Monday, March 26, 2007

Saturday night

I was awakened in the dead of night by a shout from a pubescent male. I was not, strictly speaking, asleep, but the shout awakened me nonetheless. My ears had stopped scanning the neighborhood for sounds and were resting. If they monitored anything, it was the peaceful snoring of my cat.

But then came this shout, and suddenly I was paying attention again. The sound split the night in two: the relative silence which came before, and then the period after the sound, when the camouflaged sounds I had apparently been ignoring came into relief. I heard the shushing sound of cars passing by. I heard the cry of a police car off in the distance, off to right some wrong or just cruise through all of the intersections without having to stop. My street is a popular one for both such behaviors.

The boy was attempting to sound like a man, so whatever had excited or agitated him seemed to make him feel that he would be better served if his voice would just change already and stop playing games with his life. I wondered if he was in the period where it is not uncommon for a boy to be mistaken for his own mother on the telephone. This is not exactly a high point in life. Still, his attempt at disguise was detectable through the windows and walls of my building, and I have no doubt that it was transparent to his intended listener as well, who made no audible reply.

I looked at the clock on my computer, and saw that there was still an hour left until the bars closed. Saturday-night drunks were due shortly thereafter to festoon the street with shouts of their own, wearing their disregard for the rest of us like badges. Their shouts, curses and fights would echo off the buildings and intrude upon apartments all across the city. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the lack of respect for one another that city life seems to foster. The sirens will continue at all hours, and the shouting as well. Only yesterday a car that had parked outside of my apartment was showing off its grotesque new speakers for a gathering of onlookers. The bass notes shook my building so much that a picture fell off of the wall.

What is the purpose of such speakers? They do not accurately reproduce the music their owners would have us believe they love so much. They merely produce a more palpable sensation, and transfer the act of listening to music into an experience that can be more readily seen in the vibration of things, and felt through the skin. "Here is your new heartbeat," the rhythm section says, and the body has no choice but to follow along. This is understandable in a club or at a concert, perhaps, but not outside my home on a beautiful spring afternoon.

Within moments of the boy's shout in the street, and the passing of the siren, my brain was already trying to convince me that neither sound had actually happened, even though it could accurately reproduce either one when I asked it to. The silence they suddenly left behind had a shape like sound itself, and my brain was telling me that this was the sum of sound.

I am sleepless again tonight, but so far nothing so exciting as a boy's shout has come along to pull me out of me and into life. I am just lying here in the dark, illuminated by the face of my laptop. In a moment, I will smoke another cigarette and stare jealously at the foot of my bed, where my cat is sleeping peacefully once more.


Reading the Signs said...

"Here is your new heartbeat". This is just how it is, I do like it - and the way you describe the silence that comes after.

Unknown said...

This is a great post Maht. My last apartment was on a busy road and your description really reminds me of it. The sounds you get used to, the moment just before you're dozing off and you'll either make it before the next metro arrives or you'll be jolted awake as the voices rise and fall.
Oh and the base boom, like what is wrong with these people and if there isn't anything wrong with them now, there will be in a few years time when the tinnitus (is that how you spell it?)sets in. Still can't be doing with the countryside, it's too bloody quiet!

Anonymous said...

Not at all what I am supposed to be commenting on here but I do so envy cats. I think they are the smartest creatures around. Sleeping soundly through it all, curled up in warmth, keeping the loud noises at bay, oblivious to oversized and unbalanced speakers.

This is a very nice piece, Mr. Toopoo. Very lovely.

Caroline said...

This post is still and calm.
(Cats are beautiful sleepers)

The Moon Topples said...

RTS: Thanks a lot. I'm glad you liked it.

Verilion: I used to live very near the el tracks in Rogers Park, and I was astonished at how quickly I was able to completely ignore it. They're incredibly loud, but didn't even disturb my sleep after a week or two.

GT: Thanks. They sure do freak out at the sound of the street cleaning vehicles, though, as I discovered this morning.

Caroline: Still and calm? Maybe. Beautiful sleepers? Definitely. But then I think most things are beautiful when they are asleep.

Unknown said...

You remind me of the old days in Roger's Park when the Belizean mafia and the newbie Russian gangsters would be running through the alleys behind my building, shooting at each other and (I assume) shouting curses and threats. The soft rumble of the El and the audible voice of the conductor, "No smoking, radio playing or littering allowed. Next stop is Loyola. Loyola is the next stop."

Oh, I miss that.

Meloney Lemon said...

Perhaps a pubescent boy's shout is all the more disurbing because it's in that transitional stage - a man emerging from a child's lungs. Eeech - that sounds surreal.

As for bass-heavy car speakers. Are they just part of the whole ego extention package?

