Running With The Bulls

photo (19)Yes, I have done many stupid things in my life. I indeed “ran” with the bulls in Pamplona a number of years ago. It was an orgy of carnival and spilled sangria that made the cobble stones sticky and everyplace one would want to lay down in the park suspect as a wet spot of public urination and or deification. I had traveled there on the spur of the moment as it were, leaving my backpack in storage in the hostel and taking just a few belonging in a day bag. It was sort of out of my way to do this, since I was trying to get the courage to go to Morocco but I was convinced by a few travelers I met at a youth hostel and told that this was great timing. I thought perhaps indeed this was fate to place me here in such a way and didn’t that American writer do a short story on this? Maybe I would be imbued with the same spirit, that I would stand up after this and shed my diffidence. I sort of tagged along with this woman who was on her way to Pamplona. I remember nothing about other than I think she was British and not too thrilled at my being there. I also remember that we had to run. We almost missed the train to Pamplona. It was actually pulling out of the station and I lunged for the door being held open by some Spanish youths and we hoisted my temporary companion on-board as well. She had yelled no no no go on without me except the kids paid her no mind. At the time, it was one of the stupidest things I had done.
We traveled hard and partook of the obligatory sangria all the way. Fear had been set in me by my parent and I was certain one or both of us would be murdered by some other traveler – and since there were quite a few in the parks (and crashing just about everywhere else), it was a bounty of victims in retrospect if not also the perpetrators I feared.
Sometime in the night my temporary companion grew tired of me and gave me the slip. I was an awkward-morose little fucker back then, too, so I do t blame her. I wandered the streets alone and to kill time awaiting the Running of the Bulls. I believe I was awake throughout the entire night, a trick that only the young can do for fun since in my early old middle age I cannot do this without experiencing great physical pain – especially about my eye holes – and an almost out-of-body disassociation of mind as well as a body dimorphic obsession that I am getting varicose veins. Perhaps those are side effects of the chemicals I use to stay up all night… either way, I used to be able to stay awake and then bound through the rest of the next day even more alert than had I slept.
After some wandering and sitting here and there attempting sleep, the light grew faint and the sounds of the night were replaced for a time with silence and then the stirring of the Day Watch. It was a glorious Spanish dawn making its way about the spires and trees of the city. The water trucks came about and little men with brooms made of sticks scrubbed away the wine sticky icky. The city still stunk of judiciously mixed fluids and overripe fruits soaked in bathos. It was the awakening of the city to the first drink of the day and the birds fought over the crumbs of so many carnival foods. And the running on said bulls who had put this useless outpost leftover form the Pelopension Wars or whenever on the map and an extensive listing in every Backpacker’s guide from Ze Book to Lonely Planet. I was afraid. That was a huge theme of my younger years. Fear. Fear of getting caught. Fear of spending too much money. Fear of being hurt and not having health care. And what a place to come in order to justify the reality of these fears as well as to face them down. And so I milled about as the crowd grew. I knew I could just join in anywhere, but I also knew that I was a target, that I had been told by another American (Americans then were a fearful bunch and would swap fear stories- some I may recount in a later post for shits and giggles).
photo (20)However, into the fray I went into the packed street as if joining in a subway car during rush hour save that most if not all of the population in the street were men and boys and the majority were wearing some version of the costume of the festival, white shirt and pants and a red cloth about the waist and red kerchief with which I assumed to wave at the bulls… if you saw them… Which…. as I was running when the rest of the mob ran least I be flattened not by the hooves of any but two legged animals, I did not see the bulls. I ran though. One and on. Until I was overtaken by the stupidity of this whole situation and ducked out of the race to just watch as men, boys, more men, tourists, a girl from some Slavic country, several men, more tourists, some boys, a group of women, perhaps Australians, more and more men all in the glow of prime adulthood ran by. Until there was finally some goddamn cow to see and some braver or perhaps stupider men. Mixed in with these men were a few rather active cows. Bulls. A few bulls (it was almost the last day so there was about three cows… bulls… missing from the full herd). And they passed in no time and behind them a crowd ran after then since the end game was to follow them into the bull ring where I believe they were slaughtered. Which I witnessed in Madrid packed in with some Japanese tourists and their high speed telephoto cameras… but that is fodder for another post.
