On our regular walks at the beach, Alma and I typically hear only the white noise of the waves, punctuated by the occasional squawk of a seagull or the distant cry of a child playing with his or her parents in the surf. It is not quiet or silence; there is sound. But the white noise is such a constant background that it might as well be silence.
Sure, the occasional sonic annoyance intrudes. Probably the most annoying is the frequent buzzing of helicopters heading north up the coast toward Malibu or south to Los Angeles International Airport. But these aural annoyances are usually short-lived. For the most part, Alma and I walk with a soothing background that allows us to gather our thoughts and commune with nature.
In the past couple days, however, noise pollution has struck our beach. On Saturday, we started out walking southward to the Villa Marina jetty. About 20 yards in front of us as we turned to walk southward, I could see a large tent\canopy fluttering above four posts. And I could hear coming from it the throbbing pulse of bass that one associates with living in an apartment building with tenants who have a loud stereo. As we drew parallel to the tent, I could see that whoever had erected it had also brought a microphone on a stand and a turntable and these humongous loudspeakers.
And they were playing this annoying variety of urban hip-hop, the kind that has no recognizable melody but has a lot of what sound like scratched records and males going 'Um-humh' to the throb of a bass guitar. In my opinion, if you can't whistle it, it doesn't count as music. But I'm an old fart, I guess. I don't begrudge today's youth its music, provided it doesn't intrude into my space.
I turned to Alma. "Instead of giving tickets to dog owners who bring their dogs onto the beach, the Los Angeles Police Department should be giving these people tickets for excessive noise." It really was a case of their music invading others' space, as even when we had walked 10 yards beyond it, we could still hear the thumping bass. We decided to walk down to the jetty and not to complain.
However, on our return trip, they were still going at it, as loud as ever. Alma had it and walked over to them. She told them she hoped they picked up their physical garbage, since they had created so much noise pollution. The people there were 'hipsters' in their early 20s, I would guess, and they just looked at Alma as if she were crazy.
Now I know that it has become almost cliche for older people to complain about the musical tastes of the young. Indeed, I well remember my parents constantly telling me to "turn it down" when I had cranked up the stereo to high.. And I am beginning to reach the age now (early 50s) of the cranky neighbors who tell you to 'get off their lawn.' But, really, we come down to the beach to get away from urban noise and hustle and bustle, not to see and hear it re-created before us. And while these youth have an absolute right to their music, they do not have an absolute right to play it so loudly that it invades others' space.
Yesterday, Alma and I were again walking the same stretch at about the same time. This time, from out on the waves, there came the sound of engines racing. Sure enough, when we looked out about 75 yards, we could see 3 of these cigarette speed boats racing one another northward. The three boats were so loud that it sounded like we were at the Indianapolis 500. They would reach the end of the circuit just about in line with the life guard headquarters building and its breakwater (north of the Washington Boulevard Pier) and then would turn around and race southward to the Villa Marina jetty. In other words, the 3 speedboats were tracing almost exactly the same route Alma and I walk each day.
And there was no escaping their racket. It was not going to be a simple matter of just moving further down the beach. Because these boats with their clatter were moving also. And so loud. About the time we reached the Villa Marina jetty, the 3 speedboats had retired into the causeway at the Marina. And about 30 mintues later, a LAPD helicopter made a leisurely pass over the water where they had been racing. I am sure the helicopter was there in response to some of the beach dwellers' complaints about excessive noise. But, while the LAPD knows no peers when it comes to ticketing dog owners and lovers at the beach, it just can't seem to get it together in a timely manner when it comes to noise polluters or any other type of polluter, as far as Alma and I know.
I'm not sure whom I was more pissed at yesterday, the people piloting the noisy speedboats that again interrupted our reveries or the LAPD for its lackluster response in stopping the nonsense. My anger was all the more pointed because of the futility of anything being done to put a stop to the noise pollution. Clearly, the LAPD feels it has far more important matters to pursue.
The moral of this story is that people pollute with their noise. Maybe not as much as with their physical garbage. Even at a wondrous location like Venice Beach, one can no longer escape the trappings of modernity. Instead, one must suffer and endure those trappings with little recourse. Of course, those same trappings of modernity allow Alma and me to reach the beach each day by automobile. And, in a larger sense, the trappings of modernity allow Alma and me to live close to the beach in what is actually a desert basin that only modernity has brought ample food and water to. So maybe I don't have much to complain about and should consider myself fortunate. I just know that it hurt my ears on both days.