We drown out other worlds and hold dear, our own realities.

The walls in this apartment building are paper thin. It was a cerebral decision to save on construction costs. The side effects are not beholden upon the builders. Up through the floor, someone’s barking the words to a song. These people who need their television or stereo or radio playing all the time. These people are so scared of silence and their own brains. These are my neighbors. These insane sound-oholics.

If it’s not some crap song from some crap singer or band, it’s some old TV show with the volume into the cosmos.

Sometimes it’s an old game show from the 70’s or 80’s. My neighbor, he still thinks Reagan is President. With every canned laughter coming out of his apartment on a volume of 9 and his sporadic yelling of the answers, I wonder how many people in that studio audience of Pyramid or  Family Fued are dead.

These days, this is what passes for home sweet home.

This siege of noise.

After work, I made one stop. The man standing behind the cash register looked up when I limped into the store. Still looking at me, he reached under the counter and brought out something in brown paper, saying, “Double-bagged. I think you’ll like this.” He set it on the counter and patted it with one hand.

“That’ll be one hundred bucks!”

“Geezus what is it?” I responded.

“The finest of the finest.”

“It better be,” I said handing him the money. If anything, Earl here has never steered me wrong.

The package is half the size of a shoe box. It weighs as much as any bottle of booze, but inside it’s what you’d call illegal hooch. White lightning, from Kentucky, made by a 75 year old Hillbilly with an age old recipe.

Ever since being laid off, this is what passes as a past time. I am binge drinking again and I can’t stand myself. The booze makes me sick to my stomach, that is until I take that first sip. Then from there, it’s a different world. And right now I need a different world. I am 25, so I have the rest of my life to quit drinking. For now, I am trying every brand, every malt, every distilled whiskey, rum or scotch. Right now I am what you’d call a connoisseur of 80 proof philosophy. The truth is if I don’t go back to work in a month, I will be out on the streets. This is what one might call a quandary.  

Everyone needs their volume on 10. Mine is on 10, just to drown out the 9’s of the world. The 9’s listening to Taylor Swift. The 9’s listening to Justin Bieber. The 9’s trying to break me down with horrible music. These no taste, know nothing audiophiles, these jackasses who need their television or stereo or radio playing at all hours of the day are so scared of silence. Above me is the generation who got through school copying their homework off the Internet. They are listening to some dub, dropping X and grooving like it’s 1999. In the back now I hear Polka. The Polka is coming from the hard of hearing retired couple, who has lived here for twenty seven years. They have that kind of stereo sound that looks like furniture, but it always creeps in. Those old furniture watts, you can never count them out.

Laughter of the dead comes back in through the front wall and I crack the seal on the $100 White Lightning and it better worth it. After one sip, I know it is, because my blood tingles immediately. My skin gets goose bumps. I hit the remote to a JBL and its Deftones. A Volume of 5 weeds out the North End, some of The Polka and the ones with the new system watching a movie about car crashes.

Above me generation Y, the generation that was raised on Call Of Duty is jamming with faster beats than before. If they keep that pace for much longer, someone may have to call 911 and that someone is probably me. 

Over to the West End now, and either an ancient Mummy has come back to life or Bob and Wendy Watson next door are watching a movie. No doubt they turned there’s way up to drown out the rave dance party USA above and the ongoing onslaught of a Talladega nightmare to the left.

Under the floor, someone is shouting now. I wait for gunshots. Then I turn the volume down so I can hear. After a lot of cussing, it seems Daryl downstairs, the one who just moved in with his home girl Sara, should really stop talking to Becky from across the hall. 

I hit play.

Deftones. Be Quiet And Drive Far Away at Volume 7 now. Key Words: Drive Far Away. Some plaster has even fallen into my living room. Might be time to get serious, but it’s still early.

Upstairs. These Conversation-O-Phobics. These Noise Main Liners.

I shut my bathroom door in an attempt to thwart the East side clamor coming through my shower. Of all nights, my night, while my girlfriend is at a baby shower, this is my relaxation…and the old people and their Oak cabinet record player on crack is wailing some serious Lawrence Welk. My whole apartment sounds like a remix from Charles Manson.

White lighting. Half Water – Half…Ah! But oh!

People who would save sick children in Africa will make you listen to their Mozart or Michael Bolton or Kenny G at ungodly levels. Rich people who donate to The United Negro College Fund will jam Josh Grobin or Pavarotti until you have a cerebral hemorrhage.

Those bleeding hearts who do community service and join some The Peace Corp will fog the neighborhood with their stereo playing fucking Yoko Ono or Who Let The Dogs Out.

