Monday, October 02, 2017

update: Its the Journey

But its great to finish too.

   By the long lapse after the last post if you weren't following the Facebook journey photos you might assume I stopped there with crippling feet issues.  I just felt like facebooking rather than blogging here because that's where i uploaded photos. I finished a little over a month ago.
    I soldiered on, and made it to Santiago. I powered through to Burgos, which has a magnificent Cathedral, then bused through the Messeta to Leon (another classic beautiful massive Cathedral)  then decided to start shipping my back pack every stop to the end. My feet by Leon did not want to be connected to me so I had to start lightening the load or they would protest like a stubborn horse and simply not move.
For those wishing to do it who see no spiritual merit in holding on your back what Mary likely got to put on a donkey, the Comodo Camino and Jacobo services that pick up your back pack from one place to another delivering it before you get to the next alberge ten miles away is well worth the five Euros. The innkeepers at the alberges were very helpful in arranging this. This method however forces you to plan better and make daily reservations in advance (in my case in broken pidgeon spanish) to reserve a bed and guarantee that the place will receive and hold your back pack for you. I should note that this takes considerable trust - which was never violated as nothing was ever stolen or even late in arriving. The apps come in extremely handy (essential even) in finding the alberges in the town the projected distance away to where you wish to walk.
   To get the official Camino certificate you only need to walk the last 100 kilometers, so many people start there around the town Sarria. At Sarria the mass of crowds picks up with more of a tourist than athletic flair with everything from singing groups of pilgrimming geriatrics doing little more than five miles a day for two weeks sipping Spanish wine along the way to the people who started in San Jean in France.
     I decided to stop in Santiago de Compostelle while others continued to the "end of the world" as it was once believed to be in "Finistere." Its also a good excuse to get a good view of the Atlantic Ocean and a swim in. I joked that as New Jersey is the end of the world I didn't have to keep walking. That was my excuse for heading  for a few days to a beach town instead.
    I was fortunate enough to be able to avail of the various ointment treatments and medications that the pharmacy and other pilgrims recommended. A particularly kind woman from Santa Cruz California told me about Cyprus essence oil which did work magic in toning down inflammation of feet and legs. I had to reluctantly pop a few ibupophrin.
     This was one of the most rewarding trips I have ever forced myself to do- it is sort of a calling. You cannot finish unless you know God wants you there.
I experienced all sorts of things coming against me-  a near fatal fall nearly down a cliff trapped in place by bramble bush thorns that had me bleeding, second degree sun burn that required cremes and bandage dressings, feet that wouldn't cooperate in going one after the other, attacks of swarming flies, and heat in Spanish July and August that had me at the point of nearly passing out-but for the town fountains that popped up miraculously out of nowhere as if they anticipated you would be drop dead thirsty by then.
    I felt Jesus showing me what "I thirst" means, what it means to carry a load so heavy you drop, what blood dripping down your forehead from piercing thorns felt like and how lonely it can get in a desert. I also felt incredible joy at the fellowship and communion with believers, joy at learning how far I can push my body and how it heals, joy at finishing a goal set, joy and thanksgiving for all the beautiful encounters with local people, joy and thanksgiving for the great Spanish food (and wine!) and joy at marveling daily at all the natural wonders and beauty everywhere around, in corn fields, in sunflower fields, in woods with streams and mountaintops.
  I was an immigrant, a visitor in the country where the hosts had Spanish accents. They could have been mean or nice. They were uniformly without exception spectacularly nice. It helps you see life differently from the immigrant perspective. Immigrants are at the mercy of their hosts in a lot of ways. The hosts can be welcoming and they have the power to make you sick. Its pretty clear that the Holy Spirit has no interest in making anyone sick.

This was the summer of my content- a bliss born of the Peace of Christ, who walks with us and meets our every need.
   I hope you go on this journey one day. You will never forget it.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Wounded Feet

Are hard to walk on

   My 57 year old body doesn't always do what I want it to. I find walking hundreds of kilometers with a heavy back pack puts strain on your feet that causes them to swell, circulation problems ensue and life gets miserable when feet hurt. I was blessed to be able to stay in an albergue run by religious sisters in Santa Domingo de Calzada for two days which enabled me to go to the Farmacia again. The pharmacists here are medically trained and have seen a lot of sore feet and they have a crema for that. Thank you Jesus again.

   The cleaning lady in the convento took me to a corner room with a closet that opened up to a secret chapel and I was delighted to be able to pray there, below the nailed feet of Jesus on the cross. I imagined having a rail road tie sized nail thrust into my feet and sort of internally heard "tell me about it." I then felt extremely silly about whining over swollen feet. I will not act like an invalid. Onward and upward.

  The church at Santo Domingo de Calzada is unbelievable- it houses an actual hen house with live chickens in the wall. Not kidding. The story is wild-Here is why:

There is a legend in the town that German pilgrims (a father, his wife and their son) were traveling to Santiago de Compostelle and were invited to stay with a farmer's family. This was when there were no or few auberges and families hosted the pilgrims on the route in centuries previous. The farmer's daughter took a liking to the son so she hit on him and tried to seduce him. He rejected her advances so she framed him by stashing some family silver in his belongings. She then alerted the family to the "theft" after she framed him. He was arrested and hung in the town, for all to see. They use to hang people in broad daylight and leave their bodies hanging as a warning in the public square. The parents utterly heart-broken continued their journey, and returned to the town to see if they could retrieve their son's body for burial in Germany. He was miraculously alive. He said that the Saint Domingo held him up the entire time so he would not die from hanging.

