21 April 2010

Distractions

by guest columnist Anthony Schiavino.  Follow him on Twitter.


As I sit here this morning, with my windows open on this beautiful Spring day, I’m reminded of the week I’ve had. A loud speaker blares in the distance at the school up the hill echoing toward my house in this echoing neighborhood. Apparently it’s some kind of field day because it sounds like a Sweet 16 party.

That says it all really. I wake up every morning, I go through my routine, and when all that is done I sit down and either produce some work or write. But on any given day I’m faced with some kind of blaring something out my window.


Now the loudspeaker itself isn’t that bad. It’s just an example of the randomness. I’m sure it won’t be an all day thing. But my annoyance starts early.

On any given day, and most days, I’m woken up to the next door neighbor’s kid playing basketball at 7:30 in the morning. Not to practice or to become better. He’s doing it because he’s all ready for school and is just flat out bored. He bounces more than he shoots. Most times between the bounces he’s just staring off into space.

I’m used to unneighborly neighbors. You know the kind. The ones that don’t realize that they’re living next to other people and class is few and far between. In an apartment I lived in there was this single woman with a kid. She was the textbook definition of swearing sailor. Her kid heard every swear in the English language and probably a few others. One day he started swearing back and she got even angrier, asking him where he learned that language. She was in another world I’m sure where simple math doesn’t exist. Two and two did not make her a deadbeat parent. It got to the point where we had to bang on walls and people ten units down were yelling out the windows for her to shut her mouth.

Of course she would yell back. She wasn’t a drunk or anything. The drunks lived across the way in the other building. The woman, a security guard, got in her truck one night, cranked up the radio as far as it would go, and sat there for three hours. Her leg extended out the door and she was passed out in the seat either drunk or high and didn’t budge. My wife and I tried to enjoy dinner that night. Even with the windows closes and moving to the next room didn’t do a thing. We heard every word from every song. All the while their drapes blew through broken windows.

You have to deal with things. What’s the alternative? Call the police? Some of you are saying yes and believe me I’m right with you. Said security guard got into a drunken fight with her boyfriend and we proceeded to watch five police cruisers descend upon the house as he paced the parking lot raising a fist, swearing, how she stole his wallet. We didn’t call the police but somebody, probably her, did.

Where I live now. It’s not as violent but I wouldn’t say the neighbors are better. I’ve lived a few place in my life and this is probably the worst it’s been so far. As a writer I sit here trying to come up with words. I write to music sometimes. I can write with distractions. You just have to push inwards and write in your own world. But at a certain point, when three o’clock rolls around and said basketball playing kid comes home from school...well there’s a breaking point.

On any given day you can hear them come home from up the hill. The yelling and the fighting between the two brothers is crystal clear as the mother doesn’t say a word. Apparently they’re nice boys as the older one torments the younger. Laugh it off like your kid isn’t a problem lady. They go inside and drop off their books. Then from three whatever on until dinner time, around six, he’s playing basketball, baseball, and anything else he can get his hands on.

Right now you’re thinking so what? The kid’s outside playing. Kids play and at times they have a group of other kids over and that’s perfectly fine.

But two things happen with these not so normal kids. Instead of going up to the park at the school with friends this one proceeds to play by himself, every day, cheering himself on. Every shot. Cheers! Now he’s thrown in whistling. This isn’t here and there and normal. This is daily and three hours straight not counting weekends. It varies. He’ll play basketball for a few minutes, then switch to baseball and at some points you hear the ball hitting his parent’s car. Then hell go back or he’ll pitch or he’ll just run around. This happens at random and it could be he plays ball for five minutes, pitches for two, and etc. This isn’t something where it happens for an hour and then he changes. This is ADD at it’s finest.

In a way I feel bad for the kid. He really needs friends. In his defense he is part of leagues but we live in a neighborhood filled with kids. There should be somebody around to play ball with him. It’s sad really. There are other children two doors down from him, also with a basketball net, and they play nice with each other. They play the game. I want those neighbors!

Through everything you see me do online this has been a daily occurrence, not including the pool they have, for the past year.

I’ve yelled out a few times, asking them to stop yelling. It’s usually only when both brothers are playing. One torments the other. The younger child always has to have something or win and even with his parent’s lack of parenting telling poor Billy (not his name) to stop all he ever does is yell back or give that frustrated shake. Both children have a pent up aggression. When I do say something it’s like a deer in headlights. They don’t know how to react. They don’t know what to do.

At one point a neighbor across the street heard me say it. He walked over to them and had his arm’s crossed, looking at each house up in the windows. What was he going to do? Say something or hit me? This from the guy that works on his boat endlessly but never takes it out. That runs a compressor in his yard for hours on end or works in his garage at night, when the rest of us are trying to sleep, banging on whatever else. Yeah I know it’s a nice night out. It’s why I wanted to go to sleep with my windows open.

This is a guy that walks around his house every day looking for things to do. Three hours of casually running your wood chipper up and down the street one afternoon tells me you really need a hobby.

I feel like I’m a crotchety old man with these things. People have told me go to another room to work. But when said guy is power washing his boat for two days straight when a sponge would have been faster...you can’t. It booms through the house.

And through it all half the time they’re staring off into space, with their minds on something else.

Why do all of these people have a right to be unneighborly? Don’t I have a right to enjoy a nice day and write with the windows open? I believe I do. It’s not my fault boat guy is out of work and wants to find something to do, much like the kid, out of pure boredom.

Why then is it fine for them to prevent me from doing what I have to do?

So I posed the question on Twitter yesterday asking what your stories are and I’m posing it again here. As a creative person what distracts you? The uncontrolled stories that deal with people being just plain rude. The ones that don’t even know it and don’t even care if they did.

This is part of the creative process. Maybe your distraction isn’t a neighbor. It could be anything but each of us has something that prevents us from doing what we need to do. There is something out there we can’t control that is trying to control us.

What’s yours?

 From the halls of Marvel Comics as a mutant editorial intern to the heights of the Flatiron designing book covers and straight on through newsrooms as an art director, Anthony Schiavino has seen action and then some. Pounding away at the keyboard, working well into the night, he mixes his love of old hard-boiled stories, hopeless romance and black and white movie dialogue like a good stiff drink. A writer and designer from New Jersey, Anthony’s work can be seen on a wide range of pulp and comic book publications such as “Ghost Zero,” “The Phantom: Generations,” and the “Black Forest.”

He can be found talking comics, movies, television, and all things pulp on Facebook and Twitter

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