex doll). One might also wonder why you’re always speaking in italics, dear reader.
Why, silly bitch! My schedule as a hospitalero in the beautiful city of Grado, Spain People’s Republic of Asturias, of course!
I’ve been on location now for four days and will finish out the month at the brand new albergue (can’t miss it). It’s a busy ordeal, lemme tell you, with the pilgrims and the building to care for, but gods, I enjoy this stuff. Not much time to write, but somehow I manage.
You rarely have time to yourself as a hospitalero; few things, comrades, are more gratifying than this type of volunteer work. Lemme a’splain.
But let’s backtrack a bit here, eh? We’ve a few days to catch up with one another after all.
If you’re familiar with existential literature (which you should be, peasant) then you’ll recognize the title of this post comes from John Gardner’s brilliant piece, Grendel, which, if I really had to pick a favorite book, would definitely be a contender for that moniker.
Exceptional book, Grendel; creates such a sympathetic anti-hero and makes you think – the hallmark of great literature. This post will make a lot more sense if you’ve read Gardner’s novel; otherwise, you’ll just think I’m nuts.
What? I can’t enjoy philosophy too?
What are you getting at, you loon? I hear you say to an empty room. Well who’s the loon now?
Meat and potatoes, comin’ right up. And might I recommend you give this a listen as thou read: Dark Paradise
If you’ve been following along, you know I’ve been walking San Salvador these past few days. And I must say, it is worlds apart from Camino Frances. Case in point, this is the first time I’ve had an Internet connection in ~130km.
The trail was a tough son-of-a-bitch, lemme tell you, and there were many times I wondered why I left the safety of Frances for this maddened Way.
On your first day you’re dick-slapped with a 700m ascent, followed by an immediate cunt-punt of 1000m descent. The locals look at you as if you’re lost (which is completely plausible, given the markings), none of them speak English (or German, I’ve learned), and you won’t find much in the way of amenities along the Way.
You really must be mindful of what you’re packing, but you cannot forget food and extra water; half the fountains aren’t guaranteed to be potable and all the stores are closed willy-nilly. Better bring extra medical gear whilst you’re at it. You’ll pass through half a dozen towns with even fewer albergues.
The bars and restaurants along the Way (two, tops) don’t have Wi-Fi, pilgrim menus, or any local knowledge to exploit – and they close early. The steps are long, mostly uphill (or treacherous downhills), through uninhabited and undeveloped land, and you won’t see another Seeker the entire week you’re walking. And when you’re done walking your +25km day, you have to wait an hour or two before the hospitalero shows up to open the albergue because he’s still at work – thought you were getting a hot shower at noon, did ya? Ha.
It’s a bitch of a trail and it is completely different from Frances. In fact, apart from the shells and yellow arrows, I would wager this trail has nothing in common with Frances.
In short, fuck, sign me up again.
Lemme give you a few reasons why this trail stomps so much ass that they have to import colons from other countries just to meet the demand.
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.