Thursday, December 14, 2006


By James Robert Smith

I live in what real estate agents like to term “a town home”.

It’s a glorified way of saying I live in a smallish house jammed cheek by jowl with a block of half a dozen other structures sharing walls, all crammed together on postage stamp-sized lots with dozens of other such structures.

Fortunately, my “town home” is not a flat, and is a two-story building and I don’t have to listen to neighbors tramping overhead.

Unfortunately, I am sandwiched between two other such “town home” owners. The neighbor to my right is relatively quiet and I rarely hear anything out of him. The neighbors on my left had some extreme financial problems when the husband got laid off from USAir and then had the misfortune to subsequently get cancer. He lived, but the ensuing financial hardships caused them to lose the “town home”. I miss them. They were sweet people.

For several months, the “town home” that had once been theirs and was now the property of some bank or investor just sat empty. No neighbor is a good neighbor, when it comes to peace and quiet. It was great not to hear anything at all beyond that sheetrock on the other side of my office.

Then, someone bought the “town home” from the bank/investor/lawyers/whomever.

They moved in. Foreigners of some type. I hear them talking to one another sometimes when I get home and they’re in the front yard. They might be speaking Spanish. Or Portuguese. I don’t now. I’m just an American and can only speak English with a strong Southern accent; and a smattering of German and Yiddish. I don’t know what they’re saying.

My office, where I write, where I labor after carrying the mail all day for Uncle Sam is on the second floor. Right next to the room where my new neighbors have decided to place their amusement room. Big screen TV. Stereo system. Son with geetar. Just about the time I want to get cranking on my novel…

The bass comes thumping through the wall. Every time I get ready to type.

The bass comes thumping through the sheetrock. Every time I try to think of the next sentence, the next paragraph, the next phrase, the change in the plot.

The bass comes thumping through the wall.


I’m a patient man. Really I am. But after some hours of this, after wandering off and waiting for

The bass thumping through the wall to stop.

It doesn’t. It goes on for hours.

And, finally, I grow so tired of it that I feel a need to retaliate.

I have several thousand tunes on my computer. Residue from the heydays of Napster. I conjure a play list of rockin’, rollin’, yellin’, loud, shit-kickin’, hell-raisin’ tunes. My wife bought me some new kickass speakers. The nicest sound system I’ve ever owned. And, suddenly, there I am with Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Bad Manners, Madness, drums, geetars, cranked up full blast, so loud that my feet are tingling and the bones in my legs are shivering.

The bass thumping through the wall.

After a couple of hours, I turn off the music.


Silence from the other side.


I can write.

And you know...I'd almost forgotten what it was like to crank it up to full blast. It was rather nice, actually.

No comments: