|Waiting for the Queen at Red de San Luis|
Madrid has its own Queen, with a kingdom named Gran Via, which is an avenue covering various aspects of Spain’s capital, from spectacular architecture to prostitution. The Queen resides on a tiny square called Red de San Luis, just where Gran Via goes from uphill to downhill.
Every day towards noon, when her beauty sleep is over, the Queen appears. Local preparations have been completed well in advance. Men in gaudy green uniforms, with “Limpieza” written on their backs, have thoroughly swept the square and emptied all garbage cans. The window cleaner at McDonald’s has been hard-working as he knows the Queen often takes a rest by leaning against their facade. The police is present to secure the Queen’s safety.
Click-clack, click-clack, she’s coming! In an outfit accentuating her ample curves, the Queen strides into the square, with no royal smile though. Blond hair gathered in a short horsetail, a light suntan, nails and lips freshly painted. She’s so shapely and erect that fitness and health food must be part of her daily routine. Her sense of dress is remarkable; today it’s a mix of discreet and provocative: supertight khaki jeans zipped on the legs, a tiny vest in the same thin material over a dark brown T-shirt nearly bursting at breast level, a miniature shoulder bag and sandals with slim stilettos adding 10cm to her height.
No clapping and cheering, that’s part of the game, and the relationship between the Queen and the locals is a game built on mutual respect. After all, by imparting royal prestige to Red de San Luis, she stimulates the overall activity: hotels and hostels are occupied, shopkeepers are kept constantly busy, the Metro pours out new admirers and red buses have their last stop here. Curious pedestrians from Puerta del Sol, the heart of the city, and from the department store El Corte Ingles, pick the street that ends right here, Calle Montera, when heading for Gran Via.
There is no queen without princesses, in this case young girls of East European origin flocking on the square and also down the Montera street. They behave like school girls, running after and trying to hit each other with their handbags, giggling hysterically. Although they have no idea of how to dress, several already appear familiar with drugs. The police seem unable to do much, but did transport a young “puta” with full sirens one day, which she seemed to enjoy. Clumsy school girls could of course be what the Spanish sex market is crying out for.
The princesses annoy the Queen who probably shares their background. Clearly, the Queen is more mature, around 30, and thus likes to keep a distance to those princesses. However, she’s dependent on them as informers. Each morning, the Queen calls a short meeting to let a few princesses update her about the latest market developments and possible new dangers. Sticking together is perhaps necessary to match competing groups of prostitutes from Africa and South America.
Considered as a territory, Gran Via is very manageable. The Queen stays in touch with every corner of her kingdom, simply by walking up and down the avenue that stretches from east to west in three sections, opened for traffic a century ago. The edifices of the east section were erected first, those of the western section completed decades later. An intended architectural uniformity failed to materialize, although the facades on this eastern stretch do radiate harmony despite varying designs of columns and balconies. Architecture makes no impression on the Queen, for her focus is down at street level, dominated by banks and six endless rows of roaring cars.
The Telefonica skyscraper, a close neighbor of the Queen’s San Luis, marks the beginning of the middle section. Entertainment and shopping take over now, causing a more excited atmosphere. Cinemas, a theater, fashion boutiques and large cafes like Nebraska, Zahara and Galache all have plenty of customers. If you order only a beer in one of these cafes, the waiter angrily shouts at you, “What else!” At 23.30 they begin a work-slow action to get customers out, which at times has exactly the reverse effect.
Beggars and the homeless stay on, the latter making themselves coffins of cardboard boxes, merely to sleep in, though. They should pull themselves together, the Queen undoubtedly thinks. Look at her, she can pay her own tickets in the many cinemas at Plaza del Callao, where Gran Via starts its last stretch with a slight bend northwards. Two more skyscrapers, from the Franco era, welcome the Queen to Gran Via’s finishing point, Plaza de Espana. Under shady plane trees, she says hello to two other lone riders, Don Quijote and Sancho Panza, before returning to her flagstones.
There are other queens around. You often see them two and two late at night or early in the morning, leaving the Chueca district just opposite San Luis, on the northern side of Gran Via. They are huge queens with balloon breasts and deep voices, one sporting green hair. Children who never met a drag queen before could easily get scared. The ladies are on their way home after performing and partying in gay Chueca.
The Queen from San Luis should definitely pay a visit to Chueca, by crossing Gran Via and walking down Calle Hortaleza. She may wish to stay out of the darkrooms and saunas, but could work out in the local fitness center whose panorama windows exhibit the customers’ physical charms and efforts. There is more to Chueca than that: bars and restaurants for every taste, squares covered with cafe chairs and wrapped up in lazy music. The gays would love her and some drag artists might use her perfectionism as the theme of their next show.
|Chueca with Rainbow Flags|
Chueca’s pleasant tone attracts gays and heteros alike. Gay couples get so self-confident that they walk out in Madrid hand in hand afterwards, kissing and hugging in the streets. They are brave, not contenting themselves with equal rights on a piece of paper but eager to put them into practice, thereby paving the way for the less courageous. Hopefully, they avoid the three immigrant guys who sat at a pavement cafe studying what they called gay ways of walking, doubling up with laughter.
These prospects do not necessarily amuse the Queen. Over on her own square, a cafe owner let four hip-hoppers clear tables and chairs away one evening to make room for their street dance, not professional but daring and amply rewarded with Euro coins. The Queen, standing in the background, showed no sign of being amused. Such an attitude does not affect her royal status; it confirms it, if anything. After all, what makes her the undisputed Queen is the way she puts up with her not-so-glorious function. She handles it with admirable style.