tower on the Embarcadero marks each hour across the east side of the hill.

The most commonly heard sounds beyond car and people chatter, ships coming and going in the bay, and ringing bells is the fire truck horn blaring from the engine house up the hill and passing by my corner. My street seems to be the prime access route for emergency services to the North Waterfront area. Taxi drivers also favor this street as a shortcut to the piers, thereby avoiding the perpetually congested Columbus Avenue.

I've discovered that the firehouse has been located there for well over a century now and thus have their crisis approach strategy firmly in place. It makes me feel like I'm part of the action at all times, which is one of the primary reasons for living in the city, but it also creates the annoying need to constantly increase and decrease the volume when listening to music or watching a movie.

This neighborhood is also very popular with the gas-powered, faux "cable car" trolley tours that seem to consistently ride at about half capacity. The driver gets to the exact same point in the tour speech every time the trolley reaches my corner. Since I only ever hear the last part of the bit—I'm not positive—but it seems to be some joke about the consistency of the weather in San Francisco. And then the driver rings
the little bell and continues the drive towards the wharf.

Helicopters can be heard flitting through the sky most afternoons. They fly back and forth between the bridges giving tours, reporting traffic situations, and patrolling for possible terrorist activity, while the

Feeding the parrots on Telegraph Hill

Bars and strip clubs along North Beach's Broadway
local neighborhood association fights to control the noise pollution they create.

On another level of the atmosphere, seagulls swarm overhead throughout the day—invoking Hitchcockian film still images as they call out to each other in their continuous search for the next meal.

The zoo-like quality of the neighborhood is intensified by a herd of sea lions floating on the docks at Pier 39 a few blocks away who bark and grunt desperately. A flock of wild parrots squawk chaotically over the
city's rooftops, sounding much more like flying monkeys than little green birds. According to some neighbors, the parrots have been living and breeding in the city for about 30 years, making the rounds between the Embarcadero and the Presidio each day. As they keep breeding, the sound of their flock rises in volume, causing the most incredible chattering sensation when passing overhead.

As the fog pours into the bay at night, the city gains another sound dimension with the low, dull droning of fog horns shattering through the thick wall of mist. The reason for hearing the horns is simultaneously comforting and foreboding, as their job is to prevent ships from smashing into the rocks.

The bars close at 2 a.m. and the parade of drunken bar patrons and party-goers begins around 1 a.m., staggering back along the Barbary Coast to wherever they came from. Having only lived in North Beach for the past year, I can't say exactly what it would have sounded like in other eras. Since the soundscape derives from the landscape and its inhabitants, it definitely would have lacked some of the modern noises we hear today—but it's also reassuring that some things never change.
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