Noche Vieja 2001/2002 – New Year’s Eve 2001/2002
A kind of short story
***(More) pictures are following soon! (ONE photo is already there)***
My favourite song for New Year’s Eve is from the Ally McBeal
X-Mas soundtrack. It’s about asking somebody out for New Year’s Eve:
Maybe it’s much too early in the game
All that I thought I’ll ask you just the same:
What are you doing New Year’s, New Year’s Eve?
I wonder whose arms will hold you good and tight
When it’s exactly twelve o’clock that night
Welcoming in the New Year, New Year’s Eve.
Maybe I’m crazy to suppose
I’d ever be the one you chose
Out of the thousand invitations you’ll receive.
Oh, but in case I stand one little chance
Here comes the jackpot question in advance:
What are you doing New Year’s, New Year’s Eve?
Well, I didn’t have that question to ask here in Madrid (at least not only), I had only the question – like many other people and like every year – what to do at all. The Spanish people were all in their pueblos, in their villages and I had the impression in the city were only guiris remaining, so just foreigners like me. Fortunately I knew a German girl, Sandra, also Erasmus student, who knew somebody who organised a party. I let me buy me a ticket (of the price of 5000 pesetas, which is eqivalent to 30 Euros, and this was very important to mention during these times, as from the first of January 2002 on there would be only the Euro as the one and only currency in Europe or at least in twelve parts of it – so 30 Euro for the party, but all drinks included) and the afternoon before the last night of 2001 I picked it up – and I got some additional information from Sandra. It would be a fiesta in a house that will be pulled down the week after New Year’s Eve. Well, a very good feeling to know to celebrate the beginning of a new year in a ruin. Walls without walls, only the frames, no heating, nearly outside in the cold. But at least it was supposed to be nicely decorated, according to Sandra, "They put some graffities onto the walls“, she said. Even nicer, and I asked myself where they have put the graffities if there were no walls. "...and they’ll play techno“, she disclosed further details, "but on the first floor it wouldn’t be that loud.” Fine, I said by myself, 5000 pesetas for a ruin and techno "music“. It would be like in a flat in the east of Berlin after the ‘fall of the wall’ 1989. Dark surroundings, no furniture, maybe some old sit-out mattresses on the floor to have at least the lowest level of comfort, then the hammering beats of techno music with at least two hundred beats per minute, ecstatic people on the dancefloor, dancing in square-like movements to the beats in the flashlight of a solemn flashlight under the ceiling. That’s how I picture myself in the first hours of the fresh new year, my first experiences, of whose people say that these will lead you through the year. And who knows what the hard techno beats can do with the ruin? The organisers bought the plot of land. Maybe they want to safe money, not letting be done the demolition of the building by professionals.
But I still didn’t know what to do before 1:30 h, as the party started then. But recently I got an e-mail by an Italian friend of mine, Valentina, who I met two years ago in Rome on my vacations to the millennium New Year’s Eve. She is now studying in Granada and wanted to come to Madrid for New Year’s Eve with some of her friends. So I was happy to have the decision to spend the evening with them.
At eight we met at the Metro station where their hostal was. Of course I was late. I yet wanted to buy one of these use-and-throw-away cameras as the flash of my camera was broken. The Fnac, store for CDs, Hi-Fi, Cameras and other electronic stuff, had already closed and in the Corte Inglés (the Marks & Spencer or Karstadt of Spain) weren’t any cameras with flash available anymore. Other people have been more clever than me and went there early. So I saw the last chance in going to the Corte Inglés around the corner of my house, it’s not located in the touristic centre, so there maybe some cameras were still there, ready to be bought by me. And I also wanted to change clothes so the Corte was just on my way. And indeed they still got some cameras – with flash – left and also other people around me were interested to have some illuminated memories of this New Year’s Eve.
With the camera in my hand I nearly run to my house, I wanted to shave me as well. And of course if you want to shave quickly, the skin turns to be the springs of the Red Sea. Okay, that’s a bit exagerated, but in that very moment I felt like that. I tried to narrow the pores with cold water and I succeeded halfway. After some more efforts my – as they say in the TV commercials – facial skin was quite okay again. But I was late. I stumbled down the staircase and on my way to the Metro station of Argüelles, my Metro station, I wrote Valentina a message that I’ll be late.
At eight thirty I arrived, thirty minutes too late, but
they were also waiting for some other people and somebody was calling home to
Italy. There were Steffano, Valentina’s best friend, two other friends and a
couple. And René, a friend of mine from Cologne who wanted to spend New
Year’s Eve in Madrid and didn’t have nothing to do until 1:30 h, so I asked
him if he wanted to join us.
