Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Urban Composition #11

I'm throwing this entry after a three hour nap unofficially starting at 7pm and ending at 10pm,  which for some might make it an early bedtime..

I fell asleep on my bed with the balcony shutters open, a tv blaring in the adjacent room and children playing somewhere in the mysterious depths of the neighborhood beyond my balcony, someone playing their Greek music at a celebratory level, and all of this carried on a cool breeze that, for the first time today, is neither too hot nor too cold and therefore perfect for the Goldilocks of the world and me. I didn't stand a chance against Morpheus, but I remember thinking this is one thing I love about the city, the harmony of sounds of lives lived in a shared space. I don't know that I could ever live in a quiet, isolated spot again.

Then again there was the incident last night at an hour I wasn't coherent enough to make out, when  Arabic pop started up at a decibel level that would be fantastic for a belly dancing show but maybe less appropriate for a residential area between midnight and first coffee. It went on long enough for me to stop incorporating it into the surreal images swirling in my half-sleep and start realizing that it was an awfully lengthy number. Salome surely could have dropped all seven of her veils with the length of this track. When the drums finally stopped beating and the clarinet was silenced, the needle moved to a swooning ballad which was accompanied by the acoustic collage of shouts from various windows in our club sandwiched neighborhood, all stacked on top of each other and oozing into the layer below and above.

Really it was just like a cartoon. First one shout. Than another, and I could imagine the lights going on in the houses, someone running to the edge of their balcony and throwing a plate. "MALAKA!!" (You don't need to know what that means.)

And that was the other funny thing, that in the mess I could understand roughly what was being said, even if I can't exactly write it down here. No surprises, unfortunately; someone wanted to fight, someone threatened to call the police, a woman started screaming she was sleeping, and then the music stopped.

But the shouting continued! One man hadn't felt  that he had been "heard" so he continued in what turned the fifteen minute disturbance of noisy music into a one hour scene of aggression and nasty name-calling. Finally, another threat for the police from some unknown doorway and the shouting faded as if the pair, accompanied now by some hysterical shrieking women, were going deeper inside of their houses or maybe even down the street.

Seemed so dramatic in the moment but I went directly back to sleep.

By the end of the day, I usually head home feeling like I've let a couple of punches be thrown. There's just so many of us, especially here, and it seems like we're fighting for space and oxygen like there's not enough to go around. A motorcyclist nearly clipped me on the sidewalk this afternoon when I was WALKING my bicycle. I shouted at him and he laughed at me. Seems I can't be anywhere that someone isn't backing up or speeding forward, roaring past, slowing to a crawl so I can't pass, and it makes me wonder if to be happy I should just stop moving at all. You know, just be one of those big mamas leaning out of her window and watching the streets all day, chewing on her disappearing lower lip.

I tough it out with the rest of the five and a half million of registered and non registered denizens. We scrape and shuffle, laugh and rant like wild men at the demons only we can see. Hail our buses and taxis, accelerate our motorcycles, impose our musical choices on the ears of everyone around us including the birds, cats, and dogs, who likewise are yowling, howling, twittering their discordant songs with disregard to their listeners. The activity wears on you like fine grain sandpaper until you haven't even realized that one quarter of your substance has gathered in little peaks by your shoes.

Such was this afternoon when I collapsed on my bed, fully clothed, and drifted off to the symphony of life playing out around me which I suppose my slow and heavy breathing was a part of, just one more bar of the composition.