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Few Clouds 39° Good Evening

For a noise dodger, silence is golden

The sounds of everyday life are more than

The sounds of everyday life are more than an earful for Fred Bruning, but he tries not to be a "noise crank" -- one of those insufferable grumps who takes personally every tap of the woodpecker and distant clatter of the passing train. Maybe he should invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones? Photo Credit: Handout

Departing recently for that great oompah band in the sky was Armand Soriano, 87, of Floral Park, the last member of the mischievous, semimusical ensemble known as the Dodger Sym-Phony that entertained at Ebbets Field from 1939 until the team left Brooklyn for Los Angeles after the 1957 season.

It was a joyful noise the five-member Sym-Phony made, all right, wandering around the stands, razzing umpires with raucous versions of "Three Blind Mice" and tormenting vanquished enemy pitchers by tooting the spooky worms-crawl-in, worms-crawl-out refrain of "The Hearse Song." When an opposing batter headed to the bench, Soriano's cymbals would crash at the precise moment backside hit the boards.

Today, things are different.

Now a trip to the ballpark requires not only a fat wallet but industrial-gauge earmuffs for sound abatement. Evidently doubting fan enthusiasm, the front office at Citi Field issues mega-decibel mandates on the jumbo stadium TV. "Every-Body-Clap-Your-Hands!" we are ordered. "Make Noise!" Sometimes a celebrity -- comedian Chris Rock, pro wrestler John Cena -- will appear on the big screen to beseech the faithful and scream, "Let's go, Mets!" A "Noise Meter" gauges results.

Here is where the old-timer, head ringing from the din, is apt to recall afternoons at Ebbets, serene by comparison, when the impish, unamplified strains of the Sym-Phony rallied the crowd, needled adversaries and saluted Jackie, Duke, Campy, Pee Wee, Newk and Gil. Again, this was in the Pleistocene epoch when the "Beer here!" bark of vendors was not overtaken by high-tech disruptions, and we didn't need a comic or wrestler to accomplish a cheer.

But, OK, enough with the reverie. It's 2015, not 1955. I get it.

Turns out, though, when I wasn't paying attention, someone jacked up the volume -- and not just at the ballpark.

Not long ago, I was waiting at a red light on Jericho Turnpike when next to my tiny Honda Fit appeared a black pickup truck with tinted windows and set of speakers roughly the size of steamship trunks.

Young people always blasted their radios, but this was something else. From the fellow's sound system roared what seemed a tactical nuclear strike -- a bass line so strong and seismic that the pickup bucked and bounced and, owing to some amazing residual effect, lifted me several times off my seat. If traffic hadn't begun to move again, the Fit and I might have been launched into space.

Subsequently, I learned that there actually are "boom car" competitions for individuals like the pickup driver and an industry devoted to serving clientele of the rolling thunder persuasion.

One Internet entry -- "How to Get Your Car Stereo Really LOUD!" -- promises a sound system to rival "catastrophic meteor events and volcanic explosions." Want a rig that will "blow out a Zippo lighter, anger your neighbors and pick up noise ordinance tickets?" No problem, says the website: "Read on!"

Noise is trending big.

You been to an indoor arcade with the grandkids lately? Crazy. Likewise the roar at many casual eating spots, especially those not granting senior discounts. One study showed that people drink more -- and chew faster -- when music is blaring, so at least the racket makes sense from a marketing standpoint. As for conversation: Pack up and head for Panera Bread.

George Prochnik, whose book "In Pursuit of Silence" examines the joys of quietude, says that even toys like the Hannah Montana Concert Collection Doll and Tickle Me Elmo belt out sound comparable to snowmobiles. Loudness is addictive, says Prochnik. "I think the environment is oversaturated with stimulation . . . ," he told Salon, the online magazine.

Still, Prochnik says, he tries not to be a "noise crank" -- one of those insufferable grumps who takes personally every tap of the woodpecker and distant clatter of the passing train. Me, too.

I am not objecting to the expectable commotion of daily life in our beloved New York and environs -- the honking and screeching and siren blare associated with big-town existence. Walking with the noontime multitudes up Eighth Avenue to Times Square from Penn Station the other day, I felt, in fact, like shouting hooray to the marvelous bedlam of it all, not that anyone would have heard.

Manufactured mayhem -- prefab noise designed to grab attention or announce importance -- that's another story. Next time some guy comes alongside in a boom car, I'll be primed. Already cued up in the Fit's CD player is one of my favorite tunes. We'll see who lasts longer when -- hats off to Simon and Garfunkel -- I go full throttle on "The Sounds of Silence."

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