Lokkal- todo SMA
Go Back Where You Came From
The Bells of San Antonio

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

The alleyway I live on here in San Antonio used to pass alongside the church and open onto the plaza in front of it. Then, long before my time, the church built a wall to close it off just past my door and another to close it off from the plaza in front. Doing so they enclosed their back patio and appropriated real estate, the former alley, that wasn't theirs. Years later, when the church petitioned the city government to make some other changes, they were rebuffed; “You stole that alleyway; we're not going to let you take more.” For me it's better that it's closed. My abode is humble, but, here at the end of my dead-end, visitors always remark on the relative quiet.

When I found the place I asked the Chicagoan who lived across the alley about noise from the church. He assured me that apart from the infrequent jamboree in the back patio all was fine; the bells were not bad at all. Indeed, they are not, except sometimes when I am on my roof practicing yoga and some boys are sent topside to ring the hell out of them. But that's only on special occasions for 60 seconds now and again. The bells are cheap metal or poorly cast or both, most unlike the bells of the Parroquia. But like the Parroquia, the sound is greater on the opposite side of the Jardin than it is directly in front of the Parroquia. The sound travels out more than down, and I am down, not out, tucked in as I am very close. When I would dog-sit for Gaby of Aguamiel I noted that the sound of the bells was much louder there, 2-3 times the distance away.

Six months ago they mounted a public address system to the bell towers and began to play recorded chimes at 9am, noon and 3, 6, and 9pm. It might have been the cheap bells from which they made the recordings or the cheap speakers through which it was broadcast or both, but the distortion was grating. The Ave Maria at noon gratuitously played twice through, including intro and coda. The volume was such that the tunes resonated up above Guadiana into Colonia Allende. The recordings cacophonously played right over the chiming of the church's own bells. Several times the volume was lowered for a while. Several times the recordings were discontinued for a while.

After one of these hiatuses, when the recordings started up again, six weeks ago, there were more of them. Now they sounded each and every hour from 8am to 9pm, featuring snippets of secular classics and the Theme from The Titanic. The 11 o'clock offering went on for a full two minutes. I'm sure that no one was listening, but me. Just as I am sure that no one else is aware that currently the church's own bells chime 10 strokes at 9:00 and 11 strokes at 10:00 and 12 at 11:00. My hyperattentiveness, however useful when compiling an events calendar, is my own problem. Still, imagine being forced to listen to a minute or so of bad music every hour.

Currently, for the last 3-4 weeks, gracias a dios, the recordings have stopped. I have learned to enjoy these respites. Like the Zen master who displayed the lovely teacup he was just given saying, “For me this cup is already broken,” I know my relative silence will be broken; I know the recordings will start again.

Years ago, when my daughter was in town and dating a member of the old, illustrious, Zavalah family, she repeated to her beau something I had said, “There is a special place in hell for those who light off fireworks [really aerial dynamite] at 6am.” At the time his response seemed cruel, but fair, “If you don't like it, go back where you came from.” Now, it just seems fair.

I like to respond meaningfully when people ask me how I am doing. Lately I've been saying, “I'm more Mexican.” For example: I ride my bicycle daily. There is an older Mexican man who I pass with some regularity as he is riding out to the Ancha from the church and I am riding in. Callejon San Antonio is not very wide, but there is plenty of room to accommodate two bicycles. Still, almost every time, he veers into, or, at least, close to, my path, as if attracted by some magnetic power. Luckily for everyone (but especially for me) some time back I stopped getting annoyed when someone gets in my way. It was when, ¡Viva Mexico!, I realized it wasn't my way.

Take heart, oh, you recent arrivals to the “Best City in the World.” It's amazing what you can get used to. Foam rubber earplugs and the process of enculturation make Mexico easier to take.


photo: Alessandro Bo (cropped)

Dr David started this magazine because he could write and liked to communicate. He fully expected that in a town like San Miguel he could find authors to publish in addition to himself. Well, practically no one is submitting anything. Stubborn as he is, he continues, now publishing himself, and a faithful cadre of authors and photographers. His motto continues to be, "It's hard to be ahead of your time."

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