Afternoon InquisitionRandom Asides

AI: The Sound and the Fury

I took my coffee outside on the deck with me this morning and listened. You want to know what my hometown sounds like?

A slow hum, a vibration really, most probably issuing from machines and borne of various energies surging along unseen paths, underlies everything like a furtive drum line. This latitude provides the companion rasp of slow erosion as the Gulf breezes sit atop the hum with whining starts and stops, pinching to life a collection of nature’s voices; birds call to one another amid churning coughs of automobiles turning over; pines and oaks creek and wave; and the bayous splash and bubble and then stare back at me hissing as the water settles. There is music of conversation nearby. English, I think, and an argument in Spanish, interrupted momentarily as a delivery truck rumbles by and holiday travelers soar above to an unknown destination. Overhead, the sun is heavy, hanging low in the sky. Does it have sound? No. Today it is silent. In summer it feels like Stevie Ray’s guitar sounds, but in winter . . . Well, in winter, it’s quiet. And it can be deafening. 

What does your hometown sound like?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. Um…. Car noises, people yelling at each other from opposite ends of the block, occasionally gunfire at night. Those are the memorable noises anyway.

    My home neighborhood wasn’t the best in the world.

  2. The town I was born and raised in was Philadelphia, so that’s the sound of kids, strong accents, cars, sporting grunts and groans and cheers and boos, and music.

    Presently I live in a coastal town below Portland Maine, so depending upon where I am it’s the sound of seagulls, waves, crunching snow … and cars and music.

  3. Pretty quiet today. Stepping out onto my deck, I can hear: birds chirping, leaves rustling, water running over rocks. Beyond that, I can just barely hear distant traffic noise.

  4. that is some collection of poetic words you got there.

    some birds, cars pulling up, the tram kadunking by occasionally a block away.
    It’s quiter now that everything’s white and the little thugs don’t dare ride their loud mopeds on the icy streets between the clear main streets.

    and if I’m lucky the upstairs neighbour with Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You. Around 4pm. Every. Fucking. Day.

  5. It sounds cold. Unbearably cold. There’s no wind, but I can hear the water vapor in the air as it freezes on every hair I have. All I can hear is every surrounding molecules hit me in the face, and I can barely talk or think, or pay attention to any other sound.

    Happily, my balls freezing make no sound.

  6. I can tell each day, as I awaken, what is going on outside. Today the wind is blowing through the trees making a sound not unlike a man humming or grunting under his breath. A few days ago it was absolutely silent. Not a sound. It had snowed overnight and the snow blanket trapped all of the sounds of the creatures in the woods. It is too cold to be out on the tractor, so my neighbor makes no sound.

    They say it will rain tomorrow. If so, I will awaken to the sound of rain drops falling on the metal roof above my bedroom. For some reason, although the roof is of the same material over the entire house, it sounds different over the bedroom.

    The last thing we do before going to bed is to take the dogs outside. If there is no wind, we can hear the dogs at our neighbor’s house a quarter of a mile away arguing with each other and with creatures only they can see or hear. If the wind is softly blowing, we can hear any number of sounds from as far as one or two miles away. A truck passes out on the highway. A deer skitters through the woods. The wild boors grunt to each other as the root around down by the creek.

    Like the joy of seeing the stars at night, there are many sounds (or lack of sounds) that are reserved for those of us out in the country.

  7. Here in Charlotte I don’t hear much except birds and cars. Growing up on Long Island about 4 miles from the beach. I could get up early on weekends and you could hear the ocean, ofcourse it wouldn’t be long before that sound was interupted by the train. The LIRR used to keep a busy schedule even on the weekends.

  8. I live in Fuzhou, in kind of an old neighborhood. Today there’s slightly less noise than usual, mostly electric scooters and their horns, a few street vendors chanting in Fuzhou dialect, a couple of birds, and a couple kids playing soccer. In the afternoon the soccer will be replaced by badminton and for some reason Fuzhou dialect is replaced by more standard Chinese. Also, today was some kind of Daoist holy day, so the local temple was setting off fireworks really loudly around 6:30 or 7:00.

  9. In the summer of my childhood hometown, it sounded like heat rising from the ground and bringing the chorus of frogs, crickets and locusts to life.

  10. Hmm, my town sounds like traffic mostly. There is the ringway of course.

    At least you didn’t ask what it smells like. It’s no Ankh-Morpork yet, but it’s a contender sometimes …

  11. My hometown was/is a quiet leafy suburb, which in Spring and Summer sounded mostly of wood-doves, lawnmowers, and people yelling at their kids. In the Autumn and Winter, the principle noise was the kind of howling wind and violent rain beating against glass that you only get near the West Coast of somewhere close to an Ocean.

  12. Depends on where you’re at. But it’s pretty quiet, being in the middle of the desert. It’s about 45 miles south of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, spring break capital of the world, if anyone is familiar with it.

    During the summer you can usually hear boats on the Colorado River, and all year long you can usually hear off-road vehicles and off-road motorcycles. In fact, when I visited over Christmas break, we took my nephew out so he could play on his off-road motorcycle. Lots of noise and dust!

    There is a railroad track, and if the wind is right, you can hear that from just about anywhere.

    The county where I grew up in has a population of about 19,000, so there isn’t much in the way of city noise. Just river desert noise! Birds, off-road vehicles, boats, trains, the occasional military planes flying overhead….

  13. I grew up in LA, near a freeway. Most times you could hear the distant sounding roar of the traffic, ebbing and flowing like a tide. The burbs were out of the worst of the smog, so there was bird-song most mornings instead of the sound of birds coughing and dropping from the trees. Sometimes, you’d hear the faint sound of gunfire, but up in the burbs, it would only be the squirrels taking someone’s lunch or mugging a cat.

    Here in Wisconsin, mostly I hear the sound of birds shattering on the ground and the constant screaming of my brain in my skull saying: “Fuck it’s cold!!”

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