IN THIS BLOG–I REMINISCE ABOUT MY WALK ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO A YEAR AGO
Written December 14, 2011
I look at the notes I entered a year ago and don’t find much: ’14 diciembre–To Madrid again to get my foot treatment. Fernando, the same guy who worked at the Dr. Scholl’s locations on Gran Via and Puerta del Sol, is now on Calle Pez off Noviciado Metro stop. I am glad I made the appointment because they are busy. He greets me and immediately launches into a complicated narrative of how he traveled to Istanbul; he tells me of his adventures; I tell him of mine. Before we begin, as soon as I take off my socks, he gasps to see my red nail polish. No, no, no. He exclaims. I can’t do it. Porque? I ask. He explains that they don’t have nail polish remover so he cannot proceed with the treatment. But, he has a solution: I can buy nail polish remover [(quitaesmalte) from the nearby pharmacy.” That’s it! Not much more. But, I did a bit of editing to insert the entry here; it was even more sketchy. I must’ve been very tired, because I remember that it was a full day of adventure and insights.
According to Fernando a good pedicure is essential before embarking on the Camino. He told me about how he knew many people who had walked the Camino and ruined their feet. I remembered Esther’s toe nails. He confirmed that it could happen to anyone, especially if they wore the wrong shoes. He then shared how although he loves to travel and had been to Greece and was just back from Istanbul, he would never walk any of the Caminos. According to him, it was just too much trouble, and he hates the thought of having to sleep in the same room with strangers, “smelly strangers, snoring strangers!” He makes a face. Fuchi! Of course, he says that if one has money, well, there are hostales, hotels, and even paradores or casas rurales where a pilgrim can rest and sleep alone with all the comforts of home. Maybe he would do it that way. He also warns of chinches, the bed bugs, that everyone has been telling me do not exist in the winter; he’s not so sure. “Ten cuidado” he warns, a pointed index finger extended towards my face. I smile and wonder how it will be for me. Will I sleep with smelly strangers? Will I find bedbugs? Will I sleep in nice hotels? Will my feet survive? I tell him about moleskin; he has a similar product that he recommends and also tells me that I can always use the old-fashioned method to burst blisters with a needle or a straight pin. I cringe. But, I won’t get any blisters, I affirm. He smiles knowingly.
He continues massaging my feet, claims that they are in terrific shape…for my age. He sees a lot of feet! He knows! Then he changes and begins to give me some advice about buying tea tree oil for what he sees is the beginning of a fungus–I frankly can’t see it, and there was no sign of any such, or at least nothing was mentioned by the Vietnamese manicurist who gave me the pedicure in San Antonio about a month before. I promise him that I will buy the tea tree oil and treat it. He also suggests that I come back for a treatment when I return from the walk. I don’t commit; “Ya veremos,” (We’ll see), I pay and we say good bye with two kisses–one on each cheek, as is customary. Nos despedimos. He had never done that before; perhaps he’s feeling chummy since I’ve now come to him a total of 4 times over a period of about 5 years.
I walk out into the grey Madrid afternoon and decide that the weather will not dampen my mood and I will walk around Sol and Plaza Mayor before heading back to Atocha to take the train. I decide that this will be my walking for the day. I walk for two, almost three hours; I go into Corte Inglés, the department store in Sol looking for the slippers that I still don’t have and a rain hat. But they are too expensive and not quite what I am looking for. The slippers are leather and cost 50 Euros! No. I will wait to find the right ones. I keep walking and the shop windows decked out for Christmas scream out for attention: Santa Clauses–a male, a female and even a child! And of course, the Nativity!
I take to Metro to Atocha and head back to Toledo. Dinner is waiting. Lisa cooks healthy meals and it is a treat to have such good cheese, such fresh salads! I make a manzanilla tea and check my e-mail. All is well at home. At school. Then we walk about a block to Teatro Rojas for a movie. Can’t recall the title, but I enjoyed it. After a hot shower I go to bed and read La Lacuna for a bit. Then fall asleep to dreams of the Camino. Can’t recall what the dreams were about. I didn’t jot them down in my librito. Can’t decide whether I will take the little black mole skin notebook with me or not-a gift from Cordy, my doctoral student who is a brand new assistant professor at Texas Tech. I treasure such libritos where I jot down dreams, events, sketch short stories, plays, draft poems. But, for the Camino, I really want the experience to be as pure and unadulterated as possible–keeping a journal, writing it all down may interfere with my experiencing it all at a visceral level. I want to be present and not be focused on a once-removed experience by writing it down.
Obviously, I did keep a log of the trip. But, I will wait to write about how that decision came about on the anniversary of when I made the decision. For now, on the 14 of December, 2011, a rainy but warm day in San Antonio (it was 70 degrees F!), I reminisce. Earlier tonight, I had dinner with the Sarita Montiel Fan Club–a group of students who took my Spain course a few years ago; we remember our stay in Toledo and laugh at the way it was for Jenni, the vegan in the group, who could eat nothing but spaghetti at Palacios, the restaurant where the students get their one daily meal in the plan. We are momentarily transported back to Teatro Rojas where we saw Sarita Montiel, the octogenarian who is still belting out her famous songs, La Violetera, Fumando Espero and many more. It was a memorable night and we commemorate it with our sporadic gatherings over dinner.