Something happened at city hall this week that I can honestly say I never thought I would witness in my lifetime; to put it succinctly, city hall has banned bongos. It was a completely unexpected move for a west coast city with a decidedly west coast attitude that leans heavily towards the left. A city that actually provides police escorts to that rolling wave of hooliganism called critical mass; a city that lets every deranged fringe group with incomprehensible motives to protest on a whim; a city obsessed with bike paths that don't lead anywhere.
Somebody at city hall has uncharacteristically come to their senses and have enacted a bylaw directly aimed at the bane of fine upstanding citizens and greasers throughout the city ( yes , it's true, greasers may not necessarily be fine upstanding citizens but are united with everyone else in their disdain for all things percussive). Most people don't have an issue with percussion instruments per se, hell even squares get a little carried away during an extended drum solo at any given rock concert. Who among greasers hasn't at one point or another dug the crazy tom-tom beats of the Cramps ? What city hall has addressed ( and I have been denouncing for years) is the random cacophony of impromptu drum circles and inept buskers who lack even the most rudimentary sense of rhythm.
The issue that city hall has targeted specifically is the actual volume level. I suppose that failed to take into account the annoyance level, but the all-encompassing bylaw has inadvertently taken care of that as well. There is an unfortunate consequence to this by law and that is the fact the fact that bagpipes are included in this law as well. I must admit a certain bias in this matter because I happen to really dig bagpipes, but that just makes me part of a small minority. It goes without saying that bagpipes are hellishly loud, but most people who are fanatical about their music like it really loud. Bagpipes, however , fall into a category of music akin to purgatory; some people love them and everyone else hates them, there is no middle ground.
One thing that seems to unite the denizens of major urban centers is their disdain of bongos, congas, djembes and every other percussive instrument that is wielded by self- absorbed hippies oblivious to their own dissonance.
While this is definitely a step in the right direction, it may prove difficult to enforce. On the other hand I can be completely guilt-free if I should suddenly get the urge to puncture some unwashed hippie's drum skin with a rusty shovel or a Husqvarna chainsaw, In the spirit of doing away with public nuisances and urban annoyances, here's a few more thing city hall might want to consider.
1: Bad Buskers.
In keeping with the spirit of this new bylaw, city hall should take it one step further and do something to eradicate the hordes of crappy buskers who's mainly unwanted performances interfere with people's concentration and block access to the liquor store. In theory, buskers are supposed to obtain a permit from the city after having had to audition. Some of these buskers can be quite good, but they are few and far between, even some of the illegal ones can surprisingly be good as well. The majority however, are a rag-tag bunch of talentless hacks on the fringe of society who can barely string three chords together. Their forlorn, off-key and often tuneless offerings interspersed with roaring diesels, car horns and lunatics screaming at invisible adversaries only adds to the stress of modern day city living. If I am having a beer on a patio somewhere, Elmore James wannabes, skinny white kids rapping to a beat emanating from a crappy radio or self-righteous hippie-chicks attempting to harmonize while playing out of tune classical guitars in no way enhance the experience. I'd rather hear a diesel roaring by at 120 decibels.
2: Wind Chimes.
I can only conjecture as to what type of deviant mind would come up with the concept of wind chimes. Even more perplexing is why some people buy them and somehow find it relaxing as these tinkling nightmares flail wildly in gale force winds and produce sounds that could only be found in the deepest bowels of hell. These are the sounds that that would push certain deranged people over the edge where they would otherwise remain on the edge not intent on harming anyone. Wind chimes would certainly be one of the chief causes that would make these wackos crack and end up on the roof with a rifle. Being reasonably sane, they do not produce sociopathic urges when I hear them, but I somehow feel my blood pressure rise and an inexplicable mounting anger. I get angrier still as I picture the clueless hippies who own them smoking pot on their dirty sofas that were rescued from the trash and "digging the vibes, man!" I'm not sure if there is a scientific correlation, but the higher the frequency of the tinkling , the more intense the rage seems. These are the same hippies that put their hands over their ears as my friends show up with their flatheads roaring and shout " you're harshing my mellow, man!" I'm not sure if it's the pot or excessive exposure to high frequencies that made them nutso.
3: Rude Shoes.
Some people seem intent on making as much noise as humanely possible as their shoes clomp down the street sounding like a two-legged horse. Some may revel in the excessive noise, others may be oblivious to it. One thing is for certain, shoes aren't supposed to make that kind of noise. I stomp pretty hard on my engineer boots, but cops and most dogs can't hear me coming. What is it then about the loud shoes? Maybe they are cheap shoes made from some very noisy trees that are found in the rain forest, or maybe they were made for smuggling drugs onto airplanes, or, for all I know, it may be some sort of conspiracy that I am unaware of propagated by hip, over-priced shoe stores. Whatever the reason for this anti-social footwear's existence may be, it still feels like a shot in the head with a wooden mallet. Almost as bad are the shoe-shufflers. Seriously, unless you are on a day-pass from the mental institution, what possible reason could there be to drag and shuffle your feet? If I recall correctly, walking is a skill that is acquired at a very young age, so I wonder why some adults have yet to master this skill properly. Unless, of course, they are zombies, in which case, YOU BETTER RUN!
It turns out that woodpeckers are some of the loudest birds around. They sound nothing like Woody Woodpecker and his endearing "ah-heh-heh" Their call sounds more like a lunatic turkey being chased right around thanksgiving. Their whooping is really loud for a bird their size, and they can produce calls at ear-shattering levels bound to leave hearing damage in their wake. Not only are they loud, but they seem really stupid. They will peck at any inanimate object, and it is not uncommon to hear the the unnatural sound of a rapid-fire peck on an aluminum railing, chimney or a large electrical transformer. They must have one tough beak to peck at these hard surfaces, or maybe they just peck until their beak pierces their skull and causes brain damage, thus making them whoop louder and peck on even harder surfaces. Dang loud woodpeckers, I wonder if they taste like chicken?
5: The Barista Afterburner.
Certain streets seem to have an over- abundance of coffee shops that seem to multiply exponentially. As I roll down the street I am sometimes accosted by a barrage of loud jet-like sounds as ironic-mustache clad baristas simultaneously make cappuccinos or some other hipster mutation of the venerable beverage. I have been frequenting traditional Italian places for decades and if I have learned one thing, is that cappuccino machines aren't supposed to sound like F-18's taking off. It's supposed to have a muted, low frequency sound that is barely perceptible. The inept hipsters never seemed to have mastered this technique, which should be not be difficult to learn. I suspect, however, that this maybe intentional. It may have some sort of obscure ironic significance that eludes non-hipster folk and has the added effect of being annoying. Maybe it is simply an attempt to make their vapid hipster conversations even louder over the din of the jet blast so that squares from miles around can hear them. I think I'll just follow the cops and get a regular coffee and a donut.
I'm not sure if the by-law actually had any effect today, but it was pretty quiet on the strip where I usually get my coffee. Now if only those Hare Krishnas would shut up.