Short Stories
Entry No. 52 April 18, 2005

La Vaca

Well, our quartet rolled into Santiago, Chile on April 15, 2005. Nevertheless, we could not rest just yet. Susie, Sheldon, Orian, and I had to do a photo shoot for the National TV station here in Chile. It was fun but exhausting as all we wanted to do was find our contact in the city and rest for a bit.

Our stay here in Santiago has been peppered with quite a few oddities which I feel are well worth mentioning. First of all, Susie and I both had friends of friends living in Santiago and so we were excited to have 2 options for housing during our stay. As our twosome grew to a threesome, then a foursome as we closed in on Santiago, we thought splitting up into pairs would be a good idea as four smelly bikers in a city apartment wouldn't really be fair to our host. The odds of us being in the same neighborhood would be nil as Santiago's population is approximately 5.5 million people and we wondered how we would be in contact over the next few days.

It turns out that Susie and Orian were my and Sheldon's next door neighbors. Unbelievable! We thought about the odds and figured 1 in 500,000 if there were about 1 million households in the city. It was pretty great and very convenient.

We had a busy weekend in terms of getting "bike stuff" done, but that was put on hold as I dealt with my first hangover of the trip on Saturday and quite a cow of a day on Sunday. Let's not talk about the former and focus on the latter. My friend of a friend-but-we're-not-sure-which-exactly, Axel Brinck, invited us to come and see quite an interesting event. We were to meet him on the corner of Merced and Miraflores at 9 am to watch a cow being put on a roof. It was intercepted on the way to the slaughter house and will be lifted up on top of a parking garage for about a week. As he told us about this, it seemed kind of odd, but not all that crazy or nuts and we didn't feel compelled to ask any questions about it. We nodded and mentioned that we might stop by. Susie had taken a jaunt up to the mountains for a party so it was just Orian, Sheldon and I. When Sunday came around, Axel left early to help transport the cow and the three of us biked across the city to the designated corner. It was a great Sunday morning ride as there were almost no cars on the road and the weather was just right.

As we arrived at the corner and looked around, we saw nothing out of the ordinary. We did see a crane just kind of hanging out on the corner and a guy looking up at the top of a parking garage. At first glance, it looked like he might know something, but the minute we saw his expression when I asked him if this was where they were putting the cow, we knew this was going
to be interesting.

This guy was still glassy-eyed from his Saturday night, maybe even still drunk, and when I asked my question in Spanish, he blurted out in a thick accent, "What are you trying to say, speak English." What he was really saying was, you can't speak Spanish because you just asked me if they were putting a cow on the roof of this building so your vocab sucks and you should just speak in English and save us all some time. Hence, our drunk friend was quite surprised when I asked the same question in English. He said "what???" as he put his feminine fingers over his mouth and continued to ask just what we meant.

We tried to explain to him in English and Spanish what we were waiting to see and he couldn't understand that he, who lives in Santiago, had no idea what was going on, and us, three gringos, had made plans to come and see a cow being lifted onto a city rooftop. He rumbled away saying he needed to find his friends and we figured that maybe he had a little more than just booze the night before, which probably made this encounter as amusing as it was.

Just then, a VW bus with half of its roof pulled off, a red strobe light atop, and a cow inside pulled over on the corner of Merced and Miraflores in the city of Santiago, Chile. Up until now, we had thought this was all in the name of animal rights as the cow was intercepted from its fateful destination. Nevertheless, we were mistaken as the whole point of this was for art and that they were saving the cow from slaughter was just peripheral, incidental one might muse.

It was obvious that the project and its logistics were very carefully planned, not one detail was amiss. The W in the VW was turned upside down to stand for VACA MOVIL; the cage for the cow was architecturally approved and reinforced for security; the cow had a veterinarian that was waiting to milk her when she arrived at her timeshare for the week; such an
interesting event.

I want to say "Never a dull day in this trip of a lifetime" but as you can imagine, biking 100 Km in the desert everyday for 10 days can get pretty dull, especially if there are no conversations about vino and Beano. Hence, this unique experience was welcomed and discussed extensively over coffee and then lunch up in the mountains surrounding Santiago. This day certainly wasn't a dull day. It was, in fact, crazy and nuts. Thanks to Axel for such great story material.

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