(This story is part of a continuing series based on my adventures walking 500 miles across Northern Spain on the ancient pilgrimage route El Camino de Santiago. The first part begins here.)

First stop, New York.

I stayed with my friend Brenda in her incredible apartment just off Lincoln Center overlooking the park. I had arrived the same week that the Gates of New York had gone up. I watched from the window, at least twenty floors above the trees, as the supports were laid out on the paths lining the park. And then suddenly, Central Park was alive in orange drapery. It was stunning, especially offset by the snow.

On my first night in New York, I stayed up late, still on West Coast time. I decided to take a bath. While I love baths, I didn’t take very many of them late at night because I always had too much hair I didn’t want to dry before going to bed. But on that night, I had no hair; what I had was a few days of stubble.

Brenda had set out all the bath salts and candles for me. The room filled with steam as I lit the candles and lined the tub with them. I got in the hot, aromatic water and began to shave my legs. Brenda had shaving cream in a bucket and the combination of it along with a new, high-end razor left my skin silky and radiant. So I decided to shave my head with it. I closed my eyes and began slowly, tentative. I noticed that my hair grew in circles from the crown radiating outward. I’d never known that. Following the pattern of hair growth and shaving each follicle was like reading Braille. It was also a bit like a dance. I’d trace along the stubble with my fingers and follow behind with the razor. Around and around my head. Eyes closed. Trancelike. Almost drunk with wonder.