losing what little grasp of reality I still had, while God was quietly laughing

focus on where you want to go, not where you are

You‘ve got a plan? Really?

Good luck with that.

When I was a teenager, my only two goals in life were not to be an alcoholic like my dad and to avoid English teaching.

Like my mom.

Guess what.

Since moving back to Germany in 2001, after living here as a small child, and finding out my clarinet playing wasn’t an option anymore (the Germans play a different system of clarinet apparently), I had to find a new career.

And start drinking, of course.

When in doubt, drinking is always an option. It takes the edge off. Makes you tolerable. Made me tolerable, at least. Or so I’m told.

Until it didn’t.

About to celebrate another not drinking anniversary and to be blunt, it’s about the best decision I’ve made up until now.

Not judgmental about others and their drinking, at least I try not to be, but for me it just wasn’t working anymore. I was losing what little grasp of reality I still had.

While God looked on. Quietly.

Now? My relationship with reality? Not so good.

As my alcoholic dad used to say:

‘Oh well.’

I wasn’t going to write about this, but then I read something and it touched me.

At that point I thought, ‘Oh, jeez. Am I really going to blather on about something as dreary and boring as how I used to be?’

Apparently I am.

I drank so poorly while back in Texas, that I was banned from quite a few of my favourite drinking establishments.

After driving my 1985 diesel Daimler into the front of a cafe in the Montrose, I apparently offended some of the patrons, as well as a friend of the owner.

A few months later, that same friend happened to be drinking at Valhalla, on the campus of Rice University, and announced in a loud voice as I entered, ‘If that guy’s allowed to drink here, I’m leaving.

Notorious isn’t the right word.

Sad.

I was sad. And sad to watch, purportedly.

As my car deteriorated, while parked in the Fiesta parking lot at W. Alabama and Dunlavy, my closest friends drove by and often considered how I could be helped.

I couldn’t be.

Their help I wanted was for them to spot me a tenner, so I could get some Shiner Bock and a fifth of whiskey.

Incorrigible.

Hopeless.

Without a rudder.

Back to how I began this whole thing.

My plan?

Not to start drinking again, that’s for damned sure.

I’ve been trying for nearly twenty years to move past English teaching as a job thing.

Have worked as a translator, journalist, Texter (as the Germans call a copywriter), dog trainer, babysitter, patent law clerk, stage hand, personal coach and I even spent a few hours doing Premier League colour commentary for an online betting company.

That was a lot of fun, to be honest.

All of it while not drinking.

Now?

I get gigs for translation, and at this point the odd opportunity to write an article comes along rarely.

An editor reaches out and asks if I can write about Pegida or some such nonsense — I always try to be available for such things. They normally fall apart before they ever get out out of the negotiation stage.

Am I difficult? I don’t think I am.

Ask my wife.

Wait, don’t ask her.

Ask my dog instead. She thinks I’m great.

Or she used to, I should say.

Some unemployed people say they’re ‘between jobs’.

Instead, I’m between dogs.

It’s miserable.

So? What’re you gonna do?

Good question.

You tell me.

Maybe write a book. Who would even want to read such a thing?

Maybe go back to northern Spain to walk the Jakobsweg.

Perhaps Miriam, the progeny, our new dog, and I should just go permanently back to our place in Italy and just enjoy the good life.

Make a plan and God laughs.

Sometimes louder than other times.

Can you hear him laughing now.

Softly.

Faintly.

It’s there if you listen.

He’s got quite a sense of humour, that God.

I don’t put anything past him.

That God.

Dreaming of the Camino de Santiago and how I got into pilgrims or pilgrimages

Good morning Zirndorf

We’ve been all over for the holidays, but we’re finally headed home to Munich today.

Any of you remember my writings/photos from the Camino de Santiago several years back? It was a pivotal moment or set of moments in my life & I’ve not even walked the whole Camino.

As I said then, finishing the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain isn’t the point. Not at all. It’s a lifelong journey.

My mother gave me a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress when I was young, and since then I’ve been obsessed with pilgrims & pilgrimages. Then I studied English literature in college & of course we spent an inordinate amount of time on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. As one does.

So, then I married a woman from Franken, or Franconia if you prefer, and it just so happens there’s a lot of Jakobsweg related stuff, which is what the Germans call the Camino, in this region of northern Bavaria.