When everbody was there we went to the next Alimentacion, a small supermarket run by Chinese, and bought some bottles of wine and crisps for the party later. René and I were hungry, but they didn’t have anything proper to eat, only stuff in cans or sweetish things. So we hoped there will be some food on the party.
With the Metro we went to Pacifico. And after some time we even found the right street. On the party: even more Italians – I think they were then fifteen all in all, but I think there were also some Spanish people. The people living in the flat made something to eat, pasta with frutti di mare, then some delicious mushroom creme to spread on baguette and finally even some gorgeous gambas. But we had to leave them (the gambas) quite soon, because quickly it turned already 23 h and we still needed to go to the Puerta de Sol, the square where all Spain is looking at on their TV sets at twelve o’clock midnight, because up on the townhalll there is the clock that will be shown seconds before midnight so that everybody knows exactly when the new year has begun - it’s like Big Ben in London.
René and I, we were a bit sceptic if we will make it to Sol for midnight. There are just too many people who want to do the same like us. But we tried it. We got out of the house and had to wait a little bit for some more people to come down. These moments of waiting were really impressing to me. The city, which is supposed to be the capital of noise of Europe, was completely silent. Not even one driving car on the street, no pedestrian on the sidewalk except us, it was absolutely quiet and peaceful. Like a desert – of course just without the sun. The only thing you could hear was a little bit of the buzzing of the street lanterns.
We got into the Metro. I proposed to get out of the Metro one station later, because I supposed that we wouldn’t get out of the train at Sol because of all the people who also intended to be there at midnight. But then the Granada roommate of Valentina said she has to meet more people at the entrance of McDonald’s at Sol. René and I were just looking at each other. There it was again – the German rationality contra the Latin irrationality. Then the loudspeaker system of the Metro said: "Proxima estación: Sol“, the train stopped, René and I looked out of the window – and there was nobody, not one person! So we got out and René and I said: "Well, on the next floor up there will be a huge crowd of thousand people that wants to get out of the station!“ We climbed up the stairs – and again, nobody, more or less. So we thought: "Okay, they maybe closed the station from outside.“ But this was also not the case. We got out of the Metro station and finally there were people. But not as much as we thought before. And we even made it in time, still about 15 minutes till midnight. Well, I have to admit: 1:0 for Latin irrationality. German rationality doesn’t work in countries like Spain – under no circumstances! And I owe Valentina’s roommate now a drink.
When we were upstairs I realised how beautiful the square was. Brightly, comfortably illuminated, many people with colourful wigs and painted faces. It was a bit like carnival. The government has put up loudspeaker systems and colourful light spots. Huge balls with the Euro logo were circulating over the heads and upraised hands of the people – indicating if we don’t watch out the Euro will push us down…? The music was a mixture of some stuff I didn’t recognise and classical songs like „Freude schöner Götterfunken“ from Beethoven (the 5th symphony I suppose) and also the Euro Vision Anthem. The atmosphere was great, the people were smiling at each other and everybody seemed to be happy. But then we suddenly realised we neither had something to drink to the New Year nor had none of us the twelve grapes of which the Spanish people eat one at each bell stroke of the clock on the townhall at midnight. Luckily there were business-minded Chinese people who sold bags of twelve grapes for only 200 Pesetas (1,20 Euro) each bag. And have a guess, they were also selling bottles of something to drink. René bought one of these bottles and now when we had a look at the label we found out it was Cidra, so with only 4,1 % alcohol and not that sparkling as we thought – because we wanted to "shoot“ the cork into the air. But with normal Cidra (which normally doesn’t contain any gas or just a little bit) it wasn’t possible. But it was only us who knew it was Cidra – and this was important for later.
