Monday, June 23, 2008

Croatians and guns

Every neighborhood, every home, has its sounds. Take our last neighborhood, for example: the summer sounds from that house's porch and yard were little owls hoo-ing in the evenings, peepers peeping on occasion, the crack of the bat from a nearby baseball field, and multi-ton dump trucks lumbering by in the pre-dawn… Well, that’s a story for another post. Actually, for a novel, if I can ever be sufficiently distanced to write it without reliving it psychologically.

But the house we’re in now has its own orchestra, especially when the months turn warm. And on weekends, you’re almost guaranteed to hear gunshots intermingled with Croatians shouting and singing.

The first time I detected the gunfire, I was concerned. Guns? Why so close? And not just any guns—these shots sounded like they’d come from cannons. We found out from a next-door neighbor that there’s a sportsman’s club on the opposing hill, pretty much right across from our own hill—as the crow flies, probably about a half mile away. And apparently, it’s quite a popular place. The weeks leading up to deer season were so peppered with not-so-distant shots that I felt like Scarlett O’Hara in Atlanta, awaiting the Yanks.

But ah, in summer, the whole soundscape gains a new layer of madness. Shortly after we’d noticed all the shooting, we spent an entire Sunday afternoon listening to a mysterious and invisible band play an odd, faraway assortment of 80s pop and strange ethnic music, mixed with what sounded like the background of the pig roast in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” I could almost detect foreign instruments and words in the lyrics, and we were positively flummoxed.

Thank goodness for neighbors with a clue; the young man down the street was kind enough, as we strolled by one evening, to inform us that in addition to the sportsman's club with firing range, there is also a Croatian club on the hill opposite us. Apparently, the two organizations are not related, simply juxtaposed to each other and to our little neighborhood across the way… but you wouldn’t know they are separate entities merely from listening, especially on a warm, sunny weekend when the Croatians are living it up and the sportsmen are shooting every spare round they can load. The shots, the unfamiliar whining music and loud voices, each floats across the low road, joins together, and drifts up through the trees as one weird soundtrack.

And that is the auditory essence of a summer weekend here on my back patio. Croatians, with guns, belting out lusty tunes as they take potshots at each other like a bunch of Slavs from feuding families. Or at least that’s what I picture when I hear the disturbing yet amusing melody.

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