   When the parents went to the Magistrate to tell him to release their son as he had miraculously survived, the Magistrate was eating chicken dinner .  He mocked them saying- your son is as dead as this chicken on my plate. Just then the chicken jumped up, sprouted feathers and started jumping up and down in front of the Magistrate. The chickens in the Cathedral are allegedly direct descendants of the Magistrate's dinner.

   The son was released to his parents.

God's Justice rules. I prayed for an end to Capital Punishment in America at the church. Seemed fitting. Please pray with me for an end to capital punishment in America.

Back to feet: You do realize of course that it would have been totally impossible for Jesus to walk on his feet after being punctured with a nail like that unless he was walking in a restored resurrected body post resurrection. You cannot almost die, not really die, with a wound like that and be able to walk- and yet, Jesus was seen walking on the road to Emmaus after his hanging and engaging in normal things like casually cooking fish by a lake. His feet would have been so badly wounded, they would have likely been infected, there would be edema or swelling in the tissues, and his tendons likely would have been severed. You could not walk on such a wound. I don't know how far the road to Emmaus was from Jerusalem but you couldn't walk three steps with that kind of a wound if he wasn't really totally dead and somehow revived three days later. That blows out of the water the theory that he was just sort of not really dead. The Christian belief in the Resurrection of the Dead comes from the fact that Jesus died, was buried, and three days later rose FROM THE DEAD with a restored resurrected body.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The invisible hand of God

....and the visible hand of an App.

Yes there is an App for that. There are numerous Camino Apps, some free and some cost a few dollars to download which tell you exactly how many miles between each town and what the terrain looks like. They also list the places to stay in the towns, what they cost and their phone numbers. Often you don't need reservations. The alberges are use to pilgrims dragging in without reservations looking like sweating death warmed over.

     Its been almost a week since I posted. A lot has happened. If you were wondering, no, I did not fall off a cliff. It would have been a reasonable conclusion from the silence. I learned so much along the way and as it is Sunday, a day of repose, I will pass along some travel tips for people planning Camino pilgrimages. I learned that there are on line groups of people chatting about the experience and do's/don'ts of long distance walking and plenty of books. What I am writing might be repetition for anyone plugged into those. Some of these tips might help anyone working in extreme heat outside all day. These tips all matter- the Camino is no walk in the park. It isn't a retreat. Its a mix of penance, pain as you push your body beyond what you thought possible, reflection, and getting to the core of your faith. There will be many times when you think "is this really necessary?" and "why again am I doing this?"
      I learned that if you intend to walk ten miles or more a day with a heavy backpack you need to have the right back pack that puts the weight on your hips not your shoulders. The wrong back pack can add weight you don't need and twist out your shoulders and feet in ways you couldn't imagine could hurt that way. You can actually do serious damage with the wrong pack. There are places that specialize in the right sort of back pack with straps that can actually tie it to your pelvis and across the straps on top. REI is a store in Atlanta and other parts and Eddie Bauer specializes in some hiking/camping gear. REI actually holds seminars and workshops on the Camino and what to expect and what you need. I have the wrong back pack that I will likely send to my sister if I can find a sports store to get a correct back pack-its great for going to the beach not for hiking through mountains and desert for a month or more.
     The sun in Spain is such that in some towns people don't work from about 2:00pm to 5:00pm with all shops closed for Siesta except for those serving food (restaurants, bars and some grocery stores.)  Then they party with everything open till at least 10pm except Sundays. A common complaint for people nursing blisters and sun burn is that they cannot get to a Farmacia in town when it is open on their walking schedules. Almost nothing but restauarants/bars are open on Sundays, with a possible exception in main tourist towns.  So its a good idea to bring with you a stock of basic first aid like antibacterial creme, 50 spf sun block, bandages, ibupophrin or advil, etc.  None of that is any cheaper in Spain than in the US. A first aid kit is key for the leader of the trip, especially if bringing teens.

     There were points where I was walking with such extreme heat exhaustion that I nearly collapsed with the weight of my back pack. I need a better one. Its critical to drink water all the time. The Austrians who are use to Alpine hiking that I have met are well equipped with a water pack that has a hose that reaches to the front of their pack so they can sip water all day if needed as walking without stopping. I have passed groups of singing french teenagers taking the mountains like it was a walk to school. Amazing. There are some super fit campers out here.

     A trick I learned from the Mexican forager (who has also been a mechanic in Atlanta) is that if you get a bandana wet and put it around your neck or wrap it around your forearm it will help circulate blood/oxygen. Also, it is pretty critical to carry a small umbrella (basic CVS umbrella) because if you hit extreme heat and cannot move it takes the sun off your heat and can lower the temperature about ten degrees around your face/neck.  I actually raised my umbrella to make it the last quarter mile into one town without which I simply would have collapsed.

     There are signs of heat stroke people should all become aware of.  Its a good idea to get a briefing by a nurse, doctor or other medical professional about heat stroke and other risks of injury before going and of course have your group sign medical liability waivers because medical risks are real. If you know what heat stroke looks like, you can help people about to really suffer before it gets too bad. One of the signs is sweating ice cold sweat. If you see someone like that they need water immediately and probably a spot of something to eat even if its just a cracker. I gave out chocolate cookies from a pack I got in Barcelona to people along the way who looked like they were going to collapse. People with european health cards can get treated for free and Americans or non europeans are charged out the nose for a visit to the Dr. One Australian recounted being charged about $100 for one doctor's visit and a prescription for something like ibupophrin (which you can get over the counter in Spain.) So if you can do basic first aid it saves a lot.