From now on it was the matter of co-ordination. At 0:00 h the bells will strike and we have to eat the grapes – and we had to open the bottle. But we decided to open the bottle before midnight, so that after the grapes we could drink to the year 2002. So I take the bottle into my hand, open carefully the silver aluminium covering of the cork and its wire-holder (the thing which keeps the cork in the bottle), uncover the cork of the wire, press my thumb onto the cork so it surely can’t get out without that I wanted it to and shake the bottle wildly so that everybody can see it. Now there it was, the importancy that this was only Cidra and not champage. Instantly as I do so the people shrink back scared, and around me there is now a circle of space. I let pop out the cork into the nocturnal air of the still old year – and this with so much noise and pressure that I indeed am a bit surprised that the Cidra contains so much gas though! But nice as I am I restrain of wetting all the people with sweet Cidra like after winning a Formula One race. So I keep my thumb on the open bottle and the Cidra stays inside safely. The faces of the people relax. But then some people are looking a bit stressed again. They tear open their bags of grapes and start to eat them hecticly. But I can’t hear any noise of ringing bells. But then, yet, there’s some! Was it now a bell of the clock or was it something out of the loudspeakers. The problem is we can’t see the clock of the townhall. In our group questioning glances at each other, helplessness in our eyes. Not knowing what to do I just get out my bag of grapes I start to eat them. The others as well. One second for each grape? I don’t know. Maybe more. Some people said later, that they put the strokes of the clock always that there’s a three or four second lap between each of them. But I just put the grapes into my mouth, biting and swallowing them quickly. I think I managed it to be in time, but I don’t know as I didn’t hear the strokes of the bell. But due to all the confusion I forget to wish me something. If it happens you eat all of the twelve grapes just in time you can make a wish which surely will come true. Well, so not for me. Then a „Frohes Neues!“ ("Happy New One!“) of René and then we have to duck us. The other people are not that considerate like us and start to squirt the bottles of their Cidra and champagne over the people. But I also still have our bottle of Cidra and shake it with my thumb half over the opening, directing it up into the sky. It rains Cidra, sweet, sticky, yellow Cidra. People who try to direct their bottles now on us directly get an instant reply. Well, they get a little bit soaked – years of experience which I got by holidays with groups of teenagers and students, carnivals, New Year’s Eves and birthdays... “Never add up the drinks on the bill without the barman”, a German saying says, more or less literally translated. But in the end everybody got a sticky film on the coat, and also gel in the hair wouldn’t be needed for the party if one hadn’t dressed for it yet.
"Auguri!!!“, is the next word I hear and say to everybody around me. Hugs, kisses there and there. More "Auguriiii!“. It means something like "Happy New Year!“ or similar. More hugs and kisses. Suddenly I realise it’s raining glitter from the townhall. Canon fire with glittery stuff all over the Puerta de Sol. Then I hear music again, or I better say, I note there is music again: the Dire Straits and "Money For Nothing“. Hmm, is it some kind of joke? I think by myself. I mean we are just passing the first minutes of the real existence of the Euro, but I can’t think further. Valentina and her roommate want to go to the McDonald’s to finally pick up their friends. We slide and press us through the crowd of people. The next song turns up: Abba and "Money, Money, Money“. We are looking around us that nobody of us gets lost. The next song out of the speakers: "No Tengo Dinero tadatada“. Okay, now it’s sure, the Euro is there and the townhall is dedicating the music to the new currency. Or may there be perhaps also a little bit of irony among it...?! I mean, the songs are a bit pessimistic: "Money For Nothing“ and "I don’t have any money“. I assume it’s both: a bit of irony and a bit of "Welcome Euro!“
We all seem already a bit "exhausted".
More "Auguri!!!“ There are the other Italians. I also know one of them, an Erasmus student from my university in Madrid. We head again to the middle of the Puerta de Sol where I meet by chance other Erasmus students of my university, some Germans and some English people: "Happy New Year, frohes Neues Jahr!“ It’s really great to meet know people in a city with four million inhabitants. Then we see some people dancing on the top of a news-stand. The Italians look at each other and these looks are one hundred percent clear: "Let’s climb up the quiosco!“ One after the other steps up a trash container for recycling products of which already the top was turned inside by other people using it also as a staircase to long to the roof of the news-stand. Valentina reaches with her hands to the roof edge and is hanging several seconds just in the air, her legs shaking in the not too cold New Year’s air, until some helping hand tows her up. I choose a different container – still with its top on the top, which stands in front of the booth where they tomorrow will sell again the news of tonight. Hands on top of the container, a jump and up am I. Now the next step: hands on the edge of the roof and a swing to the right up with my legs to get my feet also there. People on the roof are catching me and hold me that I don’t fall down. A nice gesture for a beginning of a new year, gives you the feeling you are not alone on the world and other people care about you. I see the roof is not even, in the middle it’s higher and going down towards the edges, like an arch rounding. Besides it’s quite wet there and a bit slippery. Carefully I move to the rear of the news-stand where the roof is even and where the other Italians are dancing to the music that comes out of a wall of loudspeakers put up directly behind the quiosco. I ask René, who didn’t climb up the quiosco, to make a picture with my camera, which I gave him before going up. He focuses up, but no flash. He tries again, still no flash. I wonder myself why there’s no flash though I pushed the flash button before. So I suppose he has to transport the film a bit further. With gestures I indicate that he should turn the transportation wheel at the rear of the camera a bit more. He tries, focuses again, but still no click. I indicate him to throw the camera up to me so that I can see what’s wrong with it. Stepping carefully to the edge of the roof I catch the camera that comes to me flying. I turn the wheel a bit further and throw it again down to Steffano who grabs it and takes finally the picture. We decide now to climb down again. Valentina again is the first, sits down at the roof edge and climbs down onto the recycling container. Then I turn around myself on the roof, my back to the people, put my hands on the edge and swing my legs down. Some people down are trying to put my feet now onto the edge of the yellow-greenish container with no top, then a final jump and only two dirty hands last from my excursion into airy heights.
