In Sound, Way Out

October 19th, 2018

Hairdressers in Portomarin, Espana

This leg of the Camino is more crowded that our first leg (St. Jean Pied de Port to Leon). Pilgrims are granted a certificate (a Compostela) for starting in Sarria, about 110 kilometers out of Santiago, so at that point the way is a little cluttered. It is tempting to look a them s cheaters but that is where compassion come in. Pilgrims try to be non-judgmental.

The Albergues and hotels along the Camino are stingy with their heat. Usually radiators, the heat is hardly ever on when we check in so it is always a gamble as to whether we should wash our socks or underwear. When we go for it we arrange them on the radiator and take our chances. In the swankier places there is often a hair dryer to point into our socks in the morning if they are still wet.

Not all our rooms have had a tv and one even had the old tube style tv. I meant to turn that one on just to see what the format looked like. I usually check for a soccer match but we have only found one, an international qualifier between Portugal and Poland. It seems you have to go to a bar to watch La Liga games as they are on the premium channels. Spain is really big on nature shows. If the hotel gets 11 channels two of them will be nature shows.

We got lost today. First time for us on the Camino. At some point we realized there had been no one in front or behind us for a while. We turned around and found the turn we had missed. We came across an “alternative food” place. Run by a married couple who were attending to a baby as they waited on us. They had made pumpkin soup but there was only one portion left. We ordered that and a green salad with mushrooms. There was a keyboard set up in the room and I asked the guy if he played. He said he did and he wanted to know if we played something. I told him we did and he asked what kind of music it was. I said improvised instrumental music, sort of jazz, sort of rock, and he said, “Like Beastie Boys, In Sound From Way Out?” And I said, “Yeah.”

Walking Man

October 18th, 2018

Chef at Pulperia Luis in Darria Espana

The monk-like existence, carrying all your your essentials on your back, is the most appealing feature of the Camino. It simplifies things and allows you to focus on what is really important, the world around you and the short time you have here to savor it. Just like high art the trajectory is toward minimalism. I’m thinking of Giacometti’s “Walking Man.”

Our hotel in Tricastelas provided a breakfast, Jamon y queso, banana, yogurt, tostada y café con leche. We had two of the last item and didn’t have to stop anywhere on the walk to Sarria. We were in town early enough to have dinner. Spaniards have their big meal between 2 and 4, the siesta, and we are usually still walking. Shops are closed during the siesta hours and restaurants stop serving at four and don’t open again until eight, way too late for us eat.

We asked the proprietor of our place in Sarria for a restaurant recommendation and he told us about two, one a Michelan stared place called “Roma” and the other, mas tipico, “Pulperia Luis” on the river, a ways from the Camino. We chose the latter. We watched this guy pull pulpo out of the boiling water with his bare hands, cut the tentacles with a pair of scissors and dress each serving with four magic ingredients, pimentón picante (hot paprika), pimenton dulce, salt and olive oil.

There was a wait for a spot to sit down. The ten, family style, long tables and wooden benches were packed and the room was buzzing with lively conversation. This was the best pulpo we have ever had, as good as the best Italian sausage. House red and a bowl of artisan bread accompanied the soloist.

Mega Trends

October 17th, 2018

Spanish Horseman painting at Hotel Refugio in Rabanal Del Camino

There is certainly a craft beer movement goin on in Spain but we have not seen it. The big companies, Mahou, Estrella, Ambar, Cruzcampo all have perfectly drinkable, refreshing lagers and I don’t miss the whole fussy IPA thing.

Even though this portion (we are just about to start the last week of the original Camino, although we plan to continue on from Santiago to Muxia) is more crowded than the first half it is still an experience I would enthusiastically recommend. Peggi and I are getting pretty good at finding our own space on the Camino, walking for long stretches without seeing any other pilgrims. Others crave the camaraderie and it is there for the taking in every language under the sun. But I have glimpsed the end of the more than a millennia old Camino de Santiago.

