One reason we had chosen Tuesday as a night to go out was that there were no other available dates when we could pull it off and all make it. And even then it proved in vain in the end, as one had a trial the next day, not his own, but as a lawyer, and didn’t want to risk ending up in a disco at five in the morning shouting at a girl over the music that he was a lawyer and to go to court in a couple of hours. It was known to happen. It was known to happen.
The other reason was that we figured that, if we went down to the center around Sol, it would be lively enough there to keep things entertaining, but not overwhelming the way the weekends can get. But somehow, we had either underestimated the effects of the crisis or overestimated the will of the people, because once outside, the streets seemed fatally quiet, with the only sorts hanging around being the sorts who seemed to hang around those joints every evening. They were the night watchmen of the crisis.
There was a brief discussion about whether or not we should pursue the evening, or just let it run off, but except for two who bailed out due to professional commitments, the rest of us stayed on a little longer on account we were already there and because, what the hell, it was Christmas.
We crossed the street to another legendary bar called Viva Madrid, known for its beautiful tiled exterior and fancy interior. On an ordinary night we would be hard pressed to come upon so much as a free stool, but the barren atmosphere that night made it easy for us to choose the best one. We were the only ones there. We ordered a round of mixed drinks, talked about our plans for the holidays and then departed as soon as we noticed the staff starting to close up.
Sensing we weren’t going to run into even the slightest bit of excitement, we headed up to Calle Príncipe where we were assaulted by the P.R. people who desperately stuffed papers into our hands that guaranteed a free drink and other enticements: “The girls inside are shaven!”
Really now. This sounded like Bankok. Why did I need to know that? Did that mean I was going to have to verify the fact? No, thanks.
We walked down the street a little further, almost right in front of the classic Bar Las Cuevas de Sésamo, which has been serving sangria by the gallons for decades. We opted for an Irish pub called O’Neill’s instead, for no particular reason. All Irish pubs in Madrid have the same feel to me. We had the place to ourselves, but at least not under the threat of women who shave unknown parts of their bodies and are in a hurry to show where.
We were out the door by 12.30 and home by 1:00. In most parts of the Western World, to conduct oneself like that on a Tuesday night would be considered an act of indecent recklessness perpetrated only by the most irresponsible of adult men; but for Madrid, it is technically seen as a sign of good behavior. A show of restraint and moderation when faced with such temptation.
Years ago, when I was still a Spanish teenager at the age of 30, to say you were in bed before two in the morning entitled you to aver that you never actually went out the night before. But now that we were approaching half a century, that we could talk about life before mobile telephones and even the VCR, the truly classy thing to do was retire. After all, one of us had to address a major contract signing, another had a business trip to the Middle East, another had to wrap up his numbers for the year-end fiscal report, another needed to perform an operation, and I had to spend a few hours educating Spain’s future.
Plus, the Christmas Season was still very early.