Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Blog #2: A Soundwalk in My Heavily Cultured Neighborhood

It is three o'clock in the afternoon, and I realize I've been hibernating in my apartment the entire day. So, I decide to take a walk, also because I've realized my second blog assignment is due in less than a week..

The first thing I do when I leave my apartment building is just stop for a second and close my eyes, just to get a sense of what I may or may not notice about the sounds in my surroundings. As I listen intently, I hear the blasting of a radio which is playing some type of Latin music. My guess is merengue. Along with the sound of the music blasting, I also hear a conversation going on between two men. I do not understand what the men are talking about because they are speaking Spanish. Although I understand Spanish and speak an ample amount of it, I cannot understand what these men could possibly be talking about because they are speaking with a heavy Dominican accent. In the midst of the merengue playing on the radio and the two Dominican men talking to each other, I notice the sound of scissors snipping at something. Why do I hear scissors, might you ask? It is because the door to my apartment building is situated right next to a barber shop, and all of the barbers that work at said barber shop are Dominican.

I decide to take a walk down the block to see if my best friend, Jen is home. She always likes joining me when I have eclectic assignments to do. As I try to cross the street to get to Jen's house, a car begins incessantly honking at a man on a bicycle who works for a restaurant of some sort and is trying to deliver the food to the customer's door. The honking becomes so infuriating that I take it upon myself to start yelling at the driver to stop being so obnoxious. He becomes more aggravated and almost runs a red light. I then scream to him "Look who's the idiot now!" Regardless of the event that occurred during my soundwalk, I did not appreciate the distraction. I cross the street and continue walking down the block to Jen's house.

Forgetting what time it is, I should mention I live up the block from an elementary school, the same elementary school I attended when I was a young girl. As I listen intently, it reminds me of what it was like to be in a school lunchroom. There were all these kids laughing, running after one another, and their mothers subsequently running after them and yelling after them as well. I listen in on one of the child's conversations with his mother. He is telling his mother about how much fun he had playing 7-Up with his classmates today. The enthusiasm in his voice as he is telling his mother the story makes me feel young again. It was adorable.

I finally reach Jen's house. She tells me she just needs to get ready first before we go back out again. She goes to her room to get ready while I am sitting in her living room. The television is off, and it is pitch quiet. I decide this would be the perfect time to continue my experimentation with my soundwalk. At first, I overhear Jen's grandmother upstairs. She is talking on the phone with her brother, but she is speaking Croatian. Therefore, I have no idea what she is talking about. I can also hear the clock ticking from her kitchen. I listen even more closely, and I can hear the humming of Jen's refrigerator. It must have been defrosting, but that is how quiet it got in her house. The window to the kitchen was open, and I could hear birds humming in the distance. I could also hear more children hustling and bustling down the street. I waited long enough for Jen to get ready that by the time she was done, the hour was over.

During my soundwalk I had realized subtle sounds I would normally never pay attention to, such as scissors snipping or the birds chirping. People were speaking in a multitude of different languages, from my Arabic neighbors next door to the Dominican barbers in the shop next to my apartment building, to Jen's grandmother speaking Croatian on her house phone. That is the beauty of living in Queens, I suppose. It was the time when children get out of school. I had the advantage of listening to all these enthusiastic conversations from these kids that wanted their parents to know how awesome their day was. I never realized just how culturally diverse my neighborhood was until this soundwalk. It was pretty cool.

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