It is not not the imminent demise of the Catholic Church due to sexual abuse and the schism resulting from the implementation of way overdue reforms. And it is not the dwindling numbers of faithful Christians. It’s not the taxi service that is a cell phone call away, there to bail out pilgrims who can’t take another step. It’s not the transport services that move people’s luggage from town to town so they can wear a small day pack and zip up and down hills. It is the meathead guys coming up behind us on fancy mountain bikes. They shatter the solitude, saying something like “behind you” in a foreign language. We step aside and see Italian logos printed across their Spandex covered butts. They have music coming out of the packs on the back of their bikes. The Camino is their international gym. I hope I’m wrong.

Caldo Gallego

October 16th, 2018

Flamenco guitar player on steps of our hotel in Ocebreiro

At 6:45 AM in the small town of Villafranca Del Bierzo we didn’t expect any coffee shop to be open but as we walked out of town the owner of the last bar was just unlocking his front door. We had a café con leche and headed down the hill onto a small country road in starlit darkness. We were surrounded by mountains and not one car drove by before the sun came up around 8:30. Today was a big stretch, nineteen miles to O’Cebreiro and the last third was straight up a mountain side, a rocky, rustic path. There were quite a few small towns along the way and we stopped at most of them for more coffee, juice, water and a cheese/quince sandwich, “queso y membrillo.” The first stop was a cozy, rustic place with stuffed animal heads on the walls and holy cards behind the cash register. We had café and tarta de Santiago.

This was a really challenging day, about nine hours of walking with short breaks. We arrived around four, checked in and had a menu del dia, Caldo Gallego (veritable soup with the tall green cabbage plants that we had been seeing in people’s gardens along the way), three small trout each and some flan for dessert. We stopped at a small grocery store and bought yogurt, apples, a boiled egg and water for tomorrow morning.

We heard the church bells ring and Peggi remembered about the Pilgrim’s Mass at 7 so we went over to the Santa Maria church, the oldest on the Camino dating from the eigth century. In Spanish it was a bit like the days when the whole thing was in Latin. The priest called all the pilgrims up to the alter, asked everybody where they were from and gave each of us a small stone with a little yellow arrow painted on it. Most were from Germany but France, Brazil, US, Canada, Italy, Columbia and Aruba.

The heat wasn’t on in our room yet so we went down to the bar for a Veterano and chatted with Trevor and his wife, a Northern Irish couple, about our age. They offered to house swap sometime.

Tower Of Song

October 15th, 2018

Vineyard near Villafranca Del Bierzo on the Camino de Santiago

Wandering around Molinaseca we found a bar with a fútbol game on, a match with two local teams, Ponferada vs. Pontevedra. The tables in the bar were full and the bartender, a big guy in a plaid shirt, gave us a tapa with our beer and brought a plate of meatballs out from the kitchen and passed them around to everyone in the bar. It was a 0-0 finish and the the locals seemed happy with that result. Ponferada is the closest town. Maybe they were lucky to get a draw.

It is probably our age but when we walk all day we find walking uphill much easier than going downhill. When you put on an extra ten to fifteen pounds, the weight of our backpacks, you find the bottoms of your feet feeling bruised and the effort it takes to brace yourself against gravity on each downhill step takes a toll. Just saying, certainly not a complaint. The Camino experience is above complaining. We’ll walk by someone who is clearly in pain and they will smile and say “Buen Camino.”

Leonard Cohen learned to play classical guitar from a Spanish musician in his hometown of Montreal. “He took the guitar and he produced a sound from that guitar that I’d never heard… a six chord progression that many, many flamenco songs are based on. It was those six chords, that guitar pattern that has been the basis of all my songs. In 2016 Cohen received the Prince of Asturias award in Oviedo and he had dinner at the place we ate at tonight in Villafranca Del Bierzo. The owner was pictured on the wall with Cohen and The owner’s son helped Peggi figure out how to buy more minutes on her prepaid Vodaphone SIM card while we we sitting under a photo of his father and Leonard.

Head In Clouds

October 14th, 2018

Weeds in clouds on mountains beyond Rabanal Del Camino

We set the alarm for 6:45 and got a fairly early start out of Rabanal Del Camino. The town was so pretty we didn’t want to leave. We had yogurt and fruit in our room and then café con leche downstairs at the bar. Two woman, sitting at a table behind us, had ordered a full breakfast and they couldn’t finish it so they gave us a plate of toast with cream cheese and walnuts. We were ten minutes down the road, traveling briskly in order to get warm when I realized I had set our 1.5 liter bottle of water down. We had to go back as there were no towns for many kilometers.

