We’re just beginning to learn our new neighborhood, which is an adventure in itself. Walking makes me relatively aware of my surroundings; that helps me, because I navigate by landmarks. Of course when the landmarks change, I’m in trouble. I did describe one office where I practiced law in Austin as “in the building where the Woolworth’s where I bought Christmas decorations my freshman year in college used to be.” Raise your hand if that’s helpful.
Anyway, I’m doing okay on finding things. Mark, as usual, knows where the nearby streets are already. I can, on a good day, find the bus stop and the grocery store (although I did temporarily misplace the latter a couple of days ago). The panadería is a little bit concerning, as I find it by turning left at the department store that’s closing. When another tenant leases that space, I may be in trouble. The farmacía, I swear, comes and goes like a pharmaceutical Brigadoon. Sometimes it’s where it’s supposed to be, and other times it’s a crumbling wall bearing a misspelled Anglo-Saxon suggestion about what the police should do to themselves. Honestly, every time I see that thing I get the urge to grab a can of spray paint and obliterate the unnecessary “o.” If you’re going to use obscenities, for heaven’s sake spell them correctly!
So that’s a quick recap of the neighborhood behind us, minus various kebab places and a Burger King. In front of us is the lovely, ever-changing sea and the boardwalk, or paseo, shown in the picture. The paseo provides excellent opportunities for people-watching. Lots of folks are out when we look out. Some are kids playing; other folks are purposefully striding, presumably on some important business. Lots of couples are simply strolling, often arm in arm, chatting or looking at the sea. Still others are walking their dogs, or, as the case may be, the dogs are walking them. It’s not the best drawing room in Europe – Napoleon reserved that honor for St. Mark’s Square in Venice – but it may well be one of the loveliest hallways.
Of course, people do work on the paseo. Waiters hustle customers in front of various restaurants and bars, assuring you that the best paella ever made awaits you in their establishments. Vendors spread out tarps most afternoons and hawk genuine knockoffs of handbags, shoes, and sunglasses. Note to self: Look up how to say “If that’s Louis Vuitton, I’ll eat my hat” in Spanish.
Our two most visible paseo neighbors, though, do solo afternoon floor shows for us most days. We’ve seen them so often we’ve named them. Mister Woo is a youngish guy, probably in his 20s, and he does backflips and cartwheels and the like for tips. To get people’s attention for his acrobatics, he yells “Woo! Woo!” (hence the name) and the claps six times. He never claps five or seven times; it’s always six. I find myself wondering if he’s a student of numerology and has some attachment to this digit. Whatever his motivation, you have to admire his consistency.
The other denizen of the paseo who’s garnered a moniker is Señor Groundhog. You’ll figure out the name by the end of the paragraph, I promise. He’s an older guy, maybe in his 40s, and he comes around siesta time, sets up a big speaker, and plays Andean panpipes to various popular tunes. It’s nicer than Muzak, although I do wish he would buy some new songs. Believe it or not, the theme from “Romeo and Juliet” gets old, and by now we’re all VERY clear that he’d rather be a hammer than a nail. And you haven’t lived till you’ve heard “Hotel California” at half speed on a panpipe. However, some days his music is a lovely soundtrack for a beautiful space. It just depends. Some days I like his stuff, and other days I threaten to go put €20 in his hat on the condition that he take his act on the road for the rest of the day.
So much for the paseo. We do actually have real people neighbors in our building. The first ones we’ve met are Pamela and Hans, two very nice people from Sweden who live on the floor below us. We’re having them over for wine on Monday. They will be our first guests since we’ve moved here, and we hope for a good maiden voyage entertaining. Wish us luck!