Neighbourhood #4

I recently moved over the mountain into the city’s (vast) east end. I now live where people plant gardens in front, out back, in alleys, and in city patches of grass. I live in an area where ice cream dates are frequent and five-dollar cones a regular Monday-night occurrence. I live where pita is stale and cheese curds are brought in fresh, daily. I live where red squares hang from balconies, and autonomous groups of anarchists and anticapitalists meet in parks on Saturday afternoons.

I used to live where families outnumbered students and the elderly. I used to live where people my age, thirty-somethings, were rarities. I used to live where Jewish, Arabic, Mexican, and Russian foods were grocery store basics. I used to live where Filipinos invested the Catholic churches that the Québécois had all but abandoned.

You might already recognize the neighbourhoods by the landscape descriptions. But could you recognize them by sound?

These are the sounds I used to hear: children crying incessantly, sometimes for chunks of five hours; late night vacuuming to mark the end of the housewife’s day; English, French, Hindi, Russian, and Spanish; ambulance and fire engine sirens; parents slapping their wailing children; neighbours’ buzzers ringing through their and my door; students partying on balconies until 2 am; crows calling crows at 5 am; soccer-game whistles; Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian Arabic; planes flying low.

I heard these sounds from home, from my living room, my desk, my bed. The sound of animals’ and other people’s lives bombarded my aural sensibility.

These are the sounds I hear today: cars and large trucks driving too quickly and noisily along our residential street, rattling bike frames, parents and children chatting on the way to and from daycare, leaves rustling in the wind, occasional church bells, nearly exclusively French and occasionally English, a neighbour’s squeaky clothesline, the landlord’s drill or lawn mower, planes flying low. These sounds come through windows, not doors and floors. Their edges are dull, leaving only light traces in my memory.

What sounds characterize your neighbourhood? Are they soothing, irritating, repetitive, cyclical? Are they urban or suburban?


2 thoughts on “Neighbourhood #4

  1. Great comparison! And love the two links you suggested. I have been thinking a lot about noise this summer as honking have become an aggressive habit at my street corner and as I realized how crushed by decibels I was when I spent 2 weeks in suburban Vancouver this summer. I also read, Petit éloge des amoureux du silence during my vacation, as much as it is french-style 100 page rant, it still reminded me of calmer environments! Thanks for the post!

    • Hi Jana,
      Sounds like we’ve both had a summer of sound consciousness!
      Suburbia has distinct sounds and silences. In the summer of 2004, I stayed at my dad’s in suburban Ottawa. It was so quiet and silent. Men and women went to work and kids went to daycare and school (and there were no home-based daycare centres in the neighbourhood). Waloo! I would walk out into the middle of street and just stand there. The highway hummed; more immediate sounds were rare. I will have to pick up that book. Thanks for the tip!

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