The Camino today went up into the mountains and it was probably the prettiest day of the whole route but it was hard to tell. The temperatures were in the upper thirty’s, the wind was howling and it was pouring rain. We had all the clothes we brought on. We were basically in the clouds the whole day. The trail narrowed drastically at times with tall weeds on both sides of us and it felt like we were following a deer path in Durand Eastman.

At the highest elevation, around 5000 feet, there is a tall oak telephone pole like structure with an iron cross on top of it, La Cruz de Fero.This is where pilgrams leave a stone, usually something they brought from home, at the base. We had two hand picked stones from the beach at Durand. You make a wish or declare an intention or vow and move on. It’s a Celtic tradition with same Christianity glommed on top.

Fuegos Artifiales

October 13th, 2018

Stone wall on street in Rabanal Del Camino

Axfter your shoes, your socks are your most important gear. I have two pair for walking and one pair for street wear, the ones I wear with my light-weight, casual shoes when we have arrived at our destination. On a long day I change my socks mid day. Damp socks set the stage for blisters. The heat is often unreliable in the places we stay and I don’t want to be caught with wet socks so I wash one pair every few days, usually when the room comes with a hair dryer. After a few days of wearing the same pair I have a right and a left sock. They have adjusted themselves to the shape of of my feet putting the wrong one on would lead to bunching and more blisters. When it rains, like it is supposed to for the whole day tomorrow, all bets are off.

Last night in Astorga we stayed in an apartmento. We’ve never done AirBnB or those sorts of things but it was a big holiday and most places in Astorga were full. It was way more space than we need but we did take advantage of the patio by having our dinner out there. We got in bed early with a glass of wine and the strangest thing happened. The bottom fell out of Peggi’s glass. It was one of those short glasses with really thick base. The base just fell off and vino tinto splashed on the pillow, the sheets and soaked though to the mattress. We made to another bedroom. I plugged in the little lamp next to the bed and all the lights on the place went out. We emailed the contact from and he gave us call back. He was in Catalonia, on the other side of the country, and he tried to talk us (in Spanish) through resetting the circuit breakers. When he got to the part about “no toques los naranjas!” we stopped and the owner said he would get someone to stop up. He got the lights back on and plugged in the lamp again. Sparks flew and the lights went out again. “Fuegos atificiales!” The cord had a serious short in it.

Virgin del Pilar

October 12th, 2018

Fiesta Nacional de España, October12 in Astorga

Every time the Virgin Mary appears to someone she gets a new name. And she always looks a little different so there are many depictions. The name associated with Santiago’s Marian apparition is Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Lady of the Pillar, and she is depicted with a radiant golden crown. Santiago, or St. James the greater, one on the twelve apostles came to the Iberian peninsula to preach the gospel and he is the patron saint of both Spain and Portugal but they revere the Virgen Del Pilar more and today, October 12th, is her feast day. It coincides with Columbus Day and is celebrated as the national holiday of Spain, the “Fiesta Nacional de España.”

So a feast day and a celebration of a genocide with a military parade in Madrid that costs 800,000 euros. We walked twenty two miles to Astorga and were too spaced out to figure out how the holy day/holiday was being celebrated. The shops were all closed and groups of people were on the street in traditional garb. We bought some wine and Tejas de Almendra and took them back to our room to toast the Virgin del Pilar.


October 11th, 2018

Street lights on the outskirts of Leon, Espana

We’re thinking it is a good thing that our news sources have been limited. Our preferred news feed, Google News, doesn’t even work here because the Spanish newspapers have successfully sued to keep their content on their own sites. We stopped our newspaper delivery when we left Rochester so now we leaf through the Spanish newspapers in the coffee shops. They don’t follow the boy who would be king as closely and the world seems a little more stable.

We set the alarm for seven, an hour and a half before sunrise, so we were out on the streets of Leon in the dark looking for El Camino markers, the yellow arrows. It was a clumsy start but after three café con leche stops and some help from the locals we were out in the country.

