I lived pretty quietly for most of the 13 years that I rented out this studio apartment in Berkeley. Cartoonists aren’t known as hell-raisers, after all. But the last year I was there, I started to get a little wild. I had recorded this CD of Berkeley street music and I had started hanging out with all with all these crazy street musicians. And I started having all these wild jam sessions in my apartment. We’d all be under the influence of every possible combinations of drugs and alcohol. So it could get a little off-the-wall. And loud. I had this Peavey amp that I bought from one street musician for 50 bucks worth a crack, and it had a great heavy metal fuzz-tone sound, and I wasn’t averse to cranking it up to 11 every now and then.
But the problem was my upstairs neighbor. And when we got too loud — especially late at night — he wasn’t averse to pounding on my ceiling to express his displeasure.
So I would try to cool it. I could understand his feelings after all, and was sympathetic towards his plight. Hell, I would have gone nuts if I had a downstairs neighbor like me.
But some nights I just couldn’t help it. We were all just having too much fun, and we didn’t want the party to ever end. Plus, the people I was hanging with were a pretty feral bunch, and I really couldn’t contain them once they got it going. And their attitude was: “FUCK THAT GUY!!” And they’d start playing even louder. One night it got so raucous, my upstairs neighbor actually called the cops on us.
So the next day I paid a visit to my neighbor to see if we could work out some kind of an agreement. He was a blandly non-descript middle-aged guy, maybe a couple years older than me. And his apartment looked like some little old granny lived there. Everything was neat and spotless and every little nick-nack was exactly in place (as opposed to the trashed-out bohemian splendor of my place).
He explained that he had to get up for work early every morning to some job he hated. On top of that he was going through a messy divorce and dealing with child support issues. And now all my noise was ruining his final little bit of refuge — the peace and quiet of his home life.
The irony was, it turned out he had once played in a rock band himself. They were on the same record label as the Residents — this well-known avant-garde San Francisco art rock band. And they had even went on a world tour with the Residents. So you gotta figure he had experienced a little ROCK’N’ROLL wildness himself. But I guess those days were behind him now.
I told him I understood. And I made a sincere effort to keep it down after that.
Shortly after that, I packed up my Peavey amp and the rest of my stuff, sublet my apartment, and hit the streets. I realized I had become too wild myself to handle the constraints of normal, domestic existence. I wanted to stay up way past midnight and howl at the moon. And that’s what I ended up doing.