     I developed really nasty second degree sun burns on my upper chest and back and have to stay out of the sun totally for a few days now. I'll spare you all the hideous photos. I powered through until they were so badly blistering they were yellowing and bleeding in spots. Now I am chilling for a few days in a beautiful town. That brings me to the need to have the right clothing. Cotton does not protect from UV sunlight and white or lighter colors can cause the sun to reflect on your skin burning worse. The best clothing for walking is the microfibre polywear that is made by sports people like Adidas and Nike in darker colors. Cotton T shirts from Target are useless. Blisters on the feet are also extremely common. It is advised to wear longer socks (not golf peds) that go above any shoes you are wearing. Some people swear you need hiking boots and others prefer well ventilated good running shoes. My sneakers are holding up so far. One Irish guy swears that the best socks to wear are nylon half socks because they breath and dry easily when you are sweating so blisters don't form. There are Chinese import shops along the path that sell them for about 2 euros for a pack of 3.

     That is all for the basic body care information for now. The real meat of the Camino is the serendipitous experiences and encounters you have along the way and the interior heart work you do or that God does on you. Everyone is usually so encouraging "Buen Camino" (have a good Camino walk) is something everyone says when they pass each other. Everyone wishing everyone well and happy trails is a welcome change from life in law in DC.
     I have been impressed with how real certain Saints' help is from heaven, in an almost miraculous way. Of course that's why they are Saints-they make miracles from heaven. For example, in the pilgrim town where I am now there is a pilgrim church of Saint James (SanTiago) and a massive portrait of the Spanish Saint who was a lawyer named Jose Maria Escriva hanging in the Cathedral. He apparently found his vocation praying in that church when he practiced law in the city and enrolled in the city's Seminary. His presence is felt here. As the founder of Opus Dei, he is invoked by the Opus Dei Seminarians assisting in the Cathedral. I had a mini Opus Dei involved miracle just as I hit the town.  Thank you Jose Marie Escriva. One pilgrim remarked to me "he wants to be your friend."

   There are places to stay along the route in guest houses attached to cathedrals. I find that this is the best way to get the Camino experience because you pray with the other pilgrims and eat communally often in a meal together. There is an association of people who have completed the Camino called the Hospitaliers of the Camino who serve volunteering for weeks at a time at the cathedral guest houses. The guest houses charge nothing but ask for donations. In the Santiago de Real guest house in Logono there is a priest who takes special care of pilgrims who invites them to dinner, helps serve the dinner, then invites them into the church to pray evening prayers together in multiple languages. Its really beautiful. There is even a pilgrim song he taught the group.

   Accommodations in the cathedral guest houses are basic bunk beds with overflow sleeping on mats on the floor which are too thin to call mattresses. The people really serious about making as much good time as possible hit the road before its daylight because they don't want to walk in the sun- so they maneuver around bunk beds putting on their head lights like miners packing their back packs in the dark to hit the trails. They don't eat breakfast until they hit the next town.

   Bunk beds are also the experience in Alberges. Its like camp. This means you meet a lot of people and actually sleep in the same room. The upside is you meet wonderful people, pray together, and learn from each other. The downside is you hear loud snoring, people waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and if there is a foul spirited person it infects the whole room. You might not get the best rest that way- some have complained of being up all night because they couldn't go to sleep with all the snoring. Some people choose the private room route for a lot more money (imagine hotel bills of even 40 euros a night for a solid month). I was fortunate to get a private room for 25 euros to get a good night sleep with wifi and laundry service which is necessary to organize life once in a while. I will do that only a few times.

     The Camino makes one grateful for every small little thing. You take nothing about life for granted. You are constantly heartily thanking God for things like a public water fountain, a patch of grass, a shady pine tree or a bench. A friendly welcoming face in a cathedral guest house is a spot of heaven on earth. God bless all those hospitalier volunteers who for an evening manage to create an ambiance of Christian family around a communal table with blessed food.

     I am praying for an open sports store to get a new back pack to hit the road again soon. Please pray I find one. I'm not trying to come back crippled.
A wise pilgrim told me "its not a race" so I can rest for few days out of the sun while my burns heal.  You get no martyr points for being reckless or damaging yourself.  More happy Camino madness later.....

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Kindness of Strangers

Paying it Forward

   Last night at the Alberge I met a few wonderful people- an Evangelical Scottish protestant woman formerly an English teacher in a school in a Barcelona suburb, who interrogated me for two hours on why I am catholic which had me trying to explain how "this is my body" actually means "this is my body" and "do this in remembrance of me" doesn't negate "this is my body." Like, my actual real (maybe heavenly stem cells) heavenly body. Its all a mystery that one takes on faith but science cannot contradict it.  She took that passage in scripture that says basically take nothing with you...and has been singing busking for her lodging money. I felt compelled to give her any toiletries I had two of. You would have thought I just gave her a diamond when I handed her new deodorant she was so elated she couldn't stop thanking Jesus saying she was praying for that. Then she recounted everything God gave her on the journey which included her hiking boots and sun hat. When she runs out of busking money she sleeps outside which explains her bug bitten arms. One time she had to do it in the rain. Remarkably she is the most cheerful joyful person full of spiritually uplifting songs. She said God is working on her so he can use her in his homeless ministry in Barcelona where there is a massive homeless problem. The sleeping outside bit is building empathy she said. "I use to be such a Princess."
    Today she introduced me to a Mexican couple, one walking slowly with a bright red umbrella to protect from the heat and her husband who is expert at foraging. He climbed a fig tree by the roadside and extricated a few figs and gave us some. He found a tree that had cherry sized plums and filled a plastic bag full of them. My legal mind was going "doesn't someone own that tree?" I thought it would be a great idea for all cities to have fruit trees for foragers, but there is that rat problem in cities. He assured me that it was there for the public to eat if they needed. He climbed deep and high into the tree to get tons of fruit. I didn't want to eat any of those because it clearly looked like it was possibly someone's tree on private property. I would at least want to know if someone was planning on harvesting it for jam or something.
       I took it easy today because I am walking on a swollen (maybe sprained) ankle. I found the "donation" hostel in town which doesn't charge you but has a donation box. That is an amazing beautiful thing. Where is DC's? Thank you Jesus.
     If you are reading this please pray for me to get back into my ten mile a day gallop and that my ankle heals overnight. I am shivering crisp with sunburn.
     My tip of the day is if you get to Barcelona first go to the beach where you will see tons of southeast asian guys selling indian fabrics for beach blankets. Get one for the Camino. It comes in really handy and packs light. Sometimes the pilgrim places don't have bed top sheets.
   Found a Mass in this village at 7:00 pm. I hope I can find the church.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Happy Camino Trails