We arrived in Villar de Mazarife in time for the menu del dia but the internet connection was was so weak we unable to use our credit card. I tried to put a photo online and and it kept giving me error messages. The cord has almost been cut and I’m looking for the advantages. We wandered around town after dinner and found a building labeled “Casa Cultural” so we stuck our heads in. Men, all about our age, were sitting around tables in groups of four. They were playing cards and having a good time.

Buena Suerte

October 10th, 2018

Statue of dead Christ in Madrid church 2018

“What if the physics of entropy was sliding between humans and objects through pure inertia?” The artist, Carlos Irijalba, uses this premiss as a springboard for his current show at Galeria MPA in Madrid. We popped in and out of a dozen small galleries on Calle Doctor Fouquet. This is our third time wandering the neighborhood behind the Reina Sofia and we were happy to see it has continued to blossom with a heavy dose of art.

We loved the Wim Wenders movie on the pope. And against all odds we still rooting for him, Francis. With all the walking we have been doing friends keep asking if we’ve seen Wenders’ “Paris Texas.” And of course we have but it has been a long time. So it was no surprise that the movie on our train from Madrid to Leon was Paris Texas. Harry Dean Stanton’s dialog was dubbed and the subtitles were in Spanish so it was a different experience.

Our first stop in Madrid, as we stumbled around the old city waiting for check-in, was this small church. People were gathering for mass so we only had a few minutes to look around. I paid my respects to this statue of Christ depicting a scene from the Passion while Peggi studied a depiction of the Virgin on the side altar next door. El Camino, part 2, is laid out before us.

You Are An Inovator

October 9th, 2018

“woman Artist, Nude, Standing” by Dorothea Tanning in Reina Sofia in Madrid

“You, the proletariat, the blacksmith of the new time, you forge time with forms. . . You are an innovator. We. . . rushed from a barricade toward the world of new transformation, light and non-objective one, because the great recreation of our undying spirit is coming.” Kazimir Malévich 1918

Dada seems to have made its first appearance in Russia where the Futurists’ influence was strong. The “Russian Dada” show at the Reina Sofia in Madrid featured Malévich as a bedrock and he stole the show.

Dada was a reaction to the propaganda and slaughter of World War I and Surrealism sprang from that. Dorothea Tanning was born in a small town in Illinois. She dropped out of school and turned to the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago for inspiration. She travelled to Paris to meet the surrealists but returned when World War II broke out. She married Max Ernst and they moved to Arizona. She lived to 102, Outlasting many art movements. “Behind the Door, Another Invisible Door,” a retrospect of her work fills the third floor here and it is a revelation.

Tanning refused to be labeled a “woman artist” saying, “one is given, the other is you.” Her “Woman Artist, Nude, Standing” (above) asserts feminine power as a creative force to be reckoned with. With nods to Goya and deKooning she presents herself armored in her own voluptuous flesh while wearing only a black mantilla with a red poppy.

Entry Into Madrid

October 8th, 2018

Madrid Metro exit at Puerto Del Sol.

Does anyone fly to Madrid in the daytime? They must but we never have. We always leave near dinner time and the evening and night fly by as we go six time zones into the future. We arrive in early morning and always start with a café con leche in the airport café. A quick walk on the moving sidewalks takes to the subway and with a few transfers we are coming up for air in the center of Madrid, El Puerto Del Sol. I have photographed the dramatic view from the subway exit before but this time I photographed the stairs themselves, covered in an ad for Talavera.

Lack of sleep makes the first day especially dreamy, a mode that is especially suited to securing the local currency, swapping out our SIM cards for prepaid versions and buying a pocket knife, one with a corkscrew, a sacacorcho in Spanish. The last item we took care of on the sixth floor of Corte Ingles, an old fashioned department store similar to Sibley’s.

Back at our hotel in the Chueca district we tried to find a soccer game, Atletica was playing, but the station’s broadcasting rights were too rich for our place. We decided to go out and walk around and stopped for some Pimientos Del Padron. Sometimes there is a hot one in the bunch but this was the hottest batch we have ever had. This promises to be a good trip.

