Kin Lane

Cities Are So Loud

It took me the last five years to realize why cities were so loud to me. It wasn’t just the cars, people, and other activities. It was me. It was how I had been raised to see what a city was by my elders, by the news, and by Hollywood. No single city is the same. They possess a diverse mix of people, cultures, and personalities, but I’d say 90% of my views of cities were the same. They were loud, noisy, dirty, dangerous, and something that always overloaded my senses. There was just no peace of mind in the city, and one needed to be out in the country, far away from the hustle and bustle, otherwise you’d never be able have a clear head. Something that changed once I began actually spending more time living in cities, getting to know people, and more importantly beginning to get to know myself, and better understanding that the reason or the loudness of cities was programmed in my head over the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.

I have known there was more to cities being loud than what my eyes saw, but I didn’t fully start unpacking this until I moved to New York City in 2017. I remember sitting in the window of my 3rd story walk-up listening to the sounds and watching the people. I remember thinking how encounter after encounter was a potential confrontation because it was loud, intense, and primarily between two people of color. Where almost everyone of them ended in some elaborate handshake, hug, or dance of some sort as the two parted ways. It was August, and the neighborhood was a boiling pot of honking, people yelling, fire trucks and ambulances responding to emergencies, and much, much, more. By September things settled down for me. I felt more at home. I knew that every confrontation on the street in from of my apartment between two individuals wasn’t a fight, and I began seeing more of this people as what they were, human beings. They weren’t some character out of a 1970s movie I had seen, and as reality set in, I began learning to love the sounds. Enjoy the chatter and rhythm of the people in my neighborhood. My neighborhood began looking like a small, friendly, and colorful place to be instead of just a loud noisy slice of this huge unfriendly city who didn’t know anything about me.

Since then I have lived in Seattle, and now Oakland. Each with their own set of noises and personalities. Oakland is the one I am most familiar with being a dark and noisy place. Today, I adore Oakland. I love its personality. I enjoy the people on the street–even the loud and noisy ones. I love the mix of music that drives, walks, and bikes by my window each day. Again, I remember the first day I walked up the 19th Street BART station to view our potential apartment-—before COVID-19 hit the world. The streets were noisy, intense, and very brown and black. Today, it is home. It is comfortable. It’s my neighborhood. I am different than the first day I visited, and from every day in the past that I had drove or walked the streets of Oakland. It isn’t that Oakland is quieter than before, it is that my head and heart are quieter than before. I’ve grown. I’ve opened my eyes, mind, and heart. I’ve done a lot of the hard work to de-program myself from all that I was bombarded with via television and movies in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. I had gotten a glimpse of just how different Oakland was in the late 1980s when I started attending Grateful Dead shows here, but I didn’t see what a beautiful place it was until recently. I didn’t see that it was just people living life…until recently. I hadn’t spent enough time down on the street getting to know the community, and I hadn’t done enough work on myself to allow me to even see everyone as people.

Don’t get me wrong. Cities can still be loud, but so can rural communities. As I have learned, cities are just loud for many more diverse reasons than rural communities are. For me, it has been about acknowledging that loudness is something I hear and interpret. Loudness is relative to my reality. There is a sort of loudness out there, and there is a loudness that is within my head–something that has taken me many years to unpack. Being able to separate that this is more about me than it is about the city or the country, has been healing for me. It took me going back to many of the remote locations I knew growing up, but as a 40+ year old adult to learn that silence can be just as deafening as noise can be. Realizing that the voices in my head up in the mountains along a rural lake can be just as painful as being on the corner of Broadway and 103rd in New York City busted this all open for me. Peace of mind or lack of was all me. It was all about what I had been programmed with watching the news and crime dramas for 40 years. It was life changing for me to live in New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles, and now Oakland, and it is something I am super thankful for, and will keep tuning into so I can hear all the goodness in the cracks.