Wissot: Connecting with the sounds of the street in Vail Village (column)
The fireworks began for a second time at midnight. It was the New Year’s Eve we just celebrated, and I had gone to bed in my condo on Wall Street. I opened the sliding door in my bedroom, and the sounds of the street came rushing in: screams, shouts, shrieks and the loud laughter of party revelers on Vendetta’s deck nearby.
Diagonally across from me, a deafeningly loud band was playing dance music at Pepi’s; the merriment was palpable. At 2 a.m., the music finally stopped and I jumped into action. I called 911 to complain. Could the Vail police please come out and tell Pepi’s to have the band resume playing? And, while they were at it, ask them to turn it up a notch?
I love noise, especially when I’m trying to fall asleep. I realize most sane people prefer falling asleep to the sounds of birds chirping or waves lapping the shore or even absolute silence. I am obviously not sane. I require street noise not only to fall asleep but also to enjoy the benefits of living in Vail Village.
I look forward to the noise of garbage trucks driving into the village in the early-morning hours; ditto for the delivery trucks who follow them a few hours later. Throngs of kids screaming at the Children’s Fountain near my balcony? No problem. The more screaming the better. None of it disturbs me. Au contraire. I thrive on it. Doesn’t matter to me if it’s bikers speeding by during daylight hours or three-wheel taxis cycling through during the evening.
It’s all good, all part of the continuous parade of locals and tourists that makes the village pulse with life and remain one of the most vibrant mountain communities in the country.
My love of noise began as a child in the Bronx. I grew up only knowing apartment buildings. The first time I lived in a detached house was when I bought one at age 24. The apartment buildings of my childhood were six floor walkups, where you got to know everybody whether you wanted to or not. You not only got to know who they were but, by the smell of the food in the hallways, what they enjoyed eating.
There was no self-contained village like here in Vail. It was more like a courtyard, which served as our playground, and the city streets, which acted as our back yard. What we lacked in material riches like we are privileged to enjoy in our mountain village, we compensated for by taking advantage of every inanimate place possible. We carried on conversations seated on parked cars; we used building walls to play box ball and curbs for stoop ball; we converted the sidewalks to serve the outer limits of our imaginations; and we turned hallways into tracks for running and skipping contests.
But noise was the constant factor that bound us as neighbors living in the same building on the same block. It was there that I first enjoyed the sounds of people talking, shouting, arguing, singing and playing music, all coming from the privacy of their apartments but easily heard by all within earshot. What others would describe as “ disturbing the peace” I experienced as the warmth of others. The noise of people living in close proximity to me coupled with the constant sounds of human/auto traffic on the streets is what made me feel connected and not alone.
I guess that’s why I feel so good about the hustle and bustle of Vail Village. It reminds me of home. The home I knew in childhood. The only kind of home I ever knew as a child. Although the vast majority of sounds I hear in the village come from people I don’t know and will probably never meet, that’s OK. It’s not important.
What matters is that the cacophony of sounds I hear on a daily basis doesn’t seem strange and alien to me. I may not know the people creating the sounds, but the sounds themselves take on a repetitively familiar ring. They are the sounds of laughter and love and joy and happiness. I have come to know the sounds as a part of me.
It is the part I take to bed with me. It is the part that helps me fall blissfully asleep.
Jay Wissot is a resident of Denver and Vail.