More Noise Please

I write this amid pipes banging from the radiator, video-game revelers in the apartment downstairs, a dog barking, and high-heeled pacing above my head. My neighbor just slammed her door again, making the walls shake. Soon a car alarm in the parking garage across the way will go off, as it likes to late at night for my listening pleasure. Or the old woman upstairs will start yelling into the airshaft for “Frank.” (I do not believe there is a Frank.)

I wonder about living outside the city sometimes; I wonder about the state my head would be in if there were quiet. I’ve gotten used to writing amid noise—I stick in my headphones and pump music over it, or sometimes, when I’m deep into a paragraph and nothing could drag me out of it, all surrounding noise takes on a comforting distant din. Quiet is alien. Quiet sort of scares me. And yet if there were perfect quiet right now, I wonder what ideas might worm their way inside my head. My ideas are noisy. Currently I wonder what kind of obsessive compulsive disorders my neighbors may have, and as for the mystery of Frank, I could ponder that late into the night… especially if there’s a car alarm going off to keep me company.

(Post title stolen, of course, from Steven Jesse.) 


  1. Hope you’re writing well, despite the din. My own neighbor had turned up the bass earlier in the afternoon, ruining a very lovely nap. And, having watched Donnie Darko for the first time today, I worry about this non-existence of “Frank.”

  2. man i love that poem.

    nova, i’ve come to believe that our neighbors were specifically put here to test our patience or to drive me to do terrible, terrible things.

    i am almost certain that the woman upstairs is attempting to achieve her life-long dream of becoming the first professional runway model with two gigantic wooden feet. i sincerely hope she fails miserably and in a saws them off in a overwhelming fit of despair. if for some reason she’s not prone to sadness, i’ll have to release the termites.

    i’m not sure what to do about the door slamming neighbor. i think that there’s some sort of heavy vacuum created by the number of car alarms going off in the parking garage across from her (our) window that sucks her door shut no matter how hard she tries to be gentle. she is a professional relief worker after all and has that terribly painful-sounding hacking cough, so we’ll have to cut her some slack.

    the clinking pipe thing has me a little confused i admit. at first i thought it was just the new boiler that they installed creating too much uneven pressure and condensation, but i’m starting to doubt that theory in favor of something more likely:

    there is an injured dog (one of the five in this building that continually barks throughout the day and night), leashed to the pole on one of the floors below us. the tapping noise is due to its splinted, broken tail wagging against the pipe. the wagging of course is due to its happiness for being within earshot of the mentally challenged southern couple’s xbox (directly below us) that emits periodic “good dog! bark!” commands in frequencies unrecognizable to human ears in between the xboxers’s “yeehaws,” “woooohooos,” and “gggaaaaahhhsss!”

    and frank… that poor old woman has been calling out for him for about four years now without answer. i know he’s hiding somewhere, chuckling to himself each time trying not to reveal his location. the bastard. i hope the dog gets loose and outs him.

    of course my insomnia (largely caused by all this goddamn noise) might be confusing me.

    and w, i hope you liked donnie darko. it’s definitely on my list of wonderful things. and the frank coincidence is pretty interesting.

    it’s 4:42 am. you, fortunately, are asleep. i, unfortunately, am e.

  3. Noise. I can’t escape from it either. The only places to escape from it are even noisier, but with pop music and babbling voices rather than freight trains, sirens and clumping neighbours.

    This is what my neighbours did the other night. It was two in the morning. I was fast asleep. Then they started blasting out “Hotel California” so loud you could have probably have heard it near you i.e. a continent away. I jolted from sleeping to being awake so quickly I gave myself whiplash. It was the weirdest feeling. And the next day I got no writing done because I was incredibly grumpy.

    I wonder what writing in a quiet place would be like. Maybe the silence would be louder than the noise!

    I feel a bit sorry about Frank too.

  4. To me, Silence is like a loud noise, and I can’t stand it. Noise is as comfortable as silence is to most. Though there are some types of noises I can’t stand, really high pitch sounds, for example.

  5. When I read things like this I don’t know whether to breath a huge sigh of relief that we’re not alone in having our every waking (and sleeping) hour disturbed by noise, or whether to cry in despair that it is – for city people at least – inescapable.

    Our upstairs neighbours too have huge wooden feet (maybe there is a whole tribe of wannabe catwalk models with this affliction!) and also like to listen to generic r&b whilst having screaming fits over (I’m guessing pictures of R Kelly or maybe Donny Osmond, I’m not quite sure who’s in these days).

    Downstairs from us is a Tattoo Parlour who, on the whole, play music I like but that still doesn’t mean I want to listen to it pumping through my floor at 9am on a Saturday morning or in fact at any time of any day. Then there is the delightful fact that I live in a country full of alcoholics ranging in age from 11 to about 60 who all seem to walk home at 4am (every night) along our street and stop outside our window to either kill each other, scream at one another, sing, rattle on shop window grates (a hobby I am still trying to figure out the pleasure in) or push the bins out into the middle of the road to tip over.

    We also live opposite a Celtic supporters pub, this not only involves huge numbers of (again drunken) roaring football fans spilling out onto the street but also regular small scale wars usually resulting in about 20 police cars being despatched to the scene and the whole street hanging out of their windows to watch the ensuing chaos. Oh and passing Celtic supporters in cars also beep their horns very loudly as they go past during every match.

    To top it all off, we live round the corner from a Fire Station. I think that one is self explanatory.

    So, anyone want to come visit? Earplugs will be supplied free of charge.

  6. Yojo, you asked about the colony. Yeah, I stayed there a whole month and the utter silence was a struggle the entire time. Not during the day, though — when I was writing during the day it was amazing how clear my head was; I got a lot done and loved the silence then. It was at night, staying alone in the studio with the quiet all around me, that freaked me out. I started sleeping with the radio on, just to have some background noise. When I admitted that to the other artists at dinner they were shocked and found it funny, and even sad. If I were ever lucky enough to go back to a place like that, I’d request to sleep in the dorms instead of a live-in!
    W, did you like Donnie Darko?
    Adam, you probably would hate the car alarm sounds then!
    E, I am so sorry about your insomnia. I know you deal with the noise a lot more than I do. I love your imaginary tales of what’s happening on the other side of the walls!
    And Sharon, my god! Now I feel silly for complaining! I remember you mentioned a little about your nighttime revelers, which sounded amusing when you told it, but every night might make me want to cry. Still, don’t think this’ll stop me from visiting! One day… and I mean it.

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