Rockin' the hood

Draft of a note to be delivered to every household on our block:

Dear neighbors,

We're terribly sorry, but our 14-year-old son has taken up the electric guitar.

We recognize that our quiet neighborhood may never be the same. But we believe music education is important to a child's development, and we more or less forced him to choose an instrument.

Naturally, he selected the electric guitar. It's the weapon of choice in the culture wars exemplified by his favorite music.

This kid rocks around-the-clock to bands so loud and aggressive, his room sounds like a busy afternoon in Baghdad. Not only does he enjoy contemporary acts of thunder-and-screaming, but he's very much into punk music recorded before he was born, acts such as the Dead Kennedys and the Sex Pistols.

He already dressed the part of a punk rocker, complete with studded belts and black sneakers and a jacket covered in safety pins. His room usually looks like the aftermath of a post-concert party. And, rock music is the only way to explain why he wears his hair that way. All he needed to complete the image was a guitar.

So, as an early Christmas gift, he got a gold-colored knock-off of the famed Fender Stratocaster, an amplifier and a year of weekly music lessons.

Along with this bounty, we gave him specific instructions to keep the amp turned down low. We carefully police his in-home performances for high decibel levels, but we're not always here and we won't be surprised if, one day, we come home to find he's blown all the windows out of the house with one overamped power chord.

For this, let us apologize in advance. We only hope this amplified attack doesn't take out your windows, too. Or your ability to hear.

You, our neighbors, have been very understanding in the past. You never said a word when our younger son started playing the piano. You sat mum through those warm summer nights when the windows were open and he played "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" a record 937 times in a row.

But a piano's no electric guitar. While a piano can be loud, particularly in the hands of an excitable 11-year-old, it can't reach down the street and poke out the ears of unwary passers-by like a fully cranked-up guitar.

In our defense, it could've been worse. Our older son could've settled upon a band instrument instead of his golden guitar. The trumpet, say, or a honking saxophone. At least, with an electric guitar, there's always the option of pulling his plug if the noise becomes unbearable. Try that with a trumpet sometime.

Of course, with a budding guitarist and a keyboard player in the house, there's the possibility the boys will put aside their usual differences and form a "garage band." Should this tragedy occur, we will alert you to the rehearsals ahead of time, so you can make plans to go somewhere quieter, such as a monster truck rally.

If the "music" emanating from our house ever becomes too much to tolerate, we ask that you don't call the police. Please contact us instead. Just stop by the house and let us know.

We promise we'll take your objections in the neighborly way they're intended, and we will sheepishly take remedial action.

Assuming we can hear you ringing the doorbell.

With our sincere regrets,

The Brewers

(Editor's note: Nearly five years after this column first appeared, our older son not only still plays the guitar, he's thinking about majoring in music. He's into a more acoustic, Grateful Dead sort of sound now, better for begging spare change.)


Erin said...

If the neighbors are annoyed by electric guitar, I suggest borrowing a full drum kit for a few days. Nothing will make them appreciate a little Grateful Dead like a 20-minute, stucco-shaking drum solo.


To their credit, the neighbors have never actually complained. Very understanding people, our neighbors.

Uncle E said...

Sounds like your son has excellent taste! The Dead Kennedy's (or, if you're hip, the DK's), were a great band. Their singer, Jello Biafra, ran and almost won his bid for Mayor of SF.
Might I suggest the following vintage punk bands from the late 70's and early 80's for your son to investigate, just to add to your pain? D.O.A., SNFU, NOMEANSNO, FOrgotten Rebels and Black Flag.
Be original! Be an anarchist!
Of sourse you'll have to dress the same, listen to the same music, have the same political ideals...