Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Year of Joop" Desk Calendars

My wire-fox terrier friend Joop is staggering under vet bills:
at 19 pounds, he owes $78.94 per pound.

His human (bink, aka Lucinda) is selling desk calendars to help him out. You can order one through me: $12, shipping included (hm... unless you live overseas).

This picture is my favorite from the calendar.

See all 12 pix here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Communications Book...

...that one for young adults I was fretting about writing all last winter? It won't be released until 2012, but its first review is in.

And it's a good one:
"Acting as a perfect companion to that film The Social Network ... this book is bound to make adults everywhere feel roughly 10 million years old. That’s right, kids! People used to meet in placed called “coffee houses” and “church groups”."

I lost all perspective on this book long ago, so I'm relieved I hit the note I wanted to hit.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Notes from Camino, V: Jun 15, 2011 ***from Marz

BELOW: Baby Rhino (me, aka Frex), Woolly (bink), and Marz brush their teeth before bed, in an albergue somewhere along the Camino pilgrimage route across northern Spain.

[E-MAIL FROM ALONG THE Camino de Santiago]

On Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 10:34 PM, Marz wrote:


Everyone's falling asleep upstairs, and everyone's eating or making talking sounds downstairs.
Marz is e-mailing Baby Rhino who is upstairs making sleeping spaces before morning when everyone are stomping shoes and on and on.

Why is Marz e-mailing the rhino if it's upstairs?
Because it's sleeping.
Why is it sleeping?
Because it's a rhino.
But why? Because it is.
Woolly sleeps too. Fine.

Here's what I've done while you've been sleeping:
I went outside and looked at the clothes on the clothesline.

I thought about moving to Minneapolis, and how great it is.
[bink and I had invited Marz to come stay on our respective couches and try out Mpls. as a place to live.]

Then I thought about how it's part of a series of welcome things happening to Marz in a small space of time.
Then I thought, what if welcome things keep happening?

[RIGHT: Bink, Fresca, and Marz eating "Magnum Gold?!?" ice-cream--the rule being that you had to buy and eat one of this brand every time the ice-cream case carried it. I wasn't feeling well, so I just drank green tea here.
Photo by Fred from Amsterdam]

King David said this but you know Kirk totally says this everyday too:

"Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life."
But actually, you can have a terrible life. I'm not saying anything about it, I'm just saying.

Anyway, I talked to Paulette, and she said if your socks are damp after washing them,
you sleep on them and the heat from your back dries them, FYI.

OK, I only have 6 minutes left so GOODNIGHT BABY RHINO!


[The Kirk macro was part of Marz's e-mail: she made it then and there.]
All photos by bink (unless otherwise noted).

Click for all posts about the Camino de Santiago here.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Notes from the Camino, IV: June 7, 2011

Above: Marz and bink walking a pilgrim-made labyrinth. Passing people add stones to the widening spiral.

[E-MAIL from the Camino de Santiago]
On Tue, Jun 7, 2011 at 9:40 PM, Fresca wrote:

Hello all!

Thanks for all your messages! It is really really nice to hear from home (and other familiar places).

This is a shared computer, as always, so I'm going to respond rather impersonally, but I LOVED hearing your individual voices.

Today we walked almost 20 miles so checked into a private room in a hostel (57 euros for 3 people, compared with the 5-euro/pilgrim albergues)--we wanted a bathtub and some quiet over the very friendly but sometimes grating hubbub of the shared albergue spaces.

So........... Here I am---still walking.

And still walking, again....
[Above: Marz (and me to the left) walking through vineyards]

.... And--what the hey!--STILL walking.

It took me THREE weeks, no lie, for my brain to settle down and accept it.
One day, walking across the central meseta (plain) I actually felt my brain unclench and unfold, like a flower opening.

Oddly, or not so oddly? it was like giving up hope. But, as the Buddhists say, it was not a loss but a liberation.

Since then, and that was only a week ago, I've really entered into the pilgrimage. I went from wanting to go home to not being able to imagine a life not made up of walking.

Iborpofen, which is sold in Spain in large tablets of 600 mg (vs USA's 200 mg tablets) no doubt helped me get over the hurdle of blinding blister pain.
And Saint Michael helped in the form of San Miguel beer.
I am relieved to say the blisters have healed.

The other day Marz (Margaret) opened her pack, took out the ubiquitous can of the tuna fish, and said,
"If you can't find god in a can of tuna fish, you won´t find god on the camino."

(The tuna, I should add, is in olive oil, not water, so is a very luscious treat, tho it gets a bit boring after a month...)

Whether that´s proof or disproof of god depends on the individual, I guess (can one find ultimate meaning in a can of tuna fish?), but it sort of summed up the walk for me:

It´s all about my relationship to physical creation, physical existence.
And it´s also about the people who share that physical world, who continue to amaze me with their kindness.

