Europe N to S: Don’t be a Pig (5/13-14/17)

Today’s Miles: 0
Total Miles: 6,016.6

Albufeira, Portugal – May 13, 2017

Today’s Miles: 16.5
Total Miles: 6,033.1

Near Faro, Portugal – May 14, 2017

Daya and I walk a few hundred yards​ from the grocery store before we find a shaded bench to sit on. I plop my pack down and unwrap the half watermelon I bought for breakfast. It’s still cool from the store’s air conditioning.

I grin down at the red and green fruit in my lap. I don’t usually buy watermelons here. They seem far too expensive. I’m used to buying them for a few bucks down at the corner off the back of a pick-up truck, not for a few Euros every kilo, but this one was on sale and I could tell it was good without even thumping it.

I carve circular hunks out with my spoon and pop them into my mouth one by one. The juice is sugar sweet. It reminds me of summer in Florida, coming in from outside and slicing hunks off a cold watermelon in the fridge. I could whittle one down to nothing in a day or two.

I offer a bit to Daya, but she is content with her soy milk, granola, and banana slices. We sit and eat in the shade, resting a bit even though we barely started walking. It’s always hard to go again after a day off.

Yesterday was good. We spent a nice chunk of it by a pool with Ron and Michael, two of Daya’s friends from back home who are here on vacation. Ron loaned me his computer so I could backup the 15,000 pictures and videos I’ve taken since Kinnarodden, but mostly we just sat and talked and caught up with the world back in North Carolina.

At night, Daya and I went to meet the guys for dinner and on the way ran into a bachelorette party we’d met the night before just as we got into town. They’d been dressed as cave women, complete with inflatable clubs, leopard print, and hair teased up to defy gravity. Daya had joked with them as we passed.

“Hey ladies,” she said, “I have a caveman for you right here, he walked all the way from Norway!”

They got a kick out of it and even tried to comb out my beard to match their wild hair for a picture. Last night, when we ran into them again, they asked why I walked. Was it for some bigger purpose?

I shook my head. I walk because I can, because it’s there, because Europe has a North, a South, and a continent in between. All the stories, all the people, all the sunsets, all those memories in the 15,000 pictures I backed up on Ron’s computer. I don’t need a bigger reason.

The watermelon tastes perfect. I know I’m going to eat myself sick on it before I’m halfway through and I don’t care. I just plunge my spoon back into it to carve another bite. The trail will be hot today, sun, sand, and sea, the kind of things that make a watermelon taste even better. The coming stomach ache is worth each bite.

I catch a bit of movement off to the side and look up to see a spindly kid walking toward us down the sidewalk. He’s maybe 18 and has two equally spindly friends in tow. As soon as I see him he stops and looks down at Daya and me eating our breakfast.

“Homeless,” he says.

He kinda spits it out halfway between a question and a statement. Then he stands there for half a second with a dumb look on his face until his friends catch up and they continue on down the sidewalk.

I sit there, my half-eaten watermelon in my hands, too stunned to say anything, trying to figure out why this spindly kid is talking to me​ at all, why I want to throw a perfectly good watermelon at his head.

“Not quite,” Days says, dismissing them like one might brush away flies on a summer day.

I say the same a moment later, still confused as to why they said anything at all. Daya and I both laugh as we watch them disappear.

Homeless. We joke about it sometimes with each other, when we’re sleeping in some random forest or plopped down on a bench somewhere with our shoes off, but we are so far from homeless.

Either one of us could pull out a rectangle of plastic from our wallets and be in a hotel room five minutes from now. We could call a hundred different friends across the world and have a place to stay across continents. Between hiking sticks, sleeping bags, cameras, and clothes we probably have three thousand dollars of equipment on us. She’s worked on three different continents and could get a job again tomorrow if she wanted one. I’ve got a Yale Law degree rolled up in a cardboard tube somewhere in a closet. We are far from homeless, anyone with eyes and half a brain could see that, but that isn’t what matters, that isn’t why I wanted to throw the watermelon at that kid’s head.

When we were sitting at the pool yesterday some man leaned off a balcony nearby and catcalled a woman passing below. It was nothing more than the kind of low level bullshit women go through just for being outside and having the audacity to walk down a street. Ron didn’t let it pass. He shouted back, full throated and without fear.

“Don’t be a pig,” he yelled.

Silence filled the air. It felt uncomfortable for a moment. On the surface, it didn’t seem like Ron’s fight. He’s not getting catcalled on the street. He could go his whole life in peace, but that’s too easy, that’s not enough.

Ron made sure that woman knew she wasn’t alone. He made sure that man knew too.

That’s what’s right. That’s why I wish I threw the watermelon at that dumb-faced kid, let him know it wasn’t right to come up and taunt someone like that.

I don’t care if some kid walking from his condo to the store and back thinks I’m homeless. It doesn’t really matter to me at all. I’ll keep walking and adding to the 15,000 pictures and memories of this grand adventure. But what if I were homeless? What if life had taken a few bad turns? There’s​ no shame in that, a lot of people run out of luck sometimes, but I definitely wouldn’t need some dumb-faced kid telling me about it.

Maybe he would think twice next time if he’d caught a half eaten watermelon with his head. Or at least the verbal equivalent. After all, it would be a shame to toss a good melon at a pile of garbage.

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6 thoughts on “Europe N to S: Don’t be a Pig (5/13-14/17)

  1. Daniel: Love the story and message. I always think, “If not I, then who?” Your grandfather Licinio would be proud of you — he had your same impulses.

  2. Here’s what Mark Twain had to say about watermelons…”The true Southern watermelon is a boon apart and not to be mentioned with common things.
    It is chief of this world’s luxuries. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.”

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