Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Barter & Bob

It is late. I am not getting enough sleep.
But we´ve got Pilgrims, good ones.

Yesterday afternoon I was settling my brains for a late afternoon nap when I heard Paddy´s mobile phone bleating the electronic overture to “Carmen.” The phone was deep down in the many zips and pockets of Paddy´s favorite shorts, which were lying in a heap on the floor. (Paddy was not in them at the time.)

(Whenever I phone Paddy, I can usually count on his telephone being somewhere other than on his person, so this is not unusual. And as long as men sport shorts, vests, and pants with multiple pockets, they cannot rightfully criticize women´s bottomless handbags, can they?)

Anyway, the person on the phone was called Chris, and he and his three friends were 4 km. away in Terradillos, and Jesus in Logroño had told them about our place, and could they come over and stay?

Frickin´ Jesus. Still, he´s not sent us a bad pilgrim yet. (a couple of weird ones, granted... including The Spiritual Christ from Germany...) So of course I said OK.

I got up. We gave the place a quick cleanup, figured out what was available dinner-wise, and were ready when they rolled up to the door about an hour later.

They were delightful, useful, fun, refreshing, and a bit exhausting: Monica the little Italian hairdresser (with bright raspberry-colored locks); Chris from Seattle, a tall and soft-spoken landscaper; Chris from Atlanta, a Buddhist vegan soul-searching revolutionary; and Carolyn, a worn-out Quebecois a bit overwhelmed by all the rapid-fire American English. (I haven´t spoken American for a VERY long time, and only realized it when the boys opened their mouths.)

We ate peanuts and olives and drank harsh local wine and chattered right into the evening out on the patio. Chris the Vegan made dinner for us: veggie pizzas and salad (Paddy made some of his fabulous rice/cheese/spinach for the Regular Ol´ Vegetarians. Vegetarians are cool, but I find Vegans sometimes rather high-maintenance… what, no eggs, even? No fish? No cheese??? What is left? So when Vegans stop by, we usually ask them to do the cooking. And they usually oblige beautifully, proving that you can make a lot of pretty good grub using nothing at all.)

Maybe best of all was having Monica give me a haircut.

I have been letting my hair grow longer for several months now, and it´s gotten well out of control in recent days. With the snake´s nest pulled back under a bandana I´ve driven past multiple beauty salons and barbershops and chainsaw dealers in recent days, contemplating just how to tell the professionals inside in Castellano that I don´t want to lose the length, I just need to have it shaped, have the different levels blended into one another, have the long stringy bits out front removed from before my eyes. Even in English I find such concepts impossible to communicate, with my eternal short haircut as instant evidence.

But here was an ebullient young haircutting professional, who understood English well enough to have worked for two years in a salon in London´s Knightsbridge neighborhood – a brutally posh place where bad beauticians are toasted on their own curling irons and shipped back to Fiorenza in a matchbox.

So we hunted up the shears we use to trim Tim, and the meat scissors, (the only really sharp ones in the place), and the secateurs we use on the trees and bushes. We found a big plastic garbage bag and cut a head-hole in the bottom and used that for an apron. And out on the patio Monica gave me a lovely haircut I´d pay 40€ and up for in a city salon.

A good haircut always makes me feel great, and this one was followed by a tip-top meal, music, Tarot-card readings, and general good will, all of it in English! Woohoo! They all stayed up too late for me. I had to rise by 7 a.m. to go driving, so I missed saying goodbye.

When I returned home in this afternoon all the happy party was gone down the Camino. The hair clippings were swept up, the dishes done, and the secateurs taken up by the Landscaper Chris. He´d gone out into the bushy, brushy huerta and gave the apple, fig, and spruce trees a thorough pruning! Woohoo x 2.

I like hosting pilgrims, and I´ve learned not to say “no” when they offer us money to help meet expenses. But I especially like the ambitious Barter Economy pilgrims, the ones who meet our dinner-and-a-place-to-sleep and raise us a haircut or a pruning, a dish-wash or drawing or song. There´s something so fundamentally right and human about skipping over the currency and trading in goods and skills.

… And then there are pilgrims like Bob Spenger.

Bob is an athlete, a minor Camino celebrity. He showed up at The Peaceable late this morning, having walked here from LePuy en Velay, France... a trip of about 1,200 km. (he´s only got about 300 km to go to reach Santiago.) This is the third time he´s walked the Way in the past 8 years, and when he´s finished he´s off to England to compete in a world-class rowing competition. He´s a Californian, a retired chemistry professor, a gold-medal, record-holding athlete, a war veteran, storyteller, and world traveler.

Oh, and Bob is 84 years old. Look him up on YouTube and get inspired... YouTube´s not letting me post here today, for whatever reason.

He is taking the Camino easy this time, in reasonable 20 to 25-km days (that´s about 12 to 15 miles, every day for two months or so.) This will probably be his last long-distance hike, he says. His knees are starting to hurt.

We are honored to host him. Pilgrims like Bob Spenger can hang out here whenever they want, for free. Long as they´ll tell us a story or two.


Deirdre said...

Wow - that is quite the talented and illustrious clientele that you are getting at The Peaceable Kingdom. All I did was assist in the comsumption of copious amounts of that really good wine!

rspenger said...

I blush.

Bob, currently in Sarria with a knee that isn´t very happy.

Ryan said...

What a wonderful post - sounds like you had some excellent pilgs.

I completely agree that vegans can be quite high maintenance, but it's also true that their creativity in cooking far surpasses many of our own. Even though I still eat dairy and eggs, and occasionally fish, I always look at vegan recipes and cookbooks for inspiration. Most often I'll find something that's absolutely amazing, and then maybe I'll add cheese to make it better ;-)

Recently I whipped up some tempeh "reubens" that were a gastronomical delight. Not vegan of course what with all the swiss and 1000 island, but certainly vegeterian, and probably healthier than any fatty corned beef.

Lots of love,

Your un-biological Camino-kid