Actually, the only true happening going on in Madrid yesterday was the Gay Pride Day parade which has become one of the city’s biggest annual events and money makers for that matter. I had never seen it and thought it might be worth taking a look, but I also had other plans on my mind, something far less energetic. I wanted to see an old movie at the Círculo de Bellas Artes, one of my favorite haunts when I feel like being alone. I wanted to see this biopic about Ian Curtis, the former singer of Joy Division, called Control. It came out in 2007 when I had everything but control on things and was critically acclaimed, so I figured I would check it out. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to take a bus because all the streets would be cut off due to the parade, so I took a shortcut through the Retiro Park towards the Plaza de Neptuno. As I approached, as I approached, the deep bass-filled thudding and thundering of the music pounding away from the parade grew evermore powerful. Then came overtones of high-pitched songs and screaming and laughter. Before I had even laid my eyes on the parade, I have to admit the whole scenario was overwhelming. Try to picture the movie King Kong as the expedition reaches the gates of the walled city on Skull Island. You just sensed you were about to enter something wild, savage and unbridled. Unbridled and wild.
Then you reach Alfonso XII where the buses and floats are lined up and waiting to bob down the street and it’s something far tamer. Lots of music, that’s for sure, lots of Queen, Gloria Gainer and Abba, and thousands of flamboyantly dressed people, mostly men obviously, just partying and having a good time. I crossed the street and headed down towards Neptuno.
One very good thing about this day is that the downtown turns into a pedestrian’s heaven. Cars were banned from nearly every nook and cranny. The movie was about to start so I wasted no time.
This poor cinema is one of my favorites because it never fills up. Not even close. Plus, it’s kind of like a place for people who like to see movies alone without complexes. If you go with another person you can qualify for a group rate discount. The movie was cool. Joy Division was and still is a major reference and influence in the post-punk music era. It released only one album while the four members were still alive and a second which was about to come out before Curtis took his own life. The film was directed by the Dutch director Antón Corbijn. It was good. I liked it. Glad I did it. Worth a see if you can.
Then I got out and got a call to meet up with some friends on the other side of the Gran Vía, which was no easy task, which was no easy … task, because there was a full-fledged gay rights party parade between me and the other sidewalk. There were no barriers cutting the spectators off, and since the parade was kind of a haphazard celebration of everything decadent and fun, you could basically make your way across at any point. What a party! It was out of control. They were certainly having a great time.
Madrid was humming last night. It was burning with nightlife. The streets were just teeming with music and dancing and drinking and bursting with excitement. Funny, I thought. Here’s a city whose own patron saint fiestas, generally the biggest blowout parties in any other town and city in Spain, are generally low-key and subdued. At least in comparison. This is quite possibly the biggest party in a big party town. The gay community really knows how to throw a shindig of macroscopic proportions.
And even outside the main parameters of the Chueca area, Madrid was in the mood for celebrating. Maybe it was the first July weekend in summer feel to it. Fuencarral, Tribunal, Malasaña, Bilbao, Conde Duque, Alonso Martínez, were all loaded with people. I saw these neighborhoods myself and with my own eyes, with my only eyes, with my only own eyes. It was palpating.
I met some friends in a small plaza near the Conde Duque which is a major cultural center in Madrid. It holds fantastic exhibits and concerts. I’ll have to tell you about it some time. We had a nice dinner highlighted by some excellent black pudding mixed with a candied apple sauce. It was still kind of warm to stay long in the terrazas, still kind of warm and uncomfortable, even under the protection of the well-canopied trees. We went down La Palma Street to a crossing where all four corners housed old bars with large windows and people spilling out inside. We chose one called the Olvidados, or something like that or…something like that and sat down at a great table where I could put my back against the wall, drink a gin and tonic in a fat perspiring glass, and look at the people come in and out. A young crowd. Mostly looking for huge beers and a place to start the evening. A mostly every-night crowd if I recall correctly, on one hand intermingled with a group of muscular young men dressed up as sailors and wearing the words “Ciao” on their sleeveless shirts. From my chairpoint I was able to control who came and who left, and suddenly I saw this friend who walked in. He was from the States. In fact it had been so long that I had to think about whether or not he was the same friend or just some one, or just someone, who looked like him. He was from my hometown and had been in Spain for a stint back in the 90s. He was here on some business which surprised me because most Americans from my hometown don’t come to Spain for anything other than pleasure. He had been in and out of work for the past few years, since he worked, or at least used to work on Wall Street. I didn’t quite get what he was doing here, because I rarely understand anything about finances. I know they exist and must work, because I have seen them work, but it just doesn’t make sense to me. Kind of like electricity.
I had actually had the hugest coincidence involving him, I’ll have to tell you about that later, so I wasn’t surprised to run into him in a fortuitous way again. If it had to happen to someone, I guess he was the person. He got to talking and he started telling me about an old girlfriend of mine who I had completely lost contact with, not even through Facebook and it turned out she used to work for some financial bigwig who had the hots for her and everything, but she got out of there, which was just as well, which was…just…as…well, because then he got nailed for some ponzi scheme. She ended up marrying a billionaire, not a millionaire, but a billionaire. She had dumped years before, clearly understanding there was no bright future in me (I think I had once told her something lethal like I wanted to be a port), so I have to commend her on her astute decision-making.
My friends must have gotten bored with our conversation. They said they were going to take a taxi home, so soon I said, so soon? They said yes. But I decided I was going to walk home. I enjoyed walking around Madrid at that time of night. Still so much going on. I also wanted some time to think about something else this Scott told and was troubling me a little.
Because it didn’t make much sense.