Friday, July 03, 2009

Sounds of the neighborhood

A new family moved in next door awhile back. That means adjusting to a whole new set of sounds. My neighborhood is very much working class bordering on scavenging class. There are plenty of families on the street. Their children contribute to the sounds of summer during the day. There is no convenient playground here, so the kids spend long hours rolling down the slope of the street on plastic toys with rumbling wheels. I hear them pushing their little tyke bikes up past my house, then the roll of the wheels and the delighted squeals as they rush back down the street. Sometimes, the journey ends in a crash to the pavement, and then mighty wails are added to the soundscape, along with accompanying howls from the dogs hidden behind the fence across the street.

The house next door is a rental property. The former family had lived there for more than a dozen years. They were avid collectors of stuff that ended up in the back yard, but on the other hand, they loved to garden and the front yard was always full of flowers. They played top 40 AM radio during the day, and sometimes late in the evening, friends came over for beers round the back yard fire pit. They got loud, but not out of control. Every now and then, voices might be raised in a family squabble, but these were only short bursts that seemed to fade quickly and resolve themselves behind closed doors.

The new family has increased the decibel level of the neighborhood to an alarming pitch. There is a teenage boy with a minibike who roars up and down the block and around their backyard. This is the only place the boy has to ride his bike apparently. The family dynamic seems to thrive on confrontational yelling. Adults yell at children and children yell back and at each other. Calm requests don't seem to be a part of their communication skills. They have three small dogs with high pitched barks. Throughout the day and night, I can hear their mistress order them in loud and imperious tones to "Go potty!" Sadly, I never here the sounds of dog and human play or the happy sound of "good dog!"

The family has many visitors who arrive in pick up trucks with loud motors. This goes on throughout the day. Since we share a driveway, I am always hearing trucks pulling in and pulling out, radios blasting with bass on so loud that my house shivers from the sound.

Their evening party sessions are loud and obnoxious, ending all too often in loud angry tirades. Last night for example, after a session of illegal fireworks being set off way too close to my house for comfort, the neighbors and their guests settled in for an hour's worth of screaming at each other. It was a male vs female battle, with several participants on each side booming and shrieking in tones that would surely upset any of the little children who live in houses up and down the street. So far the violence has been limited to vocal tones, from what I've heard at any rate. However, the potential for escalation sounds real and scares me.

I ponder what to do, if anything. Yell out my window? Call the police? Is it worth antagonizing unstable people? What if they seek revenge? Fortunately, last night was quite chilly, so I could shut all the windows and hide under the covers until the noise subsided some time after midnight and I was able to fall asleep.

The house on the other side of my property was originally purchased by a mom for her daughter to live in while she attended the university. It quickly turned into a party house with ongoing drug dealing 24 hours a day. That lasted for about a year, and then suddenly it all got quiet while a for-sale sign beckoned new owners to check it out. The family living there now hardly makes a sound except when the lawn is being mowed and the garage door goes up or down. Sometimes, kids and a dog show up for the weekend. Their sounds are lively and fun.

Late at night, the train rolls by on the tracks to the south of our neighborhood. It is a comforting sound that signals all is well and on schedule. During the day, a particular sound cues us to look upward to see the Goodyear blimp leaving or returning to its docking site to the east of us. For many days this summer, the sound of rain has dampened the other noises and provided us with an oasis of calm before the next period of sunshine sets off more chaotic sounds of human activity.

Right now the sky is cloudy and a drizzle of rain keeps the firework setters indoors waiting for better conditions. Outside the front window, birds are chirping to one another, while inside the dog and cat snooze, and the human makes clicking sounds on the keyboard.


Doc said...

Neighbors live together in a form of truce with usually unspoken rules of engagement. Then along comes someone who doesn't follow the rules and the delicate balance is upset. Your situation is made more difficult by the fact that there are many sources of sound coming from the neighbors. If it were just a loud radio, a neighborly suggeston might suffice. But with sounds coming from multiple sources, complaining would do no good and would likely create an antagonistic environment that would worsen the problem. Maybe you should record their cacophony and play it back to them after they've retired for the evening (if they ever do.)

KevinBBG said...

I think confronting them is probably a bad idea. I would think at the very least they would yell at you like they do to each other. At worse they sound like a potentially violent group that is easily set off.

Hard to say, though. Often this type of family and close friends just get into the habit of yelling at each other, but when dealing with a stranger they calm down and act normally, knowing they can't get away with that type of behavior elsewhere.

My suggestion is to just try to ignore them, maybe close the windows on their side of the house permanently, if weather allows that. They will probably get quieter in the winter when the cold will have everyone's windows closed and trips from friends will be less, but what a shame if they ruin your summer.

Doc's idea might not be a bad one, record them and play it back when they aren't noisy. What irony if they come over and ask you to keep it down, what satisfaction you can have telling them the source of the noise and that you will stop when they stop giving you things to record. Have to have some pretty powerful equipment to make that work, though.

What I think you should do is bide your time and another neighbor might call the police or they might move out after a short time. They sound pretty unstable.

Car Reviews said...

I have read this post and found it very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing up this topic. Unclear as to where your neighborhood lies, but I'm in the southern stretches of Highland Square and it may as well be Times Square.

I'm in a house on Crosby near Balch. Moving out tomorrow.

Can't share another minute with a grunge band that uses the house for regular practices (a thousand decibels) and to party nightly. No less than 20-30 "kids" congregate, trash the place inside and out, pugent fumes billowing. Police come out regularly.

The sad part is that there are young kids living around us. No consideration for them.