Except for that part where I almost died today.

No, really.

There are thousand year old cobblestone pathways on the Camino. They are jagged and irregular. Some are loose. I was walking down a steep cobblestone pathway that had a cliff on one side lined by rasberry bramble bushes full of thorns. One mis-step without a walking stick to balance lost my balance and with the weight of my backpack threw me headfirst into the bramble bushes where my weight with backpack sent me plummeting deep down the hill head first into bramble thorns.  There I was suspended over a cliff with nothing but latticed bramble bushes  to stop me from careening head first down a cliff. Absolutely the most terrifying moment of my life to date.

 Three people whose acquaintance I casually met earlier helped get me out - and it took about a half hour to figure how and get me out. One woman (a school teacher from the bronx) and a retired cop now living in Alaska and his son who just graduated from high school managed to, with a hiking pole get me turned around and up the hill. He kept saying we should call 211, but it would take a day for them to get there on a horse down the cobblestones. I was covered in bleeding scratches from head to legs. Then the retired school teacher helped me wash all the blood off my arms, legs and face applying neosporin antibacterial ointment from her handy first aid kit. When she got to my face dripping blood from my hairline (the brambles pulled my hair to shreds) she looked in my eyes and said softly "now you know a tiny bit how Jesus felt." Wow.  How many people do I get out of purgatory for offering that up? How does that work?

   Shaken I still had to walk to the next town for another hour and a half to get to the Auberge where I showered sweat and residual blood off.

  "Everything happens for a reason" the friend of one of the rescuers said to me. If only I knew what.

I walked a total of 20 kilometers today- about 12 miles. (Five kilometers is three miles).
I walked from 7:30 am till 12:30 when I had lunch for about a forty five minutes with another pilgrim from Sweden, then for another 3 hours where I had the tumble-and another hour and a half on an ankle which must have been sprained somewhere on the cobblestones because it is now the size of a golf ball.

I am still processing what this all means- to pass along dos and don'ts- always have a balance walking stick or pole, don't get dehydrated into weakness, take cobblestones gingerly, and stay away from the cliff sides. Aside from that- its good to make friends along the path of life- you would be dead without them. No one can save themselves alone.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Dios Bendiga Cade Rincon de Esta Casa-Camino Life Lessons

God Bless Every Corner of this House.

    That was above the door of my Auberge today. I prefer Auberge to "hostel" because they are much nicer. This one is a B and B and serves breakfast. It has Spanish flair in the tile work and stone flooring with massive antique chandeliers in the hall. A man from Venezuela greeted me with a glass of water and olives.

   Today's walk was beautiful and brutal. I put on slightly wet clothes from the night before's hand washing, knowing the heat would dry them and I would be less sweltering. By 10:30 am the sun is full force. I walked for about 8 hours which is pretty good for the first real full day.

    I passed tall periwinkle summer wildflowers in a beautiful meadow, and bushes that looked like thistle bushes as tall as I am. I was reminded of my grandparents Indian Lake house that had periwinkle wildflowers all around in Pennsylvania. This is  just south of France. Imagine a thistle that grows as tall as you are.  I passed postcard picture perfect sunflower fields where 7 foot tall sunflowers were baking and smiling at the pilgrims. Now I know why people come in July. Everything is at its unharvested peak glory. I passed long unharvested wheat fields.  I had only seen photos of the sort of full wheat before (or a few stalks in vases in churches) so I had to grab a head of a stalk and study it. "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never hunger. " Imagining apostles eating wheat on their travels I pinched some kernels from their hulls and ate them.

     There was a long steep incline hill to a spectacular vista. At points during the long hike uphill carrying my backpack in the heat I thought I would not make it. "He who turns back is not worthy of the kingdom" came to me. A Japanese young man offered to fill my water bottle with his larger thermos. I was so grateful. When we got to the top of the hill there was a truck where one could by fruit so I bought an orange we split. I also met an American man named John and his 15 year old daughter Jesse who was teaching her life lessons on the trip like-just when you think you can't make it and are about to cave in, a ray of sunlight, refreshing winds and level ground greets you. This was true today as I started teetering from the heat I hit a patch where the wind was blowing over a tiny stream. Thank you Holy Spirit for the wind.

