When was the last time you lay awake in your bed and listened to the sounds of your neighborhood at night? Or just sat in your yard after dark, quietly taking in the sounds around you? If you are like me, you probably haven’t done it in a long time. You become accustomed to the sounds of the area you have lived in for a long time, and they become so much white noise.
Since my move to North Sacramento a few months ago, I have started to listen again to the sounds of life and living that are all around me every night. It is far more interesting than it sounds (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) on paper (okay, laptop screen).
The early evening is full of domestic sounds. The sound of television programs; children playing and fighting with their parents about doing homework; the sounds of family and everyday living.
Later on, the sounds turn to finishing up the details of daily life as the sun slowly sinks beneath the horizon. Parents getting their kids ready for bed, and the kids, of course, not wanting to. The sounds of finally settling into bed and drifting off to sleep.
As people go to bed, the prominent sounds of the neighborhood are those of distant traffic, dogs barking and the chirping of crickets. Most nights you can feel the veil of sleep descending on the area for most of its residents. The last of the TVs becomes silent as the children and their parents enter Orpheus’ world.
Finally as the witching hour, midnight, approaches and passes, the main sounds of the neighborhood are the occasional dog bark and feral cat meowing, and the sounds of the distant traffic, which never seems to end no matter the hour. The sounds of a distant train. The children of the night in their various forms emerge: drug dealers, gang bangers, prostitutes plying their trade for money or for drugs, and, as the wild card, the drifters, not vagabonds or hobos, the car-racing version. Overhead, on most nights, the distant roar of the police helicopter zipping across the sky is heard; sometimes, it even becomes a harder, harsher assault on the ears during the times it comes closer to the earth in pursuit of criminals. There is, of course, the odd gun shot (just heard one as I was writing this part).
I am sure that these sounds and people all existed and still exist back home in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but it being the place where I always was, they became just so much white noise, like the sounds here are, I am sure, the same to the longtime residents. As time passes (I’ve been here only five months), I am sure that my marveling at these sounds will fade again into white background noise.
It would be nice if it didn’t, though. It would be nice if a year, five years, 10 years from now, these sounds affected me the same way. Though I do hope that I will be less schmaltzy sounding in writing about them.