Off Topic: How bad neighbors degrade quality of life. Or---the project that never ends.

We are fortunate enough to live in one of the nicest and most sought after areas in Austin, Texas, itself one of the most alluring cities in the U.S. just now. We bought our house nearly 20 years ago when property and houses were much less costly --- by a long shot. When we first moved into the neighborhood it was a sleepy, quiet place and the big excitement of the week was when the garbage trucks would roll in to pick up the trash. It stayed that way for a long time.

It was heaven for a writer/photographer working from a studio on the same property as the house. The professional people who lived around us took off for work in downtown Austin in the morning and rolled back in the evening. I could look out into a wall of trees and write quietly for hours.

Then we became a city on the fast track to something else and our neighborhood became the "must live" area because our schools were rated (academically) #1 in Texas and #7 in the country. About seven years ago people started buying perfectly good houses and tearing them down to the dirt in order to build much bigger and more expensive houses. Huge houses. Most of this was happening a block or two away from our street so it only impacted me when I walked Studio Dog.

But the frenzy continued and the prices continued to skyrocket so that now, whether or not there is a house on the lot, the price is nearly $1 million per. Crazy money.  House after house has gone down only to be replaced by someone's wet dream of a perfect house. Most with all the good taste of an Atlantic City casino.

About 18 months ago the long time neighbors in the six bedroom, rambling house next door sold their place to a couple whose business seems to be flipping properties. And they've left a trail of neighbors in various parts of the area who seem to uniformly dislike them because of the way they work.

They allegedly cut corners. They try to get away with bending the rules. And they use the most sinister looking subs they can find. The biggest problem though is that they seem to do stuff in fits and starts so the construction of new work goes in stops and and starts. It's unpredictable.

It all started when the enormous, industrial dumpster arrived at 6:30am in their driveway. The unloading of this Moby Dick sized dumpster could have been mistaken for a small earthquake. Over the course of the next three months we enjoyed the dulcet tones of jackhammers, air chisels and sledgehammers as they dismantled the existing house. In true Texas "entrepreneurial" fashion they left enough of the foundation and one wall. For permitting purposes, presumably.

In addition to the symphony of power tools and front end loaders we were privileged to hear the portable radios of all the sub contractors belting out  whatever droll country and western crap was currently on the airwaves. No open windows at our house in what would have been a very pleasant Spring...  Nearly every day I would walk up my driveway to the street and try to explain to contractors in giant pick-up trucks why they could not park directly across my private driveway. Sometimes I got to do this many times a day. For months at a time.

Occasionally the jackhammering would stop to make way for the cement trucks which came accompanied by the cement pumping trucks and they would pound away slurping cement via hoses to almost inaccessible parts of the new construction.

At each point of completion we'd relax a bit, thinking the endless ordeal was over, only to be woken up a week later by some new early, loud ritual of construction. When I complained to the new owner about the city noise ordinances he made all the right gestures and nods which led me to believe he understood what I was saying only to be treated to 6 am Sunday morning recitals of Jackhammer suites. Sometimes solo and sometimes accompanied by rock saws.

Finally the house was complete and the new neighbors/owners moved into the house. This was less than six months ago, more than a year after the start of the project. We thought we were done with the endless  sonic and logistic abuse. But no. The next thing up on the agenda was the demolition of an old swimming pool and the construction of a new, three level, much more ornate pool. Cue the jackhammers. Cue the rock cutters. Cue the cement trucks.

Two weeks ago a sub-contractor's crew showed up to do the rock work and within a day our cars and the side of our house were covered by white rock dust. The creation of which comes with it's own piercing soundtrack. Seems that there are OSHA rules that mandate dust control when cutting materials containing silica but the pool contractor didn't think the safety rules applied to his crew. And especially not in Texas. I spoke with an OSHA agent who sent me the right written materials about the federal rules and we quickly shared them with the contractor.  That seemed to have worked for a while.

But just before the pool work started the new neighbors moved out, which required three moving trucks and two days of frenetic activity. Now the house is empty and I've been told that it had been sold. See tax statutes about inhabiting a residence for 18 months to prevent the payment of capital gains taxes....

This new wrinkle has accelerated pool construction and seems to have engendered a whole new jackhammering project on the driveway, which is adjacent to ours. The first pick up trucks arrive around 7 am and the jackhammering commences shortly afterwards. The noise is such that even with Led Zeppelin playing through my Stax headphones I can't quit shut it out.

My wife advises that I "let it go" when I complain but she gets to leave the neighborhood in the morning, work in a cushy office, in a downtown high rise, and then return just as the last of a never ending rotation of anonymous and highly scruffy workers drives off.

I don't know how much longer I will be able to take the noise before I crack and become completely  irrational and unable to work. Whether intentionally or just as a by product of their avarice the buyers (now sellers) are quickly making the enjoyment of my own property nearly impossible during daylight hours. My only hope is that the new buyers will like everything about their new purchase just the way it is and are not buying this multi-million dollar property as another in an escalating series of "premium tear downs" where they drop major cash and then spend another 18 months re-doing everything all over again,  in their own "unique vision."

Do I write this just to complain? No, I write it by way of explanation and as excuse for any shortcomings in my writing performance you may be perceiving here on the blog. I blame all typos, all grammatical imperfections and all poorly thought out blog posts on the intellect reducing effects of construction noise. The lack of continuity of thought I blame on having to walk up the driveway in sporadic intervals to move errant vehicles from our right of way.

I have learned some valuable lessons (again): Things change. Economic booms have unwanted consequences. Many people have no empathy for their neighbors. It's hard to be creative when you can't hear yourself think. Construction is a shitty business. Tax laws need to be changed. Police do a poor job enforcing noise ordinances. Perth Australia looks like a fun place to live.

We've talked about all this at home, at length. If the house on the other side of us goes up for sale we're renting out our property for the duration of the inevitable sacking and re-building, and living somewhere quiet and interesting. Somewhere without the traffic. Somewhere without the rampant sense of entitlement that leads people to build 2,000 square feet of house per family member. Someplace where early morning jackhammers and rock saws with no silica dust abatement are illegal.

And to keep this rant remotely tangential to photography, after listening to the jackhammers everyday for a week I sympathize with the users of that first generation of Sony A7 and A7R cameras. #shutternoise?

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