Scale: Turn off the music

Kearney is blessed with many caring, selfless, generous people. Look no further than the $1.93 million raised at the 11th annual Give Where You Live Thursday. Alas, even perfection has a flaw or two.







Mary Jane Scala


A few weeks ago I headed to the World Theater to see King Coal, a documentary about the declining Appalachian coal industry. I wanted to explore my roots.

My grandparents were born in Beattyville, Kentucky. My grandfather worked as a miner for a year or two, but he hated working underground, so with his young wife, baby, cow and pig, he headed north to Ohio for a better life.

At a family reunion in Kentucky 35 years ago, we piled into cars and drove deep into the mountains to find our roots. The half-timbered house where my grandmother was born and raised burned down long ago, but we found the well, along with a rusty car from the 1950s.

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That afternoon we climbed up a small ravine looking for the hidden graves of Milton Rhodes Boone and Patty Akers, my great-great-grandparents, and my great-great-grandmother Ella Eva Boone and others. (Yes, Boone, as in Daniel. He’s an uncle from generations ago.) Their humble headstones were hidden under ivy.

I went to the World to be transported back to Appalachia for an hour or two.

I parked in front of MONA, but as soon as I opened the car door I was assaulted by blaring country music. It struck like a thunderbolt.

When I recovered, I wondered where it came from. MONA is closed for renovations, and nearby shops and the tattoo parlor were closed. Nothing was open except the World Theatre.

Then I remembered that the city had decided to play music on Central Avenue day and night. As this music played, I got angry. What is the purpose of this racket? Friday nights at The World, especially in winter, have their own magic. This music is like the twirl of a sledgehammer amidst the stillness and tranquility.

Frowning, I began to think about those colored lights that change hues every few minutes and on Kearney’s water towers. What’s wrong with plain white lights? This costume change every few minutes is a waste of money. Yes, money. My money — and yours, too. We pay the taxes to fund these lights.

Who even cares about the color wheel of water towers, especially this time of year? It’s cold at night and there’s no one outside at this time of year anyway except drivers and dog walkers.

Back to that music in the center. At Christmas, some cities sing carols in their shopping districts. Walking down Central Avenue this time of year and hearing Michael Bublé and Bing Crosby singing holiday tunes doesn’t bother me. But not at night, please, especially in parts of downtown that only get a handful of visitors after dark.

Alas, we are captives of noise everywhere. Airports, shopping malls, grocery stores, discount stores, restaurants, medical offices. Whatever it is, there’s music. It’s so prevalent that some Gen Zers can’t stand silence and need white noise to fall asleep.

Background music takes a polite place in the background, but in restaurants and wedding receptions it’s pushed to the forefront. At wedding receptions this damn music blares so loudly that we guests have to lean in close and shout in each other’s ears to have a conversation. It’s not fun.

I once asked a bar owner why the music was so loud and he just looked at me. He couldn’t think of a reason. Finally, he muttered, “It’s what the people want.” I suspect he just can’t hear the pleas to turn it down.

Now the so-called background music has made its way to the top spots in Kearney as well. If individual stores choose to play music inside, fine, but we don’t need it outside. Kearney has a thriving downtown. The shops, not the music or lack thereof, are what bring people downtown.

Which brings me back to the movie in The World. There were only nine of us in the theater tonight, but the movie gave me a lot to think about. When it was over, my head still spinning, I zipped up my jacket and headed back to Central Avenue. This screaming music hit me like a splash of mud in the face. Really, Kearney? Our city is better than this.

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