There is one phrase we would run into constantly while apartment hunting – a phrase that would always put a clammy hand on my heart. The phrase was: its very quiet. Invariably, as we were being shown around this or that apartment in Los Angeles, which when last I looked held more than 2 million people, the selling point of quiet would come up. I’d immediately have a Gaslight flashback, the Victorian medical man with the florid moustache hiding his louche London night life of underage prostitutes and gambling under the veneer of the vest, suit, and checkbook, bringing his Ingrid Bergmanesque wife, a quiet lass, to his suburban retreat. He’s a strong advocate of vivisection, this guy, and the streets all about have suffered a mysterious epidemic of dognapping that has made them even quieter. Ingrid, of course, is diagnosed by her husband as needing rest and quiet - o so much quiet. She needs to eat the unpalatable gruel brought by the serving girl who shows a little too much bodice…
Such, at least, are my associations. In truth, I am not a naïve – I know race code when I hear it, and often quiet simply means that no person of color is going to flood the zone with the oeuvres complets of Biggie Smalls at 2 in the morning. We are, the subtitles in this conversation go, among us white folk. This in itself is rather disgusting. But the subtext is not the full text, for there is something in being quiet – in the quiet of “the country in the city” (also a phrase that was thrown at us) which is utterly sincere. You may live in the city, but who wants to, well, live in the city?
As a matter of fact, I do. One of the small, tangible joys of our apartment in Paris is hearing, from our bed, the faint noise of people in cafes coming in through the window. Singing, or conversing loudly, or just being generally drunk and happy. This to me makes me feel, romantically, like I am living in the great city, the mecca for those with more boho tastes. Of course, it is the Marais, so boho is pretty fake, but still.
Last night, after our exhausting two week troll through the ads, and after having had our credit checked out, our intestines measured, and our criminal record examined by Interpol, the Pinkertons, and the NSA, we finally were able to settle into our living quarters here on 9th street in Santa Monica for our first night. It was a great night, partly because Adam seemed to love sleeping here (a sure sign!) and partly because you could hear the noise of traffic on Wilshire, which is the next street up. The sea breeze was blowing – a bit too much, we have to get a thicker coverlet! – and there was a city quiet entering the room.
In actuality, country quiet is not a noiseless matter of people shutting themselves in houses and closing the door – it is a matter of horses neighing, dogs barking, coyotes howling in the distance (I was living in Pecos, New Mexico at the time – plenty of coyotes) and, of course, the occasional drunk wandering home from our local bar, the so called “bloody bow” – the Rainbow Club. Of course, that occasional drunk was sometimes yours truly, but still.