One Bridge Burned

UPDATE (03.12 – 07:14 a.m.): A couple commenters to my original post on this matter have opted to be patronizing or antagonistic in their responses, either intimating that I’m a hypocrite or casting dispersions about my age. One is a fellow Midnight Ridazz supporter who knows me from my participation in those mass biking events. The other I have no idea who he or she might be. But both have embraced that strange misguided belief that it’s somehow legal to disturb the peace up until 11 p.m. I challenged my Midnight Ridazz compatriot to show me that law and in the meantime I’ve gone and found what I’ll refer to as the Los Angeles Noise Ordinance, specifically the section that deals with the type and source of Saturday night’s and Sunday morning’s disturbances: 

(Amended by Ord. No. 156,363, Eff. 3/29/82)

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person within any zone of the City to use or operate any radio, musical instrument, phonograph, television receiver, or other machine or device for the producing, reproducing or amplification of the human voice, music, or any other sound, in such a manner, as to disturb the peace, quiet, and comfort of neighbor occupants or any reasonable person residing or working in the area.

(b) Any noise level caused by such use or operation which is audible to the human ear at a distance in excess of 150 feet from the property line of the noise source, within any residential zone of the City or within 500 feet thereof, shall be a violation of the provisions of this section.

(c) Any noise level caused by such use or operation which exceeds the ambient noise level on the premises of any other occupied property, or if a condominium, apartment house, duplex, or attached business, within any adjoining unit, by more than five (5) decibels shall be a violation of the provisions of this section.

The brief backstory is that a couple months agos, this guy whose property’s backyard abutts ours was out there one early weekend morning talking on his cell phone loud enough that in our kitchen we could clearly hear his side of the conversation through the closed doors and windows. This went on for several minutes until I went outside and tried to get his attention. Eventually he saw me standing there and in so many slightly exasperated but polite words I indicated he was being pretty noisy and could he dial it down a couple clicks. He basically did. Yay.

A couple days after that while I was in the backyard doing some backyard stuff and now it was his turn to get my attention and we ended up having a really nice conversation. He was apologetic for disturbing me and I told him it was no problem and he made it clear he knew how I felt about excessive noise. I did the same, telling him how I didn’t hesitate to narc on the party house a couple doors to the north last summer when there music got way out of hand.

After dark a few days later I’m just exiting the garage after parking my truck and he and his wife are passing by while walking their dog. So we talk for a few minutes. Again, very cordial and friendly. They’re nice folks. Sure, he did pointedly crack wise in introducing me to her about me being “the guy that told him to shut the hell up,” but I laughed it off (knowing he hadn’t) and later had further discussion about noisy neighbors that made it seem we were in agreement about them: they suck. Susan arrived home while we were chatting and so I introduced her and we spoke for a few more minutes about the neighborhood until we said our goodbyes and they went on their way. End of backstory.

Then last night (as ranted about on, a fledgling rock band of some sort but not the good sort started rehearsing from out of nowhere in this very guy’s garage, playing at full volume and emitting soundwaves that were far too strong for the rickity woodframe outbuilding and had no trouble at all traveling across our backyard and permeating our woodframe home. The same guy who’s wife told me she makes it a point to not let her tenants party to hearty on the premises. With me wondering what the hell, this went on for more than an hour, ending around 9 p.m., and bringing about a wonderous silence that may or may not have been hastened by the several rocks I chucked at the structure while they were giving an extra-special mangling Zep’s “Stairway To Heaven.”

Fast forward to this morning and no sooner had Susan and I returned from a lovely Sunset Boulevard stroll up to a lovely breakfast at Matisse when the band gets going at full blast again. I’m able to beatdown the urge to launch another volley of stones and instead manage to scale the broken block wall so that I’m up on the level of their backyard. I think about vaulting the sagging chainlink fence but decide trespassing would not be good, so I start yelling trying to get someone’s attention. Anyone? It doesn’t work. So coming down off the wall I tell Susan I’m going for a walk around the block and find out what the hell is going on directly.


Once I’m on the block to the east of us and walking toward the house in question, I see that the front yard is a minor flurry of yard sale activity with a bunch of people milling about. I’m thankful that I don’t have to do much chasing, the owner was right there on the sidewalk with his wife and his dog.

So I walk up to him say good morning and as diplomatically and constructively as I can be I tell him that the music’s coming right into our house and bothering me and Susan. His eyes go wide. “Really!?” he asks.

I do a doubletake and ask him if he remembers me. “You know me, right!? I’m the guy on the other side of your backyard who couldn’t tolerate a loud cell phone conversation you were having, remember? You think if I asked you to turn that down that the fully amped rock music pouring into my house wouldn’t be more offensive?”

And he says, “Yeah, I know who you are. And to be honest when you told me to shut up while I was on the phone I was a little offended.”

