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Friday, July 21, 2000

Sometimes I just want the whole world to shut up. I love music, all kinds, and I watch enough TV that I can't claim not to like it. But every so often, like at least once a day, I would like to be able to sit in my own home and not hear music or TV, especially the kind that comes from outside my sanctuary. If I could just relax with a book and a glass of pure water from my brand new cooler, I think I'd be in a better position to cope with the stresses that jostle and jar me as I shuffle through the rest of my day. Maybe half an hour. Is that too much to ask?

I could get up at dawn and have all the peace and quiet I can stand, except that I couldn't get up at dawn if the future of the planet depended on it. Okay, maybe if it was earth, but no other planet would survive in that situation. It's probably why I stay up so late every night. I need my time when everyone else is unconscious, just to wrap my jangled nerves in a cool, damp towel.

If my landlord hadn't told me to "be patient," when I complained about the thinness of the walls here, I might have put my fist through one of them by now. Even so, I've been moved to a form of oh-so-subtle retaliation. When they slam a door, I slam a door, even if I have to get up off the couch to do it. And I keep the volume on my stereo at a high enough level to nullify the sound of whatever's going on next door. Even when I would prefer silence, I have a CD playing, usually something new-agey that doesn't require my attention. Then I can read without having to listen to the soundtrack from tonight's made-for-TV movie on USA or TNT.

Complain? About what? It probably doesn't seem that loud to them. There are four of them, and two of them are children whose normal preset volume is "high." I don't mind their chirping voices, or even their three dogs. It's the drone coming from their speakers that rattles my cage. What I do is not so much retaliation, though, as self-defense. They're friendly people, and I'm as non-confrontational as a person can be. I might have a breaking point, but I haven't reached it yet.

Still, I've been in similar situations, and I know the line is there to be crossed. It's happened to me in apartments, but never in a duplex until now. Sometimes it seems as if a garage band is practicing next door, all dissonant chords and off-beat thumping. At other times it makes me wonder if it wouldn't be quieter living in a refrigerator box under the freeway overpass, or in a tent in the parking lot of a 24-hour truck stop.

Many years ago I lived in the shadow of the San Francisco airport. I didn't like it, but I got used to it. The planes took off and landed around the clock, but it was a constant noise, always pretty much the same, and it became background sound to me. I could cope, most of the time. Maybe I'll get used to this, too, but what I have trouble with is the inconstancy. Sometimes loud, sometimes very loud. Sometimes Aerosmith, sometimes WWF.

It's definitely made me more appreciative of the rare days when no one is home next door. When I can, I take full advantage. I'll open the doors and windows and let the natural sounds soothe and comfort my troubled mind. The rustle of leaves in the wind, the occasional whine of passing traffic, the skreeking of the neighborhood peacock. It's all like therapy, and it reminds me why I moved to the country three months ago. This is what I thought I was getting, not a backstage pass to a Riverdance rehearsal.

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