Hello, greetings. Welcome to the beginning of my blog Fugacious Follies. I always enjoy beginnings, but I hate writing them. Where do I begin? Do I start with an esoteric quote, a stanza from a poem? Or should I begin by using a post-modern tactic and dive straight into the sensual consciousness and abstract thought that composes the narrator's mind? I've tried several times to write a proper start to this journey, but alas, I have rewritten the beginning so many times that my original message has become distorted to the point that I find it difficult to recognize as my own. So, in order to remedy my dilemma, I'm finally going to type and let my scripts stay as it is, errors and all.
If you are reading this blog, chances are you already know who I am and are curious to follow my indefinite journey. For those of you who don't know who I am, just go to the home page and come back. This blog shouldn't be disappearing anytime soon, so take your time. Maybe even grab yourself a glass of water or a pint of whatever soothes your soul. After all, this is a time to relax and enjoy. Now then, on to the reading...
Several months ago, back in the Michigan Autumn of 2015, a cousin from my mother’s side came to visit my parent’s new home in Traverse City. The parental units recently made the move from Northern California to the Mitten State, and M., my cousin, was looking for a break from Los Angeles.
My cousin M. is a good ol’ boy and well known for bringing a healthy dose of laughter wherever he goes. Back when the parents moved my sister and me from the tropics of Thailand to California, M. is one of the first of the family members I can clearly remember being introduced to. He is also the first family member I met who could make a shy kid like myself laugh as well as bestow that fraternal confidence which all young men crave.
As a teenager, M. was a hilarious individual who pitched a mean fastball with aplomb and livened the room by simply being present. He is still is a funny man, but his pitching arm is shot to hell from an overbearing high school coach. While his arm isn’t what it used to be, M. still laughs and makes his presence known by providing a torrent of jokes and witticisms.
M. finally arrives in the Cherry Capital of the world, and is relieved to leave the airport. He’s no longer as youthful when we first met for his body has aged from the years of good times, and his eyes look older than what I last remembered. The comedy career hasn’t taken off like he hoped it would, something about Californians being, well, too Californian. M. explains that Los Angeles is a cesspool that he’s can't wait to abandon. It looks like M. needs the break from California more than I need a break from living in my parent’s house.
Much like reading a favorite book several years after you first put it down, seeing a friend after years apart is a a bewildering experience. You’re surprised by the details you either ignored or were too young to understand, and your fond memories dissipate into air, never to be felt again. Meeting M. again feels this way, and I cannot tell if he feels the same about seeing his family in Michigan.
During his stay at the fort, I can’t help but interrogate M. about his life. I've been living an inexcusably dull life, so I relish the moments when I get to listen to him beam about his buddy's victories and discover that my cousin, like the majority of us, has his anxieties that tend to only show themselves when the warmth of alcohol forces him to shed his ego and fear. Days and nights of drinking go by, eventually I open up to M.
Do you ever struggle with depression? Does your brain ever flip like a switch and you can’t stop feeling this terrible sadness and you just can’t stop thinking suicidal thoughts?
M.’s mood completely shifts. M.’s tone shifts from being family to friend, speaking with the worry and tension as if I had a rope around my neck. My original intentionwas to have a discussion about M. and the nature of depression, but it backfires. M. skips past the verbal exploration and goes straight for the lesson. Because of the haze from drunkenness, I only remember snippets of the words M. was using.
He tells me that I can never do it. He reminds me of how both my Mom and Dad would be seriously hurt, and everyone in this family would be thinking: Yeah, I had a cousin once, but he killed himself. M. admits to having some moments of depression like several of our other family members, but he balks at the idea of a person seriously thinking about ending their own life.
I try to explain to him that I’m not going to, that I don't have an intention to, and most of that I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just want to know about his perspective…but M. can tell that I’m trying to push the discussion away from myself. He doesn’t budge. I don’t know if he knows that I’m halfway telling the truth because I’m uncomfortable with discussing how my brain works in person, or perhaps the alcohol is fueling M. to provide my favorite style of counseling: free and unwanted.
Eventually I concede and begin to discuss how my mind has been working ever since puberty struck me down with too many damn emotions. How sometimes the light goes out and the world loses its shine. How, like in the words of the late D. Boon, I can make seconds feel hours, and how I can tell when something is coming on because it feels like I’ve caught the mental flu and just need to wait it out. Those chemicals in your brain man, they really muck everything up.
