I was rather excited to cross the Paso Honoroso – the Passage of Honor – in Hospital del Órbigo and see modern-day jousting grounds in place where Don Suero de Quiñones, a Leónese knight with a superb Iberian name, once jousted against all challengers while sporting a collar of iron in order to regain his honor after being rejected by the damsel in his sights.


This is, of course, a perfectly natural course of action.


Boy fancies girl. Boy reveals his intentions to wed and bed girl. Girl – aka fair maiden – is far too striking and noble for such a loathsome rogue and thus resists Boy’s advances in spite of his fine reputation with the lance. Defiled and humiliated, Boy climbs his trusted steed, gallops out to a large bridge and challenges the entirety of Europe’s affluent society to trot across the continent and attempt to poke holes in him. Just to make things more interesting, Boy decides – allegedly – to wear a collar made out of the heaviest material this side of an elephant. Though such a superfluous action might be difficult to interpret using contemporary reason, it’s understood that Mr. Don Suero buttressed his neck in this exceptional manner as a mark of the shameful burden which he carried due to his fresh rejection.


In an epoch of genuine monarchs, it would seem that Don Suero de Quiñones was somewhat of a drama queen. Though it might be said that he and I share this trait, it doesn’t universally inspire my deepest admiration when found in others. Yet in this case I couldn’t help but think, “How fantastic!”


In the midst of drunken celebrations and undoubtedly holy debauchery, this spurned knight broke 300 lances on his worthy opposition and reclaimed his honor, at least according to himself. Not only that, but he did it in style. Some sources report that when one intimidated adversary appeared on the jousting ground in multiple layers of armor out of respect for Quiñones’ ability, the Leónese knight traded his own armor for a simple women’s blouse and then confidently rode out to bash the aristocratic rival’s tin foil wrap.


When his symbolic bridge defense had come to its glorious – not to mention arbitrary – conclusion, Don Suero de Quiñones rode on to Santiago to give thanks for something, though I must admit that I can’t quite sort out exactly what. But this is just an epilogue tacked onto the finish of a masterpiece anyway.


The real stuff here is how this gallant knight reacted to a girl telling him, more-or-less, to just piss-off and leave her alone. In my personal history, I’d faced a clear rejection from exactly two fair maidens, and both were frustratingly kind and understanding in the process.


And what had I done to reclaim my honor?


In case number one, I had punched a tree in a foreign country and then looked on curiously for several years as my knuckle never quite returned to its normal size.


In case number two, well… case number two was a work in progress. I’d already finished a seven or eight month sentence in the lonely, helpless pit of despair and I was now on a seemingly endless German trekking route through northern Spain. I suppose that’s decent enough as an honor-reclaiming quest, but it fell well short of our noble Don Suero back in Hospital del Órbigo. After all, I had yet to fight anyone and my collar, such as it was, consisted only of cotton. They don’t write epic poems about such things.


This lover

Immature and feeble

When faced with commonplace

And respectful rejection by those fair brunettes

Whom he found so divine


Took to inflaming his innocent joints

And blistering his heels

To slowly drown away sorrows which

Others would have bathed

In one hard-drinking weekend


Like I said.


With Spain just waking to yet another sun-drenched morning, there was very little to do at the jousting ground outside of imagining a sweltering summer day in the year 1434 where the sport was for a prize even more valuable than that of the hand of “Princess Esparanza” and the admiration of the assembled Lords and Ladies of the Realm at Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament each night at 5:00 and 8:00 p.m. in a castle somewhere in the suburbs of your prosperous city.


After a few minutes of said imagination, I feasted on stale bread and watery cheeses before galloping off nobly in tennis shoes stitched back together by mine own hand. I was certainly no Don Suero de Quiñones, but I had reclaimed myself from my own demons and I was now on another important mission – carrying a prayer for the mysterious German mother, Marta. For the moment, at least, that was more than enough.


“Let the fair maidens croon,” I thought, “over this fearless, virtuous, and pious adventurer with his noble cause.”



Dumped Man Walking -- Excerpt 1: The Paso Honoroso