Well, I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years and all that jazz. As for me, mine was, uh, well, here are the notes I took on Christmas Eve. (Yeah, I take notes wherever I go, if you’re wondering). Hopefully, they will bring to light the “larger” issue here.

Dec. 25, 2000: ’twas the night before Xmas and, uh, eghhhhhhhhahhh! Please God, somebody find me a place to hide!

Ah, here. Under the staircase. Arrgh! Nope. No good. Here comes that horrible little kid again. (Of the 25 people here 10 of ’em are kids! Usually, one is enough to drive me bonkers, so you can imagine, I hope, the state I’m in). The problem is, I’ve only been here for two hours. What the heck am I gonna do with the rest of the night?

Climbing the stairs (puff, puff puff). Ah, bathroom. Brrrrr. No heat in here. But safe at least.

The little monster who just passed me by was on one of those damn scooters (here in France, they call ’em trotinettes. Cute, huh?).

I’d like to find the dirty rat who invented those things. I’d make him real sorry.

As a matter of fact, I hate just about everything on wheels: from scooters to skateboards — all that crapola. I mean, what in God’s name has brought about this fixation for things with wheels? Oh sure, I guess on some primordial level, albeit subconsciously, since that first Neanderthal guy figured out that rounded edges made things travel faster and smoother than squared ones, things simply progressed from there. But I bet old Mister Caveman would’ve thought twice if he could’ve seen the damage he’d bequeathed upon mankind!

I mean, what the hell is useful about a skateboard? Nothing, that’s what!

Whoa. Wait a minute, I seem to have strayed far afield from my original subject. Er, ah, just what was my original subject? Yes, yes, I know. I’m getting senile, no doubt about it.

Oh yeah. Sound. Make that noise — that’s what I wanted to sermonize about this week. And it’s because of noise — that I’m stuck, freezing my tuchus off in this tiny third floor bathroom of this palatial French “estate.”

I can’t tell you exactly when it was that I lost my tolerance for all things noisy (the definition of that word we’ll deal with later), but it was a long time ago. I know that by looking at the drawer full of greasy earplugs that I have in my desk. Yeah, I never throw anything out. I must have about 50 pairs of the bloody things. I wear ’em everywhere I go; the reason being, of course, that there is noise wherever you go!

Most of the earplugs on the market, by the way, don’t work. You have to manage to get hold of some of the super-strength kind; you may even have to pay a visit to your ear doctor in order to get them, but it’s worth it, I’m telling you.

But why are you so intolerant of sound, you ask (rhetorically)? To which I (patiently) answer: Everything that goes on in the world emanates some sort of sound (make that noise) when it comes down to it — which is my point exactly.

I’m sure that over the years all of you have noticed that the volume has gone up — on literally everything. Example: I go into the movie theater, and I’m absolutely appalled by the volume with which the theater people have seen fit to blast their all-too-willing patrons. What’s even more frightening is that people aren’t running in droves from the theaters.

But nope, there they sit, blank faced, stuffing their stupid faces with overpriced popcorn while their eardrums are being turned into nutty putty.

And it’s not just movie theaters. It’s TV, record stores, shopping malls. Even doctors’ and dentists’ offices (once places where you could expect to be soothed by placid Lawrence Welk-type fare) now blast horrible rap music on their in-house systems.

I hope you’re not going to ask me why they’ve pumped up the volume? I mean, good Lord, use your brain kiddies.

OK, I give in! Because, whatever is played “at” you is going to sink into your subconscious and play itself over and over and over again … long after the source of the original stuff has been turned off. So the plain and simple truth is, you really can’t turn off the music, the commercial, whatever.

Bet you haven’t noticed something else. People even talk louder than they used to. Check it out. You’re in a room where there’s absolutely no necessity to talk at anything other than a normal level, and you’ll find people carrying on conversations with one difference — they’re shouting at each other! (Fatter people tend to shout more than skinny people; I’ve no idea why.)

I can only figure that we’ve become more accustomed to shouting because, as other people’s voice levels have risen, we have to raise ours in order to be heard, and progressively the thing has just gone up and up and up to where now people are walking around screaming for no bloody good reason!

As for trying to find quiet – where in the past you might head for the library, or maybe a bookstore…forget it. No such luck. If you don’t believe me, try your local library. Either there’ll be a bunch of little brats running around yelling at the top of their lungs, or some bimbo giving a “reading” thus destroying any chances you have of sitting there peacefully soaking up the silence.

In fact, in closing, I’ll challenge any man jack of you to find a place where there is total absolute silence. And I’ll bet, if any of you decide to take that trek up to that proverbial mountaintop on the Himalayas, when you get there, you’ll find some Steven Seagal jerk sitting cross-legged, OMMMMING his butt off.

And it’ll be loud. I promise you.

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