Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Small world

Part 4



Damon strolled up the plaza looking for me. In utter disbelief, I saw him before he saw me. Not only were the odds against him even getting to Pamplona, the odds were certainly against us finding each other once we’d both arrived separately. He had a plane ticket to Valencia, but no way to get from there to Pamplona (six hours away) once he landed.

Using his considerable Spanish skill, I guess he talked his away onto a bus and ended up rolling into town about 6 a.m. that morning, just as I had been waking up from the ATM floor. As it turned out, we were both able to watch the running that morning. Before we left, we used a map to prearrange several different meeting places and times throughout the weekend. We found each other at the first place and the first time, 10 a.m. Saturday in front of the left luggage building.

We spent the day wandering the streets, buying postcards and t-shirts, and outfitting ourselves in the traditional white and red attire. We each bought a pair of the white cotton capris that appeared to be all the rage, at least among the tourists. The local runners all wore white jeans and button down white shirts. I opted for a red “san fermin” bandanna, while Damon opted for the sash.

When I first saw Damon in the plaza, I was about to tell him how I had decided not to run after watching how fucking fast those bulls were moving a few hours earlier. But the first words out of his mouth when he saw me were something to the affect of, “Did you see that shit this morning?! God damn I can’t wait to get in there, it’s going to be so fucking awesome.” From that moment on, the thought of not running never again entered my head. I decided I had come way too far not to be able to tell people I ran with the bulls.

We walked out from the city center into an enormous park, where we slept for a solid 2 hours in the sun, using our backpacks as pillows. We hit the town again that evening for some drinks, but returned to the park that night for the fireworks show that occurred every night during the festival at 11 p.m.

While at night the city of Pamplona was one giant toilet, by day the city was one huge bed, which gives slightly more insight into the town’s sanitation problem. People were sleeping everywhere. From the concrete ground in the plazas to the small stretches of grass surrounding fountains, and even in the medians of busy roads and large landscaped roundabouts, people were just passed out. People who were obviously intoxicated and “unable to care for their own safety” by the definition commonly employed by the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, received little more than pokes from la polica who, rarely, checked for vital signs and then just moved on.

Earlier that evening, we ditched our bags at the left luggage place, wearing what we planned to run in and nothing more. I had brought with me next to nothing beside bottled water. No Ipod, no sunglasses, no long pants, only one change of clothes and an old watch. To survive the night, I decided I should keep my UCSB sweatshirt on. I figured I could run while wearing it the next morning, as I doubted my adrenaline level would allow me to feel overheated during the 200 meter section of the course we planned to run.

I convinced Damon that another night in the bank portico would be our best bet to spend the night, given its relative cleanliness and warmth. We stopped by the ATM while it was still light outside and stashed a big bottle of water in the bushes outside. We knew we’d probably come back drunk and possibly wake up drunk, or at least hung over, so having some water around might ease our pain. We carried around some extra bread rolls in our pockets that we planned to eat as a snack on the way to the course in the morning.

Saturday night was just as crazy and claustrophobic in that DP on Halloween sort of way. We had fun drinking and trying to converse with Spanish people and any English-speaking girls we could find. One Spanish woman talked to us for a long time about how much she hated Bush but loved Clinton. We agreed and eventually left her with kisses on both cheeks, after assuring her that there are plenty more Americans like us.

To talk about random, Damon and I were walking past a rock concert in the middle of the street when some girls yelled out in English to me something about, “Yeah, UCSB! Go Gauchos!” We hung out with the four girls for a little while, all of whom had just graduated a few weeks prior. Small world, but one of them is in the UCSB Dramatic Arts program and knew my two roommates from last year.

The last person we met of any significance scared the shit out of us. We were drunk and I don’t remember why we started talking to him, but he was this monster of an American, well over 6 feet tall with a build like a linebacker. Again, we were drunk so maybe he wasn’t that big, but he told us some crazy stories about running with the bulls each of 3 previous years. What scared us was that he said he was never able to make it into the stadium, la polica always slammed the gates shut before he could run through.

Making it into the stadium was our primary goal. We had walked and studied the course during the day, and mapped out where we’d start to minimize danger to ourselves and maximize our chance of making it in (the huge orange doors get mechanically shut right after the last bull makes it in).

So here was this huge, experienced guy telling us we’d never make it on our first try. It freaked me out a little bit, but we told him we weren’t going to do it again, so we were going to make it in on our first try. His last advice to us was that, “no matter what happens, stay right.”

We turned in early to the bank floor, sometime around 2 a.m., and planned to wake up at six. Then it would be straight to the head of the course. The evening was considerably less comfortable than the previous night. I had no backpack to sleep on and only the shallow pockets of my thin capris to hold the small amount of cash and coins I was still carrying. According to Damon, I still had little trouble falling asleep, curling in the fetal position to keep warm and to use my inner left arm as a pillow. My hips would be bruised for several days after from tossing and turning on the tile floor.

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