October 17, 2008
Dangling from the Heavens
Friday was a quiet day; I slept in, read my book, and played some solitaire.Â Around noon the hostel manager stopped by and told me that the other room with the good view was available.Â Would I like to switch?Â So I moved to the penthouse suite, the one with the two balconies and the amazing view of the back of the Cathedral, the center of town and the cable cars between the mountains.
In the afternoon I went for a walk around town, the tiny winding streets of the center of town, many of them too steep and thin for cars, so they are covered with steps. Wandering through town I come across the indoor market, with butcher shops cutting up the bloody meat, colorful fruit stalls, children playing games with pogâ€™s on the ground next to the candy stalls, and in the corner a ten foot tall steaming machine with a conveyor belt feeding something into it, and a number of women making things with their hands.
They are making fresh tortillas.Â I buy a three-inch tall, six-inch wide stack of steaming tortillas with eight pesos, something like 75 cents.Â At the general merchandise stall, I bought some sliced ham, a mozzarella like cheese and a small jar of mayonnaise.Â Lunch is completed with a litre box of apple juice.Â Sitting on the balcony I eat lunch listening to the people walk by and the cars honk their way through town.
I relax in the afternoon exchanging between bouts of reading and watching bad subtitled movies, (The Saint, Back to the Future II/III).Â About an hour after the sun goes down there was the sound of bells and drums.Â This was not really new.Â In the 24 hours I have been in Zacatacas I have heard the marching band a few times, and the bell of the cathedral ringing at random times, sometimes itâ€™s on the hour, and sometimes at the half hour and then sometimes in between the half hour, for no discernable purpose.Â I try to find some sort of order from the ringing, but there seemed to be none.
So now the new bells and drums did not spark my interest.
Until I went to the balcony for a cigarette.
Just to the right of the cathedral a crane stood above the buildings. And hanging from the crane was some sort of scaffolding pyramid.Â There were things handing from the scaffolding.Â Wait, that canâ€™t be!Â That looks like people hanging from the scaffolding.Â Is that someone swinging from a trapeze bar?Â It must be.Â I gotta go take a look.
A two-minute walk from the hostel and I was standing in the main square and dangling one hundred feet above me is the band.Â Hanging from the craneâ€™s hook is a twenty food tall cone.Â The bottom of the cone are three trapeze swings, and the ladies are spinning and twisting dangling from; at one moment their hands, and then their feet, 100 feet above the 300 year old stone cobble square.Â I can just see the black safety belts around their waists, but damn, I couldnâ€™t do that.
But also dangling from the bottom of the cone, like the petals of a flower, are eight musicians.Â There are counterbalancing weights in the center, which are controlled by a man on the ground, so the petals move up and down, sometimes they are above the trapeze artists and the spotlights are on the twirling girls, and sometimes they are below with the spotlights on them.
There are four drummers and four bell players.Â Each is in his own rig, something like a jet pack.Â There feet are on individual metal plates, and there is a metal bar running up the back onto which they are strapped and it curves up and around in a semi circle, so the drums or bells are held in front of them.
This could definitely put most of the performances in Burningman to shame.Â And although it would have been nice to see Little Bit in a straight jacket dangling from the middle, in this show there was a single man, with a single four foot wide bell, with him dangling from straps, and his head almost inside the bell, ringing it with all his might, keeping time like a bass drum.
When they were done, the single bell player was the last to become unhooked from the structure, and I was happy to see him remove some earplugs.
I donâ€™t know what to say, it was awesome, and I have no idea why it was done, no idea what the festival is or why there is a band playing in the sky.
The next night the dangling band is at it again, but the previous night was just the rehearsal.Â Tonight are eight wooden frames with torches at the corners on the ground surrounding the flying structure, which is still on the ground.Â After the performers in costumes dance and stomp and sing and yell on their platforms, they climb into their rigs and are pulled into the sky.
I wonder what the hell is going on, but it doesnâ€™t matter, I am in awe.
The main square of Zacatecas before the show:
The harness for the bell ringers and drummers, note the foot pads.
The side entrance to the main square, just before the show.
I have no idea what the hell is going on here.
Eight platforms with eight costumed performers.
It includes lots of stomping and shouting and singing.
I still have no idea what the hell is happening.
But she looks like she’s having fun.
Then the giant crane lifs the spiderweb of ropes holding the floating music box aloft.
The ladies soon to be dangling from trapeze wires and the gentleman playing the Bass Bell are lifted up.
And below them are the four bell ringers and the four drummers.
As they are all lifted into the sky.
and higher, until…
Until the whole thing is dangling from the crane, 100 ft. above the square.
In the beginning the ‘flower’ is closed and the musicians dangle in the center.
But ropes controlled from the ground slowly open up the flower to reveal the three trapeze artists in the middle.
The eight musicians dangling from the edges of the flower, while the trapeze artists wait to start their show.
A trapeze artist swings herself around in the spotlight, just right of center.
Playin’ drums 100 ft in the air.
The piece is lowered back down, with the bell ringer and three trapeze artists.
Ringin’ the damn bell.
Trapeze artist waits to dismount.
The Man with the Bell. (who was the only performer not wearing makeup, he must be the man in charge)
AAAAHHHHHH!!!!Â Â Â Â Now that would scare a little kid!
Trapeze artist bum’s a smoke after the show.
Then again, maybe it doesn’t scare little kids.
And I will leave you with a photograph of a lady and her bell, pleasant dreams.