Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Country Club

If there were an Epcot or a Disney version of the camino, I´m sure they´d get a lot right. I´m sure there´d be picturesque old buildings, decorated in a layered mix of gothic under baroque under rococco. They´d serve 3-course "pilgrim menus," and marvellous bocadillos (little sandwiches) on crusty bread. Vino, si! You could buy a pilgrim staff and a pair of decent sandals.
But they´d miss things like our lunch the other day. Coming over a hill we found ourselves next to a golf course flanked by several lovely new (expensive!) housing developments. The clubhouse was on our path, and a sign outside explicitly invited pilgrims, so in we went. We tromped into the cafeteria area, where several more usual clubhouse habitues sat sipping wine or chatting. We heaved off our packs and sat down. One at a time (so one of us would be with the packs--a pilgrim reflex,) we approached the bar, where we got drinks and I got a sandwich and some olives. Marty unpacked our lunch stash for the day--some fruit, a final Clif bar, some M&M´s. I furtively removed my boots. Gritty with sweat, clothes not quite as clean as they might have been, needing to rest--we were pretty much completely out of place.
The camino isn´t its own separate world exactly. Instead, it winds through quotidian Spain, osculating ordinary life. None of the clubhouse patrons objected to our presence, though some girls about 13 or 14 showed polite interest. No one tossed me out for de-booting, thank goodness. They left the bags they carry--golf clubs--politely by the door, while we stay close to ours. We pass through, different people in their world every day. Restaurants, even those that serve designated "pilgrim menus", start to serve dinner at 7:30 or later, when pilgrims are beginning to fade. Pilgrims tend to rise early and hit the road--Marty and I have been off before light the last few days, while it´s unusual to see shops open before 10 a.m. So yesterday´s pilgrims are gone before the day really starts in Spain, but are replaced by a new crop by sundown. We came into one town that was celebrating a festival--but then all the restaurants were closed and the pilgrims were prowling for food, looking for somewhere to get a meal, a bocadilla, a cerveza. We are "in the world but not of it," in a sense, though of course we are a small world unto ourselves.

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