I live within short walking distance of the beach. The distance is so short that on particularly quiet nights – if the wind is right – I can hear the waves from my bedroom window.
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Most of the time, though, I hear trains (if you watch my Patreon pitch video you can hear one squealing past at the very end), planes, and – in the long summer evenings – small-capacity motorcycles and scooters being ridden to smithereens. The latter occasionally prompts the accompanying sound of a police siren chasing the offending two-wheeler up and down the relatively straight roads that run to the beach.
The bikes and scooters generally belong to teenagers. You can buy a 50cc shrieker for £800 brand new. Half that amount will still bag you a vehicle that runs well enough to get you from the beach to the 24-hour McDonalds about 3 miles down the road. The Domino’s, about a mile and a half away, is another popular hangout spot.
The cleverest of the kids mod their machines to make them even more obnoxious at full throttle, so you can actually hear them coming and going the whole way. As I sit here at my desk, window open, I can audibly track at least two of them making a little circuit – racing each other. Ffordd y Milleniwm to Hood Road, onto Broad Street, then fast as they can down the straight of Harbor Road to the beach.
In the middle of the day, it’s just noise – another sound to mix with the construction of new houses nearby, those trains and planes, and so on – but I’ll admit that at night it can get a wee bit tiresome. Lying in bed at midnight listening to a faraway 125cc engine on the verge of exploding, you do kind of wish they’d go home. And it’s these kids that my neighbors always want to talk about when they see me out washing my bike.
“They’re awful,” said a woman walking her dog recently. “So disrespectful.”
There’s this one kid who has a bike that looks a lot like a MV Agusta F3 from a distance. A cheap one, with a single-cylinder engine, but still pretty stylish for what is almost certainly a bodged-together Chinese machine. He has managed to do something to the exhaust so as to make it impossibly loud – louder than you’d ever imagine a 125cc capable of being.
The other night, I lie in bed listening to him circle the town, the sound of his bike never completely fading away. I felt annoyed for a few seconds, then I thought of what I would have been doing when I was 17 on the same sort of night.
My friends and I would often pile into the 1969 Ford F100 pickup I had bought for $400 and go “shopping cart hunting.” We would drive to the local Target after closing time and look for a shopping cart that had been left out in the parking lot. Once we’d spotted one, one of us would begin narrating the action as if in a nature film while I killed the lights and slowly drove toward the cart. When we got about 15 feet from the cart I would hit the brights and floor the accelerator, crashing the truck into the shopping cart.
In the modern Era of Outrage, people would probably label us as terrible human beings and the whole thing would result in our being expelled from school and ostracized. There would probably be some sort of hashtag activism that would make sure we were hated in countries we had never even heard of. But in the sweet comfort of the mid-1990s we thought we were hilarious.
And lying there in my bed, listening to the sound of that overstressed 125 bounce through this small post-industrial town, I could suddenly remember the unfettered joy of my teenage summers.
Those disrespectful kids on their cheap Chinese machines, terrorizing your dog and disrupting your sleep, are simply living their lives. Right now every girl is beautiful. Every joke is funny. Every road is exciting. Every night is perfect. And there’s nothing to do – no stress, no worry, no fear – but live.
Here’s hoping they remember these nights, and take it easy on the kids who tear through their town 20 years from now.