Have you ever been sitting around your house or puttering around the yard and heard a strange noise? Every now and then a particular sound arrests my attention, and I say, “Hark, from whence dost yon sound cometh?” (I talk like this because I’m learning to rap, knave, with cool words like “fie” and “forsooth”. Practice maketh perfect.)
And I hate it when I identify the refrigerator or the A/C or water dripping from the ceiling or the washing machine walking across the room as the source. All these are not true noises. They’re ka-ching moments. Not for me, of course, but for the repairman I have to phone.
Do you hear many explosions? I’m pretty good when it comes to identifying explosions. I live in Albuquerque, and there aren’t many, but there are a few. I look outside to see from whence yon noise cometh, but I seeth no crumbling buildings nor fleeing people. Thus, I have to wait for the town crier or the next-morning herald. If there’s no mention of a terrorist attack or a ruptured gas line explosion taking out a square city block, I’m pretty sure I know from whence yon sound cometh. The mad scientists at Sandia National Laboratories, who have plenty of room out at their place to blow things up, were testing out a new chemistry set.
I’m also pretty good at identifying bells, including wind chimes which are a kind of irritating bell when the wind starts blowing around midnight. I may have mentioned before that the church in my neighborhood rings its bell on the hour every hour from eight in the morning until six at night. The clangs are loud enough that had this church been in possession of said bell back in 1775, Paul Revere wouldn’t have had to make his famous ride. He could have coordinated it with the priest, “One clangeth if by land, two clangeths if by sea.” From Albuquerque to Massachusetts, people would have known that the British were anon. This bell tin-tin-abulates like Rin Tin Tin pointing out the bad guy.
Some of the neighbors in closest proximity to this church are irate with the priest. They complained that not only is the bell deafening, but cracks are developing in their homes, and their hens have stopped laying. The priest turned a deaf ear, of course, so they’ve started a petition. They’re asking that the church donate the bell so it can sit on a check-in desk, where it will be used to ring for the night clerk at the Hard of Hearing Hotel, which is what the old Heartbreak Hotel is now named.
Another sound I hear a lot of is gunfire. Of course, I haveth to be sure that it’s not fireworks or a car backfiring. But cars don’t seem to backfire much anymore, and given my many years of listening, I’m confident that I can distinguish gunfire from fireworks. Next I ask myself a series of questions. Is it the sound of gang warfare? Or did a 24/7 shooting range open up in the abandoned 7-11? Or are the neighbors down the block once again celebrating Jose Cuervo’s birthday in their back yard by firing pistols into the air? (Remember the poem: I shot a bullet into the air, it fell to earth I know not where. But BANG! You’re dead. It hit you in the head.)
I have hoped that the outspoken woman, the one who is really mad at the priest for ringing the bell, will not shoot him. So far, so good. In fact I hear that she even gave him a present – a chalkboard scratching post for his cat’s birthday.
A noise that can make me almost jump out of bed in the middle of the night comes from the coyotes who live in my neighborhood. There’s no mistaking the sound. There’s a dirt road and irrigation ditch behind my house that serves after dark as the Albuquerque Coyote Community Center. They love to harmonize right outside my bedroom window, and do these coyotes have lots of volume! I personally think they learned to howl while doing an intern year stalking livestock on Pavarotti’s farm in Italy. I’ve tried bribing them into silence with chicken Mc-Nuggets, but it only excites them more. They start in with their Mc-DOWL-ing.
I’m not sure how the priest rings the bell nowadays. Long before my time, this church hired individuals to ring it by butting it with their heads. A guy would be hired to climb up to a platform atop the bell tower, get a running start and butt the bell. The church went through a lot of bell ringers this way. By afternoon, certainly by early evening, the guy would be so dizzy that he’d wander around and fall from the tower.
The police would show up and ask witnesses if they knew the fellow. Invariably came the answer, “No, but his face rings a bell.” Or, “No, but his face is very, uh, pealing.” Or, “No, not a toll.” Which brings me to my main point. In such a world as ours, we should do all we can to help the police identify strange noises. Certainly those that both arrest our attention, and mystify us as to from whence yon sound cometh.