Sunday, March 16, 2008

Can't stop the music

Last week, my husband and I went to a garden show at the Cow Palace, San Francisco's old convention center on the the cold, south side of town. We don't have a yard and we don't have a house but it was something to do. (Besides, I like to store up the home and garden ideas because when housing prices reach their all-time low and we finally buy a place, I plan on going on a decorating and landscaping frenzy).

The main exhibit space featured plantings by various landscape designers. It was hard to take these "gardens" seriously as there was no sky and no sun to shine down on the plants, just the dark, dingy Cow Palace ceiling. Eastern religions were the theme du jour, with many of the mini-landscapes drawing inspiration from spas and yoga studios and featuring Buddhas and Hindu Gods. A peripheral hall was filled with plants for sale, including garish exotics from Hawaii, randy, intense-hued orchids, environmentally-correct succulents and garden variety vegetables. There were also plenty of gardening tools, statuary and crafts with a botanical twist. One booth stopped me in my tracks. Hanging there, like a cluster of salamis in an Italian butcher shop, was a giant wind chime. Wind chime, hell, it was an unassembled pipe organ. It sounded like a concerto of mini gongs outside your window. We had a good laugh. Who in their right mind would impose such a thing on her (or his) neighbors?

Cut to this afternoon. I am taking a tonic walk uphill to teach my butt a lesson (it never learns). I round a bend and what do I see? You guessed it. The Big Ben of wind chimes.

There oughta be a law. After all, here we are in Berkeley where they legislate everything for the good of the people. Surely this is unconstitutional. Or did our forefathers forget the right to peace and quiet? What if your house was next to the Mega Chime? Suppose the homeowner refused to take the damned thing down? Would you sue? Start a neighborhood petition? Slink over under cover of darkness and yank down the chimes? What a gigantic pain in the ass.

Even in our quiet hillside enclave, we are not immune from chime pollution. Our neighbor below has a small tinkly-winkly one. It's annoying but he is blind and if it makes him happy, we can live with it. It's only intrusive when the wind blows the sound in our direction.

Berkeley will probably address the chime issue at some point. Maybe they'll start selling wind chime licenses and put the proceeds to some noble use. Or maybe not. The problem is probably here to stay. Some people, it seems, just have to tinkle.

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