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  July 10, 2001
Mad Cow Disease

TRAVEL & LEISURE

Mad Cow Disease

   Some folks don't know anything about Spanish culture, except when it involves a pitcher of strawberry blended margaritas or free chips and salsa.

   This Independence Day weekend, instead of throwing sparklers at each other in the back yard, three thousand like-minded individuals gathered in Pamplona, Spain to participate in San Fermin's annual running of the bulls.

   First, the animals are incited to riot. They're jabbed and stabbed with banderillas: long, sharp spikes adorned with multicolored flags and ribbons. When six 500-pound bulls are deemed full-on fed up with human beings, each is released into a crowd of bumbling tourists and liquored up college students. The people serve as sheepdogs, corralling the bulls from street to street, into the matador's arena.
   Americans are afraid of a lot of things. Will Tower have that DVD in stock? Will I be able to pay next month's car insurance? Our more valuable, instinctive fears are relegated to the background. Cultural institutions like Six Flags, Santa's Village or Marine World Africa/USA dumb down our perceived relationship with the animal world. Now we battle huffing, puffing, blue smoke-snorting Spanish bulls like we're special guests on the Muppet show.
   Abrie Nel from London was speared at the knee, suffering a deep gash in a shattered leg. He described himself as “shocked.” Newspapers around the globe described him as a cable installer.

“I didn't actually feel any pain at the time, although it was a bit of a wallop!”

   A bit of a wallop? Readers visualize only the squishy, Jim Henson version of Abrie's tubular grey face. Modest tufts of white cotton poke out from behind each ear. Thick, square eyeglasses fitted with kaleidoscopic lenses create surreal, googly eyeball effects when observed straight on. Oversized foam buck teeth clamp down around Kermit's microphone, gobbing away about nothing in particular.

    Hey, guess what. You don't need to provoke a bull into a good fight with a flouncy, West End frat boy concealing dimebags of overpriced Mexican giggle weed down his knickers.
   Twenty-nine year old U.S. tourist Jennifer Smith suffered the worst. She's in serious condition, with multiple injuries across her thighs, face, neck and tits. Girls and bulls? It sounds like an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, if you know what I mean. What encourages these Tex-Mex adventure lesbians to bandwagon together in tour groups chasing every extreme sport on the planet? So they can twaddle on about it in their web journals for 50 kilobytes? No thanks, Rita Mae Brown.

   Today, Smith wears a tight neck brace. Maybe a well-deserved break is in order; a little down time from all that globetrotting and crime fighting. With proper rest, she should be healed just in time for Mardi Gras, or Bastille Day, or whatever contemporary Wiccans have planned for Stonehenge during the upcoming Summer Solstice. We're pulling for you, Jen! Pulling our floppy, apathetic dicks.
   “I don't really know what I'm doing here!” brays Yoeli Barag, a 21-year-old Israeli student. “I hope I don't get trampled!” Good luck with that. Thirteen bull runners have died in the past 77 years. That's nearly zero point one six percent of a single, precious human life lost at each event over time, with strong emphasis on the zero.
   Derek Hoffman, a visiting American shares: “I'm really scared. The bulls have pretty big horns.”

   By comparison, Danelle Ng was lucky. A bull managed to remove both her Air Jordans, one sock and four toes. She screamed and hollered, encouraging another animal to ram its head directly into her face. Let's flash forward to an interview with Ng ten years from today, as she recalls her passion for Pamplona:

NURSE: More apple juice?
NG: HURGLTHK.
   Yes, those were good times. A series of rainstorms the night before made each cobblestone corridor not slick, not slippery - but slickery, further exacerbating the treacherous, overcrowded terrain.
   Participants skidded and crashed into one another, trampling over the heads of those injured on the ground. Bulls buckled at the knees and fell, gashing horns and hooves into people's sides with unpredictable force and direction. It was an upside down traffic jam, a WTO protest and a Los Angeles riot, all to the tune of La Cucaracha.

   Anyone adding this attraction to their vacation itinerary should be made aware that these are not Warner Bros. cartoon bulls like the kind Bugs Bunny asks for directions to Albequerque. Nor does any resemble Ferdinand sitting in a patch of flowers under the cork tree. If you're surrounded by bulls, you're probably in Spain - not Chili's or El Pollo Loco.

   Rotten Dot Com finds nothing funny about animal cruelty, except when dick jokes or smart remarks can be extracted. Mess with the bull, and you get the shit. Stitches for everybody.

( Posted by Rotten Staff )

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