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And The Beat Goes On

April 24, 2007

And on, and on.

Until I met R I can’t remember this ever happening before, but since we’ve been together we haven’t had one single home where we weren’t subjected to OPM (other people’s music.)

Tonight, our neighbor and his friend were jamming on their guitars. Sounds rather inoffensive as OPM goes, right? But they’re electric guitars connected to an amplifier and sometimes accompanied by harmonica or voice through a microphone. They’ve got a fabulous cherry tree in their backyard, which is apparently the perfect venue – and the perfect audience. Two weeks ago it was classic rock, tonight it was nervous (and nerve wracking) jazz. They stopped some time after 22:15. I’d have said something (rude) to them but as previously stated, I can’t speak French. Even if I could, experience tells me it wouldn’t have done any good.

For the last six months we lived on Crete, we were living 100 meters from a hotel. This particular hotel had a nice sized parking lot, was well landscaped, and had two kitchens. In Crete, this means the hotel hosts summer weddings/parties. And Greeks like their music loud, like teenagers – loud enough that you can’t hear. One night it got so bad that even with all the windows closed and the TV on really loud, I couldn’t not hear the bouzouki music. At 11pm, R and I walked over to the hotel to complain. They told us, essentially, “tough.” When you look at their party area and see 400 people and presume 20 euros (at least) a head, you understand why they’d be willing to alienate the neighbors. 8,000 euros is a lot of money. If someone told me they’d give me 8,000 euros to make my neighbors really angry, I’d do it. They did serve us free food, including the only potato salad I’ve ever liked. As my dad says, Free Food is Good.

Before that, in the same village, we spent a year living next to a famous Greek musician. While he played a lot of instruments, his three primary instruments were percussion, piano, and saxophone. He played the saxophone outdoors and it did irritate, but as a smoker his stamina was (fortunately) compromised. Strangely, the most offensive of these was the piano. Those houses were pretty well soundproofed but connected via outdoor patios to one another. Somehow, the piano vibrations carried through the stone and cement. His chosen practice time? Midnight – 5 am. One night he started just as I was laying down. I tried to ignore it, but finally went to knock on his door. He seemed confused by my visit. I explained that the piano was keeping me awake and it was after midnight. “But I’m studying.” That’s all he had to say and all that needed to be said. He wasn’t going to stop just because I couldn’t sleep. Greek noise nuisance laws are very strict. You must absolutely not disturb your neighbors during the afternoon siesta. But midnight? That’s fine.

Before that we lived in an apartment building in North Carolina. The walls were pretty solid but the doors leading to the corridors wouldn’t block a whisper. We did have occasion to speak to neighbors who were being silly at odd times, but the biggest problem for me was the ghost piano. I’d been just barely hearing it for a few weeks. It was so faint I almost thought I’d imagined it, but so pervasive I couldn’t ignore it. Poking my head out the corridor I couldn’t hear it at all. In all, it took me nearly a month to track it to the apartment directly above us, five floors up. Those people wouldn’t answer their door, so I slipped a note under the door which had exactly no effect. It doesn’t end there.

The house before that was a one bedroom tiny place for which we paid a fortune because of its ritzy neighborhood. Sadly, 6 months after we moved in our PhD landlords took a year off and went to Europe. They rented their portion of the house to a family of 4. The 15 year old son was a drummer. Our landlords bought him an electronic drum kit to prevent any problems. But it wasn’t the same. The parents began bugging us to give them a time when their child could practice his real drums every week. When we stalled and stalled, he finally set up the kit in a room next to ours and ‘tested’ the drums at 1am. That’s what he told us when we told him drumming at 1 am was a big NO. “I’m not playing them, I’m testing them!” This didn’t go well, as every drummer has a band and every band has to practice – at the drummer’s house. It was a bad year.

I wonder what it will be the next time. Opera, maybe?

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One comment

  1. The NC family were a classic. They were toss-outs from IBM who didn’t want to support medical software anymore. They tried a startup in their native New Jersey and it went tits up. So one of their execs was from NC so they figured ‘who cares we’re in chapter 11 in New Jersey – we’ll open again in NC!’ Which is what they did. Here comes the cracker: once they’d started in NC (and again fixed some VC) they used the capital to buy ‘software’. Which they bought from themselves – the bankrupt New Jersey startup. Cute.

    And then they came down in this big lorry. The insane mother had at least thirty potted plants she had to transport down. They were the worst possible housemates and our landlords knew it. They tried to make us believe these people turned up only at the last moment but we later found a document showing the deal had been closed months before. It was railroading all the way.

    So one time S is out back of the house and she finds a crack pipe lying in the grass by their side. She photographs it and transfers the picture to her computer. We later find out this 15yo is the new big drug pusher in town and we regularly see the kids coming around at 03:00 AM to get a fix – and we hear them coughing all over the place. Great stuff.

    So S says ‘OK we go show the mother’ and she takes her computer. She shows the picture of the crack pipe to the lady.

    ‘Oh but my son would never smoke crack’, she says smugly. ‘I know he does other drugs – BUT NOT CRACK!’ And we’re thinking ‘this kid’s fifteen years old and his mother is talking like that?’ Incroyable.

    Then we find out the 15yo and his friends have planned to rob the house. It’s when the parents – and even the children – are to go away for a few days. The 15yo and his mates have over the months systematically dismantled all the alarms in the house. Great stuff – great neighbours.

    These stories never end.



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