After Baby Boomers and before Millennials there is a group sometimes referred to as Generation X. Stuck in the middle of two conflicting ideologies, those arriving on the planet in this timeline have had to grapple with a ghosted identity, managing tenuous connections to both sides. Riding the momentum generated by their more radical older brothers and sisters, they believed the promises of the young bohemians, the Beat poets and hippies that preceded them, and expected to land as adults in a just and open-minded world, with peace guiding the planet, love steering the stars, and mystic crystal revelation inspiring a hopeful future.
Having invested America’s wealth into ending war, hunger, cancer, and taxes, scientists could now get down to the business of inventing the flying car. A major shift in political idealism in the early eighties canceled those promises, taking with it the security of valuing reason over profits, as well as any hope of mile-high drive-thru fast-food restaurants.
Matthew O’Connell wants justice. Reconciling an imagined future with the actual, this son of Irish immigrants plots a course to fulfill his version of the American dream in a land of shifting priorities. Expecting some sign to help guide him through the inconsistencies, the confusion, the theatre that is life, he leans on the familiar, only to discover that family, religion, social activism, sex, friendship, even the hallowed box that brings television, these constructions no longer hold answers. Nothing is as it should be, destiny is at best random, and at worst, casually indifferent. He derives little comfort in uncovering this dreadful truth. Except that, occasionally, it isn’t so dreadful. And it is in that tiny bit of hope that he finds the gumption to go on.
Buen Camino: Bedraggled, Bewildered and Amazed Along the Way of St. James is a travel journal, a spiritual quest, and a curmudgeon’s self-reflective memoir. As a travel journal, it calls to mind Theroux’s The Old Patagonia Express. As a spiritual quest, it strives for the enlightenment of William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways. As a memoir, you may recognize similar aches and pains as Bill Bryson’s in A Walk in the Woods.
The setting is Northern Spain. The goal is to follow the Camino de Santiago, a 799 kilometer trail that begins in Southern France, crosses the Pyrenees, makes a sharp turn just past Pamplona, and takes you due west to the city of Santiago de Compostela.
With no guarantee of success, TB McGlone has to rely on the hospitality of the Spanish people, the kindness of total strangers, and at least one angel to help him reach the finish line. Among the many challenges along the way are the self-generated demons he must contend with when there is no one else around to save him.
It is a journey of the mind, the soul and one delicate right foot. Fragility and grace combine to show this imposturous pilgrim what is possible, what really matters, when you slow down and see yourself in the present.