They are not exactly the "sounds of silence," but I suspect a lot of us are "hearing without listening." But not without complaining.
Who among us has not been assaulted - or awakened - by drive-by cacophony, masquerading as somebody's music? Who has not said - and I'll clean this up for you - "Thanks again for sharing your customized, decibel-driven universe"? Moreover, "What the hell makes you think you're exempt from common-sense, common-courtesy societal norms?" Silly us.
And, come to think of it, would it be road rage if I responded by cranking up a Terry Gross Fresh Air podcast to the eardrum-assaulting amplitude of a jet engine? Just askin'.
But, seriously, this is an issue that keeps getting legally, politically and culturally rationalized, even as the imposed sounds themselves continue to technologically ramp up.
Last December, the Florida Supreme Court wouldn't uphold a law making it illegal for music coming from a car to be "plainly audible" from 25 feet. There were issues over exemptions (involving business or political purposes), but ultimately it was another free-speech and unreasonable-restriction-on-freedom-of-expression case. Probably not what the Founding Fathers foresaw. Common sense and common courtesy? How quaint.
This spring the Florida Legislature came up short in its effort to pass a measure that would have reined in excessive noise from vehicles. A key impediment: legislators who saw such efforts as unfair - as in blatant targeting, a form of discrimination. One such anti-targeting advocate was Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, who noted that really loud stereos were simply, well, an annoyance and, well, only to some.
"I continue to be against these (types of bills) because I feel it's pointed and directed at one type of person and that's the type of person like me who likes to hear their music loud," said Braynon.
Sorry, Senator, but this is not about cultural diversity or minority targeting or harassment. This is, in fact, about sound-harassment prevention. This is about reining in the drive-by assaults on hammers, anvils and stirrups. This is about rude, look-at-me behavior that inevitably targets everyone within earshot. If this is about people such as yourself who happen to like your music really, really loud, then so be it. You and yours should be targeted.
But let's hear it for Tampa City Council. It hasn't given up. It's sticking up for constituents and trying to stick it to those who don't care who gets blasted by their deafening sounds. Council members have now given preliminary approval to a city-code ordinance designed to get the attention - via fines and even jail time - of sound-pounding motorists. The "clearly audible" criterion is back - this time from 50 feet.
The City Council, in effect, has heard local complainants loud and clear. This is a quality-of-life and quality-of-neighborhood issue, and they are properly coming down on the side of Howard Beale-like residents telling Council they're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
Not surprisingly, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor is in favor of the crackdown. Her department has been burdened with more than 3,000 noise complaints in the last six months. TPD officers would like some leverage beyond finger wagging and stern appeals for the uncaring, the oblivious or the moronic to be considerate of others. If the noise ordinance receives final approval June 6, police could start issuing citations - with first offenders fined $250.
Downright disappointing has been the position of Arthenia Joyner, the state senator from East Tampa who ironically represents many of those who complained most loudly to City Council. She's made it clear that she suspects such a focus on really loud car-stereo music is just a variation on an all too familiar theme: racial profiling of blacks and Hispanics. Please.
She ought to know better. Failing that, she ought to be ashamed. It's about prioritizing the battles you pick. This is not a civil rights issue. This is a quality-of-life and uncivil wrongs issue.
???As a town, we have our share of murals. We're lucky. Not only are they colorful and evocative, but they can be absolutely transformative in the most mundane of contexts - such as underpasses. The most recent Exhibit A: the recently dedicated, 12,000-square-foot mural painted on the side of Fabricated Products of Tampa overlooking Adamo Drive between 17 and 19th streets. It tops out at 35 feet tall, one of the largest outdoor murals in the state.
The community owes a debt of gratitude to key catalyst Michael Parker, an adjunct instructor of art at Hillsborough Community College. He was supported by the City of Tampa, the Ybor City Development Corp. and a number of individual Ybor-based businesses.
As with all murals, this one is multi-purposed. It aesthetically dresses up a drab stretch of Adamo by creating a de facto gateway to Ybor City, which it borders. Featuring likenesses ranging from JosÚ MartÝ and Arturo Fuente to Cesar Gonzmart and Tony Pizzo, it colorfully underscores Ybor's Latin heritage.
Next up for a mural makeover: the less-than-attractive but functional, 126-foot West Tampa water tower on Himes Avenue. After the city's water department does repairs and re-coating, Peter and Rolf Goetzinger will have at it. In January they will begin painting an oversized cigar wrapper image emblematic of West Tampa's cigar-making history.
And then what? Maybe Parker or the Goetzinger Brothers could be recruited to touch up those butt-ugly, ConAgra silos downtown.