    While the uphill climb was exhausting, the downhill to the next village was brutal. It was a steep slope covered in large rocks. I don't mean pebbles. I mean fist sized rocks such that it was an obstacle course dodging rocks in how not to turn out your ankle. With a heavy back pack pushing you forward down a hill where you are dodging the larger rocks to steady footing on rocks that are moving beneath your feet it was slightly terrifying. I had to take several breaks and moved very slowly. The people who were doing the best had walking sticks which for that part was mandatory. I wish I knew. When I saw the serious hikers with two walking sticks I thought that was a little extreme. Show off. Now I know how essential it is in going down a very perilous steep slope with rocks. When I saw that hill i thought-you have to be kidding me-this would not be allowed to even exist in America because its a lawsuit waiting to happen. Someone is bound to fall or sprain their ankle. I landed hard the wrong way on mine but thank you Jesus this didn't seem to do much damage because I could walk it out without any pain.

So lesson No. 1 of the day-if you are bringing a group to the Camino, especially with older people, walking sticks are mandatory. The kind that look like ski poles at sporting goods stores with rubber tips work the best to grip the ground. Professional hikers know what they are doing. In fact if I were taking a group I would insist people have to have them (I want to say as a basic liability precaution because I am a lawyer and think like that.)

I passed a beautiful roadside church where I prayed for people on my list. There was a massive carved painted wooden altar piece with an image of Christ on the Cross in this chapel that was unbelievably beautiful. I also passed a statue of the Madonna and a large iron cross with the Camino shell emblem in the center along the route. I suppose that is supposed to evoke an image that we share in the suffering of Christ. Not sure how that works when your suffering is self inflicted!

I can basically read Spanish with a dictionary and am picking up vocabulary here and there. It should be a mandatory class in American elementary schools because 20 percent of the country is Spanish speaking and the larger Spanish speaking world is vast and beautiful.

Every Spanish person I met has been without exception extremely gracious and hospitable. I have been called "bonita" more times than I can count- I have been offered water and a place to rest and pray. People on the Camino look for opportunities to share and bless people. I was delighted to give an extra phone charger to a Norwegian young woman who lost hers.

 Faith in humanity restored.  I am reminded of the jingle that I learned on a mission in the Dominican Republic with Presbyterian Missionaries "Mi Dios est muy grande, muy fuerte et podoroso, no hay nada que no puedo hacer"(My God is very big, very strong and powerful and there is not anything he cannot do." Amen.

So I am going to be bold in my prayers. God please give me an advance on a book deal  for my birthday:-)



Saturday, July 08, 2017

Pilgrims Pratice Tips.

    Barcelona is the heart and soul of Iberia. Its a vibrant, multicultural, blend of past and modernity with deep religious references. Its now one of my and Ernest Hemmingway's favorite cities. The three must see Cathedrals in the City are the Sagrada Familia (thank you Captain Obvious), the city's main Cathedral and the Saint Maria del Mar- Saint Mary by the Sea (the Med.)  I posted some photos on Facebook. Pilgrimmage electronics/loading/bandwith are a bit challenging so more photos are going to appear on Facebook than on here. I hope to put them all in a book one day.

   If visiting Montserrat I highly recommend staying in a small town (sort of a suburban enclave) in between Montserrat and Barcelona center city called Sabadell. Its the Bethesda of Barcelona only not as many restaurants (kind of industrial) (There are train stops for Sabadell Sud, Centre and Nord)- and an ApartHotel Terassa in the Nord part  (french style studio apartments in a hotel complex). I booked this cheapie one on Hotwire and found three beds in the room (two King size, one twin) so for the ridiculous price of $57 a night including hotel tax I could have put a family or half a boy scout troop or 3 seminarians in this ApartHotel. (for under $15. a piece a night). This Aparthotel is on the same train line of Monastorio Montserrat from where one gets the funicular incline up the hill to the famous Benedictine Monastery which has the Black Madonna that inspired the conversion of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. (Replica in the church of St. Ignatius of Loyola in NYC). One of the most brilliant modern of statues of Ignatius of Loyola is in the church of Santa Maria del Mar.

   Barcelona attracts people from everywhere and there is an element. Something I bought which was hanging in a plastic bag from my purse had a mysterious slash in the bottom with the contents missing and It happened without my noticing. One is told there is a serious pickpocket element there.
In future I won't carry anything in a plastic bag around town. Too easy.

   The midnight bus to Pamplona is 28 Euros. There is only one bus daily and its the overnight bus that leaves at 10:30 pm and takes 6 hours.  Pamplona is a Spanish starting point for the French Camino route.  Lucky me, my timing was such that I landed on day 2 of the famous Fete of San Fermin aka the Running with the Bulls where a city of 200,000 people host over a million people coming to partake of the festival. Note to file, read Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises." The bus arrived at the main station in Pamplona which was lined with people in the mandatory white pants and shirt and a splash of red (for the martyr San Fermin) in a scarf tied about the neck. Wandering outside the town were teeming youth awake tottering from the night of revelry with what can only be described as catholic boys gone wild-because every sort of debauched revelry could be seen en plein air. People were making out, dancing in the streets with bottle in hand singing loudly in a manner that would put a British soccer match to shame. From about daybreak to 8:00 when the bulls run into the stadium as people watch from every balcony en route to be poked and slashed after goring a few people who dare think they can outrun them, who have to be carted out in Ambulances (two Americans died from Bull goring the day before which makes an interesting death certificate-death by Bull goring), city street cleaners have the herculean task of getting rid of piles of plastic debris, broken bottles in hosed down rivers of piss and vomit. I saw no less than five people pissing against buildings and statuary walking around. This would never happen in America. This happens every night and morning for a week in Pamplona. They start drinking beer and hard liquor at 8:00 am and don't let up.

