Saturday, June 24, 2006

Can of Worms

Be forewarned: I think I'm opening a can of worms here.

I'm going to try to tread as delicately as possible and will hope that you, dear reader, will give me the benefit of the doubt here.

Here's the deal: I just bought a house in the District in a neighbor that was described by the seller as "quiet." I visited the home and neighborhood four times before putting in an offer and a lot of what I based my decision on was the fact that the neighborhood was, by all appearances, quiet.

I'd been living down in the U Street Corridor previously and I was very excited about moving into a more "residential" type neighborhood. I knew I'd be in the minority when I moved to the city, in general, and my current neighborhood, in particular, and I'm fine with that. I've lived in a variety of places in my short life, including the heart of metropolitan Vienna, Austria, more than 15 years ago. As recently as four years ago, I lived in the suburbs of the Bay Area, went to school in Berkeley, and worked in San Francisco proper. I say this to point out that it's not like I've moved to the city from the country.

Here's what I'm trying to understand: why are so many African-Americans so LOUD?

Whether it's 10:30 on a Wednesday night (not that Wednesday is any more or less unique than any other day of the week. What I'm about to describe goes on on most nights of the week) or 11:30 on a Saturday morning, I've just had to close my windows yet again because my supposedly quiet neighborhood is anything but. Last night, I spent 20 minutes listening to a small child wailing at the top of his/her lungs while his/her mother yelled at him/her to shut up. Why wasn't this child in bed already? On top of that, the same woman was carrying on a 'conversation' with her neighbor, who was also yelling.

Across the street, there is one house where a battalion of kids come in and out, shouting at each other and playing their music while they bump and grind until well after midnight.

And now, someone, somewhere in the immediate vicinity is playing their hip-hop / reggae / rap music loud enough for all of us to enjoy it--whether we want to or not.

The irony is, I moved from a high-traffic area to a "residential" neighborhood and it's louder up here than it was downtown. Go figure.

Why is this?

My neighbor a few doors down says it's "bad parenting" in the case of the folks across the street and I guess there's some credence to that. But night after night after night I fight the urge to stick my head out the window and yell, "Could you shut the f*** up! It's after 10:00 and people are trying to relax/sleep/enjoy the temperate weather/whatever over here." I'm afraid to, though, because I'm the new kid on the block and I don't want to piss off folks who have been living here for decades.

I love my new house and the vast majority of my new neighbors, who have been nothing but warm and welcoming, but I'm starting to wonder what I was thinking... If I wanted this kind of noise, I would have moved to Manhattan or L.A.

What are the rules for decency and common, neighborly courtesy in the African-American community? If you can help me understand why shouting down one another is an acceptable form of behavior and communication for hours on end in the evening or why playing music loudly for all the world to hear while the rest of us--black, white, hispanic--are trying to enjoy quietness in our homes and neighborhoods, I'll make more of an effort to suck it up.

Until then, either 311 could end up being my new best friend or I'm breaking out my CD of Mozart's Requiem Mass for the Dead. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.


janeannechovy said...

I don't really know the answer to your question, but I can attest that when we came to see your house it was, indeed, rather loud.

Mary Ellen said...

Can't answer the why so loud question, but I have wondered about that myself.

The Orange County Weekly has a popular column called "Ask a Mexican." Too bad there's not something like this for the African American community.