June 9, 2006

Commentary:

Seeking Peace and Quiet in My Hood

By Ernie McCray

I know freedom isn’t free but it baffles me why some rights come at such a high price. Like the right to lay one’s head down at night sans loud conversations and drunken laughter; the right to not have people pee and vomit and have sex and fist fights in your yard like feral beings; the right to not have your parked cars run into; the right to not have to tolerate being “slummarized” while all around you gentrifies.

But here my family is now, after nearly twenty years of protesting, still being subjected to such living conditions by Sparky’s, a  bar across the street from us, having to wage the same battle against another bar. Sparky’s is leaving and before we could blink an eye a bar named Hamilton’s Tavern is set to take its place.

The other night I drove to where the prospective proprietor lives. I parked for a moment and sat in the darkness with my windows rolled down. Oh, what an experience of peace and quiet that was. Silence, other than a mumbled conversation nearby, literally permeated the air. And for a couple of weeks my wife and I have been enjoying nights of peaceful bliss too. But Mr. Bar Owner Wannabe retires to such tranquility every night whereas it’s just begun for us and could be over in less than 30 days. Hey, it’s easier finding injustice in this picture than it is finding Waldo, let me tell you.

So we’ve filed a protest with the Alcoholic Beverage Control, the ABC, which is a joke to me, considering that their goal in such matters is all about “fairness” - for bars. With Sparky’s we and our neighbors, who have since moved because of the noise (as did the neighbors before them), were required to “mediate.” In this spirit of “fairness” a plan was made that couldn’t possibly be carried out by a bar in an atmosphere of drinking and partying created by the bar itself. Who after their tenth glass of wine or second pitcher of beer is going to be quiet so they “don’t disturb the neighbors” just because a doorman asks them to?

Caring about neighbors and drinking don’t mix. Two young women who patronize the bar proved that to me recently when they said that they, too,would “probably” protest if they lived across the street from the bar, but since they don’t “it’s no big deal.”  “Besides,” one of them said, “It’s one of those kind of bars where everybody knows your name.” “Yeah,” I replied, “And I hear your names every night, as you yell out your goodbys at 2:00 A.M.”

So, here I am, old activist that I am, confronting such callous “Cheers” mentality, seeking peace and quiet so I can sleep while the chief of police, the sheriff, the distict attorney, and the city council have so far ignored a statement I wrote to them that reads: “If we aren’t comprehending something, if there’s some reasoning we don’t know about that can allow a bar to mar the quality of our lives, please let us know what it is.”

The simple truth, however, is: there is no sound rationale for people having their peace disturbed seven days and seven nights a week, year in and year out. And no one should have to struggle for as long as we have tried to rid ouselves of such a nuisance.

If the ABC were truly interested in fairness they would simply reject the  application for Hamilton’s Tavern because its existence adds absolutely nothing to our neighborhood but noise and chaos.

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