Half Naked

October 6th, 2018

Ray Turner paintings in Chelsea, NYC 2018

“Turner presents a didactic deconstruction of the visual semantics behind recognizability of form through a parsing of the grey space of the half-formed, “half-naked” (the name of the show). Do you believe that gibberish? I like these Ray Turner paintings but I couldn’t possibly make through the description that the Artman Gallery in Chelsea offered us. And t.rather than just letting us look at the paintings the staff insisted on trying to engage us in conversation. We had no time for that, the galleries were closing and we still hadn’t made it to Hauser & Wirth.

Back at Duane’s we watched Cher videos on YouTube, her new versions of ABBA songs. Surprised how bad they were. We finished with Tammy Wynette’s. “Don’t Touch Me” and I woke up singing “Ass Magnet,” Sa Zu’s (Ken Frank) incredibly sticky dance hit.

On Saturday Duane offered us a choice of three walks, all loops from his apartment in Brooklyn. “Mother nature, quasi industrial or multi ethnic neighborhoods.” We chose the third and walked down Ocean Parkway, over to Coney Island Avenue and back to Church Avenue. Duane’s world, excellent!

Leaf Peep Express

October 6th, 2018

Leaf peeping train leaving Utica for the  Adirondacks

We’ve been watching a Spanish tv show on Netflix called “Ministerio Del Tiempo” where the characters are given assignments that take them back in time, usually for the purpose of ensuring history unfolds the way they feel it should. We are forever backing the show up because the Spanaids talk so fast, Peggi can only catch a bit of it and we can’t read the English sub-titles before they’re gone.

Looking out the window of our train car in Utica I had the sensation we were time traveling. Maybe next year we’ll ride this old train up to Pete and Shelley’s place.

To Put Up

October 5th, 2018

Jalepenos just before being picked from our garden 2018g

Peggi “put up” or canned six quarts of jalapeños on our last day in Rochester. We left some nice looking eggplants on the vine and emailed our our neighbor, on whose property we have our garden, that she could help herself to them. We managed to can or eat a bumper crop worth of tomatoes and we gave the last to Kathy, who drove us to the train station. We’ve been eating kale in every dish we make and we expect to find some still when we return.

I checked the status of yesterday’s train and found that it arrived in Penn Station one minute late. That was encouraging. You need a bit of encouragement before getting on train in this country. Today the train was a half hour late getting into Rochester and we stopped outside town to let another train pass us. In Utica the conductor announced that we had an engine problem and would not be able to travel at full speed to Albany. We texted Duane that we would be late getting in. In a few days we will be in Spain here the trains run like clockwork.

Picasso said he paints his forms as he thinks of them, not as he sees them. Not to diminish the act of recording what you see but to emphasis the act of creation. Presenting what you think you see, or more dramatically, what you want to see seems a more noble concern. In 2018 this is a reason to carry a sketchbook with you.

Trump Calling

October 3rd, 2018

Shovel in the ground at Irondequoit Mall

We were in Target trying to get a look at the new iPhone XS when everyone’s phones sounded an alert at once. Peggi found it kind of creepy. I was thinking how we were all connected in some new, magical way.

Outside a woman in a big black Suburban hit the curb behind us and then zipped around us to park. We were on foot and I was thinking how our yoga teacher got hit by a shopping cart which had been propelled by a car in the parking lot of Cosco. You have to walk defensively.

Target is the only thing left in Irondequoit Mall and walking across the vast empty parking lot is a surreal experience. The pavement is a cracked and littered with cigarette butts and tiny bits of of trash, mostly plastic. We are already here from the future doing a cursory, shallow archeological dig. I found this broken snow shovel and stuck it in ground at the end of the pavement.

We are only one Rochester walk away from Camino part two. I’m already thinking rocket fuel at Starbucks for that last loop from the house.

Lunch Ladies

October 1st, 2018

Lunch Ladies decorative squash at Aman's on East Ridge Road

It seems a little cruel that these decorative squash are called “Lunch Ladies.” I don’t make the rules, I just look at the signs.

Peggi made a couple of cherry pies the other day and brought one down to our neighbor, Sue, who just celebrated a big birthday. Today Sue brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers, all from her garden, up to us. We will never be even.

