Weekend, Part II: La Noche en Blanca

Saturday morning dawned bright and clear. While I promised myself that I’d be treated to some much needed sleep sans alarm clock, I awakened at about 9:30, unable to go back to bed again. Being as stores close earlier on Saturdays, I knew I should probably get up and grocery shop, buy bed linens, and do a load of laundry so I could sleep in said bed linens that night. I hustled myself over to “Día” the grocery store closest to Jordan’s place, and proceeded to buy 25 euros worth of food, including pasta, chicken, spinach leaves, a huge round of goat cheese, olive oil, onions and garlic, eggs, crackers, orange juice, yogurt and a few different kinds of fruit. It’s considerably cheaper to buy food here than it is in the U.S. which, when taking into account my pittance of a budget from now ’til the end of October, is a very good thing. For the past few days I’ve had goat cheese sandwiches on whole wheat baguettes with a drizzle of olive oil, a jar of pisto, spinach leaves and pepper. Pretty tasty if I do say so myself. I also actually cooked a dinner of pasta with chicken, sauteed onions, garlic and cherry tomatoes without burning down the house! WOOT! And of course, I’m becoming a master of Spanish olive-oil fried eggs. 🙂 Slurp.

So after grocery shopping I trotted down to the bedding store and bought myself some extremely garish, extremely expensive sheets. Can anyone tell me why I can’t find solid colored sheets in Spain? You get a cookie if you do. These sheets will probably give me bad dreams–and they were easily the least of all the evils. Magenta, green, camo and gold, they’re plaid wonders that feel like they’re made out of cheese cloth. I kind of wonder if I got swindled, but whatever. At least now I don’t have to sleep on a bare mattress.

The rest of the day was spent quietly, doing laundry and hanging it on the kickass 9th floor balcony that’s bigger than the rest of the apartmen (also where I’m sitting now, attempting to get my pasty white ass some color and relax. With the number of pigeons flying overhead and dropping feathers on me, though, it’s slightly less relaxing than I’d imagined it to be). Next on the agenda was a nap to prepare myself for one of Madrid’s biggest art & cultural events, La Noche en Blanca.

La Noche en Blanca is described as a night when all the best offerings in art, cinema, and performance art convene in the country’s capitol for an event that lasts from 8:00p.m.-4:00 the next morning. Museums stay open all night with free admission, street performances fill main thoroughfares, and the sides of buildings are projected with artwork and light displays. You might also have heard of this happening in Paris and Rome.

So. Basically. For one night, downtown Madrid is converted into an art space–in theory, this is cool as shit. In practice? Overwhelming and disorganized. The streets were packed with more people than I’ve ever seen in my life and overcrowded metros resulted in cars stalled underground for half an hour with passengers passing out or vomiting because of the heat and closeness. I was lucky enough to avoid that, and though La Noche en Blanca had a number of not-so-hot reviews in El Día and other Spanish newspapers, I had a grand old time.

My night began at the Parque del Buen Retiro (the park I almost lived near–remember?) at the lake. Amidst thousands of people I finally located Mark, Charles and Jordan and we watched as 20 or so barges were paddled out into the lake bearing mermaids playing tubas against a backdrop of gathering night. It was eerie and cool, as it was supposed to be, and I have many cool and creepy pictures which I will post once my camera and camera cord are reunited (they’re at the new pad, waiting quietly in my suitcase). We watched the mermaids and tubas for a while, then parted ways with Jordan to head down Gran Vía into my future neighborhood–Chueca.

On the way there we were swept into a teeming mass of pedestrians, but our star navigator, Mr. Mark Fox, guided me and Charles safely through the crowd. We stopped by an Urban Sound Garden–a small park that was taken over by an artist who infested it with softly pulsing green, violet and blue lights, and strung boogie-board looking soundboard structures from nets overhead. These boogie board looking sound things broadcast bird song, soft chimes, and  opera music from above. When I walked below it I was immersed in a peaceful, soothing space, which, duh, was the idea. Really kind of nice. The final mindfuck was delivered by approaching an army orchestra in a sunken pit in front of a governmental edifice–pretty damn cool.

Mark and Charles had gotten wind of there being some sort of performance inside an Egyptian temple (yeah–a real egyptian temple!) around Chueca but, as we walked, it started to rain. We retreated to Maoz falafel shop where Mark and Charles downed delicious looking pitas, and I contemplated stealing a very expensive coca light until my conscience got the best of me and I paid. By the time we finished, it was pouring and all of us being in various stages of sickness and, somehow, not feeling the fiesta vibe, decided to turn back to Mark’s place (only a few buildings away from my future home!).

My night ended exactly the way I wanted it to.  Ensconced in the coziness of Mark’s piso, Mark prepared us mint tea, we ate Greek yogurt with hazelnuts and raisins, hung out with Mark’s Spanish roommate María Jesús and watched “The Golden Girls” on DVD. Yes. “The Golden Girls.” Mark sent me home in the cold armed with a sweater hand-me-down from María Jesús’ ex husband (sooo awkward!) which obscured my sex and kept me from being catcalled on my early-late-night walk home. In all, a sweet but surreal ending to an equally sweet but surreal night.

Pictures of the mermaids coming soon!

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