May 04, 2007
The Sounds of Silence
Construction is just part of living an urban life although if I told some San Francisco city dwellers that I lived south of the Mission, they'd tell me that this isn't really urban, just like 'some' New Yorker's think the upper west side isn't really NY.
I don't consider my neighborhood the burbs. I'm as San Francisco as the East Village is New York and certainly as urban. Further south lies Glen Park, which I still consider a city 'hood.' Here, we are closer to the feeling of living in the burbs in the same way that you may feel that in parts of Boston's Somerville.
I wrote about my foreign relationship with city sirens two years ago, despite the fact that I was not new to living in cities when I moved here. (London, Johannesburg, Boston, NY, Sydney, Amsterdam)....
Construction outside my house combined with ongoing sirens doubles the noise level and yet, I wonder if over time, I'll just become assimilated; so accustomed to the drilling and blaring sounds that they are part of what gives me calm, not what now brings chaos.
When I brought people to my upstate New York Adirondack cottage, which sat less than twenty feet from the lake's shores, they were awoken every morning to the 'blaring' sound of motorboats racing by. Blaring? To me, it was a necessary background noise, a soothing purring sound that was an integral part of the lake's energy. It was evidence that 70 year Grandma from down the uneven dirt road was taking her morning ski around the lake. If you didn't hear it, you wondered whether she was sick, visiting relatives or still around.
The distant hum of a motorboat engine is a tranquil memory that connects my unconsciousness to a place where no one could find me. A place that had no shower until I was a teenager, a place where we had to rig a dial up connection through an old beat-up 1970s phone in the kitchen, a line we shared with an elderly woman several camps away.
Eventually we ran a long wire under the camp and up through a small hole we drilled in the floorboards so I could access the Internet and write from the front porch while I watched canoes, kayacks, and swimmers passing by. All there from my great grandmother's wicker chair with the cushion that never got replaced, along side the dark country green lamp with the lowest watt bulb to keep the mosquitoes away, one that barely shed enough light to read by at night. I still remember the flower decal on the side of its metal shade, which began fading as early as the late 1960s.
Indeed. It's the same reason vegemite tastes as normal to an Australian as peanut butter tastes to an American child. The sounds, tastes, and sights that give our unconsciousness states the energy it needs at just the right times. Without them, we don't feel alive.
Part of me can't wait for PG&E to leave my street with their drills, tractors, bright orange cones that now litter my driveway. Part of me wants them to stay long enough so I do grow accustomed to more urban noise, enough so that I when I return to Kuala Lumpor or Hong Kong one day, the outside roar of drills, sirens and in Asia, horns, spitting and roosters, will sound no more cluttered than my purring motorboat on that peaceful Adirondack lake.
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