That's right. Two days ago. Some parts of the process went smoothly, others less so.
Highlights? Well, the trip consists of a ride on the Metro to the station Principe Pío, where one grabs a bus to Alcorcón. There one transfers to another bus, the #1, which eventually winds its way through the shopping fantasyland that's home to the Ikea megastore.
I made it to Alcorcón, got off the bus to wait for the #1. And waited. And waited. Then I waited some more. Ninety minutes later I came to my senses, flagged down a taxi.
During that hour and a half, many people passed by -- on foot, waiting for buses or in cars. Including a small, European-make car containing four clowns. In full make-up. All staring straight ahead, motionless, expressions disturbingly serious. There one moment, gone the next.
I finally get to Ikea, as I'm making my way across the parking lot to the entrance, I notice a large sign that didn't register my first time through: 'Garantía de devolución.' Signifying, I imagine, either a guarantee re: sales returns or a guarantee that your purchases will devolve -- your choice. (Q: Are we not men? A: We are Devo.)
I find a person to help me order furniture. I pay for it, find a cart, find the furniture (boxed up in its component parts, as it must be thrown together at home), go through the check-out line, go through the line to arrange delivery. Then I buy a few items I can carry, and make the return trip to Madrid with them. That night the furniture shows up.
My new neighborhood has narrow streets with high population density -- parking is tight. On my block in particular there is no parking at all, no room to pull over, and iron posts sunk into in the narrow sidewalk on both sides of the street to prevent any car from jumping the curb. Somehow the Ikea delivery guys found parking, loaded everything onto a cart, got it to my door and helped me wrestle it up four flights of stairs. (Another interesting feature of the new space: it's a fifth-floor walk-up.) When I handed them a thousand peseta bill -- maybe $5.50 American -- they looked surprised. It's a weird fact of life here that the Spaniards, generous in many ways, don't tip much. I'm told that Spanish manual laborers make better wages than their American counterparts, but we're still not talking an extravagant living. If they exert themselves as these guys did -- efficiently, with great attitudes -- they deserve something more.
But I babble.
I assembled the furniture (feeling suitably manly), the apartment continues to become a living space. Most of my stuff from the other flat is now here, with one significant omission -- the CD player/boombox. That arrives later today and should make a serious difference.
The difference between my old neighborhood and this one is dramatic, becoming apparent as soon as one crosses la Calle de Génova, the main drag that separates the two barrios. The old barrio (the southeast point of a district called Chamberí) was a neighborhood for people with money. The British Embassy lay a short three block walk from my building. The tree-lined streets were kept relatively clean (relatively -- the Madrileños toss a fair amount of garbage around), and apart from a nice sense of bustle during business hours, it was pretty quiet. Once across la Calle de Génova, however, the trees disappear, the sidewalks narrow, there are more stores, most looking and feeling a bit less refined. As one continues moving deeper into Chueca, there's more evidence of nighttime drinking, the sidewalks are stained from years of harder life than those in my old barrio. The street noise becomes more insistent and continual. And as you approach la Plaza de Chueca, it becomes clear that you're not in Kansas any more.
Street life is much more the way of life here, especially around the plaza. As I sit in my piso, four floors up, there's a near constant murmur of noise from down below, punctuated by outbursts of one kind or another -- someone yelling or breaking into a bizarre fragment of song, cars passing (or drivers leaning on their horns because someone's blocking the way), motorcycles or motorscooters, dogs barking. Now and then someone in another flat somewhere cranks up their stereo, something that never happened in the old barrio.
There are times when it feels strangely like living near the ocean, near a popular beach. And there's something oddly restful about that.
I have yet to sleep here, though. Last night in the old flat was one of those perfect autumn evenings -- nicely cool, with a fresh, understated breeze. Quiet. Conditions that promote deep sleep for me. Tomorrow night will be my first night here in the new place I suspect it may be a whole different experience.
Re: the walk here from the old neighborhood -- after crossing la Calle de Génova and heading down the side street in this direction, I pass a small tienda that sells women's wear. This week its display window has sported a hand-scrawled sign reading: atención bajaron los pantys
(Literally: attention, they lowered the panties -- undoubtedly meaning a drop in prices.)
One other thing -- twice now I've seen a car parked around the corner from here with identical Simpsons t-shirts pulled down over the two front seats, as if the seats were wearing 'em. The shirts read "Like father like son," showing Bart and Homer giving the peace sign -- Bart to us, Homer with his hand behind Bart's head, giving him horns.
The Simpsons -- they're everywhere.
rws 7:45 AM [+]