Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's all just noise

When I was 23 or so I lived in an apartment in the Hillcrest area of San Diego. I was a recent college graduate working as a DJ in a bar and sharing a space with my best friend from High School (and beyond as it would happen). As my parents both worked for an electronics manufacturer, I was one of the lucky few 23 year olds to own her own video camera. I used it a lot at work to video tape events and play them back for all the drunk patrons to see themselves grinding on the giant projection screens that flanked my DJ booth. I also used it as a VCR at home where it lived on a tripod.

The apartment complex in which we lived was not all that interesting. It looked more like a mid-level motel than what my vision of an apartment should be. Of course, my vision of an apartment was formed by watching Mary Tyler Moore and The Bob Newhart Show. Apartments should be in high rises and be adorned with deep pile carpet and eclectic framed art. This was a ground floor unit that faced a nondescript courtyard. Nothing special.

I admit I did not know my neighbors. In fact, I don't know that I ever saw anyone else that lived there. As I was a nightclub DJ, I kept somewhat "vampire" hours. Though I never saw them, I heard them. There was an elderly couple that lived next door and the man had emphysema. Their bedroom shared a wall with mine and I could hear him coughing up a lung in the middle of the night, which of course was 8am for me. They were also both nearly deaf. I was made aware of this when I was startled awake by the blaring sound of Bob Barker describing the next showcase showdown. It was as if Bob was cuddling with me on my makeshift egg crate mattress on the floor.

What they lacked in hearing they made up for in vision. They seemed to see everything. Or, should I say, they thought they saw everything including some illicit activity in my apartment. Allow me to explain. In addition to my prized video camera, I also owned a regular old SLR still camera and fancied myself an artist of sorts. A coworker of mine learned of my self appointed skills and asked if I might take some head shots for her. So, one afternoon, I had her come over to my apartment for a shoot. Having seen the "Girls On Film" video, I knew it was important to have a good soundtrack for a photo-shoot and so I cranked the stereo to set the mood. It was all very innocent and above board. I shot the pics, gave her the film, and life went on. That is until my landlord stopped by one day unannounced. He knocked on the door and asked if he could come in. At first, I thought he was just being friendly. He was asking all sorts of questions that seemed totally innocent. All the while, though, he was staring at my video camera/ makeshift VCR. Finally, he asked about it.

(Disclaimer: If you are under the age of maybe 35, this may seem crazy to you because you grew up in a world where everyone has a video camera. But you have to trust me that in the early 90's it was rare to own one. It was even more rare to keep it set up on a tri-pod to use as a VCR.)

"So, is that a video camera?"
"Yes! It was my graduation present. I use it a lot for work."
"Really? I thought you were a DJ?"
"I am."
"So, why do you need a video camera?"
"Well, one my customers get drunk, I get them to do some pretty crazy things on video."
"Really? Do you ever bring people here to shoot them doing these crazy things?"
"Well, sometimes, I guess."
"OK, I am just going to get to the point..."
(There was a point, I thought he was just being friendly.)
"There have been some complaints that you are shooting...pornography. And, I'm going to have to ask you to stop or you will have to move."

WHAT? Pornography? Really?

From that moment it seemed like all the neighbors I had never seen before were suddenly around all the time. I saw them leering at me as I took my clothes to the laundry room. I felt their stares as I carried my garbage out to the dumpster. And every time came home from work at 3 or 4am, I saw lights come on and shadows peering out from behind the cheap plastic blinds. It was annoying and insulting and I vowed I would never be that uptight.

And that brings us to today. Nearly 2o years later, I just found myself peering out the window at the loud, annoying, college kids that rent the unit next to ours. I am not sure what I expected to see...a drug deal going down? But they are loud and they smoke on their patio and they use fowl language while standing outside in the driveway at all hours of the night and they are just a bunch of nogoodnicks and I want nothing more than to get them evicted.

That's not true. There is something I want more than that. I want to go back in time to when I was 23 or so and living in an apartment in the Hillcrest area of San Diego. If only I could, I would knock on the door of the lovely elderly couple that were living out their last years together in the apartment next to mine. I would apologize to them and explain that I was an aspiring photographer and I sometimes take headshots of friends who are aspiring newscasters. I would also offer to use my fancy video camera to interview them. I'd ask how they met, when they fell in love, where they got married and how they lived their lives together.

I wonder if 20 some years from now, the pale faced wannabe Lil Wayne next door will write a song about the annoying elderly couple and their whiny kid that lived in the apartment next door?


Blogger la.barabbas said...

I still hate them. I hate them so much.

11:20 PM, January 16, 2009  

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