Thursday, April 13, 2006

This is so sad

We all love to kvetch about how things change that shouldn't. We are outraged when neighborhood places with a history and character die in order to give way to offensive chains stores like Duane Reade. This is expected to happen here in the States with far more frequency than other places. Other places, we like to think, have more respect for their history, their past and their culture. They do not turn everything into a franchise. Well, I guess not. That a legendary place like the Hotel Reina Victoria in Madrid has closed to give way, to of all possibly offensive things, a Hard Rock hotel, is just confirmation that one of the worst byproducts of globalization is that the world is turning into a giant corporate franchise. That this should happen in a city like Madrid, a very progressive place which is still proud of its traditions, is particularly shocking. I am not an idealist. I understand the market forces yadda yadda and I understand that things cannot stay the same way forever. But, yikes, does it have to be this obvious? This stupid? This callous?
I went into the lobby of the hotel Reina Victoria about five years ago. It was musty, decidedly unhip, with ugly decor hailing from the seventies or so, and stank, like everywhere else in Madrid, of dark tobacco and musky male eau de cologne, but its walls were decorated with great pictures of famous matadors and legendary bullfights and you could tell some of its denizens hanging out belonged to the bullfighting world. It was one of those places that give you the feel of the whole city and of an essential part of the Spanish character in one memorable instant.
Now, what's to be found worth of attention in the lobby of a despicable Hard Rock hotel that is not a collection of anorexic American celebrity skanks is beyond me. I fear the venerable Cervecería Alemana, a great old atmospheric pub right next door may be next.
What will it be: a Starbucks, a fast food chain, or the first Duane Reade in Madrid?
And just for the sake of argument: I like bullfights. My dad used to take me to the Plaza de Toros Mexico, I believe the second biggest in the world, if not the first, to the bullfights on Sunday afternoons. It was a great spectacle, a great ritual and yes it is cruel and unfair but so is life.

No comments:

Post a Comment