Outdoors, a bird singing is fine. Miley Cyrus is annoying. Outdoors, the clatter of traffic is bad enough, but adding Mambo Number 5 is not making the situation any better. You turn up your music to hide theirs and other people turn up theirs to hide yours.

The Audio War is on. The Technicolor War has commenced.

Right now in condo 313, it’s gotten serious. To the West of me now, where Bob and Wendy Watson were watching a Mummy movie, that movie has stopped and now it’s Tim McGraw, my own personal Kryptonite. They are not playing games any longer. My nerves jump to the brink of panic yet again.

White lightning…AND OH! I dial a couple friends. I may need back up.

30 minutes later…

No More Fucking Family Traditions. No More Jesus Is At The Wheel. So Soulfly is on deck, some old Max – Sepultura stuff and it cranks like a nuke headed for North Korea. And so starts the beginning of the end. From here bail money is a recurring thought. From here, it’s all about bragging rights.

Now at The Villa Villa West, this is the arms race of sound and this isn’t about quality. It’s about volume and at this point, it isn’t even about music. This is about reputation. You stomp the competition with the bass line way up on your new Yamaha Equalizer, the one you bought for just an occasion.  There is no other choice, because if you don’t Tiny Tim will ukulele you into next week. Lawrence Welk will blow champagne bubbles in your face. Car crashes will seep into your dreams.

These clatter junkies. These Music-a-holics.

White lightning strikes again! OH! BUT AH!

No one wants to admit they’re addicted to TV and music. We just need more of it, more channels, a larger screen, more volume. The Big Machine is making sure your imagination withers and wanders away from the Greed Heads slicing up The American Pie. With everything distracting you there is no opinion. There is no thought. With everyone’s imagination emaciated and defunct, no one will ever be a threat to the world or question those who run it. 

Your wife will fantasize watching Magic Mike and you can see how annoyed she is of you. You can watch your kids discover everything you told them that might kill them. Drugs, crime, drinking, disease…still there are worst things than watching a loved one die. Just watch the world do it instead. Pick up a newspaper. Channel 4: Film at 11. This Just In: The world is not a happy place. 

The thing with homemade top shelf liquor made from a still is to not get too cocky. Don’t think you can win, because you can’t. The object is to hang in there as long as possible and take the white knuckle hits. So a buddy comes over bitching about super loud Polka music and you pop in Rage Against The Machine – Freedom, always a go to.

Volume 9…now…oh but ah, a little share of the good stuff and your buddy can’t believe what he just drank.

Alcohol philosophy says that The Mayans in ancient times believed that Karma was everything. You know, that do onto others coming back around boomerang shit?…This was back before Christ mind you and when they felt grief because someone died, well that wasn’t their grief that was Kisin, The God of Death making them feel sad. If there was a torrential downpour or hideously hot drought and the crops suffered, that wasn’t just The Weather, that was Ah Peku, The God of Thunder and Rain teaching them a lesson. If a hunt was plentiful that wasn’t from skill that was from Yum Kaax, The God Of Hunting and Nature. This kept the Mayan people humble. You see? Now people hear a thirty second commercial for Garlic BBQ Sour Cream Cheddar and Chive potato chips and rush out to buy ten bags, but now we call it “free will.” Now we buy the next new drug, because it will improve our lives, because Joe Actor Somebody said so. The Gods we follow now are manufactured and sling their goods out into the airwaves on golden voices and impeccable good looks. 

We are dust in the wind. We are another brick in the wall. This is how we must look to God. To God we must look insignificant, quiet souls trying our best to get it right, no matter what volume our stereos are on.

More White Lightning AND OH! I should have spent another $100.

Now, the cops are knocking. My stereo is off. I tell them apologies. It’s funny after some old Sepultura how the cops always show up. Roots Bloody Roots always causes chaos. This tells me I won this war. My reputation is intact. They give me a warning and when they leave, Dance Party USA upstairs has waged a late night offensive. They haven’t waved the white flag just yet and I kind of admire that. As the cop car races off, they crank their onslaught even louder. Now it’s some acid washed European mix of some kind. I can’t quite put a finger on it. I let them get this out of their system and when the music stops upstairs. I hit the ceiling with the end of a mop handle. 

At 3 a.m., maybe this Technicolor War is a stalemate and we both know it. So in this silent moment I put on Billy Joel, Piano Man, a peace offering. Upstairs they yell down to turn it up, so I do. If ever there was a song that brings us all together this is it and upstairs they sing along with us. And the world seems more peaceful…