Now wait a minute. I never told hime to “shut up.” In fact, I never said a word until he finally saw me standing there waving and hoping to get his attention. Only then did I say how sorry I was to interrupt but would he mind keeping it down as his voice was carring directly into our house.

“And I was in my backyard!” Which is another way of saying I can do whatever the hell I want.

Now it was my turn to Mr. TwoFace to go “Really!?”


“Well let me ask you then… When we had that conversation a couple days later at the fence where we talked about noisy neighbors and dogs and skunk encounters, you didn’t seem offended then.”

“Uh, no —.”

“And after that when you were walking your dog and you introduced me to your wife and I introduced you to my wife and we had a nice conversation, were you pretending not to be offended then too”


“The reason I ask is that since you gave me no indication that you were offended either when I initially talked to you or in the two friendly conversations we had afterwards, I honestly didn’t think you were. Because if you had, I would have welcomed a conversation about it to help either clear the air or at least prevent any need for false cordiality.”

“Look, it’s no big deal,” he said.

“But it is to me,” I said. “I like knowing where people stand. Because right now I don’t. You talked to me about how frustrating it is to have to live with inconsiderate people, yet here you are being one and condoning the very thing you hated. You were being friendly to my face but hiding your feelings of being offended. Me, I’m upfront. What you see is what you get. When something bothers me, I’ll walk around the block and tell you so, like I am right now.”

Before he can answer a woman walks up and asks me where I live. I indicate our backyards share north/south boundary.

“The house to the left or the right,” she asks.

“To the right.”

“Oh, because your wife was just very rude to me.”

“I look at the guy, then back at whoever this woman is. “Oh, we’re not going there are we — calling people rude like that? I don’t see where this is necessary at all!”

The guy doesn’t say anything, but the woman ignores my question and says “Just now, I was back there and she told me she was going to call the cops.”

“That’s not rude,” I said, “that’s entirely her right when she’s being so rudely disturbed.”

And the woman goes “Disturbed?”

And the guy’s all “We don’t need to call any cops,” to which I agreed telling him that’s why I took this walk aaaaall the way around the block to respectfully find out what’s going on.”

The guy nods.

“And besides,” the woman says, “I called the cops on some neighbors once to report the loud party they were having and the cops told me that if they’re inside their house making the noise there’s nothing they can do.”

So I say “Well you can let the police walk all over you if you want, the fact of the matter is disturbing the peace is disturbing the peace and it doesn’t matter if it’s happening in a garage at midnight or a basement or on the moon at noon. If my peace is being disturbed — and it is, last night and today — then I have a right to complain to the cops about it and have them investigate it.”

“Last night? That’s what your wife said too that they were playing last night and I told her she was wrong. I made them stop at 2:30 in the afternoon!”

“With all due respect ma’am that band was playing until after 9 p.m. last night Their final number was “Stairway to Heaven” and that rendition itself should be against the law.”

A yard sale look-e-loo snickered.

“They were not!” she said obstinately.

And then the guy chimed in a bit sheepishly with “Yeah they were. I let them go back out there after 8 p.m. to play some more.” And at that the woman got all wide eyed and perhaps a bit embarrassed at being proven wrong and she walked away hopefully to reevaluate how rude my wife wasn’t being, but mainly to occupy herself in retreat by straightening out the cushions on a hideous couch for sale, and I nodded at her in her wake with a head motion that could be translated to “That’s right lady, move on along. You wanna tell me my wife’s rude. You’re fucking rude.”

Only of course I didn’t say that. In fact it was impasse time and both me and my formerly nice-guy two-toned neighbor were silent and looking at the sidewalk. Finally I asked if the band was family.

“Yeah, they’re my nephews — that’s my sister,” he said indicated the woman that had just beat it.

“Well that’s a relief!” I said.

He was all “How so?”

“This is a temporary thing, right?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Since I was having this yard sale I figured I’d let them play yesterday and today. I suppose I could tell them to kill it after an hour or so, but I really don’t want to.”

And I said “Look, my nightmare was this band was new tenants or something and this was going to be the beginning of a lot of aggravated bad blood. But if it’s just your relatives and its not a regular thing… I can live with them playing today.

“Yeah?” he said.

“Yeah,” and I added for emphasis “this once.” Just no more ‘Stairway To Heaven,'” I joked (sort of). He didn’t laugh.

We shook hands but there was no enthusiasm to it from his side. As I walked away I got the sense he’d be the kind of guy to wipe his hand on his trousers and spit at my back or go find his sister and conjure up what kind of asshole I am. At least he has no doubt where I stand. And now I know what kind of double-sider he is.

The band? It dirged on for several more hours. But at least Zeplin wasn’t a part of its playlist.