   I don't recommend arriving in Pamplona during this Festival (while it makes interesting street fair market window shopping) if your goal is the Camino because the usual places to get Pilgrim Passports for the Camino de Santiago de Compostello are all closed for the week.  It took forever to figure out how to get the passport credentials, which one needs to get into the cheapie hostels along the way. After asking clueless shopkeepers I found an information tourist center who gave vague if not useless directions. I went to the only place where they could be issued: the actual House of the Archbishop next to the main Cathedral in town. This gave me an opportunity to catch a Mass at the Cathedral which had the most divine singing by priests and monks who treat the Festival of San Fermin as a religious fete. It started out that way. Mandatory incensing of the statute of San Fermin mid Mass said-this guy was important leading me to wonder:

   Who is San Fermin? This drove me to the googler and wikipedia (Trump's favorite legal authority). And I learned that  he was a convert who became a priest and Bishop. He was martyred in Amiens France (where the current French President is from.) I have a new friend in heaven. That's why everyone is wearing a red scarf (red for martyrdom not for bull taunting). Why Bulls? Apparently his mentor, a close friend was also martyred by tying his feet together to a bull who dragged him to his death. Its been Saint Fermin's vengeance on the species ever since. Thus the sport of taunting and killing Bulls in the name of Saint Fermin. Anti-Bull racism running rampant, you could say. The blood of the martyrs is the unlimited cerveza of the church-or something.

   After no sleeping on a bus all night, walking around wooden bull barriers to make it to Mass and walking about ten miles past the University of Navarro down beautiful grassy tree lined countryside  I landed at an Auberge with wifi (hence I can make this post).  I was at that point near heat stricken with the weight of my backpack crushing bones In my feet I feared. I am clearly not in shape for this adventure. My deeply sedentary legal job did not prepare me for this. There are serious athletic hikers here. One should seriously train. I make no excuse for being almost 57 (birthday on July 24-the vigil of the Feast of Saint James in Compostello-hence the call of the wild). There are older people here. You can do the entire Camino from Pamplona on a bike in about 15 days. Walking it takes a month.

   I don't recommend going in July (I have a break in contract projects so the timing worked for me but in future would turn it down in July) because of the oppressive heat/humidity and because everything is four times as expensive during the July-August period. A hostel normally 3 Euros is 12. If you walk for a month it ads up to the price of an studio apartment in DC just for lodging. Then there is food because its hard to keep up the stamina without eating, and emergency transport should you actually drop of heat stroke on the "way." I am doing a lot of "offering up" and hope I am getting hordes out of purgatory but somehow think this self inflicted penance isn't helping.

   This is an enormous exercise in trusting God for guidance and miracles. He hasn't let me down yet while there have been some brief very scary heart palpitating moments. My bad pidgeon Spanish is enough to get me the basics but its woefully deficient for an actual conversation.  One of my goals is to get the proper training to be able to speak fluently.  My excuse is that catholic charities has already trained me as an asylum attorney and I should be able to speak real spanish for the Central American clients.
I find more French, Irish, Italians, Polish and Americans at the Auberge. Also, Spanish speakers want to impress you with their English.  God, are you sure you wouldn't just prefer I take a class?



   (If you are enjoying these travelogues and tips I encourage you to throw paypal bucks to so I can keep doing this. If people show appreciation it encourages me to keep writing, hopefully soon a book and keeps me from sleeping in the mountains. In search of a sugar daddy I don't have to sleep with ;-) Living on air a prayer and a vending machine dinner ;-)

Friday, July 07, 2017

Prayer, Penance, Pilgrims

and Pizza.

   I started out my journey on WOW air with a ridiculously expensive mid air Margherita Pizza and instantly regretted it.

   If you follow this blog I am going to give you tips on navigating Spain particularly if you are interested in going on the pilgrimage walk of the Camino de Santiago de Compostello.  I am going the cheapest way possible and will provide tips on economy travel.

  Then I landed in Barcelona and its now my happy place. A two day metro ticket is the best way to have unlimited metro travel around the city. The metro is convenient, more modern and clean than New York's system.

The Sagrada Familia is amazing.
Note to file- book tickets on line in advance of going-they sold out for the day by 2:00 pm to get inside and for security reasons you need to get a ticket and cannot just walk in. The main Cathedral in Barcelona you can pay at the door without any problem-a 7 Euro ticket to gets you in (might be different if a Mass is going on) but it is well worth it because it is absolutely magnificent- with unbelievable art in the chapels. Stunningly beautiful. The choir stalls with all the family shields is magnificent. The cloister walk surrounds a pond with many swimming swans. Yes, live swans. So beautiful. A must see. The Cathedral is in the old part of town with narrow shop lined streets. There is a main tourist information center near it.

  I am off to the Camino de Santiago de Compostello. I get started in Pamplona soon where I am told I get a passport that gets stamped along the way. Please pray I don't get run over by any Bulls- it is the Feast of St. Fermin (note to file-google who the St. Fermin is an what the heck he has to do with being run over by the bulls used in the bull fighting) where the healthy men of the town run with bulls and get periodically trampled and gored. Somehow I think Saint Fermin is spinning in his grave.

   For those who don't know Saint James is allegedly buried headless in a tomb in the town Basillica of Compostello. Where is his head I wonder? There are probably three of them in Rome. I once ran into a local from Compostello who said actually he probably isn't in there but its a good enough ruse to get tourist traffic from conned pilgrims. I was undeterred by the skeptic. Its a Faith Journey.

