far too much writing, far too many photos

This last Friday night: during the course of a late, late dinner with friends (a couple — her Spanish, him an American living here for many years), me having just written an entry here about royal weddings, etc., I asked my companions’ thoughts on the Spanish royal family. A simple question, producing immediate, lively commentary — mostly from her, him generally listening, a smile on his face.

Her opinions: not wildly complimentary, frequent use of terms like ‘imbecile’ and ‘asshole’ providing a major clue (though leavened with one or two appreciative points re: King Juan Carlos). Including expressed displeasure over the amount of state money being spent on preparations — a complaint I’ve heard with increasing frequency amid ever-swelling media coverage of the event.

Money is clearly being tossed around, in part to give the city a sprucing up in certain high-profile locations. And I will confess to enjoying what I’ve so far seen of it.

Madrid is overrun with construction and rehab. It’s everywhere, in exuberant, cheerfully-unsightly profusion: big scaffolding structures covering entire exterior walls of many-story buildings, generally covered with bright green or blue scrim to minimize the possibility of errant chunks of this and that clocking passing pedestrians. In an effort to reduce the eyesore factor (or take advantage of high-traffic locations), the expanses of scrim are sometimes turned into enormous billboards. [See entry of November 27, 2003.] Someone in the city government pondered that concept and had a brainstorm re: camouflaging the most obvious examples of city-center construction ugliness. The first examples have begun materializing along Gran Vía — enormous reproductions of paintings by Goya. Landscapes, expanses of sky. Large enough to have a genuine impact on the look of a plaza or section of street.

Gran Vía/la Plaza de Callao, Madrid:

The city has been beefing up already-existing flower beds in public places, and according to news reports, security officers will be looking to foil citizens who attempt to make off with any of the flowers. Nighttime illumination of buildings, already something the city does well, will be taken up a notch, using many more colors, something the city government supposedly inaugurated officially a few short minutes ago.

And in the traffic circle near Atocha train station, scene of March 11’s most damaging terrorist attacks, the city will be installing 192 trees in memory of those who died in the bombings. Not planting — creating a small, temporary urban forest in big pots, to be relocated and planted for real in el Retiro, Madrid’s version of Central Park, post wedding weekend.

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T-shirt worn by an unidentified male near la Plaza Mayor over the weekend: DO NOT COMMIT

At last week’s Cannes Film Festival: Ugly bags of water

Madrid, te quiero.

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