[RIGHT: Tom from England helps me fill my water bottle from a local fountain. Public water supplies are usually clean and safe to drink (or are clearly labeled if not).]

Last night Giancarlo, an Italian peregrino (pilgrim), commented that he had never seen such joy shining out of people´s eyes as he sees on Camino.

The route is more commercialized than it was when I walked in 2001, but it´s still a pilgrimage, not a bus tour.
It strips people down to their essences.

Amazingly, those essences prove to be good and kind and generous. OK, and sometimes cranky and snappy too!
But generally that is soothed with a foot rub and a glass of wine...

[Above: Or sometimes it takes a bottle of wine. My end of the the table was a tad crabby until we'd downed a couple. --Photo by Fred from Amsterdam]

I told Sara [right], a French pilgrim, that walking was like practicing for a good death, and she replied,
"Yes, it takes a lifetime to have a good death."

I know I am middle aged because the young walkers talk about high school and college, and I talk about death!

It's ALL good.

On the road again in half an hour, so off I go.

I think this is a very scatty message, but such is Internet on Camino.
I trust it conveys love and best wishes
from your pilgrim friend,

[RIGHT: Me and Marz with Sara: Eating al fresco from shops was cheaper and often better than eating bocadillos from the usual bar-cafés.]
All photos by bink (unless she's in the photo, in which case it's probably by me).

Click for all posts about the Camino de Santiago here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Notes from Camino, III: May 29, 2011

[E-MAIL I sent, on the Camino de Santiago]

On Sun, May 29, 2011 at 2:56 PM, Fresca wrote:

Caros amigos!

I am in an albergue in Fromista, on the meseta--the central plain. Like many but not all albergues, it has public computers. They usually cost 1 euro ($1.69) for 20 minutes.

The last couple days, we've been walking through a Monet painting of poppy-splattered waving fields.

"Poppy" in Spanish is amapola.
"Blister" is ampolla.

I have both. While I´m sorry about that, if I can't have poppies without blisters, I guess I'll take both.

Though, damn, blisters hurt just as much as I remembered.
[Taken at end of Camino--this blister is almost healed.]

I hear that there are earthquakes and demonstrations here, but I only hear that news from you all, here on e-mail.
Among pilgrims, it's all news of feet and souls, same as last time.

Well, not quite true.
I did see a political demonstration march past outside the window of our hotel room in Burgos, the Hotel Norte y Londres [right].

(Ever since 2001, when I'd walked past this a peach-colored Victorian hotel with salmon pink geraniums in its French windows, I've regretted that I hadn't stayed there. I swore I would this time.

Luckily it turned out to be only a 2-star hotel, so only cost 71 euros for the three of us (albergues are running 4 to 10 euros, per person)--not the 200+ euros the swank Paradors cost.)

But at the time the demonstration was passing by, I was in the middle of washing ALL MY CLOTHES (heaven) in the bidet, and hence was wearing only my undies.
I didn't want to lean too far out the balcony to see what was what... not that I'd have been able to tell anyway.
But something is up.

(The one Spaniard I asked later told me he was an anarchist who didn't care about politics.)
[Political poster in Leon. Local elections were held on May 22.]

Today we walked 15 km before I decided I'd better stay here in this largish town rather than risk limping on, on my blistered feet, in the hot afternoon. I felt a little wimpy until I realized I had walked 9 miles, after all.

I'm glad we stopped, though I faced the harshest test yet, in checking in:
The albergue owner of this privately run place gave me two 20-euro notes in change instead of two 5-euros.
(They're both kind of blue, tho very different sizes, as you may know, so I don´t know how she made that mistake...)

Everything has been much more expensive than I'd hoped (due in part to the bad exchange rate, a bocadillo [sandwich] costs about $6), and I'm well over budget, so I confess I actually pocketed the bills and walked to my bed space... before going back and returning them.

Lucinda and Marz are doing great---no big feet or knee problems for either, and we all get along well.

Marz calls us Baby Rhino (me) and Woolly Mammoth (L), and she gives running color commentary on our daily activities, in a funny voice.

I just asked her to sum us up (she´s sitting at the computer next to me listening to Justin Bieber's song "U Smile"), and she says:
"Baby Rhino likes candy.
Woolly Mammoth likes navigating.
And Marz likes to play catch with oranges."

[RIGHT: bink, navigating with help from the ubiquitous yellow arrows and Saint James]

EEK! 1 minute left on this computer.
Signing off!
Love you! Fresca

Below: Workers painting navigational scallop shells (the sign of the pilgrimage) for walkers to follow through the streets of Pamplona.

All photos by bink (unless she's in the photo, in which case it was probably by me).

Click for all posts about the Camino de Santiago here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Notes from Camino, II: May 21, 2011

ABOVE: Me walking through Obanos, Spain.

