Yes, right about now, 95% of the inhabitants of tiny Pamplona, Spain are getting good and sloshed to prepare for the annual San Fermin "religious" festival where large creatures are loosed upon Hemingway-inspired college kids through a wooden maze. Par-tay.
I actually popped by Pamplona in 1996 on one of those post-college Eurail adventures where you get to basically bar hop through five countries in three weeks and sleep in bug-infested shitholes. You know: "world travel." My cultural remnants from Pamplona: one souvenir red scarf, an Enrique Iglesias T-shirt, and the sticky smell of jamon in my hair. I wussed out on actually running with the bulls at the last minute because during my first night of celebratory glug-glugging with strangers, I somehow managed to lose my shoe. I ended up walking to the bullfighting coliseum instead, just to watch all the idiots run in and then boo them with rest of the locals. (If you're in the coliseum first, that means you ran away from the bulls, an instinctive human reaction, but not a brave one in this world. So you get booed.) I made it through about half of the runners, but then passed out, waking up to find some young Spanish children had been taking turns throwing gum in my hair.
After it ended, I walked out of the coliseum and realized that, even though I had keys to some apartment/hostel/bed-and-breakfast, I had no idea where it was or what it looked like. This was not the cellphone era, so calling my travel-mates was out of the question. Instead, I thought the best course of action was to head to the police station. "They must deal with these types of issues all the time, " I thought. They did. They don't enjoy it. But, thankfully, one policeman who spoke about as much English as I spoke Spanish (Him: "Donde esta tus zapato?" Me: "No se!" Him: "Bad! "Me: " I know!") proceeded to walk me through the dirty cobblestone streets, door-to-door looking for my apartment/hostel/bed-and-breakfast.
We must have knocked on the door of 30 buildings as he walked me block-to-block, desperately trying to jog my alcohol-soaked brain about the approximate location. Finally, after two hours, we found it. "Thank you!" I said and I began to hand him all the francs, gilders, pesos in my pocket. He looked at me like I was handing him a pile of dirty toilet paper. He took it, called me a name, made a hand gesture, then walked back to the station.
Anyway, it starts tomorrow.
PHOTO: WSJ, of course.
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