For a time I felt I had crapped out. That I had missed my chance. I didn’t play high speed petting zoo like the braver/stupider men out there, the Real Men. But, in my own way, I had run with the bulls… just not right next to them. So I ran with them, right? Again, in my defense in the panic of running people, there would have been little chance to change course and run towards the bulls and the streets did not offer many places to stop and not get flattened by some half-drunk screaming Germans. So, in my way…. I had faced just a little fear. And won. On the way back to the rail station to go back to whatever city housed my travel belonging I spied the girl I had been with the night before. She had not one, but two very dark shinning black eyes and seemed to be favouring one leg as if a dog that had been clipped by an auto. I was going to go up to her and reconnect, but then thought better. Thought, actually, ha ha fuck you I told you we needed to stick together. Close quote.
My fear of getting caught, doing the wrong thing, being reprimanded or otherwise censured has not apparently stopped my attempting to challenge these fears and to become fully a person who stands along side those reeking of confidence and self-assurance and do something truly stupid. I always feel I am running from pillar to post on short legs like some Italian Greyhound… except those shiver but have rather longer legs. Which is why it may be so strange that I continue to get in to stupid situations and more often than not am hanging out with the wrong crowd, such as a gathering of police for a convention or a few rogue officers on vacation intent on going on a text book bender.
photo (18)I was in the capitol city on business for a certain vendor from the county of M- and as it happens my timing was that of National Police Week – sort of like the Sheriff convention expanded upon by one HUNTER S THOMPSON. I had noticed something was strange in the city since while there are a great many law enforcement officers in our Nation’s Capitol City there were subway cars full of officers in fancy dress uniforms and from a great many jurisdictions. When I was above ground I stumbled upon a parade of so many officers from different states and cities however the majority of them part of some Emerald Society or other Irish-American affiliated institution. A great many bagpipes, vintage police cars, more bagpipes, and marching officers as well as motorcycle details. As I walked long the street I came to a crowd of people who … let us say did not look like the population represented in the street. This crowd of people was about a series of shelters, or what I took as shelters since there were names on the buildings like Hope and Change and Drug Free Zone and No Alcohol which the clusters of onlookers seemed to perhaps be illiterate since there was a odor of inexpensive malt beverages as well as a pungent smell that perhaps was heroin but maybe hash but certainly from the brown spectrum of drugs. I continued on my way past this crowd, only one of which asked me for money – and the frightening woman in a veil with one eye that was looking towards G/g/o/_/d/s/ess/es and a wet patch on h/e/r/it/’s veil as if the individual was drooling or had some other accident involving the cloth headpiece and liquid/s.
I was now thirsty and wanted a quick pint before jumping on the light rail in order to get to my hotel. Close to the station I was walking to was a few Irish pubs. I had intended to have one drink in a high class hotel, but Irish pub filled with police, what could go wrong with this? Some of the most important lessons you learn in life are those lessons you already knew. And I knew deep down that Irish Pub + Off Duty Police = Bad Idea.
I have partied with police before. The most recent time I had partied with law enforcement was in Key West. As part of an assignment I had to stay the weekend and was taking up most of my time in a productive way by visiting various reefs. I also rented a little scooter since I missed my motorcycle and it seemed a good way to visit the island… I mean, key. All this water sport and Vespa driving also meant that I had to go lightly on the sauce. Enter Commissioner D- from the island of M- who had taken leave of his post for a few weeks of R&R and to plot his next career move in law enforcement since he was in the opposing party of a now outgoing mayor. We were in a budget hotel, but right next to the water, it seemed strange that an individual with so many connections (he was able to verify everything on his phone and with pictures of him with named officials) would stay here. Other than he didn’t want to be seen at the higher end places and we were reminded “cops are paid like shit.” Which considering my career in education, I can concur. What was most impressive about Commish D- for those of us gathered about the communal table that evening, was his badge. It was not the badge of a beat cop, a meager grunt in the anti-crime army, this was the real shit, the NCO, the man who could place a phone call and make bad things vanish. Which could only mean one thing…. On to do bad things. I don’t know what got in to all of us. The older man who was taking a break from living with his daughter after his wife died. The dude who worked on oil rigs but wanted to be a fisherman. Me. But we all fell under the spell that the presenter of that badge would give all of us unlimited Get out of Jail Free cards. Let’s go to dinner, the city is buying, the Commish told us. We slipped out and gathered on the sidewalk and waited for our host.