I swallowed an olive pit. I usually have a few olives with a boiled egg, toast and olive oil in the morning and I wasn’t quite awake. It felt like it was stuck in my esophagus but that may have just been the sensation. I’m hoping it doesn’t get stuck in some crevice of my intestines colon.

I bummed that we missed the one night premiere of the Joan Jett movie. We were playing in the cafe that night. Here is a song recorded at that gig.

Margaret Explosion - Alicia

Margaret Explosion – Alicia


September 30th, 2018

Ma and Pa Tierney photographed on their fiftieth wedding anniversary

The Tierney side of my family had its annual picnic today and this one was more fun than all the rest for some reason. Only one set of aunt and uncles is left so it is mostly cousins and their families. I have a lot of cousins on this side and we are all around the same age. It always was when we were growing up especially the Christmas parties at my grandmother’s house where we would all run around while the adults talked in the basement. With most of those adults gone now the reunions are fun again.

My cousin, Kathleen, organizes these affairs and a few years back I told her you can’t call it a reunion if you have it every year. I must have read that somewhere. Anyway, she now calls it a “family picnic.” Kathleen is a natural born leader. A few years older than me, she organized us all when we were little kids. Today she is a nun, a Sister of Mercy. I told her we were doing the Camino in Spain and she had never heard of it, the oldest religious pilgrimage in the Christian world. I never knew exactly where she stood with Catholicism and I was especially curious because of all the recent turmoil so I dove right in. We registered our disgust with the priestly sexual abuse and cover-up and within minutes she was discussing how we can can get to the ordination of women.

My sister, Amy, had the brilliant idea to bring some of the watercolors that our dad left behind when he passed. She arranged them on a table and the relatives helped theirselves, each leaving with some original Leo Dodd’s.

I was talking to my mom’s cousin, Joe O’Keefe, when he leaned in to tell me my mom was always his favorite of the Tierney girls. My mom’s sister, Ann, walked by just as he said that and I said, “Does Ann know that?” He laughed and called me a “no good, bog-trotting, trouble making, Mic,” a mouthful of a phrase I had not heard before.


September 28th, 2018

Dentico's Italian Villa, Culver Road in Rochester, New York, September 2018

I like watching the Wegman’s workers round up the shopping carts. They shuffle around the parking lot, in no hurry whatsoever. They are out of the store and still on the clock. I wasn’t sure if Wegman’s carried light bulbs so once inside I asked the the first worker I saw what aisle they were on. She answered “4B” without a hesitation. At the dairy case I had to wait for a worker to pull all the milk containers to the front of the glass case. I used to have to “front” the shelves in my uncle’s grocery stores – pull the products forward and make sure the labels are facing out. I asked the Wegman’s worker if that was called a “false front” and he said, “rotation.”

We are less than a week from departure for El Camino part two. We have slowly ramped up our walking distances in preparation and that leaves very little time for entries here. Not that there has been anything to report. Peggi and I spent a good deal of time dissecting our back to back reunions and may have finally let them go. Walking is a funny activity. It is addictive in that you don’t feel right unless you make room for it every day. You spend a lot of time inside your head. It is a form of meditation and when you’ve finished, half the day is gone and you have nothing to show for it.

Outside Of Your Mind

September 25th, 2018

Old 7/11 on Culver Road in Rochester, New York

Lee Friedlander called Henry Wessel the “Photo Buddha.” Wessel died recently and in addition to his body of work he left us this beautiful quote. “The process of photographing is a pleasure: eyes open, receptive, sensing, and at some point, connecting. It’s thrilling to be outside of your mind, your eyes far ahead of your thoughts.”

Our yoga teacher talks through the entire class. I like this but he told us one of his former students complained about it. He mostly talks about the pose and I find it helps me to work toward the proper position. Otherwise I would be daydreaming. Sometimes he goes off on a tangent. Last night he told us about a book he was reading on telomeres, the caps at the end of each strand of DNA. He described them as the plastic wraps on the end of shoelaces. His manner of talking is part of the meditation and the class flies by.

Pete LaBonne joins Margaret Explosion on the grand piano Wednesday night. This will be our last performance until November.

Margaret Explosion - Transfigure

Margaret Explosion – Transfigure