I write to you from beautiful Pamplona, where the annual San Fermin Festival got underway with a bang (literally). And yes, I am wearing a white shirt, white pants and a red kerchief. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then Google it, and then have someone smack you because willful ignorance is embarrassing.
I’ve gone to the “running of the bulls” for years, but never as an active participant. I’ve never had the hot breath of an angry bull bearing down on me, or the cheers of a crowd propelling me forward. Why would I, when there are girls, girls, girls and wine and revelry and everything in between?
Regardless, life isn’t about being a spectator; it’s about getting in the mix and risking it all for the wild ride. And so, months ago I started training for the run in the suburbs of Northern Virginia. There’s a monstrous hill just outside Arlington where I have been training on a regular basis, wearing the exact same outfit I wear today. The neighbors have never bothered to pay me much attention, opting instead to stare out their windows as curious observers.
In order to outrun bulls I first had able to run respectfully, something I haven’t done on a consistent basis for years. I hired three poor college kids and three day laborers apiece to meet me each Saturday. They were expected to show up at the top of our designated hill wearing anything they wanted, provide it was bullish brown. My specific instructions were to give me a 20 second head start down my 800m hill, at which time they were to try catch and pummel me with an object of their choice. The only stipulation? It could be no bigger than a pair of horns.
On many weekends my wild-eyes and banshee yells as I sprinted ahead of my pursuers culminated with a small town cop asking questions at the bottom of the hill. No one inquired into the immigration status of the day laborers, although oddly enough I was (for all intents and purposes) questioned about any romantic relationships I might have with the strapping young college lads. Trumped up charges never stuck, and the next weekend we were back at it.
And so I ran this weekend. In Spain. And not once along the way did I think, “Why the hell am I doing this to these poor animals?” because the answer was obvious — the throng of us were, at least on this weekend, dumber than the bulls.
When is the last time you saw a bull get plastered on sludge wine, pass out and then wake up having wet his pants on a park bench five miles from his hotel? The answer: Never. And I’m not just saying that because bulls can’t make hotel reservations. Or drink. Or fit on a park bench or wear skinny jeans. Although it would be a more interesting world if they did…
I have some serious thinking to do. Right after another bottle of wine.