Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Past Deadline: The Lullaby Sounds of Downtown

It's just a different kind of screaming in the 'hood now. As published in The Perth Courier on Tuesday, May 19/09.

The lullaby sounds of downtown

I’ve been trying to remember what triggered vague feelings of nostalgia for living in my old apartment. Is it because there was a dishwasher? Nope – just a big double ceramic sink that was good for a) smashing glasses and b) hiding hoards of dirty dishes. Was it because it had a large closet right by the front door for stashing coats? Nope – although I do miss that. Was it because we had to lug our groceries up two flights of stairs? Nope – although that was darned good exercise (and, coincidentally, it was a good 20 pounds ago).

Ah. I betcha it was the fireworks.

Some knucklehead was setting off fireworks not far from my neighbourhood a couple of weeks ago. It would happen randomly – a couple here, a couple more an hour later – just enough to be annoying. It reminded me of other random noises and, ahem, interesting personalities we encountered when living downtown about a decade ago.

Yes, even though some folks would argue the streets of Perth roll up after 9 p.m. and everyone toddles off to bed or to watch a reality show, I can assure you there was always interesting stuff happening.

After we got married, Groom-boy and I lived in a great apartment right downtown. Not only were we a mere half block from our workplace, The Perth Courier, but we could really keep an eye on things. This was super handy when it came to such matters of importance as which way the fire trucks were going. We could see them and hear them from our third-floor perch. We became experts at distinguishing sirens and directions travelled.

When we moved from there to a house a few years later, the relative silence of our neighbourhood was unnerving. That’s not to say our new neighbourhood, which isn’t really all that far from downtown, is exceptionally quiet – it’s just that living downtown can get, well, a bit noisy by times.

There’s that truck-route factor, for one thing. You eventually get used to the sound of 18-wheelers gearing down under your bedroom window as they prepare to turn off of Gore onto North in the middle of the night. When we moved, though, I distinctly remember being kept awake by the sound of my own blood coursing through my veins. For the first time in years I started sleeping like the dead – at least until we had kids.

The bulk of the charm of living downtown has to be handed to the interesting people who occasionally linger too long in one spot.

One of my all-time favourites was the drunk guy who stood on a nearby corner for two hours in the middle of the night. Every time a car went by he’d yell, “Woo hoo!” followed by something I can’t say in a family newspaper.

I am also reminded of those days because I’m hearing the familiar “chug chug chug” of the line-painting dudes currently doing their thing all over town. One year, late at night, they were working on the lines on Foster Street below our window. One guy kept hollering at another guy. “Kenny! KENNY! Over here! HERE! KENNY!” Kenny was either a) new, b) drunk, c) not very good at painting lines or d) all of the above.

Speaking of drunk (not that it happens much downtown), some sort of “Most Persistent Downtown Drunk Woman” award should probably go to the lovely lady who spent an hour yelling up at a closed window across the street from us one time. “Jimmy! Jimmy! JIMMY!” Over and over and over. Jimmy clearly did not want anything to do with this woman, who we affectionately remember as Unstable Mabel. Finally, so we could get back to listening to the roar of the 18-wheelers in peace, Groom-boy went to our window. “He’s not home!” he hollered, before ducking down out of sight. Oh, did we giggle over that. Good times!

Yes, those were the heady days of our youth. Now our sleeps are sometimes interrupted by different sounds – usually followed by a whispered, “Mom!” or “Dad! Can you snugaminute?”
Beats the sound of 18-wheelers any night.

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