Monday, July 26, 2004

Loud Music In Cars

Speakers in the dashboard/Speakers in the door/
Speakers on the ceiling/Speakers in the floor
--Billy Bremner

Sure sign that I am am officially a Grumpy Old Man: lately nothing--not even churchgoers--gets under my skin like car stereos. I'm not talking about the iPod in your Accord. No, what really gets me peering out in disdain through the blinds are the peeps whose cars just can't contain the bass. Of course, they're not supposed to. These fuckers want to strum your floor joists at 500 feet. I gather small consolation in imagining the irreparable reproductive harm that such frequencies are doing to the drivers, but I have recurrent fantasies about building a pinpoint electromagnetic pulse gun and the robust pleasure it would give me to use it. More practically, I wonder if it's time to exercise my second amendment rights: a friend of mine who once lived in a particularly dodgy part of Detroit had no troubles with break-ins once he began sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch every Saturday, carefully and visibly cleaning his rifle. I construct imaginary verbal exchanges with gangster-leaning drivers who become rehabilitated through my persuasive powers.

Me: Look, man. I know you spent a lot of cash on that system. But no one is impressed but you. I mean, in your social strata, maybe this rig fulfills its function as an ersatz dominance signifier, but to those like me it serves only as a nuisance and as evidence that your priorities are seriously fucked. Ever read any Lorenz?

Him: Who?

Me: Konrad Lorenz. Austrian dude. His seminal book is called On Aggression. He basically says that aggression is instinctive and phylogenetically useful among almost all species. In every creature but humans, however, aggression is directed only towards members of its own species, and through behaviors that are unambiguous. But the problem for humans is that we are a heterogeneous species with immense anthropological variety, so signifiers among one subset are meaningless to another. Thus, your clumsy bid to utilize your subwoofer as the mark of a superior mate and competitor has just the opposite effect on a majority of your fellow humans. Fortunately, as cognitive beings, humans can unpack the causal chain of maladaptive aggression instincts and deflect such tendencies into harmless or productive pursuits.

Him: Dang. I had no idea. I'm real sorry, yo. I'm a check out the library right now, right after I tune in NPR up in here. Peace.


The neighbors down the street from our house are a group of hardworking ESL fellows. They are sociable and like to congregate on the porch of their rented house, dubbed (by them--spelled in adhesive letters on the eave) Mancìon. Very friendly: when the gaggle of neighborhood kids hit their house on Halloween, the surprised and amused trabajadores were unprepared with candy. So they cheerfully gave the kids money, practically throwing bills at them. As with any group of immigrants, there are certain transgressed or unapprehended social conventions that serve as minor irritants to those around them. At Mancìon, the most flagrant is the use of street-parked automobiles for the enjoyment of music on the porch, as opposed to, say, a portable cd player or putting the living room speakers in the window at a modest and thoughtful volume. Instead, one of the many vehicles lining the street, invariably with the trunk and windows open, pipes a steady stream of bass-heavy ranchera to the congregants on the porch. And through the walls of the neighborhood.


Other night K was lying down with Lucie to try to get her to sleep. I was at the computer when I heard the familiar arpeggiated bassline that sounds like someone nearby endlessly playing the opening bars of "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da". Hoping that it wouldn't keep L (whose room is in the corner of the house closest to Mancìon) awake. No dice. At 10:00 K appears at the door, frazzled:

"Lucie is still awake. You have to go tell them to turn it off".

Oh, a father's austere and lonely offices! Very well, then. I'm off across the street, mulling my tack. Angry and stern? Amiable and concilliatory? Honey or vinegar? I decide that a dispassionate yet firm posture is the way to go. As I approach the gathering, I ask:

"Who speaks English?"

One guy stands up and walks toward me. His eyes are glassy, his face full of grim concern.

"Hello", I say, "The music is too loud. Well, the bass, really. El bajo muy ruidosamente. My baby is trying to sleep." Without apology he shouts a command to one of his friends in Spanish to turn down the music--which is, indeed, emanating from an open car trunk. Without thanks I turn and walk home as the volume is lowered not quite enough, but adequate to avoid any more confrontation. Returning inside, I can still hear the bass, more softly but unmistakable.

Another hour later, L is still awake and K is on the phone to the cops. This dismays me--I don't want to be the asshole neighbor. K says it's not like they don't know how loud they're being. "You did your duty and asked them first. Anyway, the cops aren't coming, the desk cop told me I have to call 911 to make that kind of complaint. Seems like a misuse of resources".


This was by no means my first trip to Mancìon, but I'm always beset by a melancholy ambivalence when I have to make my request. A better person would be more friendly, strike up an acquaintance, not be such a fucking homeowner busybody drag. Perhaps. But I've decided on my plan for the next outbreak of Desmond-has-a-barrel-in-the-marketplace: I'm not going to say anything, just gesture a wordless invitation for my amigos to come-on-a-my-house. I'll bring them inside so that they may hear that thumping in Lucie's room for themselves.


Blogger michael said...

i hate those loud cars. i hate hispanic music, unless it's being fussed over by some effete reviewer on all things considered. i hate loud motorcyles.

the thing is, i really don't like other people in general, unless they're sexually attractive and smiling at me in at least a neutral way. we used to have three good swimming holes, but two of them have been taken over by multitudinous latino families who play this incessant mind-numbing ricky riccardo music, loop da-dun-dun-da-da-dun-dun loop, i'm like, was it nancy reagan who said, honey, look at all these beautiful white people, gosh, take me away nancy, if you're shopping for a man i'm yours all yours.

our one remaining swimming hole has been invaded by scruffy pot-smoking cliff-jumping boys and the bikini-clad girls who love them. this is fine.

we're far enough out in the boondocks not to have music problems. but loud motorcycles make my blood boil. not so long ago i was on the interstate and through no fault of my own i got wedged into the middle of a pack of bikers. i didn't want to cut into their midst, my fucking lane disappears, i'm going 80, i have to go somewhere, i end up in their pack. so some heroic guy from behind finds a way to get in front of me and then he starts braking, i don't know why, it seemed like he was showing me who was boss. did i mention that they didn't seem like very nice people, these bikers? anyhow, he's braking and i'm thinking, this minivan outweighs him by a factor of ten, why should i put up with this? so i'm braking, but not as steeply as i should, and i'm so close to running him over that i've basically lost sight of him beneath the hoodline, he's in that zone that tricycles end up in when you're trying to get this monster into the garage, and i'm still thinking, que sera sera, it's his fault for not thinking of how much i outweigh him, and then it kind of snaps into focus, what i'm doing

my god, i'm about to kill this guy. because he's annoying me. so i hit the brakes harder.

loud music keeping my kids up, i simply would not be able to cope. i'd either stride over with an axe handle and have no memory of what happened next, or, more likely, i'd sit on the front porch grinding my teeth.

9:11 PM  

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