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- Travel Tips
"The First Time I Ran"
Fri, 01/12/2007 - 09:22
It was a BRISK MORNING, the weather chilly, men jumping anxiously around, chitter chatter everywhere, a faint smell of fear in the air. So this was it, Pamplona. – the running of the bulls. I studied this course, prepared as well but there was a distinct feeling of confusion. I felt good I thought as good as I could under the circumstances. There was the usual sizing up of the participants, some you could tell have done this more than once, others the first time and some you just knew would bail out the last minute. The question was would I bail out, would I perform well – would I die. Yes the thought of death was a real thought. I know – the stats indicate a near impossibility but nonetheless a possibility.
In the background despite all the noise, I could hear the Eminem song:
Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted-One moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?
His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready……………………
And all I thought I was going to do was run fast – as fast as I could!!!
So it is safe to say a lot goes through your mind, and that is how my love affair with this insane ritual began. I started to think of what was important in my life. For about 10 minutes I was in deep thought- not scared mind you- but in deep thought. I started to realize what was important in my life, who was important, who I loved, what foods did I love and what fun it would be to do this. The more I thought the more random the thoughts. Could it be the crazy drinks in Pamplona having a delayed effect? The spicy chorizo or the traumatic effects of meeting a peculiar Scot named Graeme Galloway…….
I’ve met a lot of interesting people in my life but nothing prepared me for this. He has a presence of a Victorian actor gone insane. A bellowing laugh and a charismatic way of making the most mundane conversation seem interesting. Who is this man and did he become this way because he’s been running encierros for 25 years? If these are the after effects perhaps I should bail.
Regardless, Like a Barry Bonds home run sound, some idiot lights a bottle rocket and the whole place goes mad, people are running everywhere- it is a riot!!! Now I’m scared. Then someone else sets off another rocket the place is pure pandemonium – people are running for their lives. I’m thinking Jesus ETA is doing a terrorist act! I’m now absolutely petrified that I’ll get trampled over.
How embarrassing is that I thought – boy gets trampled in pre run riot. While the thought was finishing – another college student passes me- nothing different here except he decides to vomit on me. Yes vomit – he is scared shitless and he is drunk to boot. He is vomiting uncontrollably, I look up and three Spanish guys who seem cool as cucumbers are laughing at him. I was appalled. I tried to help the kid but people started stepping over him. I said to myself when this over I’m leaving Pamplona what terrible people are here. Needless to say, the crowds of people continue to ramble on wildly. I couldn’t take it anymore. I scream out loud, “WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE RUNNING LIKE SCARED IDIOTS?!?!?!?!!?”
Then some guy with what appeared a Southern accent says to me, “Son the bulls are coming – no time to act silly.” Silly? I was insulted.” WHAT?” I say to him – I thought they announced it on a loudspeaker. He looks at me with disgust and says. “Either go down on the floor and curl into a ball right now or run underneath that barrier- you shouldn’t be here.” Well before I could mutter a Fuck You to him – I hear Spanish men running in white shirts shouting Toro Toro Toro!!!
Instead of Bulls I’m thinking Pearl Harbor. This is crazy but what is crazier is that I’m now gone from mad to sick – I feel like I need to get sick. Then before I could lower my head a wave of people push me into the barriers. I thought I was hit unconscious I started to hear bells – then I look up and there is this big white elephant looking bull squaring down for me. I couldn’t run and I closed my eyes. Yes I froze. I was like the song, “Palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy” But before I could wince in pain someone grabs me from behind the barrier and pulls me in. I feel this terrible thud – Oh shit – I’ve been gored. Jesus sweet Jesus I’ve been hit. Is this what it feels to be gored. I look up to see the predator – and it is a man wearing a red uniform screaming obscenities to me in Spanish. “Bouta Madicoon.” “Fuck You” I say, “I’m no raccoon” Then these other people are screaming at me too. I was in a state of shock. Where is the love ? I’ve been gored and people are yelling at me.
Having regained my senses for a second, it happened again I noticed 2 Spaniards laughing. Except this time at me. I turned around and another Spaniard was smiling, he said, “They are laughing because you think you’ve been gored” “But I am”, I proclaimed, “Look at this welt!”
The Spaniard looked at me and said with a straight face, “That welt is from the policeman hitting you with the baton” – that was after he saved your life”
I went from angry to embarrassed in one breath. What a loser I am.
I walked backed to the bar area about to order a stiff drink when I heard that strange Southern accent again, “Hey brother I hear you got gored by a policeman” – I smiled embarrassingly. He said, “Jack Daniels always works for me. This one is on me. We’ll get ‘em tomorrow.”
It was then that I knew where the love was.
Viva San Fermin!
THE PAMPLONA POSSE