Tuesday, February 14, 2012

La Casita Blanca meets El Changuito

My piso does not have a completed decorated look to it. I have missing pieces still to buy like light fixtures, a living room rug, a dining table I really like (my current one is from IKEA), and other bedroom pieces like a headboard.

I don't feel rushed to buy what I still don't have. I am some how expecting the pieces to find me by chance like the recent piece of furniture that purred at me from the window of an antique store in the Raval. It was a Sunday night and I was coming out of Cream Espai Creatiu after a free writer's workshop. In front of this locale was an antique store called El Changuito (the little monkey in Mexican Spanish) with large store front windows displaying 50s furniture and knick knacks from other eras. At the bottom of the window stood  a beckoning bedroom bench. An item I have been hunting for without too much effort.

 I returned a week later and found the bench still standing in front of the window, I think, for me. We entered the store and examined the bench with cheap upholstery and endless nicks on the legs, and blinked hard at the price tag. The salesgirl walked over and said the bench had a discount of 20 euros. OK, I thought. I can go for a 20 euro discount considering it would need to be refurbished and reupholstered. The salesperson quietly remarked that another bench was available in the store. So we walked over and examined our second option. That's when the salesperson decided to let us know that she had acquired the bench at an auction for La Casita Blanca. The what? I asked. My husband looked at me and grinned and said La Casita Blanca was historical building for amants for the last 100 years.

A brothel? I asked. No, La Casita Blanca was not a brothel, but a place where clandestine lovers met and were treated with the most absolute discretion ever known to those that visited this soon to be demolished place. Example: when you entered the building with your car, curtains covered each parking stall so nobody would know who was visiting with their lover. Each bedroom had three buttons, one to indicate you were leaving (personal ensured the couple would not cross with another leaving a room), one for room service, and another to ring a taxi. It took one year of apprenticeship for staff to learn how to guard a client's privacy.

Soccer games were the perfect cover up for a married man to meet with his lover. At the end of a romantic tryst, married men were given soccer game results to cover their domestic absence. This is only one example of how smoothly this place was designed to coordinate rendezvous. I wonder how many of these hourly dates my bench has seen, whose clothes did it hold, if it could only speak of the trobades appassionats it witnessed. I would listen attentively to its whispers of men and women who met  secretly  to relish in feverish appointments without their secret being discovered. The infidelities of wives and husbands alike in its long 100 year history.

The bench has the number 66 painted in gold on the underside of it. Àide, who is not only the salesperson, but the owner, suggested it could mean the bedroom number. She tries to reassure me that couples did not have intimate moments on the bench. Do you want me to buy the bench or to or are you trying to get me not to buy this? Please, no more details, I tell her laughing. I don't think it's the bedroom number, since La Casita Blanca had only 43 rooms. It could mean the number assigned to it when auctioned, along with the wall sized heart shaped mirrors, lamps and other abandoned pieces of furniture losing their place in the lives of amants. It doesn't matter what 66 means now, it's new house number is now 43.

I couldn't read my neighbor's expression when I explained the bench's history.
It needs sanding and reupholstering. 

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