   I am going to try to keep my sense of humor while sweating it out and bunking with hundreds of other pilgrims in open hostels, washing clothes on a rock like a cave woman and eating herbs along the way. If I can grab mass at local churches I will be insanely happy.

Please pray for me- if you email or facebook comment me I will pray for your needs as well.

Pictures to follow when internet connections permit. I may also be posting some on facebook. I am keeping a journal so i can share more details later.



Monday, October 24, 2016

The Fierce Urgency of Yesterday: Mental Health Parity - Patrick Kennedy, Former U.S. Congressman

Patrick Kennedy,  Newt Gingrich and Van Jones spoke today at AEI on the Mental Health Parity Act on the need to create a paradigm shift in thinking of addiction issues as mental health brain injury issues- which have to be paid for treating just like any other chronic illness. Illnesses of the brain are no different than any other bodily injury.  They are biomedical in nature and deserve non judgmental treatment options. Addictions can be treated medically.  There are drugs that can wean people off addictive drugs. They argued for a 13 step process- all the12 step spiritual work isn't to be discounted but for some it isn't enough-they need the 13th step of medical correction to reconfigure the neuroplastic brain from the injury.

We wait till there is a crisis before you trigger insurance reimbursement mechanisms typically but the law now says you have to have treatment paid for by the insurance companies before crisis- at the stage where it is manifesting at all. You don't wait until someone needs their legs amputated before treating diabetes, you should not have to wait to get reimbursement for brain injury addictions before someone ODs or is getting the drug to bring them back from a near death overdose experience.

    The cost of not treating mental illness is so high to society in terms of jails, ERs, and homeless care which should be better allocated to getting the care that people need before jail, the ER or they are on the street. This is a seriously huge issue that affects Veterans particularly as they struggle witih all the PTSD related mental health challenges of addictions, suicides, homelessness, joblessness, etc. We would be spending much more wisely on treatment before crisis hits.  It would cost society much less.

     The strangest bedfellows today at AEI- the American Enterprise Institute, Gingrich, Jones and Kennedy all agreed that you should not look at health care of the body with the brain siloed. Gingrich particularly noted that we didn't know enough about how the brain worked until relatively recently because you could not study a live brain without current technologies- medicine only studied from dead people's brains. Now we know so much more and there are drug treatments that can get people off addictive drugs that should be covered better than the old standard two week rehab stint.

    The debate over whether addiction is a moral character flaw as opposed to a pure biochemical event is one that will continue, argued Kennedy. People will continue to look at someone as a character failure if they keep ODing time and time again.   But we need to enforce laws that now are on the books in which it is clear that brain injuries attendant to addictions have to be given the same insurance coverage as any bodily disease or injury.

    This event was a model in cordiality where both sides of a contentious political divide are trying to come together to create solutions that will help people where they live because they are dying at such a rate that Patrick Kennedy was passionately arguing about people's need to get off the dime and do something about this.  Its the No. 1 political issue in New Hampshire because people are dying at a catastrophic rate.   Hats off to all of them. What are the next steps and how can we all help?   I guarantee that if you are reading this you know someone who knows someone whose life has been dramatically affected by someone they love with an addiction.

Hacking Democracy - The Hack

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Who invited you in

To police a No Fly Zone?

   One of the scariest things about the third debate was not Trumps coif which looked surprisingly natural.
It was Hillarys insistence on her wanting to police a No Fly Zone in Syria.
First, should we remind you- that's not your country and not your business.
We are engaged in a proxy war provoking Russians in a place we have absolutely no business.
Oh wait-apparently we do- because Assad vetoed the oil/gas pipeline that we want to have business running, and so we think that America now has a God given right to push around whatever Middle Eastern dictator gets in the way of our oil and gashole industrial colonizers.

As Denis someone who last ran the State of Ohio has pointed out on Faceback and elsewhere, America policing a no fly zone in Syria is the surest way to WWIII one could engineer. As if the Russians are not ticked off enough already moving their entire air craft carrier fleet into the English Channel as we speak. Scared yet ?? You should be. Because the White Pants Suit looks less like the Jeddi Warrier wardrobe than the scam artistry of Bennie Hinn who promises America it will be healed if it only allows Saudis to keep paying hundreds of millions into my family fund by midnight. That and a prayer cloth thank you will get you into heaven. She promises.

Cheater-In-Chief and the great Rig of 2016.

Press Intimidation and the demise of the Rule of Law

     This election has proved to be one of the filthiest in modern memory and I am not just talking about Bill Clinton's sordid past and reported present which involves everything from underaged sex, assault, and rape as well as the documented oral office sex and sexual harassment he paid off over 800,000 to make go away.  The election is filthy in its violation of election laws, rules and overt rigging that likes of which we only previously imagined could happen which now apparently is textbook.

   The DNC has been caught openly rigging it against Bernie who inexplicably found himself against his word bought off prior to the convention ending his so called 'revolution' in a sputter of sychophantic hyperbole against the Trump monster who ate Manhattan. The DNC is documented now providing debate questions through Donna Brazille to Hillary, they have been documented paying thug mercenary agitators to play "bird-dogging" games against Trump supporters to incite violence that Hillary could false flag blame on Trump, and they have apparently registered over 18 million phantom people, some of whom are dead Republicans.

  These people are cheaters and liars on a scale that would make the Mob look like a Sunday school class.

