“No, Steve, I didn’t know I was making noise.”
“And what was it last week when you threw silverware on the tiles? Or,” he glanced at the hardwood floor, “when you drop coins?”
Steve, venting, continued.
“And last week when the elephants marched through?”
“Oh, the furniture. I had to………”
“And what’s with that stupid piano”
“What stupid piano? I’m trying to …………..”
Steve had more to say. “That’s my home below you. My sanctuary. I work hard all day and when I come home I want peace and quiet. Can you keep that in mind?” He walked back to the stairs, leaving his final word: “Don’t be so damn inconsiderate!”
The next morning Gris, Ida Rose and I watched Sanjay read the letter. Halfway through he shook his fist and shouted, “This is crap!”
And when he finished, he addressed our building. “This is America! I can talk on the phone where and when I want.”
The next two mornings Sanjay didn’t show up and the self-employed took off a couple days. The silence was eerie, like a virus had annihilated civilization. It was almost too quiet to write music.
By Wednesday residents on both sides of the park were nervous. There was a sense that something was going to happen. And it did.
I had decided to go camping and work on the theme song in the desert. But late Wednesday afternoon, as I was loading my car, and as the party was cranking up with the world’s loudest version of Light My Fire, I saw Gris dash out of the building and slip through the iron rail fence. I hurried after him. He strode toward the boom box. Sanjay stepped in front of him.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“I’m going to turn off that damn music!”
A shoving match ensued. Coalitions formed behind the two combatants. Name calling got vociferous. Somebody dialed the police, and four cop cars descended on the park with sirens, flashing lights and squawking radios.
One cop interviewed Sanjay and Gris together. The others disengaged the crowd with questions about motorcycles, the college world series this weekend, and dog whistles. Conversations broke out about police motorcycles, the Padres, and the K9 Corps. The cops had dived the melee into comfort zones.
All of a sudden Sanjay hopped onto the stump.
“Everyone, please. Be quiet.”
Half the crowd hushed.
“Everyone. Please stop the noise for a minute.”
The policemen turned off their radios.
“Listen,” Sanjay tells the crowd. “Please. Just listen.”
Crickets. Toads. An owl. Interstate 8 in the distance, like wind through pines.
Then we heard it. A newborn crying. Sanjay jumped off the stump and bound toward Casa de Amigos, grinning like an actor going to receive his Oscar.
Minutes later he reappeared, cradling a pink bundle as small as a loaf of bread.
We all began to applaud.
“This fighting is stupid,” Sanjay told us. “Simply stupid. This is the stupidest thing I have seen since coming to America. We are all neighbors. We should act like it.”
Then Sanjay held up his newborn child and declared: “I promise I will no longer make phone calls in the park.”
A month later Sanjay and Ping sent out wedding invitations to everyone, including the four cops. There was a Chinese/Indian smorgasbord, a Buddhist ceremony, and Eric the Red’s rock band. Gris talked with Ping about acupuncture for pain relief. Ida Rose held the baby like it was her own. And the policemen danced with their wives.
These days I again compose songs with my windows open. Morning sounds include coffee grinders and toasters. Evenings include pots and pans and microwave beeps. Residents talk about their workday. A neighborhood has its music.
One more thing. Fred Jenner called. He’d recorded my theme song. That was the best music I’d ever written, he said.