I've always had a thing for loud stuff.
When most people get around a piece of screechy industrial machinery in action, they cover their ears. They grimace. They move away. I've always been the idiot standing there elated by the sheer stupid exhiliration of it all. I'll be the guy smiling with a thumbs up going, "ooh, impressive." I love it when a train blows its whistle as I'm driving by. I love the roar of the Blue Angels at an air show. To me, sound is excitement. Sound is power.
I spent most of my twenties as a rave promoter, renting out rickety old halls and warehouses and filling them with kids, DJs, speakers, and thumping dance beats. I've stood in front of speaker stacks taller than me. I've DJed on systems that have shaken fixtures off walls and tested the structural integrity of buildings.
I once paid more money than you need to know to bear witness to My Bloody Valentine, the UK group currently in the Guinness Book of World Records as the loudest band ever recorded. Their shows routinely feature decibels higher than a jet engine, and they hand everyone in the audience earplugs and warnings upon entry. They close their sets with a half-hour barrage of pure feedback fans lovingly refer to as the "Sonic Holocaust."
I'm also an idiot. I'm well aware of how much damage I've likely done to my hearing over the years, so spare me the lectures and don't do as I did — well, unless you're looking forward to the relaxing inescapable ringing of tinnitus.
But even as someone with a crazy high tolerance for loud noise, can I say one thing on behalf of myself, my cats, and a vast majority of our local populace?
ENOUGH WITH THE FIREWORKS ALREADY.
As I type this, some of you are on your 14th day of celebrating independence, and it's getting a little old. Every night for going on two weeks now, the minute the sun even thinks about setting, my neighborhood erupts into a barrage of bottle rockets, firecrackers, and show-stopping pyrotechnics — except the show isn't stopping.
Seven days ago, I was sitting on this very couch trying to write last week's column, when
It felt like someone had lit an M80 directly into my spinal column. My windows shook. My elderly cats jumped into the air like kittens. And I dove to the floor like Captain Fatpants, the world's saddest superhero. I truly thought either the world had just ended or half my house had just exploded. But as I lay there in a defensive position awaiting the Four Horsemen, I was instead met with the sound of neighbor kids laughing and high-fiving.
As time marches on, so too does firework technology. Bigger, bolder, louder. But where do you draw the line between an impressive firecracker and a mediocre bomb? My guess is you draw that line in chalk around the body of your terrified neighbor who's just stopped, dropped, and rolled off his couch. Thankfully I live to write another day.
Look, I get it. Fireworks are cool. They're fun, loud, dangerous, and outside certain limits in Iowa, illegal. That's a tempting allure. I remember one summer, we — I MEAN, DISTANT FRIENDS OF MINE — drove to Wisconsin and THOSE FRIENDS may have spent the entire profits of a rave on a carload of fireworks. As I recall MY FRIENDS TELLING ME, it was exciting enough to drive home with a trunk full of bootleg fireworks, let alone launching the things. But MY FRIENDS were so nervous, when the 4th of July came 'round, we — I MEAN, THEY — were too scared to light them off in town. THEY ended up driving out to a pasture in the middle of nowhere and were still so jittery THEY spent more time worried about getting caught and cleaning up the mess than actually enjoying their illicit show.
I remember thinking those fireworks were super cool. Trust me, they were super lame compared to the things people have been launching from my neighborhood this week. The night vision videos from my security camera on the 4th make Rock Island look more like stock footage from Desert Storm. Debris was everywhere and the whole Quad-Cities looked like a foggy moor, except the fog was toxic smoke. I literally awoke on the 5th to a warning on TV to stay indoors — the air quality was too dangerous to go outside.
Fireworks are dangerous and exciting. But this is 2020 — just leaving the house these days is danger enough for me. If you're a thrillseeker, go grocery shopping. Hug a stranger. Walk around without a mask. No, don't do that. Please don't do that. But can't we just have a relaxing holiday weekend where everything is chill and calm, even for just a day or two? As one of my friends said on social media this week, I can't believe constant explosions and emergency vehicle sirens is the aesthetic anybody wants at this point in 2020.
I spent my holiday week engaged in my fun new hobby of making sure my house didn't catch on fire. Others weren't as lucky. I listened to the police scanner that night as fire and ambulance calls rolled in, not to mention countless noise complaints. At one point, I literally heard a cop say he was driving to his own house to complete his paperwork, because "there's too many crazies out here tonight." We should be better than this.
So I tell you what, Quad-Cities. Let's make a deal. You stop lighting off mortar shells for a while, and I'll keep My Bloody Valentine to a respectable volume when I'm driving around with the windows down. Deal? Besides, when I'm by myself in a quiet room, I'm pretty sure I'm still listening to the aftereffects of that concert.
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