far too much writing, far too many photos

The crowds turning out to enjoy the lighting displays set up as part of the pre-wedding make-Madrid-shine effort have become a phenomenon, growing larger with each passing evening. Becoming, last night, so sprawlingly enormous (250,000-300,000, according to the media) that they simply took over that part of the city, provoking major, unexpected traffic tie-ups, attracting national news coverage.

There are those who think this week — the conjunction of perfect weather, preparations for tomorrow’s wedding, and the focusing of world attention here for that event — has been cathartic, a lift to a city in need of one after the bombings of two months ago. That the flood of people taking to the streets has been a sign of Madrid opening back up after a deep shock. Could be, and that might explain the gentle official reaction to last night.

The police: patient, respectful, doing everything they could to accommodate the crowds. Rather than attempt to control the growing river of gawkers, they directed reduced traffic carefully through the area until the swelling number of pedestrians made that impossible, then eliminated motor vehicle access altogether, turning the streets over to the crowds.

The mayor, rather than reacting with panicked attempts to control the surging anarchy, embraced the turnout, practically beaming (this from a man who rarely shows any expression at all) at the success of the displays, at the way the city has come out to enjoy them.

Yesterday evening, I made a return trip to the area — an easy ten-minute walk from here — in an attempt to get more photos. With no idea that the scene would be what it turned out to be. So many people that the crushing congestion in the broad sidewalks quickly became dangerous, police having to lift people out over the curbside railings into the street to prevent injuries. At which point, it all just turned into a free-flowing explosion of humans out enjoying themselves, unrestricted by anything. Happily, breezily chaotic. Everyone with cameras, taking photos of the lighting displays, of the unexpected anarchy, of each other.

In descending order:
a) the main post office building, la Plaza de la Cibeles
b) la Calle de Alcalá, looking east toward la Plaza de la Cibeles
c) la Calle de Alcalá, looking west toward la Plaza de la Puerta del Sol (not visible)

So much happy partying that the national security services became nervous, asking the city to abort tonight’s lighting displays — concerned that the crowds might prevent the completion of preparations for tomorrow’s motorcade/wedding/etc. Tonight was to have been the final evening of the big pre-event celebration — the city will now have to resort to its normal Friday night mode of all-night revels. (Sniffle.)

An interesting factoid mentioned in one of the countless news stories about wedding prep./security: there’s an extensive network of underground tunnels below Madrid — 5,000 miles’ worth. They’re now being methodically searched and patrolled, and will continue to be until the last of the international wedding guests packs up and disappears.

Meanwhile, early yesterday morning: woke from a dream in which I learned that a 42 foot high wave of water had rolled through Manhattan, information with a massive implied death toll.

I was somewhere north of N.Y.C. when I found out, in a private office of some kind. Big, entirely done in dark wood, the lights discretely low.

A balding 50-something male in a suit sat behind a sizeable desk at one end of the room, a 50ish woman at a desk or table across from him. (His office, though, not hers.) Desk man spoke with a soft Austrian accent, telling me and the woman about the killer wave, going on to say that he’d realized the owners of the five biggest banks were behind it, as if were a realization that should be obvious to everyone. I kept my smartmouth thoughts to myself.

A 42 foot high wave of water. What am I, a walking trailer for the latest disaster film?


Friday night: rain moved in several hours ago. The crowds that had been accumulating around the center ready for fun diminished some, the high spirits of the remaining die-hards muted but not smothered. Every TV channel is occupied with pre-wedding activities and the hordes of royalty, world leaders and famous types that have invaded Madrid over the last 24 hours for the event.

I had the impression that a fair number of folks would ignore the wedding ceremony tomorrow a.m. Silly me. Even my Spanish instructor, one of the last people I would have expected to be up for something like this, said he’d be out of bed with the telly on. Me, I may go to the gym. Depends on how grinchlike I feel in the morning.

A final note: this evening someone found this page via a search for “scissors orange x-ray butt.”

Hard to improve on that as a summing up.

Madrid, te quiero.

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