A change from the discussions of roading and anti-roading, to talk instead about another part of urban living: the sounds of the city. Last night the people who live near the Eye of the Fish Towers in Wellington, were woken from their slumbering reverie by the pitch perfect notes of a tenor saxophone in full flirty flight – is there anything more evocative than the sound of a sax? The saxophone somehow sounds more inviting, more fulsome, more wildly sophisticated – at the same time as being raunchy and rapacious. It’s the instrument we all know from Baker Street, the instrument that was cool enough for Bill Clinton to play, without making a fool of himself. If you want to wrap your lips around anything late, late at night, you reach for the sax, and blow.
It makes a change from the usual nocturnal cacophony of drunken 14-18 year old girls, click-clacking and tottering their way along the pavements of our city, as they puke and squeal their way back to the limits of respectability. The drunken rutting roar of the incoherent beery males follows along the roads and footpaths, as the inebriated and inherently impotent young males follow the scent of their sluiced up companions up the streets, stopping only occasionally to relieve themselves in the doorways of our building.
Aaah, the pleasures of living in the city – awaking to the smell of urine and rotten cabbage from the restaurants nearby, and the early morning visits from the Waste truck who thinks that the only hour for collection must be at 5.30am. I respectfully demur – by the time the young rutters have roared their last grunt into the sky and staggered off suburbwards at 2-3am, we city-dwellers only really have a few hours before that unwelcome wakeup call at 5.30am.
Now I’m not complaining – just commenting – I’ve been swimming around cities for too long to get bothered too much by undue noise, and I doze through the noise barrier, bleary red-eyes perhaps peering piggy-like in the morning. Noisey nights? Pah! Bring on your suburban noise complaint of early Sunday lawn-mowing, and I’ll raise you a midnight jack-hammer on the roads – the only time the Council will repave the inner city highways is when we’re all asleep: we’re dispensable, while those precious roads are refurbished for the morning, daytime people.
So to me, the notes of the saxophone blasting out into the cold dark night last night were a welcome distraction – a reminder of good times in cities far away – a late night in Montmartre after an evening at the Moulin Rouge perhaps, or a seedy New York jazz bar somewhere down off 42nd Street, the sound of the a New Orleans jazz bar echoing through the French Quarter, or a late night sax session at London’s Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in the depths of Soho. There’s something about late night music that sounds just right – not for me the Doosh Doosh Doosh of the drum and bass set, speakers pumping from their sexed up Subaru.
For me, the esoteric sounds of a late night saxophonist are a pitch perfect present to let your mind wander as you slumber – its the aural equivalent of a full moon in a clear winter sky. It’s the taste of peking duck spreadeagled on a plate in Chinatown, it’s the smell of a freshly opened bottle of Coleraine slowly glugging into your glass at a table full of family and friends. A late night spent making love in front of a roasting fire on a bearskin rug, embers toasting the naked bodies of you and your loved ones. A saxophone is the music of an old black man, skin whizzened from the sun, eyes shaded from the daytime, the music of Miles: mournful notes that spell out the stories of a misspent youth. J’ ne regrette rien.
But not everyone feels the same way. My neighbour ran out into the street, howling winds and freezing temperatures nonewithstanding – and simply yelled out repeatedly at the unknown midnight marauder daring to peddle his aural perfection at 1.30 in the morning: “Shut the fuck up!!!”
Sigh. Sadly, that woke me from my reverie.