Sunday, August 31, 2014

From Bourbon Street to Las Rambles Part Four Pamplona as the Trail Reminds You of What You Have and Where You Come from

Images of Cervantes, Papa Hemingway in Pamploaa, a map, and ghosts of Spain - my constant companions as we hiked from Pamploaa to Logrono. 

Our journey through Spain would begin in Irunea, as explained in the last log.  We grabbed the 3:55 to Pamplona, reading along the way about Pamplona and the history of Spain.  

As Giles Tremont notes about Pamplona: 

      Its hard not to think about Heminway here, even if  I was never really enamored with his writing.  Dad loved him, as many Europeans seem to.  He would be with us much of the way.  He popped up bookshelves, cafes, and my memory, with images of my father's favorite biography, Papa Hemingway, lost after his passing, flashing across my mind.  Like him, we loved the streets of Pamplona, the food, the history, the vino tinto, the first pilgrim meal.  Pamplona offered us an ideal space to really begin the Camino.

In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson’s narrative of his walk through the Appalachian trail, he suggests
that the story of his adventure comes down to seeing the world on the ground and appreciating what
he has, what he sees, knows, feels and lives.  It offers a pause to stop and be, to simplify life to a walk, a breath of air, a moment to appreciate the body working as we walk, to see the world in all its glories and gore in  a certain perspective, but also as a pause button on life.

This is probably the message of every similar trail.  We choose to walk or ride so we can see and relish some of life’s small details.  This is why Benjamin’s explorations of Paris seem to telling.  "Flâneur" is a word understood intuitively by the French to mean "stroller, idler, walker."  We are all flâneurs on the trail.

This is why we got off the big highways and onto  the backroads when Will and I drove from Texas to Louisiana to start this summer of journeys.  You see more of the details.  We found a taco spot which allowed us to breathe and laugh after spreading Dad’s ashes.  It seems trivial, but this space offered us a respite from the storm of our emotions, our lives, our Dad’s painful departure, and the Eudora Welty Optimists Daughter Like storm of his departure.

The other lesson, of course,   is to see life, your life from a different perspective.  Driving from Paris to Spain, we’ve talked about history.    History of course brought me here.  It brought us here, just like it brought the Shepard’s from Dorchester England to Dorchestor Mass.  In France, we talked about "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity."  Marx surmised the French revolution as a failure.  It went from Monarchy to a brief liberal government back to a dictatorship with Napolean.  Of course, that is a crude reading of French history.  A failure of my capacity to recall Western Civilization class from first year in college, professor Koblic at Pomona reading Palmer’s history no less, and my poor aptitude for history no doubt.  Oddly, I was obsessed with Weimar and German history, ignoring the rest and leaving Mel Brook's History of the World Part One and Broadway musicals, to teach me all  I know about the French revolution.   Still, a system of education  and laws came out of the Napoleonic epoch.  So did a system of colonial rule extending from Algeria to Viet Nam.  And this brings us back to seeing the US and our story.  The French looked with inspiration to our Revolution of 1776, lending us a hand in unshackling us from the British Empire.  And then they borrowed a page, starting a revolution of  their own a dozen years later in 1789.  We owe each other a lot, even though the two countries seem to generally hate each other as we’ve done since 1945 and the liberation of Paris from the Nazis.  Apparently, no one could agree on who should lead the parade.  And the two old friends started bickering and we’ve continued to do so, while misunderstanding or reading each other’s histories.  A century after supporting the US in its own anti imperial war, France was busy creating its own empire.  And just as it was pulling our of its colonial entanglements in Algeria and Viet Nam, the US was busy stepping into this void, becoming lost losing its own soul in Viet Nam.  Charles De Gaulle  famously warned LBJ to stay clear of that mess.  We all  know how that went.
And of course, when the Spanish arms were finally losing some of their colonial grip on the Caribbean, the US moved into that void in 1898 taking control of the Eastern most outpost in Puerto Rico, whose Capital is still full of Spanish restaurants, the colonial legacy still lingering as the gringos stroll about.

Back to Spain for a second.  On the train, I thought about why we came here.  Number two was busy writing in her journal.  So I wrote a dedication to her, writing inside about how honored I have been to walk through these streets with her, tracing her first steps through these parts with her.  I hope she can continue chasing dreams and windmills her whole life. 

SO what really brought us here – Cervantes, Marquez, and Vargas Llosa.

Cervantes, Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa - the masters who brought us a surreal new world, even if the latter two did bicker from time to time. 

Some of my favorite writers, Cervantes showed us what daydreaming could mean for living, for story telling, and make believe.  Marquez and Vargas Ilosa, the greatest living Spanish writers, built on this trajectory, teaching us what a story about a text within a text, a dream within an empire, a fantasy within a captive land, a free imagination could live and be – if only we could allow ourselves to see it and revel in it.  Marquez, who just died, reminded us not to look at Latin America and its colonial legacies from the eyes of the West, with the yard stick of positivism.  We would misread the story if we looked at it this way.  For a while there as the boom in Latin American fiction exploded, both Vargas Ilosa and Marquez lived here in Spain. 

The Free-Women-of-Spain.

I love walking through Spain and imagining the streets from the eyes of the writers – Hemmingway, Marquez, and Vargas Llosa, the painters – Vasquez, the anarchists – Montseny, the Free Women of Spain, the summit hopping anarchists who brought a pop flair to the global justice confabs from Prague to New York City, Seattle to Cancun.   I still have my New Kids on the Black Block t-shirt one gave me during the world economic forum action back home in 2002.  They were sweet and fun, and ready to rumble in the streets.  You can see their crew here on the streets of Pamplona, the vagabonds, pilgrims, and graffiti artists whose work compliments this lovely city full of open plazas where people eat and drink  and hang out for hours and hours. 

Sitting here in Spain, I am catching up for lost connections I was not able to make two and a half decades ago when I first romped around Europe as the cold war ended.  Instead of going to Ibiza I traveled north and had my own adventures as the August coup and the final gasps of the Soviet Union crumbled, sending final shudders through a jittery Berlin once again.

But I was also reading that whole trip, page after page of magic realism, Carlos Fuentos on the train from Rome to Florence.  Fuentes helped launch Marquez’ early career.  I read Vargas Llosa on those trains.  And now here I am in one of their romping grounds, making sense of the home base for the beauties and tragedies of the colonial empire which would forever transform capitalism, imperialism, and culture, sending its language, religion, disease, economic models, trade, exploitation of natural resources, and people.

"Whenever you see a beautiful church in Spain, they don't you where they got gold to put inside," noted a colleague of mine at our college.

 Out this mix, we have a modern world where Spanish is spoken around the world.

And people come back her to walk a pilgrimage to St James that I began last winter when we walked to the Metropolitan Museum and first saw the image of St James there. 

Our walk from Pamplona to Zariquegui starts in a few hours.  Its too exciting to sleep. But I probably ought to.   It connects me with a history of where we’ve been in the US with Puerto Rico, Latin America, Spain and the Magical Realist narratives which changed my life, pushing me toward a magical activism, and ludic, surreal way of seeing and being in the wold.

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