It can be startlingly quiet where I live. As I write this, sitting on what I call my "writing bench," I hear nothing. The 3 o’clock freighter from Atlanta went over a while ago headed for the airport, and even the gardeners are giving their leafblowers a rest.
It’s uncanny; I’m just a few miles from part of Los Angeles and eight miles from an airport, and there’s not a sound. Occasionally a stray airplane flies over high up going somewhere, but otherwise it’s the kind of silence you could call “deafening.” You think your ears have gone plugged and you start looking around for something that should give off a sound. Eventually I tap my pen against the bench and it’s OK -- I can enjoy the quiet again.
I can remember when I lived in Los Angeles standing on the corner of Alvarado and Sixth, talking to a friend, and we had to shout at each other over the ambient noise. It’s the traffic that does it. The traffic almost never stops in LA. The early morning hours see more traffic, I’d bet, than some towns see at high noon.
My first apartment in LA was literally across the street from the Hollywood Freeway. The street dead-ended at the fence; they’d chopped the street off to build the freeway. After a while, the sound of the traffic worked like the sound of surf in a more exotic place, providing a background hum that encouraged sleep. If it stopped, a rare gap in traffic, late at night, I’d wake up.I guess I’ve always had an affinity for silence; probably why I became a writer rather than an orator (or a precinct cept’n, if you remember the Shelley Berman routine). In fact, I wrote a sort of ode to it in highschool, and finding it all these years later I liked it well enough to post it here, even resisting the urge to edit out the highschool-level awkwardness. It’s in the December 28 slot.