Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Screams heard on Market Street!

Tom Waits said music sounds best coming from down the street. The sounds of my neighborhood are the soundtrack of summer when windows are open and sound carries a long way, especially at night. I hear them and I know the world outside is there. There's the fervent TING-TING-TING-TING as four quarters shoot out of the change machine at the laundromat across the street. Multiply the tings for the occasional five dollar bill. Once I heard the payoff from a ten dollar bill and I felt like I was in Vegas. (Click any of these pix)

The train goes by every night behind my place (where they're extending the bike path!) and shakes the whole building. I've figured out through thinking about it that the weight of the freight determines the intensity of the shake. Last night it must have been hauling logs. It shook so hard it knocked a plant off the windowsill. Onto the floor, not three stories to the street and a passerby's unpleasant surprise and/or demise. I envision joists and beams and nails gradually shaking loose within the walls over the years and one day bringing the whole place down.

The train shake is nothing compared to the most spectacular sound and sensation though. It happens but a few times a year and secretly we all look forward to it. Well, I do anyway. Tractor trailers that are 11' 2" wedge themselves to a sudden halt under the 11' 1" Bridge St. underpass. It usually strikes at night and wakes up the entire neighborhood and probably shakes the dead in their graves in the Bridge St. Cemetary. Depending on the weather and whether you're really comfortable in bed, it's a great opportunity to meet many of your neighbors at the end of the street and not have to think about conversation starters. I met most of my neighbors, be-robed and pajamad, in Los Angeles in the 2004 Northridge earthquake. Many lovely dinner parties ensued. (The guy in the photo below is an innocent bystander, a Smiths fan, a guitarist, and probably a vegetarian named Jeff. All this based on circumstantial evidence in the picture.)
ka-BOOM! Just added these two shots courtesy Janet Gezork. Read the logo on the second picture:

We all know Mayor Claire but here on Market Street we have a self-appointed mayor...and neighborhood watch....and DPW. Bonnie can sometimes be seen pushing her shopping cart around town, but she's usually on our street, her favorite aisle, tending to a clean-up. She literally sweeps and shovels dirt and sand from the curb, monitors illegal parking (based on her version of the laws) and extracts occasional charitable payments from the merchants for her services. Once in a while she gets drunk and sad and starts wailing in the alley behind Talbots, shaking her fist at the sky. "Ohhh Godddddddd!! Why Why Why!!!!!!!!!" It was pretty upsetting at first but I've grown accustomed to it and I will worry when I stop hearing her occasional queries of the almighty.

For months now I have been unable to figure out why I hear what must be dozens of children screaming at the top of their lungs at about the same time every morning. I've gone to investigate a few times and witnessed one of those kid-chains; many kindergarten age kids all holding one leg each of a sort of huge cloth centipede, with three adults, one leading the way, one monitoring the center, and one minding the tail. The centipede keeps them as one unified mass and I guess this provides some sense of imagined control for the adults but it seems a little counter to the independence I recall feeling on field trips when I was a kid. We didn't need no stinkin' centipede and I don't remember any cases where teaches had to circle the outside of the crowd like sheepdogs. We stayed in a decent line on our own and if anything we held hands. Maybe they're locked or tied to the centipede. Anyway, I figured the scream out. When the kids walk under the bridge, they all scream to hear the cavernous echo of their collective wail. It still freaks me out and I have visions of the various tragedies that might cause all these kids to scream in unison.

Someday I imagine a train crossing over the bridge as a truck wedges itself to the street, and a dozen kids crossing under the bridge at that moment drop their centipede and scatter in all directions, screaming in terror at the cacophonous convergence. Statistically speaking it could happen. And Bonnie would be out there sweeping up the mess within the hour.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim,
Have you ever heard the wailing screams coming from where I believe to be Bonnie's apartment? These generally happen on weekdays and I've heard them as early as 11:00am but usually no later than 6:00pm. I clicked on this link hoping you had the answer to this mystery. It's quite terrifying and is not a "Why,why,why" but a steady "AAAAAAAAAAARRRRGH, EEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!".-Mark Sheehan