July 05, 2002

When I came home on Wednesday there were letters tucked under the doors of all the apartments on my floor (and presumably all the apartments in the building), and I thought, "Uh oh - someone's been too noisy on the roof again." But the letters weren't from the building manager, they were from a resident, and they were titled "The Rage of Achilles."

As the author explained in his opening sentence: "In The Illiad (A Story Of Troy known as Illium) Achilles slays the Trojan Hero Hector through accessing his tremendous rage and the help of the goddess Aphrodite."

True enough, but I mostly remember Achilles as the guy who threw a hissy fit and wouldn't leave his tent because he didn't get the slave girl of his choice when the Greeks were dividing up the spoils of war. But back to the letter:

"As you may be aware a group of evildoers has decided that our beloved corner...belongs to them. I have no goddess only rage. This must not stand. Just as we defeated the Taliban we will also defeat those minions of evil. Evil triumphs when good people do nothing."

Yipes. What could possibly justify that kind of heated rhetoric? Human sacrifice?

Nope. Noise, and drug dealing. In order of importance, as near as I could tell from the letter.

Now I agree that screaming couples, howling drunks, and loud music pouring out of cars at 3:00 a.m. are bad, bad, bad. I myself once hollered at a pack of sorority chicks and their frat beaux who were yapping loudly under my window in the wee hours. Neverthless, I'm generally resigned to the fact that living downtown means living with noise. Cities are loud - that isn't anything new. Does my neighbor think the citizens of Troy enjoyed peace and quiet? (Damn Greeks and their noisy siege! Keep it down out there!)

The drug dealing issue is more complex. The letter is trying to convince "nice people like us" (shiver) to call the police so the dealers will get off our corner and stop creating / attracting so much noise. It's not especially concerned with where the dealers go after that. Which means that eventually the good citizens of another neighborhood will rally, call the cops, and get the dealers moved back to our corner. At which point I fully expect find another NIMBY letter with racist overtones at my door.

But I'm hoping my neighbor doesn't stop with the Rage of Achilles. I'd like to see him devote his energy, concerned citizenship, and classical allusions to a whole Illiad-inspired series: The Madness of Ajax (the local convenience stores charge too much for a pint of Ben and Jerry's!), The Cunning of Odysseus (someone keeps using my laundry soap!), The Big Stinky Wound of Philoctetes (minions of evil are putting plastic bags in the glass recycling bin!!).