Sounds of California Dreamin'

The World Of Technology
and Media with
Beachy Bits... and Pieces
Joe Beachy

Summer has taken over my senses. The buzzing bees hard at work, hovering above sweet invitations. Cut-grass sticks to the sides of my shoes as I dodge the fresh gift carefully placed by an energetic Pekinese. Someone is barbecuing in the neighborhood, the wafting smell of coals and blackened meat. I imagine the sizzle.  Returning from a matinee of Finding Nemo, a delightfully fun and entertaining under-the-sea movie, I feel more attuned to nature’s offerings. A breeze wrestles the leaves of a lush tree as I approach the home steps.  One last acknowledgement of the new season: deep inhale, essence of salt in air, distant caw of crow.  Now up to the thick stale apartment air.

Living in Los Angeles can be wonderful at times. The beaches, mountains, nearby deserts to traverse, and glorious weather encourage healthy lifestyles. There are however less attractive aspects to living here, and summer can compound them. Like the hordes of people, increased by tourism, breathing down your neck at every turn.  This is a driving town, spread out, freeways and city streets crowded most any time of the day and night.  Pollution escalating with heat, mostly in the inland and the valley areas – I’m however on the Westside not too far from the ocean – it’s not as noticeable here. Another form of pollution is becoming increasingly apparent. The sweeping, surging, enveloping, quasi-pollution that is of the clear and odorless variety: noise!

I’m sensitive to it: to sound. Aware of its great range: from the constant low hum of the city, to the roaring rowdy crescendo of its inhabitants. Bombarding sound.  Cars thump bass-heavy music - unbearably unbalanced to its passenger’s oblivious ears. Car alarms constantly set off by marching ants. Anxious horns replacing knocks on doors. Harley-Davidson’s somehow immune to noise laws. Answering machines turned up full in adjacent buildings, seeping through open windows, broadcasting the caller to the neighborhood.  Yes, I’m a bit cranky today. Tired of the assault on my ears.  

While I wait at the grocery check-out stand, a new media monitor with speakers barks out advertisements.  I’m a snared prey.  The bank ATM machine spews obnoxiously loud commercials at me. I just want to withdraw my $20 in PEACE! Meanwhile a crazy guy in back of me is arguing with himself in a devil-like voice.  A teen-something yelps incessantly on her cell phone talking to her girlfriend about her boyfriend who is, “like, so cute, and like, I like him you know, I really do, but like…” A fire engine zooms by, horns and sirens penetrating my bones. A helicopter overhead circles low and loud, tracking some car chase, who knows, why does it circle so long, its wrenching rotor oscillating, twisting my stomach. Street construction everywhere: bulldozer scraping pavement, jackhammer splitting concrete, cement truck churning, steamroller crunching, generator cacophonous… Stop!

Something I do in the movie theatres, and have been doing for years now is wearing earplugs during the trailers. Talk about an attack on the ears! The trailers are intense.  Thundering advertisements, attention getters, lots of them, and now they even show actual commercials for television shows, newspapers and soft drinks.  I certainly didn’t pay the exorbitant movie ticket price to watch a “commercial”. So, I muffle them and rest my ears, preparing for the opening of the movie I came to see.  As the movie begins, I pull out the plugs. If you notice, most movies begin quietly, a music passage with credits, or ambient sound effects sweeping in. After having been accosted by the 8 movie trailers and 3 commercials without earplugs, my ears would ring and be unprepared for the opening sound design.  So I bring the plugs to blot out the excessiveness that is becoming standard in today’s deafening generation.

As I type this garble on noise pollution, firecrackers and bottle rockets explode outside my window.  Some kids in the alley have pinched a whistling “peet” in its center. It whistles for a few seconds and then gives off a tremendous boom. Great stuff. Okay, I’m a little hypocritical, but I like the sound of fireworks, always have. 

I’m leaving the city, escaping for the 4th of July weekend to a quiet seaside town. I can almost smell the “independence” food: hotdogs and hamburgers, the aroma teasing canine noses. The clink of wind chimes, soothing. Fleeting hummingbirds tasting honeysuckle. The squeak of a screen door as we ready the outdoor table for summer feast.  And the whoosh with the twist of caps…”Mmm, beer.”


©2003 Joseph Beachy

For other articles in this series by Joe Beachy, check the Archives.

Joe Beachy is a former circus radio engineer, wearer of forty three hats, theatre tech director, and a refugee from Fox. He still resides in tinsel town.



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