Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mommy why is the man next door yelling at you

As a musician, living here in NIMBY city has it's moments.  Never have so few felt entitled to so much, and me and mine are not exempt from that phenomenon.   I certainly feel it is my right to utilize my living space within the limits imposed through noise ordinance and common sense. However not all San Franciscans adhere to this notion, and like the state under Stalin, or Pinnochet, feel it is their paternalistic right to stick their oar in.
Connie, who plays Sax and leads Go Van Gogh, recently told me some entertaining stories of neighbors past and present.  Apparently there are residents of our fair metropolis who are easily unhinged by a little music in their day, and according to Connie, every block has one.
While living on Market Street back in the day,  Connie's neighbor across the courtyard, and over the back fence was Eric, who would replant his garden at 3 AM.  Flood lights blazing, happily raking and hoeing, their was Eric on a quarterly schedule.  But at 3 pm, a single alto note would send Eric into a screaming rage.  "Shut UP...SHUT THE FUCK UP" would sail into Connie's Window on a regular basis. Connie was somewhat immune to this, having recently moved from living over a glass shop on Sanchez.  There serenaded by the sound of grinders all the livelong day, Connie would occasionally work on a tune. Inevitably, a bearded man would appear under her front window.  He would pace back and forth, face reddening, eyes glazing in FURY.  Finally unable to contain his rage, out would come "Stop..STOP, STOP that NOISE".  Of course Connie would attempt to ignore him.  Like Eric, he did not even live in her building, and the grinding of the glass shop grinders was far louder and persistent.

Not all these complainers were screamers.  These days Connie lives in a cute little cottage, nestled back off a busy street behind larger flats.  No building abuts hers, and the folks downstairs, like all the previous folks  in all the previous downstairs, are not bothered by, and actually enjoy her melodious offerings. 

Across the way, however,  in the next lot, in a large and noisy apartment house, in a large and noisy city, a city full of street cars, sirens, and intoxicated partying youth, lives W (name masked to protect the guilty).  Poor unhappy W.  Not too many years ago W lived elsewhere.  It must have been heaven on earth there, and no noise must have ever intruded into W's consciousness.  Now W lives next to a SAX DEAMON, playing night and day.  NEVER GIVING W A MOMENTS RESPIT.  Or so W says.  He expresses his displeasure by throwing paper airplanes notes of extreme protest into Connie's yard.  Practice at 11 AM....get a note, have a compositional sectional for Sax, Violin and Bass at 7pm  get two notes.   Connie, being tenderhearted retreated into the back of her house, closing all the doors and windows, but it was not enough.  Paper airplanes rained in Connie's yard.  One could wonder why W won't get a life.  But anyone who spends months in a one
 way non dialog by paper airplanes is likely to be socially challenged.  

And W is not alone.  This has become a San Francisco treat for the seriously self entitled.  Think back to that thriving hub of San Francisco nightlife on 11th street.  Sidewalks and clubs packed night after night.  Live music spilling out of restaurant and bar doorways.... oh yeah, thats no longer so.  The well healed folks who bought lofts and TICs in Soma put a stop to that.  This abrupt end to our good time, and cultural renewal aided and abbetted by the make a buck machinations of our real estate elite, and all the new homeowners looking at their investment, instead of what makes a home (as it is not just the 4 walls dear) .

I have noted elsewhere how we have over regulated ourselves to the point where little in the way of culture can grow. The plot thickens when put together with the money big real estate spends greasing the wheels towards a more unaffordable tomorrow.  Now that they are aided and abetted by a short sighted citizenry out for a capital gains liquidity event, we have a very unappetizing stew. One bite is all it takes, to turn your rainbow world beige.

The impact of this pot full of poison pills goes way beyond "where can culture happen".  It goes after the root itself, leaving us with the fundamental question "can culture exist in a broad sense at all if there is no place craft can develop".  

Now out in the wide open spaces where your neighbor is a ways down the road this may not prove such a problem. But most people live crammed together in cities and towns. Think of all those city kids horrendously massacring Mozart, Gershwin, and Copeland. Shredding away at those Jimmy Page licks, or Johnny Thunders chords. Trying to blow hot on those cool Miles and Train modal motifs.    If Eric is out in the back yard screaming, bearded man is down in the street shouting, and W's paper planes are falling like cherry blossoms in the yard, the poor little dears will be scared for life, never manifesting their own piece of the puzzle.  All that will remain for our edification and enjoyment on the aural tip will be software installing knob twiddling headphone wearing techno pumping futurists, endlessly sampling the finite output from the good old days, or the homespun few country cousins able to make it out the gate.

Yet, one must ponder how this used to work.  Did we not always have these issues of space and noise.  Were we kinder and more accepting.  Were the walls thicker.  Did music have a more accepted role in our lives, not just the choice between managed perfection of the self initiated experience of Ipod, Itunes, I tuned the rest of you right out.  Versus the ever present public soundtrack for easing the consummation of the commercial interaction. Has this dampening down of natural environmental experience, this ongoing interference of meaningful intercourse, made us so sensitive to any actual flowering of reality in our home spaces, that the most bruised of us must act out in rage and intolerance, or risk the madness of recognizing the true hell of everyday existence.

Perhaps musicians should organize into real estate clubs.  Put in our spare pennies to develop little high-rise  ghettoes.  All banded together in our urban enclaves, living 100 to a building with rehearsal spaces in the basement, and night clubs in the lobby.  Think of the cross pollination of sounds, when Pedal Steel lives next door to Kora, and Flamenco has dinner with Rocksteady. We can make as much noise as needed.  We can endlessly entertain ourselves, and leave the faint of ear to their own prechewed clear channel lives, while we dance together and play room to room.

 Thats all for now.




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