First Person / Silent nights: All is quiet here in Swissvale

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I sometimes think my street is too quiet.

After more than 20 years in Shadyside I got used to street noise, then I moved to Swissvale and discovered I liked it.

My old neighborhood was never quiet. Rumbling traffic, clattering trains, church bells, people coming, going, talking, partying or just playing music too loud. That was the soundtrack to my life in Shadyside.

Here in Swissvale, we have brief bouts of sound in the morning and evening. The rest of the time, it is very, very quiet.

In the summer, you'll hear the soft growl of a lawn mower or a hedge trimmer. Since the end of June there have been fireworks. I think somebody must have bought out a dealer. I'm still hearing bottle rockets going pop fizzz! when the sun goes down.

Otherwise it's as quiet here as it always is.

We have our share of riffraff in Swissvale, but they seem to be quiet riffraff. Once in a while there will be a shouting match on my street. It usually ends when someone mentions calling the police.

There is a group of young people on one corner who give discreetly noisy parties now and then. Nobody complains, as they end at a reasonable hour, and the young people are otherwise good neighbors.

Around 9:30 p.m. last Saturday, my street was very quiet indeed. The young people were partying someplace else. The fireworks were over for the night. Anyone who was anywhere else hadn't come home yet.

Around 10:30 p.m. last Saturday, my street was still quiet. There was a man sitting out on his porch, talking on his cell phone. Which is hardly excitement, even here.

I mention this because a few of my friends had suggested there might be trouble in the neighborhood if George Zimmerman were acquitted. One of them even told me to head for my sister's place in North Carolina until things quieted down. My sister lives out in the country where things would, in theory, be safe.

My sister also is, presently, looking for work. I didn't think she'd appreciate a visit.

Anyway, she has a flock of chickens, including seven roosters that start crowing at first light and stop when the sun sets. She has an obnoxious Schnoodle with a fondness for barking and a taste for underwear. Then there's her Great Pyrenees, who doesn't bark as often, but when she does, she can be heard for miles.

The frogs croak all night. One of her friends owns a demon disguised as a pug dog that visits occasionally. All in all, I figured my home would be a lot more peaceful, and so far that's how it's been.

When the Zimmerman verdict came down, some of my neighbors called their friends, tweeted on Twitter, posted on Facebook or made an old-fashioned phone call.

No windows were broken, no fires were set, no shots were fired.

There have been rallies in Pittsburgh. Trouble free.

Many people, myself included, think that the acquittal of George Zimmerman was a miscarriage of justice, but despite that and despite what some commentators on Fox News said, protests have been peaceful.

Perhaps people understand that two wrongs don't make a right. Destroying a neighborhood wouldn't change the verdict.

Perhaps it's a benefit of social media. The Internet is a spectacular place to vent. Countless people, many of them strangers, many of them in places you could visit only if you won the lottery, can read your views. Even better, they know that they are your views, not those of some usual suspect on the six o'clock news.

So my street echoes with the sounds of silence.

For the first time since I moved here, I appreciate that.

My street got very noisy when the Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl. I wonder if it will be as loud if the Pirates win the pennant. I hope I get to find out.


Jean Martin is a writer living in Swissvale (


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