The six hours I spent in the studio yesterday were a snarling, jangled mess of assertions piled on top of counter-assertions, each increasingly aggressive. At least I felt it so. Hilarious after the fact, maddening at the time.


Howard Stern through the floor boards loud enough to be sitting beside me, interspersed with the high pitched whine of a planer, a table saw, a power sander. My rebuttal was Geoffrey Oreyema, Rokia Traore, Mychael Danna, Joni Mitchell and when those ran out Allegria, Elton John, Beatles, Carole King, Supertramp, Queen, Raconteurs… played through my little portable speaker, tethered from me at two feet.


Months ago I met my downstairs neighbour in the hallway and presented the noise bleed problem in my space, then asked if we could find a way that we can both get our work done in some mutually agreed peace. He  suggested somewhat aggressively that I move to a different studio where there is less noise. I said actually I’m fine with the power tools, it’s the radio that is super distracting – would you consider moving it to another place in the studio? Turning it down? No I use my loud radio to work, so deal with it or move somewhere else…

Right. No chance for collaboration there.

Hmmm. Was it my approach? Maybe so.


Without putting much thought into it, I simply migrate my hours to late afternoon through evenings, after he and his staff are done for the day (they leave the radio on when they leave, but at least it’s turned down). Or I go in on weekends, when they’re there for only half days mostly. I’m here in Hamilton to build a new art practice after all, and though I do my best work in the mornings, perhaps I can use that time for writing and research at home. Worth a try.

In the overlapping hours with Howard invading I affectionately name the downstairs man of the radio volume ‘Dude’. I start at 5am on a Saturday, he arrives at 6 and turns HS back up to 11. Wow, Dude. Really?

Okay then, here we go.


This works middling well until I have painting deadlines, as I do this month. Lots of deadlines. I’m sure Dude has deadlines too. So we play sound chess, or at least I do. If I’m struggling with myself over a painting my tolerance levels are low, which means Dude wins, gets my goat. He has Howard Stern on his team; I have a little portable speaker. I play with schedule strategies, pull an all-nighter & nap during the day, but this is not sustainable.

I now know WAY too much about Stern and his brand of toxic. He’s with me in my space all day, mocking his guests, humming (tunelessly) through the music he plays, picking fights with his female co-announcers until they shriek at him, sounding always reasonable, sometimes slightly wounded by the things he just doesn’t grok, perpetually dominant and resonant through his excellent microphone with the bass turned way up. Nauseatingly predictable, ugh. I have no trouble expressing my dislike of misogynist white male bully boy wannabe gorilla Howard Stern though it feels like wasted breath; he likely thrives on my kind of criticism.


I do have trouble transferring this dislike to Dude downstairs, so it’s tricky to know where to put the tension that builds in my one-way relationship with Stern. Reminds me of another studio with a shared wall, through which Penny Lane was played, on repeat, for weeks and weeks and weeks. Sometimes accompanied by badly improvised drums from a full kit. My appreciation for The Beatles was permanently damaged, and I’m not at all sure I handled that experience well.

How is this one best managed?

A buddhist would likely call it an opportunity to go within and learn something useful but I’d much rather throw something. Like a tantrum.


I pay for a work space in a shared building, so does Dude. I work best when there’s a reasonable amount of activity around me that I can sense and hear, great folks I can connect with in the hallway & at lunch. Good boundaries – a door I can close when I need to focus. Music informs and enriches my space, but not so loudly played that it dominates. After many years of studio practice with varyingly successful degrees of flow I understand some things about what works, and also that these requirements may well be perceived as entitlement. Who does she think she is.

I love the space I have, I love Hamilton and the people in it – all the elements I need are here…. with the added bonus of Dominant, Intrusive Mr. Stern.

Perhaps convenient to your need for something to fixate on, suggests the buddhist, but I know that’s rubbish. I couldn’t possibly be creating this myself.


Dude’s work requires constant, soul-numbing power tool use, and on top of that he runs his business, must be courteous to over-demanding customers (I hear these conversations and also the string of expletives after the phone is put down), promote, market, source, deliver, design, adjust, and keep the whole thing running in support of  family and staff. It’s no wonder he’s edgy with stress and needs Howard to shore up his sense of …. entitlement?

I arrived home at my lovely apartment to find a black truck in my spot, so parked my car on the street – not a problem, I like my downstairs neighbours a lot. They’ve just added a new baby to their family and so there are many folks visiting – hence the truck. As I walked past it I saw a red Make America Great Again cap on the dashboard, logo facing out.

The owner of the truck was on the other side of the front door as I opened it. He apologized for parking in my spot and tried to make polite conversation but I found myself frozen, monosyllabic. Once inside for the first time I locked my door while home, against invisible, baffling hatred.


I read that by now 70,000 children of migrants have been separated from their parents in the USA. The art world is up to their eyeballs in this too;  One of the board members for the Museum of Modern Art owns and profits from the detention centres where migrants are held. Also on the board is Stephen Tannenbaum, who owns 2+ billion in Puerto Rican debt. Undocumented veterans who have fought with the American military have now been deported. This is MAGA. This is white corporate entitlement, backed by power.

I don’t like this mirror at all, but it’s right in front of me. In fact, I’ve just allowed it to dominate my entire morning, damnit. That’s toxic too.

I don’t want to throw anything any more.

I want to look straight into my own white entitlement and find a different way to answer. With my body. With Art.