16 Jul

What I always notice first when I travel to major cities is the hordes of people with their ears plugged up. Ipods. Mp3 (or 4) players. Walkmen? (nah!) Some with giganto headphones, 70s stylee. I get it, for sure. I was one of those commuters for twenty years in Washington (and briefly Los Angeles, New York City, and–not so briefly–West Palm Beach-Miami corridor). It is necessary to drown out the sounds coming from the bowels of a town. It is even more necessary to disconnect from the rest of humankind (or zombiekind) trying to get through the day by any means necessary. It’s quite sad that it’s necessary. But I get it. Having spent almost two weeks in Toronto, it was almost like riding a bicycle. I’ve been away from a major metro area the last 7 years, though I’ve gone back and visited and travelled plenty, so I haven’t lost my “city walk;” that pimp-ish, slow, D.C. sway which frequently got me out of trouble before trouble even began. Once they even let me know that danger was averted. I was heading for a gang of kids sauntering down the street of one of the worst neighborhoods in Washington, dragging my feet and doing my “street walk” and they were eyeing me and chattering away. When I got close enough to expect a .9mm drawn up to my temple, I heard one of them laugh and say: “Nahh, yo…this mafacka a white nigga, he aiight…” and I just flowed in between them and out, like a diver slicing through a school of barracuda. I’d like to think it was my “city walk” that saved me the altercation, and perhaps it was (along with the big pants and huge parka with hood on), but I will tell you this: had I been wearing an ipod, that baby would’ve been the first thing ripped out of my ears. Followed by pieces of my grey matter.

So I get the desire to disconnect. Only…as I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed I need more and more to stay in tune with what’s happening around me. I’m not sure why. Perhaps from fear of getting jacked again. Twice I got mugged in my life, once at gunpoint. The first time, I almost lost my hearing in my left ear from getting kicked. I was 16 then, and I remember going home to my parents’ house and pouring a few glasses of Irish whisky to dull the pain. I don’t want that either. I need to hear all the garbage around me. I need to hear the homeless begging me for even a penny. I found that for some reason the sounds of the metros or streetcars or buses or cars honking with impunity, somehow fit into the chaotic order that exists in my head. And even though spending a couple of weeks in a major, international city pretty much cured my desire to one day live mid-town or up-town Manhattan, and appreciate the perfect in-between that exists here, where I live now, I still understand the need to create that personal bubble which we think protects us from the Big Bad City Wolf, and drowns out the desperate pleas floating up from the streets.

I used to do my best writing on the way to work, on the subway…Walkman (this dates me, I know) in ears. The only time I use my ipod now is when I’m generating graphics at work. I need to shut myself out from the usual office sounds and telephones ringing and mundane conversations. You understand, that kind of urban noise is probably more lethal than the streets. I’m still waiting for someone to come up with a type of noise which cancels out everything around you. Not white noise, not sounds of streams or birds or rainstorms. Just nothing. You plug it into your ears, and hear nothing. Forget the acceleration and collision of particles and superstring theory, Good Will Hunting; we need your MIT brains to get cracking on “nothing-noise.” Now git!


5 Responses to “Plugged”

  1. chapman 16/07/2007 at 12:03 PM #

    bose, noise-cancelling headphones. that is the answer. total nothingness.

    it turns out i need the pressure of all the chaos and noise. without it, i relax into comfortable zero gravity and waste away.

    but, the cushy headphones do help.

  2. Lx 16/07/2007 at 12:14 PM #

    …and the Cinematic Orchestra. Sometime in the early 90s I was into Slowdive ( which was sort of a creation fluctuating between The Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine. If you ever wanna give them a try, the “album” Souvlaki is a good one. They’re defunct now.

    I’ll take your tip on the headphones, only here I have no use for them. Next time I come up, though…

  3. slyboots2 16/07/2007 at 3:34 PM #

    I hate having earphones in when I’m in public. Something about being a girl and alone and not hearing something coming. I don’t want to feel like prey without the extra hearing senses. But that’s just me, I suppose. But then I can’t wear IPod ear buds for shit- they fall out and hurt when they’re in- I suspect that I have extra-geeky ear canals. It would figure, no?

  4. Lx 16/07/2007 at 4:34 PM #

    yes it would.
    but hell…you’re driving an old bavaria beamer.

  5. femme d'espoir 17/07/2007 at 2:42 AM #

    sly, I feel your pain. the damn buds kill my ears and I feel exactly the same about walking in public with my ears plugged up. I NEED to hear.

    lx, the Bose really are good, but I can still hear slight sounds through them. might be that I’m just super-sensitive to sound.

    and, thanks for killing word verification.

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