SOUTH PASADENA, Los Angeles and the world are certainly louder now than when our house was built almost 100 years ago. Radio as we know it hadn't been invented, let alone the 500-watt, bunker-busting car stereo. As automobiles have gotten bigger, so have their tires, which apply more rubber to the pavement and raise more sound. And then there are those motorcycles.
Motorcycles, I learned, after a talk with a South Pasadena police sergeant, are noise-regulated when sold at a dealer, but some owners modify them later to be louder than legal. These noise polluters are subject to fines and can be required to fix their thunderous machines, but the sergeant said the offenders often pay the fines and then immediately restore their unmuffled mayhem.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday November 10, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Street name: In Thursday's Home section, a photo caption on an article about living along a noisy street identified the South Pasadena location as Monterey Avenue; it is Monterey Road.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday November 16, 2006 Home Edition Home Part F Page 8 Features Desk 0 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Street name: A photo caption on a Nov. 9 article about living along a noisy street identified the South Pasadena location as Monterey Avenue. The name is Monterey Road.
As for the cars exploding with windows-down assault anthems: The drivers of these sound bombs are also violating the California Vehicle Code, which states that no driver shall permit the operation of "any sound amplification system which can be heard outside the vehicle from 50 or more feet." But enforcement of this law, as with cracking down on the modified Harley-Davidsons, does not appear to be a high priority in South Pasadena or anywhere else I have lived in Southern California.
Meredith, a young renter who lives closer to the street than we do in a first-floor duplex, sent an e-mail that said, "As I write this it feels like somebody's brakes are squealing inches from my head. I can feel every thump of the bass-driven jams blaring from stereos. I can hear marital fights conducted at the stoplight."
She has invested in heavy curtains ("faux suede and velvet works best") and a TV with surround sound, and also keeps an overhead fan running. But she's not thinking of moving. "I got over it. It's there, I accept. The neighborhood is too friendly, the rent too reasonable and the location (other than the traffic) too perfect for me."
Steve, an analyst for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California who recently moved to the block after 17 years in the relative tranquillity of Altadena, said: "It's been quite an adjustment. We turn up the TV if we're watching. The kids are often listening to their iPods." He has also spoken to his landlord about retrofitting his historic Craftsman with central air. "We deal with it the best we can. We're here till the kids get out of school."
After we bought our house, friends and relatives were quick to offer moral support with tales of their own. My mother reminded me that she had grown up in a house on a main street in eastern Pennsylvania where trolley cars rumbled past until late at night. Never bothered her, she said, and even helped her get to sleep at night.
A friend in Arlington, Va., said he and his family have lived under the approach to Reagan National airport in Washington, D.C., for 20 years. A resident of pricey La Canada Flintridge told me that lying in bed at night, he can hear the trucks on the 210. Nothing's perfect, I guess.
So, we've started a hedge. We replaced the existing diaphanous lace curtains on the front windows with top-down-bottom-up shades that allow us to block out sight of the street at the eye line while leaving the upper third of the window open to the light. That's been a big improvement. It's true that we have gotten used to some of the additional sounds and don't notice the traffic as much, though we still find ourselves gravitating to the kitchen and den, the rooms farthest from the street. We are thinking about getting central air and adding a fountain in the backyard.
But we like the house and want to stay here. Sometimes I try to imagine our lot plopped down at the corner of 111th and Amsterdam and what that would sound like. Immediately, I feel better.