Saturday, October 08, 2005

Neighbors I

[Public Service Announcement: Tonight at 2am Israel time, Israel is moving the clocks back one hour. So for those of you in, say, Eastern Standard Time, instead of being 7 hours behind us, you'll be only 6 hours behind us. Those on the West Coast of the USA will now be 9 hours behind us. FYI]

A couple of weeks ago I told you about this kid in my neighborhood who plays the piano all the time, and that he'd (she'd?) finally learned to play chords, and if I had to listen to some anonymous kid practice piano at least now I wasn't going to be hearing "Hatikva" plucked out one annoying note at a time.

How wrong I was.

First, it seems that there are not one but two kids involved, because one of them plays songs one note at a time and the other plays chords.

Second, they have taken to practicing their music lessons at 6 in the morning.

Third, their repertoire consists solely of Jewish liturgical and wedding music and Israeli standards. Played in meddlies. Avinu Malkeinu. Am Yisrael Chai. Al Kol Eileh. Various tunes for Lecha Dodi. David Melech Yisrael. Ofra Haza's "Chai." All played at speeds too fast to sing along.

If they'd only play some Billy Joel, maybe I wouldn't care. But after hearing Avinu Malkeinu for the 14th time in two days, I'm sure I'll burst into flames when they sing it in my synagogue this Yom Kippur.

Tonight, after Shabbat ended, I got into my pajamas and started cleaning up. And then that kid started up again. After an hour I couldn't take it anymore and got dressed again so that finally I could go outside and try to figure out which building the noise was coming from, and ask the family to close their windows when the kids practice. I pulled on my sandals, thinking "I will be polite. I will be polite. The words 'Chinese water torture' will not pass my lips."

Wouldn't you know that as soon as I got outside, the playing stopped?

Grrrr . . . .

But this time I was smart. I kept my clothes on. And sure enough, after 20 minutes, that sneaky kid started playing again. But he can't escape Chayyei Sarah. I went out and followed the noise across the street and over two buildings to a first-floor apartment with all their windows open and someone obviously playing Hatikva on a piano just a few feet away from me.

I knock.

The playing stops.

I knock again.

I hear footsteps.

I hear a key in the lock, locking the door.

I ring the doorbell.


Ah hah.

The sneaky Piano Playing Kid thinks he can escape me, but he errs! The family's last name is on a plaque next to their door! I go home and look up their number in the phone book, and I wait!

Ten minutes later: Hatikva. I run outside. As soon as I reach their building, the playing stops. They have stationed a lookout! They think they can outsmart the Chayyei! They do not know just how much the Chayyei does not want to hear Hatikva anymore!

I sit down and blog up until the paragraph that says "Ah hah."

Hatikva. Again. He can't escape! This time his chords are mine!

I run! Like the wind! He is playing Ani Ma'amin! The door is open! The man of the house is stepping out, and his wife is behind him, about to close the door! They can't get away!

I was very nice. I said "Hi, I live across the street. I hear every day that your children have talent on the piano and . . . "

And then the kid came over to say hello and shake hands. And you know what? He's about 15 and obviously has a developmental disorder. In the ten minutes that I was talking to his mom, he came over to shake hands about 6 times, with his mother trying to get him to stop each time. Turns out that playing the piano is one of the highlights of this "special" kid's life.

So now I felt bad, because this lady has a lot to deal with, obviously, without the neighbors complaining about the noise. But what can I do? I still have to concentrate on my work. I told her that I acknowledge that he has every right to play, but I work from home and the music makes it hard for me. Also I sleep late and when he plays in the mornings it wakes me up.

In the end we agreed that except when he's taking a lesson, she'll put down the "soften" pedal, to lower the noise, and when it's not too hot out she'll close the windows. She'll also make sure he doesn't practice before 8 am, which is a heck of a lot better than 6 am!

I asked if he reads music, so that I could bring over sheet music of songs that I like, but she said he plays by ear. Based on the way she and her husband were dressed (quite ultra-Orthodox-y), I don't think she'd appreciate it if I brought over my Billy Joel tapes. Maybe I'll buy him some Mozart.

Since she seemed sensitive to my concerns, I guess I'll just have to wait to see if the situation gets better, and try to be a little more patient. Ani Ma'amin. Ani Ma'amin.

They invited me to a concert at their house this Monday night. I just might go.

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