Back in Madrid for the last leg of our trip, we shop at El Dia, a terrifically downscale mini-supermarket where a small horde of Asians are purchasing hundreds of bottles of Fanta, Coke and Fairy (a Procter and Gamble dish detergent), producing hundreds of expired coupons and arguing successfully for their value. We guess they own a restaurant. This is not exactly the DIA Center for the Arts on W22nd Street, but we find what we need: Vichy Catalan water, Diamatik laundry soap (a gel!) and the prettiest rainbow of multicolored clothespins imaginable (the turquoise ones will match my Eddie Bauer sea foam T shirt that has some questionable stains acquired at our visit yesterday to Barcelona’s Boyberry, a multi-chambered place where the glory holes are controlled by sliding panels that generate anxiety in that they could act as blunt guillotines during an interaction gone awry.) We collect a 3 Euro bottle of Rioja before the check out. What a delightful boutique!
We dump the goods at our apartment on Perez Galdos in the center of the bull’s eye of the heart of the gay Chueca neighborhood. We run up Fuencarral to Colby’s where we teach the cute bartender how to make a Manhattan. Learning the formula, he produces them in beakers big enough to please Richard Serra! Food must be had to tame these, so we order the Colby pizza which is a surly thing sporting a fried egg and some cheesy bits. It erases hunger, which is about the highest praise we can offer for Madrid cuisine. We roll down the hill to the internet café next to the Eagle on Pelayo where we teach another cute bartender (this one wearing a wide black webbed belt stenciled white with “Play stupid with me”). He doesn’t follow the formula, going heavy on the Vermouth, but we follow his belt.
Back out on the narrow sidewalks, I miss the wide boulevards of Barcelona, a brief sentiment that evaporates with the sight of more beautiful men per square foot than can be found anywhere on earth, and 90% of them under 5’6”. (Shopping for T shirts here is a joy – and we will thank Eric for recommending Zara – because we don’t have to put up with or cut off that extra several inches that are always included in American T shirts, making them fit more like a Greek tunic.)
We are laughing as we turn left onto Hortaleza, but are worried by what we see when we turn the corner onto Perez Galdos. Police cars with lights flashing, and much commotion on the street between our building and the entrance to the convenient “Cruising”, a bar with an immense labyrinth of dark rooms. C suspects a raid, having had altogether too much fun there earlier in our trip. We enter our building and take the elevator to the fifth and top floor.
There, we are shocked to find the door to our apartment open and a crowd of strangers talking excitedly in our kitchen. At first, no one bothers to greet us as we enter, and I have a several-Manhattan-induced-fear that we had forgotten about a party we had scheduled. Then, I suspect a fire. C finds the laptop intact on the kitchen counter and eliminates the possibility of a break-in. A lady whom we recognize as one of the building staff rushes up to us and delivers a rapid fire explanation in undecipherable Spanish. She indicates two uniformed (and hot) men whose shoulder badges read “Cuerpo Nacional di Policia”. One of the windows is open, and the metal security grate has been unlocked and swung aside. A third policeman is climbing through it, out onto the sloping tiled roof.
The animated lady produces a Martha Grahamular interpretive danceload of gestures that explain what has happened. Soon after dark, a cat burglar was seen prowling the rooftops of the adjoining buildings. The police were called, and it was decided that the best access to the roof was through our kitchen. Looking through the window, to where the building next door has been demolished with only the historic stone façade retained, we see that another officer has handcuffed a man to the pipes of the scaffolding that is supporting the façade, just a few feet from our bedroom. Suddenly, strong lights are played against the building across from us, and a bucket on a crane zooms into view from the narrow street below, collecting the villain and his attending officer. For a moment, the handcuffs remain attached to the pipes, swaying in the breeze and catching moonlight on the upswing. We wonder if they will let us play.
More men who had been out on the roof pile into our kitchen and I decide it is too late to hide the various gay guide books and flyers (including one for Cruising that features a Tom of Finlandian police officer in aviator glasses and tall boots) that cover our kitchen table. Oh well. No one seems shocked, and I run for the camera just in time to immortalize the heroic butt and pistol of a real policeman on our roof making the Chueca safe for yet another night of fun.
Our guests depart, and we scamper across the street to Cruising where nobody inside is aware of what was happening outside the door. They have other business in mind, and I find the same to be true at the Eagle where the manager whom we call the Christmas Tree, as he is so heavily ornamented, asks me if I agree with him that the Barcelona Eagle is superior. After an hour in the backroom of his establishment in the shady L-shaped passageway that contains a very thoughtful overhead rack for one’s beer bottle, I deliver my verdict: Barcelona is elegant, but Madrid is hot.