Just like the doctor after a checkup, M. finishes the discussion and offers me a prescription. He tells me that I need to find something to look forwards to, like a journey or something. It’s here that M.’s eyes light up.
Did you ever see the Emilio Estevez movie The Way?
My confused look indicates that no, I don’t know of any movie with a title that sounds like it should be the name of a new age ayahuasca cult, and who the hell is Emilio Estevez?
M. is excited and begins to explain the gist of the plot and embellishes on the details of the quality of the film. Granted, M. isn’t terribly interested in the art cinema like Jodorowsky or the other off-the-wall flicks that I appreciate, so I should have been skeptical as to whether or not I would enjoy The Way, but what the hell. It’s my cousin, and I’m happy to know that my new counselor is finally done with his session.
The next evening, after soliciting several saloons in town, M. and I pick up a late night pizza and some more beer to bring back to my parent’s fort. Soon we’re sitting on a couch in front of the behemoth box-screen TV that was left behind from the home’s previous owners and proceed to watch an unbelievably earnest film that borders on a level of cheesiness that Chester the Cheetah would have had difficulty stomaching.
After finishing the film, M. looks at me and says:
You need to do that.
What, hike the Camino del Santiago?
Exactly. You need to have a plan with a goal. You need something to motivate you to keep moving.
I think about the idea of walking the trail, and ponder about how realistic the chances are of me finding peace with my mind on a trek that could be done with a daypack and a large enough wallet. I tell M. that I’ll look into hiking the Camino out of fear of getting another free counseling session, and then proceed to go to bed and research hiking trails in Europe. M. does have a point. I need to find something to look forward to, and that something certainly won’t be found in the tiny tourist town that I’m currently inhabiting.
My research leads me to discovering the series of the European hiking trails known as ‘long distance paths’, which then introduces me to the as of yet uncompleted and enigmatic trail E3. The E3 is a 6,950 kilometer (4,320 mi) long-distance footpath that weaves its way from Bulgaria to the end of the Camino del Santiago. I don’t know why every online resource offers an “accurate” measurement of the distance because the trail still incomplete in Romania, and no one has ever hiked all of the E3. But what the hell It’s just a long hike, and it’s something to look forward to.
While I have found various versions of the E3, the “trail” I found on the Wikipedia page shows a path that begins in Istanbul and can be hiked all the through to the Cape of St. Vincent in Portugal. In the course of this trail, I will be passing through Bulgaria, potentially Serbia, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, France as well as Spain. 'Twill be a lengthy hike indeed.
I’ve spent the last several months slowly training and accruing supplies for this trip. Most of my previous backpacking gear was procured back in the boy scout days, and after picking up a smoking habit and a drinking solution in college, I’m no longer in the fittest stage of my life. After ending the smoking and curbing my drinking somewhat, I feel confident in my abilities to hike this hike. Also by picking up a tent and a sleeping bag I'm sure that my wallet should last me a lot longer.
Of course I do have my concerns for this trip. The refugee crisis is reaching a new intensity with the closing of borders, and the Balkan route is being monitored for illegal travelers. The United States is going through a hellacious political season with Donald Trumpet and North Korea may resort to blowing something up thereby sparking yet another powdered keg and causing some kind of terrible consequence. North Carolina is promoting legal discrimination, and the world still pays attention to the Kardashians. These are frightening times indeed.
I do have the common concerns about getting injured, robbed, lost, or worse…but as the mighty Muad’Dib says:
“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
These are words that I’ve been meditating on for the past two months, and I plan to keep them with me when I inevitably find myself miserable and frightened of the big blue world. I plan to journal my experiences so that I may find an outlet for my thoughts, and I hope that whoever reads this finds some kind of value in this journey.
I am also bringing with me a cheap microphone for my iPhone to record myself and, more importantly, the people I meet along the trail. Who they are I don’t know. I can only hope that they don’t mind both my haggard appearance and the foul stench that I will undoubtedly be emitting. I will also do my best to capture images of my travels but I’d rather not make any promises as to the quality of my shots. Y’all will just have to wait and (literally) see.
If I manage to complete the entirety of the E3, I’ll be the first recorded person to finish the trail. That is a fine motivation in and of itself, but I’m more excited to meet the man who is waiting for me at the end of this journey. Will he be happy? Will he be stronger in spirit? Will his mind finally shut up about itself and be content to simply be? I hope so, I really do. But the only way to find out is to strap on my boots and make my way to meet him on that cape.
Welcome to Fugacious Follies, let's see where we'll end up.