The last several weeks I haven’t been sleeping well. It means I’m up early or in the middle of the night. Sometimes lying in bed looking at the ceiling. Sometimes sitting in the living room looking out the window watching the sun come up. The sky goes from as black as it can be in the city, to violet then pink. Some mornings it’s bright and sunny. Some days have a marine layer of a beach town, that won’t burn off until the afternoon.
Getting to know a city during the day is only one face it shows to the world. Some cities, like New York or San Francisco, have a whole different life after dark. The seedy underbelly comes out of the shadows. The night crawlers and zombies inhabit the streets, along with some after hours club goers and the odd swing shift worker. Valencias appears to have none of that.
We live in a residential area of the city. High rises, yes. But it’s a neighborhood with schools, sports clubs, a Centro Commercial. We’re right on the tram too. In the US, this might bring a rougher element to the area. Public transport tends to do that there. Not so, here. Everyone rides public transport and there is no stigma about it. Rich or poor. Young or old. They’re all there and it’s very safe. No vandalism of the cars or stations. Lovely.
And night time is quiet. No sirens announcing police activity near by. No screaming 20 somethings on the way home from a late night. It’s blessedly quiet and the streets are deserted.
Looking out the window at night, it’s easy to see the beating heart of the area and understand the priorities of the people who live here. First and foremost, cleanliness. It’s incredibly clean on the street, and early morning, you see the workers out sweeping and hosing and actually mopping, the sidewalk. Street sweepers are plentiful. And recycling seems to be something that everyone is committed to. Each block has their separate receptacles and I watch the trucks come and empty them, not just once a week. Holidays don’t matter. The sweepers and park rakers are out in force.
The one thing that confuses me is the rampant graffiti. It scars the nicest streets. The roll down doors, for even the poshest shops, tends to be their canvases, and no matter how lovely the area, graffiti will be there too. For a city that cleans, shines, scrubs itself on a daily basis like a large cat, this inconsistency stands out. No one seems to grab a brush and paint over them. It’s like it’s their one blind spot.
I’ll admit, some of the graffiti is true art, but a lot of it is just your average tagging. Walking through the old town, I imagine what these buildings might have been like before spay paint was invented. Their yellowy hues and tiled thresholds unmarred by the messages scrawled on the metal doors that now dot them. But for now, in the dark, I’ll appreciate the quiet and watch, yet again, the city wake up and yawn. Unfolding like a flower turning towards the sunrise.