At noon on any given Thursday, the sharpener’s flute can still be heard in the kingdom’s capital. Today I went up from Alcalá de Henares to Calle de Alcalá in Madrid by bus. One of those green Alsa that darn the roads of the province with triple hemming, bringing and bringing personnel from the suburbs to the city and vice versa. I have gotten off in Canillejas, I have crossed the bridge on the Barajas track, which old taxi drivers say, I have caught churros in Kini, the kiosk planted in the middle of such a crossroads and I have taken another green line, the 5 of the Metro, to walk under land the longest road in Madrid and the third in Spain.
Polygons and blocks go up, lofts and townhouses, workshops, lots and offices. The paper silo of the Casa de la Moneda and the set of The anthill. The park of the Quinta de los Molinos, and that of El Retiro. Battle greengrocers run by Moroccans. Chinese clothing and grocery stores. Haberdashery with that ultra-reducing lingerie so popular with Latin women from Madrid. The headquarters of Citizens. The arena of Las Ventas. The Palacio de Cibeles with Mayor Almeida in the watchtower. The posh of Serrano. The plutocrats of the Bank of Spain. The bohemians of the Círculo de Bellas Artes. And, in the end, in the distance, ten and a half kilometers from where Calle de Alcalá, Puerta del Sol, was born, or died, the dreamed goal of the 4-M candidates. There are many madriles in Madrid, each with its flora and fauna, but almost all of them are on this road. Including the eternal works of the Canal de Isabel II, with the permission of Isabel I de Díaz-Ayuso, the infernal traffic jams as soon as four drops fall and, yes, a motorcycle sharpener treading the eardrums of passers-by offering his services in the Plaza de Quintana .
Four long octogenarians and as many looks similarly fifth, they play one mus after another, throwing the morning on the benches arranged like a stretcher table. They are “screwed up, but happy”, vaccinated with “the good one, the one from Pfizer, the one with heart attacks, we leave it to the young people”, as this intruder who interrupts their game hesitates. They do not talk about politics, although one rants the greatest “of Coletas” and another “of the Monastery” without the bile reaching the sewer. At this time, with the children at school and those who have a job working, the average age of the neighborhood does not fall below 60 years, but things are changing.
Behind the square, just a petanque shot from the vacilones grandparents gambling, Antón Álvarez —C. Tangana and El madrileño para el siglo— composed his music only five years ago in the living room of a tiny apartment and then went downstairs to poke a few liters in the José del Hierro park with his colleagues. Today his You stopped loving me he lives with the bachata of the new Latino neighbors in the teenagers’ helmets. Alberto de Mora, manager of the Tecnocasa real estate agency and a lifelong resident of here, knows this well, who takes a cigarette to the mid-morning sun. The business is affected by the pandemic, but there are signs of improvement. Before, it took hours to rent a two-room apartment without elevator and without reform for 700 euros. Now, it is not less than two weeks and it is difficult for them to find solvent clients. While waiting for the empty homes of the many older people who died by Covid in this aging neighborhood to enter the market, the few houses that go on sale are highly sought after by young couples with children or the idea of having them for five years if precariousness leaves them . The big investors, who are not stupid, are also buying premises in this maze of streets with the bus and the subway at the door. The shots of the Latin bands of Ascao, another shot of petanque, but on the other side of the street, remain in Ascao, for now.
A feeling of the end of a world that ends without another beginning at all floats in the air. The headlines of the newspapers from Yolanda Sánchez’s kiosk already say so, who inherited the business from her mother and grandmother, three generations of women shouting and dispatching the press in Quintana, and who endures the pull in a bad way. The only certain thing is the uncertainty. At the moment, they have already closed several bank branches, leaving the parish without cashiers and, in the food gallery, Martín Villegas, the neighborhood butcher since 1987 and the last tenant of the market, is liquidating the genre because next Saturday, that is, Today, he has to finally draw the blind for the work of a Lidl to begin.
I walk down to the headquarters of Ciudadanos, in front of Las Ventas. No sign of the candidate from the house or his motorcycle, except for his name on the t-shirts that a couple of militants give away at an electoral stall at the door. If you close your eyes, however, you can almost see Edmundo Bal, the Enthusiast, jumping like a suitcase into the ring to play his acronym all or nothing. A few meters below, at the traffic light on the M-30, a very beautiful and sad girl offers to clean the windows of the cars for a coin. Nobody leaves her and only a few, very occasionally, deign to lower the glass and give her a few pennies. Beyond, intramural, the city changes its landscape and countryside with each block. It mutates the width of the sidewalks, the shop windows, the pints of the people and even the dogs. It is another Madrid, another world, another planet, but it is on this street.
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