Then Valentina says to me while holding up her camera over some crowd of people: "Let’s do the last photo which I got on my film.“ We put us in position and a guy grabs that moment. But he looks a bit scared as behind us people have just started to throw some bottles into the crowd. The crowd moves back and so do we. Ugly moments of an otherwise beautiful night.
We meet again with the other Erasmus and discussions start what to do and where to go. Somebody is giving a party in his flat, but Valentina and her friends decide not to go there. I accompany them yet to Huertas where a lot of bars and discos are and there I already have to say good-bye as I have to catch the last Metro to get to the party for which I got the two tickets in my wallet – for the techno party in a ruin for 5000 pesetas. I just said to Valentina: "Well, keep your mobile phone turned on, if the party is boring and too much techno-like, I’ll call you and we meet again, okay?!“ We hugged each other and I went to the Metro station of Sol.
This time crowds of people were waiting down in the Metro to catch the last trains. Also on New Year’s Eve the last Metros go at 1:40 h, that’s what you at last expect from such a huge city as Madrid. I thought it’s very province like, even Köln with only one million inhabitants and not being capital of Germany and not even capital of the federal country North-Rhine-Westfalia, offers a metro and tram service throghout the whole night.
With no problems I caught a seat and went to "Delicias“ with the bright-blue line, line number one. There I met Estrella, René’s ex-girlfriend and the thing was that both of them didn’t know that I spent New Year’s Eve with each of them, with one after the other. René was in Madrid to visit some friends, Estrella, who is actually now living in Köln, visited her parents for Christmas. And because I both knew them, I met them, but just separately. Estrella was a bit bored by her friends and so she asked me what I’m going to do. And when I told her my plans, she asked me if she could join me. Same with René whose friend, where he was sleeping, had dinner with his family until 1:30 h (as usual in Spain: first dinner with family, then going out until dawn or even longer with friends). So he hadn’t nothing to do till then.
The house indeed was ready to be pulled down, a kind of crane was holding the front wall up, and we, Estrella and me, we were both a little bit scared. But then it turned out it’s the house aside in which the party will take place. And this house was still complete. When we got in I was really surprised as it still had rooms, it was warm, the decorations indeed were nice and I really didn’t have the impression neither the house will be demolated next week nor it has to be. But this was not all! Also the music, I expected at least the two hundred beats per minute, as I said before, but no, the first song I heard was of Jennifer Lopez: "Waiting For Tonight“ – and not a techno-remix-version or something like that. They even didn’t play the Spanish version of the song ("Una Noche Más“), but the English (normal) version. I was really surprised, even impressed. And as soon as I throw over board my wrong visions of the party, I saw Sandra and her two friends who visited her for Noche Vieja. And also Jesús, roommate of Sandra and my host for the first two and a half weeks when I started my life in Madrid, was there. We started to talk and to express our surprise about how the party now turned out to be. All drinks were included in the entrance fee and so of course I soon moved myself to bar and ordered a Gin Tonic to start the party and the new year properly.
In the end I had about eight Gin Tonics more or so, we danced to well mixed music, the German girls had fun with the Spanish boys, I met some people who were studying at my university and somebody who even spoke some German. At six o’clock somebody delivered a huge tray of sandwiches, which were very up-building after all, especially after the alcohol, at seven I realised that now the Metro started its service again and I wondered if the drivers also celebrated New Year’s Eve as much as we did. At seven thirty I – now very tired – finally decided to go home and also Estrella wanted to leave, so we said good-bye to the others. The last thing we saw was Jesús who just got a few new drinks for himself and some other people he met there. On the street we searched the next Metro station, Estrella tried to get a taxi and I took the next Metro that came. At eight thirty I turned out the lamp on my night-desk and I saw through the window that it was getting bright again. I instantly fell asleep.
The next 'morning’ I got up at four o’clock in the afternoon,
made me a cup of tea and put on my song which I put every year to complete my
New Year’s Eve: "The Universal“ by Blur – normally directly after the party,
but this time a bit later, but anyway:
Well, it really, really could happen
Well, it really, really could happen
When the days to seem to fall through you
Just let them go...
And I think back to the night before and say to myself: the best New Year’s Eves I had were always with Italians*.
Have a happy 2002!
* the best one ever: 2000