There was a bar next to every church. The beer and wine was far cheaper than water. And despite Lizzie Gilbert’s food orgies in Italy, when it comes to making a pilgrimage, no one beats the Galicians. (Well. The Portuguese can hold their own.)
So I found myself – again – in a chilly, open-air bar in Porrino, Spain. Just the day before, I had survived a grueling 12-hour, 16-mile hike.
I was working slowly on my second beer, having already learned to stick to Spanish beer at lunch and save the Portuguese wine for dinner. Why? Well, there is nowhere to nap on a rocky Portuguese coast, if you’re interested. The nuns frown on pilgrims who snore through Mass in countryside churches. Also, sheep did not go to kindergarten and did not learn the all-important skill of politely sharing their grassy spots with non-sheep. Anyway it was a lesson well learned; it was noon; I ordered beer.
The bartender, sighting my backpack and my tell-tale scallop shell, approached me with a huge grin. “You speak English, yes? My English is slow but very good! You will speak it with me?”
Hell, his English was far better than my Spanish, Galician or Portuguese. I smiled back, and he pulled up a barstool.
“You come here to walk the Camino? You come from where?” His skin was smooth and pink, and I had the sudden thought that he’d be carded in Illinois.
“I’m from the United States,” I said. “Chicago.”
He erupted in joy. “Chicago?? Chicago!! Oh I love the Chicago!!” Up from his barstool, he danced in front of me, in some weird Watch Me Nae Nae montage. “I love the jazzy jazzy!” “The music is so good, yes? You love jazzy jazzy too yes?”
Well, hell. Sure I do. Who doesn’t love the jazzy jazzy?
He grew still and serious. “Oh and so very much I love the black people! The black people they sing so good! He leans in to stare at me. “Do you know them? Do you know the black people?”
Um. Yeah. I know a few.
He nodded gravely. “I would like to so much to go to Chicago and do it to the black people.”
You should run for office, amigo.
He kissed me as I left, both cheeks, as is customary. “I don’t know what is this office jogging thing you say,” he smiled. “But I am learning it so much every day! Buen Camino!”
On my first day of work at the community center, I wasn’t nervous. After…