Last week I wrote about the peace and quiet of La Crosse. This week I’ll go in the opposite direction and write about some of the noise. In all instances, the sounds were novel enough to be welcome.

Noisy Event No. 1
On Thursdays and Fridays, my local nature center opens its doors at 8am instead of its usual 11:00 time. If I get there before midmorning on those days, I usually have the large lobby to myself. I pour myself a cup of coffee from the center’s small refreshment counter and write at a table overlooking the marsh.

In the summers, however, the center runs weeklong nature programs. Organized activities don’t begin until 9am, but parents who have jobs can drop their kids off as early as 8:00. From 8am until 9:00, the kids are on their own. My quiet refuge turns into a schoolyard playground. 

Last Thursday two of the early arrivals invented a game where the center’s seating area became an oversized pinball machine. They would throw a tennis ball at the legs of one of the chairs and then watch the ball  ricochet off the tables and chairs. One of the kids intentionally aimed her tosses well away from me. The second one had yet to master her awkward sidearm delivery, and neither she nor I had any idea where her throws were going. Precisely at 9am, the kids were called away by the naturalist staff. The building manager then smiled at me and said, “Now both of us can get back to work.”

Noisy Event No. 2
After dinner on the same Thursday as the pinball incident, Manyu and I took Jack for a walk in Riverside Park. Usually our walks are just around the neighborhood, but sometimes we jump in the car and take a short drive to another locale. Riverside Park is La Crosse’s most popular park. It is also the only park in town where the no-dog policy isn’t enforced.

In the summer, Riverside Park hosts Moon Tunes. Every Thursday a local band plays at the band shell, and families, seniors, teenagers, and every other demographic who ordinarily would not be attending the same music venue gather on blankets and lawn chairs to watch the river, listen to the music, and eat the pizza, chili, and sandwiches sold out of a half dozen different food trucks. The quality and the genre of the music vary from week to week, but I don’t think most people even know who is playing before they get to the park. Riverside Park is just a good place to be on a warm summer evening. I listened for over an hour last week, and I can’t tell you the name of the band. I can’t even tell you whether the music was outlaw country or southern rock. I prefer Riverside Park when it is quiet, but I also like it when it rocks. 

Noisy Event No. 3
The final big sound of the week was the Blue Angels. For three days each summer, the precision flyers come to La Crosse for an annual air show. The first time that they twist and turn over the city, all of my neighbors step outside to see what’s making all of the noise. After watching the jets make a few passes, most of us go back in our houses, and the roar of the engines becomes almost, but not quite, background noise. Usually the jets fly high, just below the clouds. Sometimes they fly low enough that the sound can be felt as well as heard.

This week the Blue Angels are gone. For the rest of the summer, I will avoid the nature center until the naturalists show up to take the kids away. Most Thursdays Manyu, Jack, and I will go to Moon Tunes. It is one of the sounds of summer. 

Steven Simpson