FOR MONTHS now, the house across the street sat empty. The owner, apparently pulled from the premises for a number of legal infractions. Not high drama, just a resting point of an odd story that we as neighbors no longer have to watch or listen to and are thankful.
“Listen to” is key.
Most Sundays, this street, which casts the appearance of being small-town somnolent, often blooms wildly with music. Music from all over the globe, plucked from different genres and eras — ranchera music, banda, R&B oldies, really, really bad house music, then of course the musclar thudthud slur of 90s gangsta rap sliding, like exhaust, behind slow-traveling cars. Down the street a bit — frothy Brazilian pop, late-period Miles Davis, maybe some Beatles thrown in. Taken together some weeks, it was bad bleed of cacophony. I find myself wandering my rooms in ear plugs.
The man who was carried away from across the street, under the cover of night, often would wage a passive-aggressive music war with a neighbor on the other side. At its worst: Two, three, four-in-the morning reveries of “Margaritaville,” with him incrementally upping the volume as it got later and later (and he clearly more and more intoxicated). He’d sing along, of course, tottering around the edges of the melody, the later it got, not really hanging on to any of the lyrics at all, just shouting an approximation of the syllables and stresses.
Since he’s been gone, the neighbor who was most aggrieved, a sort of stoic, man-of-few-words, has been taking charge of the music — unleashing, I suppose, what he had long been unable to, a more leisurely, softer side. Since the other house had been empty, our neighborhood DJ had been starting with some musette, some Billie Holiday, lots of Stan Getz — not much bossa nova but Getz from the late 40s, 1950, a nice sprinkling of Nat Cole Trio, etc. He’d end his “set” with Etta James, “Sunday Kind of Love” — sometimes “spin” and encore and talk back to the box. And then usually he was done.
The new neighbor moved in a week ago and I wondered if the Sunday Jukebox would cease. It has so far. It appears, I think, that he’s trying to be polite and establish some rules by example — and right away. But what became clear was how much music marks a place and how he was using it to reclaim something vital — a sage smudging of its own, I suppose.
On moving day, the new neighbor played Top-40 radio while unpacking — that pogo-stick pulsing that I now associate with to going to the gym — not so much music, but a weird stimulant itself.
What the new neighbor brings to the mix is yet to be known. I’m keeping my earplugs — and buds — close by. My store of music at the ready to plug into. But here’s hoping for better co-existence.
A little musette to start things off.