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Why I Don’t Own a Gun

Nearby lives a guy with a garage band. Unfortunately, he also has a garage. Sometimes he plays in the band. Other times he plays with himself. A lot. Mostly with the guitar, unfortunately. We call the police. A lot. But he has the rules down pat, and we only call when it’s clear he is breaking the law, which is often enough. Often the police claim he’s within lawful decibel levels. I think they would just rather not be bothered.

He’s like a kid; he always tests the rules to see how far he can go. Two weeks ago he rented a jackhammer and spent the entire day tearing up his patio, and when 6 p.m. finally came and I asked him to stop (because he never stops of his own accord, whether it’s his horrible off-key singing and bad guitar playing, or something involving large, noisy equipment), he said he was working on an “art project.” I said I’d call the police. He quit.

I hate doing that. I hate trying to figure out if it’s too early to call or whether to report that he’s starting construction an hour before the legal start time or whether I should go over or if I should even bother with the police. I also hate how he makes the entire area, an otherwise nice sort of nabe, with people who wave as they trot to and from house and car, or stop and chat of a morning, seem… low-rent. Frat house. Slatternly. And how I have to drown him out in order to think. How we have to shut doors and windows even during hot weather. How I open my mouth to read an essay out loud, and instead I hear screeching guitars and a honking voice. How we have to hear this noise whether we’re gardening or cleaning or resting or just thinking. Sandy’s beloved afternoon naps? Don’t think so.

We can’t afford to buy a house in Palo Alto anyway, so thankfully, we’re just renting, and we won’t be here forever. We rent our own place to a really nice fellow. We asked our neighbors back in Point Richmond if our tenant was o.k. We never see or hear him, they say. Not a bad thing to say about a person, it turns out.

Imagine if the cultural imperative in our society was that we didn’t leave tracks on other people’s lives, with noise or gas-guzzling cars or logging or war or hatred. Meanwhile, it saddens me that when we do move on what we will remember most is how this noise and trouble elbowed into our lives every weekend.

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