far too much writing, far too many photos

A recap, for those not paying close attention to the details of life in Madrid this week:

Two days from now, Saturday morning: the royal wedding.

In preparation for that event, the city’s been getting a fast spit-shine (streets suddenly cleaner than normal, big arty banners covering expanses of construction/rehab, nighttime lighting on certain key buildings enhanced with eye-catching colors).

Virtually all local media outlets are currently obsessed with everything relating to the wedding.

Measures taken to address security concerns have begun impacting daily life in increasingly visible ways — beginning last weekend, everyone entering the country via highway and railway gets stopped for security checks; beginning tomorrow, all motor vehicles will be barred from certain major thoroughfares around the city center; beginning this evening or tomorrow, parking lots around the city center will be closed. A no-fly zone will be enforced over the city on Saturday, possibly on Sunday as well. And on Saturday, 200 sharpshooters will be arrayed on rooftops along the processional royalty-waving-to-everyone route taken through the city center. (That last doesn’t really impact daily life, but is worth noting just for the hell of it.)

It’s something to watch unspooling, all this. Big pomp, in an endearing, slightly off-kilter old-world-meets-new-world way, the local reaction seeming mighty complex. Yes, the media is on it like a cheap suit. And yes, there apparently is an audience for all the wedding-related media noise. Yes, the number of Saturday morning viewers is expected to be huge, as is the 3-D turnout along the motorcade route here in town.

An event of this pedigree, after all — a commoner (ex-newscaster, in this case) marrying into the royal realm, world leaders and European royalty in attendance; high romance, with a resonant aura approaching that of the fairy-tale — doesn’t come down the pike every week. For which I am grateful, because it could get real damn tiring. Wearing, even. Annoying. Abrasive. Brain-numbing.

Not that I’m suggesting for a moment that the current once-in-a-generation happening is any of those nasty adjectives. Truly, sincerely, I am not. (No, really.) It is, in all its strange aspects, just too freakin’ interesting to be any of that.

For instance, the mixed feelings I see in the community around me — a sense of pride, on one hand, at the city being the center of so much attention, along with a frank, unashamed enjoyment at the sudden show of ambient eye-candy, particularly the lighting displays taking place come dusk around certain plazas and buildings. Last night at sunset, big crowds collected around la Plaza de la Cibeles and down el Paseo del Prado, a concentration point of light and color. Many thousands of people, mostly Spaniards as far as I could tell, many with cameras out, all happily gawking away. Lots of ironic commentary to be heard, co-existing comfortably with genuine, unfeigned delight, neither reality contradicting the other. Fun.

Madrid gets lit — la Plaza de la Cibeles, yesterday evening:

On the other hand, I’ve heard plenty of carping about the money being spent on the whole wingding. And closer to home, the shutting down of parking garages and main thoroughfares in the city center is causing some local businesses to go dark for the weekend come Friday afternoon. Not because they want to — because they believe the disruption of access to the center will mean far fewer customers and a dropoff in business drastic enough to warrant closing up shop. The Metro will be open, operating free of charge on Saturday until 4 p.m., but few Madrid residents are expected to be out shopping that morning. Good time to stay at home and watch royalty get hitched.

One thing that’s becoming more true with each passing nanosecond: however one feels about the nuptial thing, it’ll all be over soon.

I have no idea if I’ll wind up turning on the tube Saturday morning. I hope to be asleep, frankly, not awake debating the question, as I’m still recovering from last weekend’s combo of high activity level and little sleep. It’s entirely possible, though, that I’ll drag myself out of bed at a distressingly reasonable hour, pull on clothes, limp to a neighborhood espresso pusher (where the royal hooha will be probably be on at high volume, the lost souls in attendance staring blankly at the screen). At which point I’ll remember I should be out on Gran Vía watching the motorcade with the rest of the city, under the watchful eye of all 200 sharpshooters. So that I can write something semi-informed about it afterward.

Might happen. Or it might not. I’ll find out Saturday.


T-shirt seen yesterday in the Madrid Metro:

NO, TAMPOCO fui invitado a la BODA REAL
(NO, I wasn’t invited to the ROYAL WEDDING EITHER)

Madrid, te quiero.

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