I woke up this morning not wanting to walk.
Yesterday I felt like I could walk halfway across Spain. This morning I would have been quite happy taking the van.
But I can’t do that. Nor can I offload my backpack, which with water and iPad etc is coming in at about 10kgs.
I went down to breakfast and witnessed with mine own eyes something which had been rumoured about in hushed tones by the other pilgrims –
Caterina eats bananas with a knife and fork.
Caterina is embarrassed about this. Evidently on previous mornings she’s built a screen around her plate with napkins. This morning she tried to hide it from me, but I can be persistent.
I got the shots I needed to prove to the world that she does indeed eat bananas with a knife and fork.
I think she probably believes that anyone who eats a banana with their hands most probably has a prehensile tail as well. (As most Queenslanders do…)
Anyway, my spirits were momentarily lifted by this anomaly in Caterina – shortly after, I headed out with Steve.
Steve is a truly fascinating bloke.
Some of you might already have formed an opinion of Steve – but most probably that opinion is wrong.
Steve is 71, divorced just recently from his third wife, and has stated clearly that the only reason he’s come on this tour is to spend time with me.
Steve and I met through this blog. A friend of his last year had alerted him to the blog, and he joined as a follower on day 12 of my Camino. He then started his own blog – and I became a follower, because he and his previous wife began their Camino Frances a week after I finished mine.
While I walked he commented on my blog – while he walked I commented on his blog. And in the process, we became mates.
An unlikely mateship.
He’s Texan, a bodybuilder, almost churlish with his economy of words. His reading list is mainly books on Navy Seals – my reading list goes from Dickens to Salman Rushdie to Jo Nesbo.
He regards our differences these ways: Says Steve – I’m better looking, I’m smarter, I’m more affable, I’m definitely sexier, and I have pecs not boobies. Women love me, he says – and dogs too.
(I think Arlene is being very kind to me…)
Anyway, Steve and I walked 23kms today and we talked most of the time. Here are some of the things I learned about Steve today –
- By the age of 35 he was one of the largest independent crude oil traders in the world.
- He had a personal net worth of $35m
- He had a company that had an annual turnover of $4b. Yes, $4 billion dollars.
- He was half owner in another company that had an annual turnover of $8b. Yes, $8 billion dollars.
- His company was the largest supplier of jet fuel to British Airways.
- He had 150 people on his payroll, in Houston, Denver, New Orleans, Bermuda, and London.
- One day he went to lunch in New York. After lunch walking back to his hotel he passed a Rolls Royce dealership. On a whim he walked in – and walked out a short time later having bought two Rolls Royces – a new Cornishe Convertible for himself, and a 2nd hand Silver Shadow for his CFO.
- At age 32 he got his pilots license. Within a few years he had both a commercial and instructors pilots rating. Ultimately he was a multi-engine instrument instructor.
- He had three private jets – two of them were worth $8m. He had on staff three pilots, a mechanic, and a secretary that were devoted solely to his “air force.”
- His office rent was $100,000 a month. $1.2m per year.
- His watch (Corum) was worth $30,000 – it had four rows of diamonds surrounding a five dollar gold coin.
- One year he got a tax refund from the IRS for $12m.
- His house was worth $7m.
- He had a $2m house in Aspen.
- At one point the US Department of Energy alleged he owed them $108m in profits that they claimed were “ill gotten.”
- At one point his companies and himself personally were $55m “upside down” – that is, he owed $55m to various creditors.
- He could have, had he wished, squirrelled monies away in various offshore assets or banks and set himself up for life – but he regarded that as immoral.
- In the big crash of 1985-86, he pretty much lost everything. he had investments in real estate that went sour, and the price of crude oil went through the floor.
All this I learned today while walking with Steve.
He loves dogs, and dogs love him.
You might think you know Steve, when he poses for photos – you might have formed an opinion about him, but you don’t really know him.
I certainly know more about him after our walk today…
He says that he’s happier now than he was back then, at the height of his wealth and power. He now lives within his needs, not his means.
And he now lives without expectation and judgement.
He has a pared down existential view of life – forged by his extraordinary backstory.
By the way, I wrote this blog with Steve’s full concurrence and approval. He vetted this post before I published it.