Postcard from Campeche, Mexico: Sittin’ on Campeche Bay

Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ comes
Watchin’ the ships roll in
Then I watch ’em roll away again, yeah
I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooo
I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

“The Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding

Sometimes a song refuses to leave you. A marimba melody would be more appropriate, or the operatic chorus of the tamal vendor or the chant of the man pushing the cart hawking pulpo for sale.

But every time we left the house in Campeche, Otis Redding’s tune insisted on inserting itself in my mind. Of course, this meant I ambled along slowly. I was considerate enough not to let the Mister know lest he also would catch the musical infection.

This affliction does not mean a visit to Campeche is wasting time, but the city is so amazingly laidback. Even the major patriotic gathering to counter abusive trumpeting coming from El Norte in January resembled a family picnic more than a protest march.

When you ramble somewhat aimlessly, omens sometimes cross your mind. Sitting in a bayside seafood restaurant, a bird suddenly plopped down dead right next to our table. Unsure of the meaning of the occurrence, I decided it definitely was a lot closer to the adjoining table. If the omen was bad, it must belong to them.

And, then, in this time of post-election uncertainty, there was the inverted “El Viejo” boat seemingly symbolizing our retirement plan gone awry…. Surely, they won’t take away the healthcare benefits of these particular viejos not yet eligible for Medicare?

Soaking up the sun, the Crayola colors and the warmth of the people easily trumped these possibly ominous omens. And the trust. The painter at the top of a ladder placing his faith in his fellow worker perched on a quivering board below. The glowing Virgin of Guadalupe protecting the fishermen headed out before dawn.

It was almost Lent, and I mentally treated worries about gringolandia the way they kick off Carnaval in Campeche. The pre-Lenten festival begins with a festive  funeral procession. An effigy of a pirate is placed in a coffin and burned – the symbolic burial of all bad moods as the celebration gets underway.

Relaxing completely for three weeks, omens mellowed out and merged into positive signs for the coming year. Surely that bird signified ending one chapter in my life and the start of a new phase. This was strengthened by the typewriter fixating my gaze.

Returning to San Antonio, I finished work related to the manuscript on the history of the Coker Settlement and transformed from a nonfiction writer to one once again hearing her characters converse while soaking in the tub. When you involve as many characters as a Russian novelist, their conversations extend baths to toe-shriveling lengths.

One day, I will finish this epic tale of Hedda Burgemeister and San Antonio’s beer baron.

But along the way to completion, I might have to take a trip or two to seek out more good omens. A girl can never have too many of them.

And, hey, it’s the weekend. Go ahead and let this mellow melody wash away your worries:

Yet another reason to drink beer during Fiesta: Preserving our quills

If peculiarities were quills, San Antonio de Bexar would be a rare porcupine. Over all the round of aspects in which a thoughtful mind may view a city, it bristles with striking idiosyncrasies and bizarre contrasts.

Retrospects and Prospects by William Sydney Porter (O Henry)

Often I only hear brief tidbits from longer stories on Texas Public Radio because of the short distance between errands, and some of these are pleas for funds – particularly critical now as Congress is once again picking on the funding provided Public Radio. But even Public Radio’s fundraising requests can be enlightening or entertaining; although I’m certainly happy Ira Glass never has called personally to pin us to the mat about the size of our contribution.

In one of the local pitches the other day, David Martin Davies talked about his visit to the O. Henry House downtown (My apologies possibly, because, for the above reason, I am not positive who was speaking.). He pointed out a few historical inaccuracies, such as the small stone structure should be called O. Henry’s Office and “O. Henry’s typewriter” on display in the shuttered museum was not manufactured until two years after the author’s death. But the typewriter hooked him, and he ended up buying one just like it on ebay for $50. What’s great is not only does the antiquated typewriter work, but the next generation in his family loves typing on the strange piece of machinery not connected to a screen.

Okay, I have probably lost all readers by now. Where does the beer figure into this rambling post?

Davies mentioned on air that the Texas Public Radio spot on the O. Henry House was part of a new series focusing on historic preservation, and this series is made possible by a grant from the San Antonio Conservation Society. The main source of income for the San Antonio Conservation Society is A Night in Old San Antonio, or NIOSA, which gets underway on Tuesday, April 12. So, much as with the prior post about the King William Fair, every beer you drink helps the Conservation Society’s efforts to preserve San Antonio’s distinctive heritage.

Seems O. Henry would have approved, as even he remarked long ago of San Antonio’s party spirit:

…it stands with all its gay prosperity just on the edge of a lonesome, untilled belt of land one hundred and fifty miles wide, like Mardi Gras on the austere brink of Lent….

Retrospects and Prospects by William Sydney Porter (O Henry)

So let the Fiesta begin (even in the midst of Lent), and keep San Antonio quilled.

P.S. Help even more by purchasing one of Kathleen Trenchard’s 2011 NIOSA pins.

April 10, 2011, Update: Paula Allen writes about the giant “party with a purpose.”