Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy Fourth..... Sort Of

My married sons live on a block lined with store fronts, row houses and apartment buildings. Yesterday, the smell of barbecue was in the air. There was relaxing quantities of beer. The mix of R&B, Motown and reggae made it a pleasure to walk down the street. Reggae music seems to pulsate in rhythm with the heat emanating from the summer sidewalks, translating it into a sensation with which I am at peace.

My block has different musical tastes. On a good day, someone with a good loud stereo is washing their car with bachata music blasting. It's my favourite music in the Spanish language, aside from Andean music accompanied on indigenous instruments.

But yesterday was not my musically lucky day. There is a type of loud, jarring West Indian music that is seamlessly interspersed with a DJ talking. Its sole redeeming feature is that it showcases regional dialects. From the few profanities I was able to pick out from behind my vibrating windows, it was not worth understanding the rest. On the bright side, the back yard was cleaned before and after. On the down side, the loud music and marijuana laced barbecue smoke made sleep unlikely. The Fourth of July is a sleepless night. We've been here a while. We know the drill.

About 1:00 AM, sweet deliverance from cacophony came from an unexpected source when about eight shots from a nine millimeter handgun sounded out in front of our driveway. Shortly after, shots from a 22 rang out down the street, sounding pale in comparison. We were surprised. In our neighbourhood, the Fourth of July is a light hearted time when the steady sequence of gunshots is replaced by the whistles, pops and booms of assorted fireworks.

About a minute and a half after the gunshots, the music stopped. The voices of the revelers were hushed, as though a mute button had been pushed. No one wanted to be searched and detained if the police decided to investigate the gunfire.

Fully three hours early, it seemed that we were to be blessed with a cool, quiet summer night. Then the police helicopters came. Whenever there is a serious crime with a fleeing suspect, there is the option of police helicopters joining the search. For well over an hour, police helicopters circled overhead. Our block was within their circle of surveillance. At first it is a novelty, then it gets to be tedious. A helicopter that is flying low can have a resonance that is distracting. Then there is always the question of what might be happening to actually concern the police. Should we stay out on the steps and watch the show? Or should we stay away from the windows? There are stray shots to be concerned about. And sometimes it is better to turn a blind eye to the dealings of gangs, street kids and assorted recreational pharmacists.

Around 3:00 AM, we got our peace and quiet. The party broke up three hours early, the police circled overhead for a bit less than two hours. So we netted an hour of peace and quiet.

This morning, the block was peaceful. There was no crime tape on our block and no canvassing detectives knocking on doors. Up and down the block, heads rendered horizontal rested in the late morning behind drawn shades. Someone was just shooting for fun. This time, no one was hurt. It's a beautiful morning on the fifth of July.

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