Anna MR said...


I came to say hello, Mr Mahti Moon, but then I tried to be clever and lost the comment I had written (because my European not-very-Mac-compatible keyboard doesn't want to do a dollar sign, believe it or not) so now not only do I have to write it all over again (losing the spontaneity) but also I got cranky and swore as my first word on you site, which is really pretty uncouth of me.

However. Let's choose to ignore that and pretend we start here:

Hei, Mr Mahti Moon. Your (very beautifully crafted) post reminded me to be pleased about living on the tenth floor (people have to shout really loud to be heard) in a very quiet neighbourhood (they rarely do, except the dude next door has a dreadful cough, I keep thinking he's going to die and don't know whether I want him to shut up now or whether that'd make me even less likely to sleep, as I'd then have to worry about whether I had wished him to death). I hate and detest being woken up or pulled out of a peaceful brain wave state by a sudden noise, it gives me palpitations so serious I actually think I'm going to die.

On a completely different topic, I tried out your "what's your blog worth" lark. (This is where I lost the previous comment, not falling for that one again.) And guess what, surprise surprise. Mine is worth exactly 0.00 USD. I have copied the html needed to display a badge proving that. I am as yet undecided whether I want it next to wee Kisumisu, Bonto's cat cousin from bunnyhero labs (incidentally, I like it that someone has gone for the monkey, it is cute with very clever movement. I am sorry but I made him fall a couple of times just to see it. I am cruel. And the bananas wouldn't come out of the little pull-out box thing.)

As for the adverts with pissballoons. Mm. (I may be shocked to silence here. It doesn't happen that often.) Let's rather say something more general about the pharmaceutical industry on American tv. During my year in the US (2005-2006) I noted the way the drug adverts on tv would (I presume for legal reasons) have to list side effects, too, but they'd kind of do it double speed.

I like your blog v. much Mr Mahti. I hope you'll allow me back, even given my tendency to waffle incoherently on other people's space.


Chris said...

I miss my cats.

Mornings were our special time when Staccato would perch on my night table waiting for me to stir awake and then she'd curl up under my chin for a snuggle. My other cat Ginger always slept beside my pillow but would rest her head on the edge of it. Every now and then she'd let out the sweetest sigh.

Now they are happily adjusted living with my parents. I just couldn't bear to put them through an 9+ hour overseas flight. I can't get a cat here until at least next December as my lease here runs out and then I move again.

I do so miss my cats.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janejill said...

Hi Maht - I came across you at Stray's...Is it possible your little cat was having a bad (or indeed, a good...) dream and returned to normal patterns just as you woke up? They can make very strange noises... As a mother I can say that hearing my son's voice squeak up to the high pitch, then revert to nearly bass, was a heart-touching moment; on the one hand, I wanted to stop it changing and continue protecting him for ever; on the other I could suddenly see the man appearing, and what a pang there was.

The Moon Topples said...

Liz: I lived in Roger's Park in the mid-90s. I think the Russians were mostly fled by then, the ground ceded to other types of gangs. I recall plenty of gunshots, though. That neighborhood is always an exciting place. And the train going south from Morse would snip past my apartment saying exactly what you wrote about the Loyola stop.

Meloney: Yes, I think that's true. The hybrid boy/man makes the cry a bit more of the sit up and take notice variety.

Anna: Don't worry. Bugger isn't a real swear word. It's considered quite cute in America. Sorry you lost your initial comment. I'm glad you liked the post, and I should point out that the proximity to noise in my current apartment is entirely my own fault. I swore I would not live on a ground floor or on a major street ever again, but the apartments I kept seeing were horrifying, and I had to snap up my current place. I like the apartment a lot, I just wish it were situated a block or two away. Regardless, I am jealous of your status high above the street, although I think tenth floor is overdoing it. Who are you trying to impress?

Glad also that you seem to like Bonto. Perhaps he was just out of bananas when you came by? It's important not to overfeed him. And most people seem to make him fall a couple of times. He's used to it.

I think there's a new law or something, because they have slowed the side effect reading way down. Now I can listen carefully to warnings of yawn, tremor, dry mouth and fatigue. All of which I have right now, without even having taken a pill.

You are most welcome here, Anna MR. Waffle, ramble or do what you will. I haven't had any really long comments since Periodic Englishman left me after a misunderstanding quite some time ago. He comes back briefly, but is nowhere near as expressive as he used to be.

Chris: My cat waits for me to light a cigarette and then curls up on my chest to try to trick me into going back to sleep. It often works. Hope you get to have more feline love soon.

JaneJill: Welcome! I'm not sure what you mean about the cat. That the cat was the source of the cry? It came from the street, of that I am certain.