Press intimidation with the entire NY Press corp licking the corrective shoes of Hillary with such meanness that they overlook things like the long list of dead people associated with her, including a former lover lawyer she dragged to DC, a DNC worker, numerous Clinton body guards reportedly ferrying his whores to and from him, and other witnesses under supboena. Anyone remember former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and a mysterious bullet hole to his head in a downed plane crash?

   The lying cheating history of the moral reprobate running as God's gift to women is so crafted in the art of (finger scratch to the upper lip queue the question) cheating it would be out of character for her not to rig the election.

That is why it behooves Trump to now get busy hiring the best brightest election protection election fraud litigators in the country to litigate every single act and violation of election law post election, and gather affidavits of people observing any vote tallying switching on electronic voting machinery.

He needs to pay them real lawyer money and he needs to get a law firm sized staff together now.

We have seen the Clintons prove themselves the greatest threat to the Rule of Law in America since its founding wherein the rich get off with pretty much anything and the poor schlubs with only a few stars on their lapels  go to the brig for national security breaches and lying to Congress. We have seen an Attorney General shaking in her boots after an impromptu meeting with the husband of someone under FBI investigation that caused the entire thing to fold and be quashed in a whimper. We have seen a "charity" take bribe money in violation of every anti-bribery federal statute while the Secretary of State auctioned off State Foreign policy to anyone with a few mil who paid her cold cash into her family fund. We have seen a Secretary of State sell arms in the billions to Saudis knowing they are mere intermediaries who turn around and give it to Hezbollah attacking Israel and ISIS attacking Assad because Assad got in the way of oil and gas interests in vetoing a pipeline. Do you wonder why all the senior Bushs are backing this democrat? Look no further than the oil and gas interests they are trying to profit by knocking off Asad even when it causes her to back and arm a group of people committing genocide against Christians in the worst most hideously gruesome human rights violations that ever existed bar none. If Hillary were such a feminist you would think she would care more about Yazidi and Christian women being raped, and children fed to their mothers in a rice pilaf.

The Foreign policy of this administration engineered by Hillary at the outset has been inept, confused, and protecting oil and gas profit interests disguised as humanitarian efforts in a sham deception run on public opinion to mobilize support. The Libya invasion was to protect against a central African currency under which their oil would be traded, not in US dollars and to protect french interests in a water desalination monopoly, with express CIA backed gun running out the back door of the Benghazi consulate which cost an Ambassador his life while she shamefully sat on over 600 requests for security.

Syria proxy wars are all about oil and gas pipelines wth the added benefit of throwing the Israeli border threats into perpetual internal war chaos to weaken their threat against Israel. This all of course has the effect of Russians, who with Iran backing Assad  making nuclear noises at our door (and literally in the English Channel mobilizing their fleet.) Hillary's inept irresponsible flatly stupid approach to the Middle East has caused the most serious tensions with Russia since the Cold War.

And because everyone pretty much more or less knows it, she has to rig it to win it- and that is exactly what they are planning on doing by hook and by crook.  And do you know who lets them get off that hook and a free pass with pile on after pile on of abusive verbal attacks against anyone who figured their game out? The Not Very Free Press.

Thursday, September 08, 2016


Dear Mrs. Clinton:
Hillary: You know and I know
that there are people for whom truth is relative and only applies when it works for them and doesn't when it doesn't and that you are such a person. You excuse lying for what is in your mind a higher purpose.

 You know and I know that there are people whose ambition does not match their competency level and who blame subordinates for their F-ups to make themselves look good and you are such a petty person.

You know and I know that when backed in a corner and the fans aren't adulating that you turn nasty and act sh^&tty which makes you a pretty bad diplomat or negotiator.

 You know and I know that when you told that distinguished gentleman last night who said he would have ...had his security clearance revoked, been fired and jailed for doing what you did that "you know and I know.." and rattled on about the classified headers that you yourself were a security designator and supposed to know what was classified and top secret and made such markings "C" on documents yourself. 

You know and I know that the practiced deflection (debate stunt trick when accused of something) of "you know and I know" to make anyone accusing you look like the liar that you are is a masterful deflection but you are nonetheless an extremely perverse liar who tries to make other people look bad to cover your gross deficiencies and self justify.

You know and I know that you and your husband's herculean scam act with the Foundation has you running at cross purposes of US National Security and Israeli security often including selling arms to Saudis who fund Hezbollah, missile technology to China and nuclear grade uranium to Russians when they trade to Iran while under our sanctions. Unbelievable.

 You know and I know that you would be a complete disaster as the President because you would sell out the country in a heartbeat and have in part already. Just like your husband set up the financial collapse with the revocation of protections against the banking/securities fiasco we experienced under Bush you would for your profit set up through your back door arms dealing the greatest catastrophe against Americans to ever befall the country if it paid well enough.

Finally Hillary,  You know and I know people who wouldn't work for you if it was the only job in town--including me.  And it doesn't even matter what the definition of "is" is anymore.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Turned Tide

Donald Trump today gave a Presidential address on Military Readiness and "Peace Through Strength"  at the Union League in Philadelphia. It turned the tide of his campaign. He looks the better Commander in Chief with comprehensive backing of hundreds of military higher brass standing with him in signed statements and pledges and affirmations of support.

"Nothing threatens the integrity of our Democracy like when government officials put their office up for sale." Donald Trump.Philadelphia Union League, September 7, 2016

The latest revelations about Hillary instructing IT scrub with bleachbit her server and obstruction of justice while under Congressional subpoena and bold faced lying to the American people, the FBI and the Congress is disqualifying- and obnoxious.

In a binary world one should vote for Trump.
In a true Democracy we would not be in a binary world and I applaud those trying to crack it into more opportunity.