Wednesday, June 05, 2002


I can't hear myself type. I'm living in the midst of some of the worst noise polluters on the planet. Every annoying, blaring, grating, honking, sliding, pounding, barking, scraping sound imaginable is present in this little residential neighborhood of West Los Angeles. I can't quite determine if this noise pollution has escalated recently or I've just become more attuned to it. Either way, it's in my head and it's under my skin and it's beginning to drive me crazy.

As I make this entry, what may very well be the loudest motorcycle on record is pulling into its spot just across the alley from my apartment. Its owner apparently must leave the house by eight in the morning in order to get to work on time. Currently unemployed, I don't. I can tell you, in my now expert opinion, it is extremely difficult to be violently awakened by the sound of a very loud motorcycle revving its engine and face the day in anything but an aggravated mood.

Sometimes I'm lucky enough to fall back asleep. But luck doesn't last long when your unit borders the alley in this neighborhood. Every apartment building has a garbage dumpster in back. Seemingly, every dumpster is serviced by a different sanitation company. I believe an average of six garbage trucks sweep through the alley daily. The only thing that could possibly drown out the loudest motorcycle on record is the screaming of a garbage truck's machinery as it lowers its levers to grab onto a dumpster, hoist the dumpster into the air, and then bang, clang, and shake the dumpster as it empties the contents of said dumpster into the body of the truck. It physically aches to hear this ritual repeated several times a day.

There's a produce truck that cruises the neighborhood for ten hours a day announcing its presence with a rendition of "La Cucaracha" on the horn. Someone who lives next door to us has an old beat up car that won't start unless you constantly turn the ignition and pump the gas for a half an hour. Homeless people and other people who make it their habit to sift through the contents of alley dumpsters are prowling for recyclables and God knows what at all hours of the day and night. Many of them collect their booty in shopping carts. Shopping carts make an incredible amount of noise when wheeled over a pothole-filled jaggedly-paved surface. Dogs barking and yelping. Leaf blowers. Lots and lots of leaf blowers. Really loud leaf blowers.

But the single worst sound of them all, the one sound that sends me off the deep end, is the sound of the guy who honks his clown horn all day, every day. I'm not even sure what he sells. I think, but I'm not sure, that it's some sort of sweet corn. And I think people buy it. I saw the guy once. I was walking by him on the way back to my apartment one day. I stopped and told him that the horn had to go. Of course, he pretended not to habla ingles. Brilliant. I tried to use idiotic hand gestures to illustrate what I meant. "Horn. The horn. That horn is no good." He shook his head "No good?" I said "Yeah. No good." He smiled. I insisted I wasn't joking, but he remained smiling and went on his way. Nothing changed. He kept right on honking that horn and selling his sweet corn. Honking and honking and honking. I am a pacifist by nature. On the whole, I treat other human beings extremely well. But I swear, sometimes I really want to kill this guy. I know he's just trying to make an honest leaving, being that he's probably an illegal immigrant who can't get any sort of documentable job and pay some friggin taxes.

Truthfully, if I did end up "permanently silencing the horn," it would probably be a case of wrong place, wrong time. Maybe one day, I'll be sitting at the computer, trying to write, after being jolted awake by the loudest motorcycle on record at seven forty-five in the a.m., and not being able to go back to sleep because garbage trucks were practicing the shuttle run down the alley, and I'll hear one such sanitation truck smash into the Eduardito's Produce truck, causing the carhorn to get stuck belting out a sick version of "La Cucaracha" on a loop, while the guy next door tries to start his car so he can make yet another run to the 7-11 across the street to get a pack of Marlboro Reds, as a homeless person slams down the lid of a dumpster and rolls his squeaky-wheeled shopping cart down to the next trash receptacle in line hoping to get a couple more aluminum cans so he can go buy another 40, when two dogs look through the window and spot him and attempt to protect their territory by barking at the top of their doggy lungs, and their barking intensifies as a gardener cranks up his leaf blower one block over, and just at that precise moment, the sweet corn guy with the clown horn turns the corner and comes within earshot, and I'll just lose it. You'd be hard-pressed to find one jury across this great land of ours that wouldn't accept a plea of "temporary insanity." Would you?

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