Here and there, we met pilgrims along the Camino de Santiago who complained that the walk was "not spiritual enough."
I think they meant it is crowded, and full of people who are laughing and talking. If you want silence and solitude, you have to work hard to find it.

I expect we three Americans were exactly the sort of boisterous people they objected to. We talked all the time, laughed loudly and often, played, and generally goofed around for much of the walk.

[LEFT: Marz laughed so hard at bink singing in a chipmunk voice that she collapsed on the road.]

For me, the spiritual on the Camino comes in being IN the physical world, amongst people from all over the world. The snoring, the blisters, the smells, the sometimes-annoying pilgrim... they are all part of the spiritual.

And so, here is an example of my far-from-elevated concerns when we stopped for the night:

[E-MAIL to Annika, who will meet us in Santiago on June 19]

May 21, 2011

Hi, Annika!

bink, marz & i just watched, here on the albergue's computer, "the worst fight scene ever" on youtube -- do you know it?

It's the fight between Kirk and the Gorn, and we had to watch it because we were arguing as we walked along about who picks up whose leg.

Of course I was right--- it's the Gorn who hoists Kirk's leg up.Day One: Marz & Frex, reenacting the Gorn/Kirk fight, heading out from Roncesvalles

All is going well tho my little toes HURT.
Good luck breaking in your boots!

See you in Santiago on the 19th.
(We are almost to Burgos.)

Sci-Five from your Camino pals,

Of course, sometimes we were quiet and contemplative.
Here, me with a cup of ginger tea under a statue of the Hindu god Ganesh, at a roadside rest stop a young man maintained, offering pilgrims healthy treats, "donativo" (for a free-will donation). The whole-wheat-y goodies were a nice change from ice cream and potato chips.

All photos by bink (unless she's in the photo, in which case it was probably by me).

Click for all posts about the Camino de Santiago here.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Notes from Camino, I: May 16, 2011



Above left: Margaret/Marz/Marzipan (20 years old)

Above right: me, Fresca/Frex/Baby Rhino (50 years old)

Below: Lucinda/bink/Wooly [Mammoth] ("Don't Stop Walking")

[First E-MAIL from along the Camino de Santiago, northern Spain]

On Monday, May 16, 2011, Fresca wrote:

Hello Everybody!

We are near Estella, having café con leche and bizcucho (sponge cake) for breakfast in a little bar below the albergue, both run by José Ramon, who is very kind (muy simpatico).

I don't even have any blisters.

[Café in Pamplona]

Here's some stuff people said that I've been writing down.

From Naomi, a French woman we met on the road, who has given herself a year to do things she's always wanted to do:
"I was walking the Camino as part of my year of dreams, and I decided to extend the year to my entire life."
Quote from me, explaining the gifts of the road:
"When you need a bobby pin, a bobby pin appears ... or not."

Quote from Margaret (Marz):
"I just want to explore, then lie down, explore then lie down."
No quote from bink (Lucinda) yet, but I could show you a drawing she did of me (as a Gorn) stealing cheese from the refrigerator in the Obanos albergue in the middle of the night.

@ANNIKA---we are on time to meet you in Santiago, so far!

My brain doesn't remember how to write online anymore, so adios for now!

Buen camino!
Francesca/Fresca (Baby Rhino, my name from Marz)
ABOVE: Sheila, Marz, Buddy, me airing my toes, and Estelle (discussing William Shatner's peculiar pinky finger?), the first serendipitous group to form.

We met Sheila on the bus from Pamplona to Roncesvalles, where we started the walk.
Buddy & Estelle were walking the Camino for their 7th time, I think. They told me my introduction--"Hi, I'm writing a short story about the apocalypse"--was the most brilliant opening line they'd heard on the road.
All photos by bink (unless she's in the photo, in which case it was probably by me).

Click for all posts about the Camino de Santiago here.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"It is only a door."

Prospective Immigrants Please Note
--by Adrienne Rich

Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.

If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.

Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.

If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily

to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely

but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?

The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door.

Young me thought that going through the door guaranteed some sort of fulfillment--artistic, spiritual, romantic.

Now I understand why people choose not to go through the door and even think they are quite sensible not to.
It is only a door.
No guarantees.

Also I no longer think I know who does and who does not go through the door, or even where or what the door is.
I know I do not know.
Which is a weight off my shoulders.


Today would have been my mother's 77th birthday.
Did she go through the door or not?

She looks at me doubly,
and I look back and live with what happened.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Marz as Tintin, bink as Snowy, me as Captain Haddock.

Marz has been living with me for 4 months, as of tomorrow. For the first month or two, she was a guest. Now we are roommates.

It's been almost 13 years since I lived with anyone.
I've talked more in the past 6 months (since I met Marz standing under a streetlight in Pamplona) than I have in the past 6 years.
Possibly one reason I haven't been writing.