photo (21)He is so full of bullshit the oil man cum fisherman said. I don’t need him to buy me dinner, said the old man with the dead wife. But, we pressed on with our new friend. One short drink before dinner turned in to several. More pre-dinner drinks. Then back to the hotel for some reason and it suddenly came up that I had a scooter and that it was fun to ride. So, badge in pocket, I [may have driven about the block a few times] then trading the badge off to the next guy I had just met and didn’t know so he could [perhaps ride about the block a few time too]. The Commish then asked for his turn. Drove three feet… and remembered he needed his magic badge back. He [may have driven off] and was gone for some time. We pondered the outcome. The potential that he was gone. Drove into a set of trash cans. I wondered about my deposit and was certain that I [may have violated some contract had I done this] but we were all still high on the idea that we were in good company, a real bonafide lawman. Indeed he returned. That was fucking awesome man, dude I need to get one of these! We had raised some other residents of the hotel, so on to more bad behavior since hell, we were all on vacation. After everyone was ready we gathered our merry band and marched down the street, sometimes on the sidewalk other times in and out of the street. The latest mission was to get some [narcotics of some kind] and go to a strip club. Fisherman was the boldest one at this point, and he marched into a fine establishment, a pornography shop, to enquirer of the proprietor if he knew some location, individual, or connection for said products. When I was young I always thought that finding narcotics required some knowledge of a secret code of junkies or such – tap thrice and speak easy. However, most of the time one just blunders about asking, “Anyone know where we can get some good weed?”
Fisherman came quickly out of the shope and told us to move on quickly. “I think we need to move along… he wasn’t very helpful and I think he was a little pissed off” to which we just laughed. More of the evening gets spotty as the booze and smoke took over my brain pan. I know we finally had something to eat since I vaguely remember eating fried chicken we bought in a gas station with my hands and marching back to the hotel, excusing myself from the strip club and other potential bad activities way beyond my budget, leaving behind only a trail of skin and bones that to this day I am still not proud of. The next day, over morning beer, we recounted the night and at some point each one had blacked out only to come to at the hotel. Away from the Commish we blamed the magic badge. You know, said Dead Wife Dude, I don’t know what we were thinking. That fucking badge only covers him, we’d had been fucked had anything actually happened. And I waited at the Spanish restaurant as we had agreed, where were you guys? Not remembering the agreement nor any Spanish restaurant, I could not add anything to this inquiry.
Into Patty Dunn Quinn’s Blarney Shamrock Green Beer Pub Inn I wandered and sauntered up to the empty stool at bar. There was an old man playing the traditional tunes I grew up on. The place was a riot of lawkeepers. There was several officers from Chicago, a few from Boston, some from LA as well as perhaps the usual after work crowd for Washington DC the young staffers who think they’ll make it one day or the phalanx of low-level office tools from News Corps, Deloitte, Rand or Skynet. It didn’t take long for me to mention my own connection to Irish and Gothem and I was invited to a few drinks which turned in to more. I then escaped to the next bar but was met with a toast of Car Bombs and it is somewhat hard to resist a large group of police officers from Buffalo chanting encouragingly “chug! chug! Chug!” I am not sure why men like buying me drinks. I like to think that before I get morose and violent, I am a fun and entertaining drunk, or at least that nerd the jocks keep around to eat bugs and jump off bridges.
I know better than that to keep partying with police, but going in to Irish bars as I do it will happen from time to time and is inevitable during a police convention. I know the badge about their neck doesn’t save me were something to happen. But being in contact with that confidence of others, even if it is ill-placed and that magic amnesty is not as real as even those who sport those badges may believe while they engage in reckless behaviour…. but this confidence is infecting, that self-assurance I saw in so many of those runners as they ran from a flock of cows… herd of bulls… I guess I still wish to have that too. Even if it is just the booze talking.
Again, it is morning and I have to pay the price for a night of deep drinking to the roaring chants of men in kilts with a feeling like a Scotty or Yorkie dog tool a big hairy shit in my skull. The Fear and lack of confidence is back. What stupid thing should I next do to put it again at bay. I need to get my motorcycle fixed. And stay away from the Irish for a while.
photo (17)

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