THAT FIRST NIGHT IN MADRID proved to be one hell of an eye-opener. You know, like when you bump into someone on the street who you could've sworn was dead? Well, that's how it was when the train pulled into Chamartin Station. A city rumored to be long dead was shimmering out there in a frock of allnight neon glitz, like a whore on the move. You could feel it, too. The heart of the city throbbed in time to some kind of infinite energy. It was something, you couldn't quite put your finger on, but it was out there. Man - was it out there!
Outside of the station, a caravan of cabbies was killing time by the curb. Holdovers from another era, they looked like old men who'd been turned out of their own homes, neglected by a city that appeared to be jumping all around them. The cabby who snatched my bags quickly flipped on his radio to check out the score of the local futbol game. After a moment, however, he tuned into something instantly identifiable: Spanish rock & roll. A cross between Bruce Springsteen and Desi Arnaz. The man's face lit up as he glanced at me in his rear-view mirror. “You like?" he asked, putting the finger on me as a tourist.
"'Rock & roll," I said, nodding.
“Ah, rock & roll,” he purred, shaking his head with a kind of detached, moronic wonderment. He listened for a few blocks, then said, 'Ten years ago no rock & roll."
I asked him what he meant by that.
“The government say it bad influence, so no see it anywhere." His English was almost as bad as my Spanish, but I had no problem getting the message. He cocked a thumb and forefinger at his temple and made a gesture that transcended the language barrier. "That's the way it was in whole country”