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Noises in the Neighborhood

Dr. David, Editor / Publisher

Beethoven, they say, got the theme of his Fifth Symphony from a bird's call in the forest. I recently noticed that the neighborhood rooster (mercifully located some distance away) is crowing the theme from the famous Russian song "Dark Eyes." This association makes the noise at once easier to tolerate and harder to ignore.

Someone tried to poison the dogs of the neighbor across the street, twice. Country dogs, they don't understand that people have a right to walk on the sidewalk immediately outside their fenced-in, brick-paved yard. Ferociously they throw themselves against the wire fence, thrusting their heads out, menacing passers-by. One day last week they forced an exit through the fence and went at both man and beast.

Now they are confined two doors away, on the third floor veranda of the sister of the woman who owns them. The Pit Bull was yapping plaintively this morning, but the sound was much easier to tune out than the savage, growling attack barks of the pair when they were ground level.

Last night's thunder and hail storm woke me up with its flash and bang. This morning, doing my rooftop yoaga, I noticed that the storm had ravaged our newly opened sunflower and knocked a couple of dozen small tomatoes off our third floor plants. I lovingly collected them and placed them in a paper bag (along with the plums) to ripen. (Only later did a message from my daughter draw my attention to the biblical fury of the storm, especially in Guadalajara.)

When I was a boy in Connecticut, in the autumn we'd go out into the countryside and buy a bushel of green tomatoes. We'd bring them home, wrap them up in newspaper and put them back into their baskets and down into our basement. Each Sunday we'd bring them up and sort through them, keeping those that had ripened the most to eat that week.

When I was a young man in Connecticut, I was for some years closely affiliated with the local Chabad (chassidic) synagogue. I'd go daily to pray in the minyan (quorum), frequently weekday evenings to study (kabbalah) and on Friday nights to the rabbi's house to eat. What a beautiful table that was (and no doubt still is, gracias a dios). If you could combine these two photos, adding candles (in silver candelabras) until they totaled 30, not putting all the food on the table at once and with people dressed their best, then you'd have some idea.

I email the rabbi's wife, once or twice a year, when I need to locate the text that is the source of a particular biblical concept. But I haven't communicated with the rabbi during my almost eight-year sojourn here in SMA. Imagine, then, my surprise when yesterday morning I found an email from him in my inbox, "Chochom [literally "wise one," here meant sarcastically] what are you thinking?"

After a few moments reflection, I decided that he was asking about the Chabad rabbi and his wife who took up residence (and their mission) here in San Miguel 6 months ago.

I wrote back two Hebrew words in response "ירידת הדורות"(yeridat ha-dorot, "the descent of the generations"). Those who want to understand more can check Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeridat_ha-dorot), but, simply put, it means that we are not as smart as our fathers, nor were they as smart as theirs and so on back to Moses.

The SMA Chabad rabbi and his wife are charming, interesting, dedicated, lovely young people, who have been very inviting to me and the whole Jewish community. (Their Shabbat table is also very beautiful.) But I am old fashiioned. My preferences in clergy is not nicety. Give me some fire and brimstone and I'm happy. Once when I was, only half-jokingly, complaining about the way the definitively old school, Connecticut rabbi treated me, he responded, all joking aside, "I treat you that way, because you need it."

Ultra Orthodox Judaism is a highly ordered system. There are a lot of obligations (commandments) and a preferred way to do everything else. All action is for the purpose of making "unities," for drawing down the divine into the world. After seven years of adherence, I left that stringent world, but I didn't give up my spirituality, my friendship with the rabbi or, until I left for SMA, my (less frequent) attendance at his Friday night Sabbath table. I overthink things. It may be that his, "Chochom what are you thinking?", is just his way of asking, "How is that working out for you?twt"


The Pit Bull, long since resigned to his third floor captivity, is silent. Now and then a truck passes by a visible turn on the Libramiento, jake brakes slamming as loud as pistol shots. The rooster keeps up his Russian nostalgia. The sound of metal banging metal informs me that the garbage truck has passed and will, stopped by our dead end, turn around and begin its own descent.

We compost everything, except orange peels, an occassional scrap of paper or plastic and what the cleaning lady sweeps up off the floor. I've got a few minutes to gather that all together and get out to the street.

The skies have been cloudy. But now the overcast, so hard to tolerate in Connecticut, yet so welcome here, has parted. From the confines of this cool concrete house the Mexican sunshine looks appealing. I'm going to go bask in it while I wait to hand off my small bag of waste.


photo: Alessandro Bo (cropped)

Dr. David welcomes you to San Miguel Sunday. Anyone with any interest in contributing articles is heartily encouraged to contact him at the email below. The "Best City in the World" deserves a good lokkal magazine.

events @ sanmiguelevents.com

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