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Friday, January 25, 2008

Mi Barrio por la Ventana

Replace the cat on the sill with my pet turtle and replace the Eiffel Tower with the Ruzafa Market and you have my version of Marc Chagall’s, Paris par la Fenêtre (Paris through the window). My living room has about forty square meters of ceiling-to-floor windows that look over the street below my apartment in the heart of this neighborhood. It’s like having an enormous television screen along an entire wall. No matter what time I tune in, there is always something good to watch.

The street below is busy and well-traveled but it isn’t noisy. Cars and even motorbikes have their velocities choked by all of the double parkers in front of the market. What should be a two lane street is reduced to a single thoroughfare that is often blocked by someone stopping to drop off/pick up a passenger or two. There is also a bus stop on either end of the street which further slows down traffic to not much faster than a brisk walk. One look at the snail’s pace on this road and you wonder why anyone would bother driving a car in Valencia.

Most of the traffic under my window is on foot. The market opens way too early for me to know the exact time and closes at around 2:30 every afternoon, Monday through Saturday. You see folks with shopping carts, baby strollers, dogs, or a combination of these three plying along the broad sidewalks. Kids on their way to and from school, people going to work, old folks just out for a chat, street vendors, beggars, musicians, mimes (We have a one legged mime who hangs out on the corner!); if you are out to observe the tidal flows of Spanish street life, you couldn’t find a better lookout post than my living room. It’s a wonder I ever bother to leave the house with a view like this.

Directly below me there is a sidewalk flower shop. Across the street are two lottery offices, one with an annoyingly constant dirge spoken out through a pair of tinny loudspeakers. Even when I am right outside the lottery shop I can’t understand a word that is being said through the loudspeaker. For all I know the lotto joint could be cautioning us of an imminent attack or warning us all about a tornado. I don’t know why they have the loudspeaker on all day; people are going to buy lottery tickets even if the speaker tells them not to. Addictions sell themselves.

I can see four cafés from my house—not including the one directly inside the market or the one just around the corner. I stop in at one of them almost every day for what I call “a professional cup of coffee.” My first cup in the morning I make myself and enjoy the great view from my couch.

Just about everything that I need in the world can be obtained within spitting distance of where I am sitting as I write these words. My turtle, the Count of Monte Cristo, seems to enjoy the view from up here as well. He climbs on to the top of a rock in his little pond and looks to be analyzing the life on the street below. There are other cool neighborhoods to explore, I guess, but I like mine. I need to break out of my little pond if only to make my bike rides a little more interesting.

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