We went to Weihenzell earlier today. It’s one of the many Wallfahrtskirchen, which is a word I’ve got no idea how to translate. I was up late & didn’t get enough sleep. Maybe I’ll edit this later. Maybe not.

I’m in full holiday mode can barely string two coherent thoughts together. Here’s a photo of the church. Of course it wasn’t open.

Oh well.

try to encapsulate the Camino in a few short moments of chit chat

a pilgrim daydreaming of the comfort of his armchair
 Not sure where I heard it, but it’s been said that you have a short window of opportunity in which people want to hear about your holidays. 

After ‘How was your break? You were in Spain weren’t you?‘, there’s a few moments where you can share generally, before the conversation moves on to what’s been going on in your absence. Or the news of the day or whatever you might normally talk about. 

Of course close friends might be different, and if you had some earth-shattering news to tell, people might perk up and give you a bit more leeway. However, when I think about what I was doing last week, and I try to encapsulate that in a few short moments of chit chat, I find myself sputtering out banalities. 

It was great,’ I reply. ‘Yes, Spain. Northern Spain – flew into Bilbao and then walked along the Camino de Santiago for a week. 

‘No, I didn’t do the whole thing. That’d take six weeks or so, and I just didn’t have that kind of time.’

Then back to daily life. That’s just how it is. To be expected, even. Life moves on. 

The thing is: I do have this blog and this is as good a place as any to leave my impressions from my limited time on the Camino. It wasn’t easy blogging while actually there, so I took photos and wrote down impressions as I was going. Fully intending to keep talking about it long after I returned. 

The photo above is a pilgrim imagining the comfort of home, which made me smile as I saw it while lugging my pack. That night as I was icing my swollen foot and uploading that photo, I was already quite aware that I was going to miss the simplicity of the Camino upon returning to the day to day. 

I walked around my adopted hometown today, as Munich came to life with the bustle of locals and tourists alike. Someone in Spain told me about his having walked the Jakobsweg, which is what the Germans call this pilgrimage – it’s German for the Way of St. James  – from somewhere in the former Yugoslavia. That’s purportedly the ancient way, from what he said. 

There’s a route that goes through the Bavarian Alps, as well. I’m already imagining taking a week sometime and following the way markers toward the French border. Maybe I’ll even take my dogs and see how manageable it is to find a place to stay along the way where they’d also be welcome. 

In the meantime, I’m looking at photos that remind me of some of my better moments following The Way and I’m doing my best to bring the best of that Spirit to my daily life here back at home. 

Here’s one of the only photos I have of me while I was out there:

Walking down the road…or getting ready to

Camino symbol

When I first started hiking here in the German Alps, I kept seeing that symbol above. ‘What is that?‘ I’d ask.

Oh, it’s the Jakobsweg.

Huh? What’s the Jakobsweg?

You know, it’s a pilgrimage. One of the oldest ones in Europe, I think. Many people walk it.

Now that I know a bit more about it, I can tell you: some English names for it are The CaminoThe Road to Santiago, The Way of St James or St James’s Way depending on your preference.

The long and short of it is that I’ve said for years, ‘I want to go do that someday.‘ There was a German bestseller about walking the route (the name of the book I won’t bother mentioning), and although the Jakobsweg was already very popular hereabouts, it suddenly became even more so.

Then I saw the Emilio Estevez movie ‘The Way‘ (starring his father Martin Sheen), and not long after that I was asked if I wanted to come along and do some Walking Down the Road. Yes, I did.

I still do.

There’s a lot that goes into planning such a thing, and the more I read about it, the more out of my depths it seems I am. However, there seem to be plenty of folk who do this and they seem to do it and even make it back somehow.

To be clear up front: I’m not even planning on walking the whole thing. My intention is to get a taste for it, and from what I understand: once I do, I’ll definitely want to go again.

I’ve been alternating between obsessing about which shoes I’ll wear and imagining how delicious the Tapas in Logroño are. Already, I’ve decided I’ll be documenting as much of it here as I can.

Not just the actual walking of The Camino, but I intend to blather on about the preparation and I suspect I might find myself contemplating what it meant to me long after I get back home.

Like I said, I’ve still got to decide on footwear. Here’s a photo of me taking one pair out for a test drive. I’m pretty sure you’ll be seeing plenty more of this sort of thing in the foreseeable future. Something tells me you can hardly wait.

Camino prep stuff