Traffic. Dogs. Kids. Music. LOUD speakers. Big city? Nope, small town. Mexico. Oh, and roosters, that uniquely cultural qualifier that distinguishes the place from any other North American neighbour-hood. That and the one-legged banshee bird and opera-singing construction worker (more on those later). And the parades, happy and fast, sad and slow.
Right now a marching band, complete with trumpets, trombones, tubas and drums, is double-timing it up the main street, a half block from our humble abode. They might as well be blaring through our hallways, that’s how raucous they are. Whatever the occasion (and there never need be one), our merry band of blasters is in sharp contrast to yesterday’s slow-moving funeral procession we inadvertently fell into lock step with as we set out to dinner. That one snarled traffic along the only road in and out of town, until the mourners, by car and on foot, eventually turned off toward the cemetery. I have no idea where the marching band ended up.
Yes, we are back in San Pancho, but a different San Pancho, at least for this first month. We’d offered to care for a friend’s pets while he headed north to settle affairs following the sad and unexpected death of his wife, also our friend. He lives “downtown” San Pancho, right in the heart of the action, hence the symphony of sounds unfamiliar to us while at the beach house, where we normally stay, and will stay for the rest of the summer, once June is over.
I once worked with a woman who went nearly mad after moving from the city to the suburbs. She found the “beautiful noise” of a metropolis comforting. I know others who are thrilled to be able to step outside their front door and right smack into the scene. Not me. I crave the quiet. I’d rather not be held hostage to the neighbours’ fondness for the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack (Stayin’ Alive, Stayin’ Alive, ah, ah, ah, ah, Stayin’ Aliiiiiiiiive!). I’d rather not know when school is out, that your muffler is dead, or your dog is horny. And I don’t need a scratchy, tinny jingle from a LOUD speaker to remind me every half hour that there’s gas available. The marching band, while quaint, squanders its charm after the third day in a row. And please, for the love of god, hurry up and feed your yapping pack of Chihuahuas precisely at 9:20 every morning. Will Mr. Sand Man across the street ever run out of things to sand? And someone really ought to tell the operatic construction worker on the house behind us he’s never gonna win Mexico’s Got Talent.
I’m not a cultural Scrooge, I insist. I appreciate local colour as much as the next gringa. But not at high volume all day every day. I’d like to occasionally close off the racket without closing the window. I’d like to immerse myself, then walk away and leave the “beautiful noise” behind. And I do, for much of it. We have two sweet dogs to walk twice a day, and there’s no better way to explore neighbour-hoods we might otherwise never venture through if not for the morning and evening poop patrol. For instance, we would never have known the source of the early morning rooster recital emanated from a cock-fighting farm one street over. Or that a semi-organized game of pretty good soccer players takes to the field at the end of the block every evening. Or that, two streets over, a cute, fluently bilingual eight-year-old girl sells juicy mangos for 5 pesos a bag. Or that there’s an AA meeting every week in the purple house on the hill. Or that there’s a bull ring near the highway that, depending on who you ask, once staged bull fights or was only used for rodeos. We live in a community. A community of comfortably well off ex-pats in impressive homes alongside dirt-poor Mexicans scratching out a living doing whatever they can. Some even sing while doing it.
And then. As the heat of the afternoon drives them all inside for siesta, the local crippled black bird, who balances on his one good leg on the thatched roof next door, lets out a banshee-like screech as a kind of punctuation on the cacophonic day. He flies away and silence descends. We sit upstairs in the open air under our palapa, gazing over our community’s jumbled rooftops at the steamy jungle beyond, as a soft breeze lightly rattles the palms. And that’s all the sound we hear. For the moment. Golden.