Yeah! You read that right. For the last many years of my life, I had to live through the hell that seems to be emanating from my walls.
Not too long ago, way back in 1958, I needed to leave the hustle and bustle of the noisy streets of Manhattan. It was one of the worst places to be if you wanted peace and quiet because it doesn’t exist there. No matter what time of day or night, this city was noisy. It kept me up constantly. It got so bad so often that I had to cry myself to sleep to no avail. Besides, my diaper was always wet and I was only two years old at the time. What did you expect me to do? I know why this dang city never sleeps. It has a 24-hour insomnia problem.
So, my parents decided that it was time for us to move.
We (okay, my parents…) decided that we should move to a much quieter neighborhood. I don’t know what their choices were. They left Manhattan, skipped Staten Island, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, too. Instead, they found a beautiful, one-family home in Queens. It was nice. It still is. It was surrounded by other one-family homes filled with very nice neighbors. Stores were a nice walk away on a sunny day. The roads were not tightly packed like the Manhattan roads were. There was no rumble of the subways, honking of horns, or any other noises that we had to put up with in Manhattan. In other words, it was very quiet.
The tranquility of Queens!!!!
In the beginning, there was all of this peace and quiet. It was so addicting. I was able to turn on my radio to a very reasonable level and enjoy it. I was able to watch TV, study, and even sleep in all the stillness. I heard others playing outside and all was fine. It was the living version of peace and quiet. It was the sign that I, too, could have a normal childhood. It was just what I always wanted.
Then, it started!!!
One day, while Daddy was home from work and about to start his vacation, he turned his radio on. When I said radio, I should have written the word HUGE! He had a vast collection of records, mostly jazz. He loved the jazz station on his radio. It was a full stereo speaker system with a very LOUD volume control knob. He used to crank that monster up so high that even the house we lived in rumbled. His radio was located in his man cave in our basement, but we were able to hear it all the way up to our second floor. It was so loud that if we were on the second floor of our house, you could hear the disk jockey burp. That was LOUD!!!
At the same time before my younger siblings were born, Mom, Dad, and I used to ride around in our family car, a 1958 Oldsmobile 98. That was the Sherman tank of cars at that time. I never even saw a scratch or dent on that behemoth at all. If we ever got into an accident, the car was fine. And if Daddy accidentally hit a pedestrian with that metallic monster, you would not have to call an ambulance for the pedestrian. Just call a mortuary because there was no chance of survival at all for the poor walker. Daddy used to put me in the back seat right in front of the built-in speaker in the middle of the rear seat. Then, he would crank that puppy up REAL loud. It was amazing that he was able to hear the other vehicles around him when he drove. The thing I got from this was that while he was chatting with Mom during the drive, he would call out to me. I never knew it because I could not hear him. Then, he'd yell at me for not paying attention. I could not help it. I could not hear him. This went on for just a few years until my brother and sister were born. For a very long time, I honestly thought that I was going to lose all of my hearing before I could graduate from grade school. Fortunately, I didn't, but I do suffer, I believe, from SOME hearing loss due to those last two situations.
It didn't stop there. Remember how I thought that my neighborhood was going to be quiet? Well, that didn't last for long. Now, my age group discovered cheap blasting caps for their toy guns. I honestly preferred the water guns. Water guns are quiet. Cap guns were not. Because of the fascination with explosions, they graduated to firecrackers. Folks were able to light them up and throw them anywhere. Oh, joy! It was raining firecrackers wherever I went. Before long, some dope introduced M80's to the mix. An M80 has the force of one stick of dynamite. If one firecracker can get one dog to get nervous, a whole M80 can clean out a whole kennel. Yup, it is THAT powerful. Now, you can imagine how loud it can be.
As if the M80 situation was not enough, along come the fancy cars. Thanks to the street racers. They have to assert their mechanical muscle into my environment. Chevies, Buicks, Dodges, Chryslers would all race by the house and each would be muscled up with all sorts of engine enhancements. No car sounded like... a car.
The street games got even louder. Somehow, the players also double as the stadium crowd. More noise for my gentle ears.
The culmination of the noise festival were the parties. See what my Dad has done? He has now invited all of humankind to come in an blast the atmosphere to smithereens. Everyone was now throwing a house party. There were music and noise all day long, everywhere you could find it. Not only was the noise coming out of these previously quite houses, but other folks got together, went to the nearest city park and turned up the music very loudly. These were the summer parties. At times, it seemed like these summer parties went all summer long. THUMP!!! THUMP!!! BOOM!!! THUMP!!! THUMP!!! BOOM!!!!Before long, I needed some baby Bayer aspirin for my daily headaches. It was that bad.
After a while, the topping on the social cake was when the police continually flew their helicopters overhead in order to catch some social deviant who may have robbed or killed someone in the area. Usually, this happened in the summer months, but the rest of the year was vulnerable as well to these searches. Soon after they started, I prayed that none of these criminals were hiding out on our property.
It is now 2019. Most of what I wrote had taken place way back from 1958 to roughly the late 1990s. I am a grown man who has reached the ripe old age of 63. I am a teacher who is about ready to retire very, very soon. I'm so looking forward to that day.
The neighborhood has undergone many changes. For the most part, the old dinosaurs like myself have either died or moved away. Any of the others who have remained—there are very, very few of them—have moved on to other places. Some of the new neighbors are a bit different. Many of the newcomers are hardworking people who know when to party. That is not to say that they don’t party. They do. They will save the festivities for a summer block party which is usually arranged by a block association or they will just have a Fourth of July celebration. Both are fine by me.
Me? As I cited before, I am looking to retire. I even wish to gather my belongings, finances and just move to another area where I can really enjoy the peace and quiet that I so richly savor once in a while. I have never desired to party and do like the earlier settlers did in my block. I kept to myself even to this very day. There is much joy, peace, and tranquility in the silence of a good neighborhood. I value it and hope that it continues.
Life may not be perfect, but it has never been better than this!!!! :-)