The Sounds of the Universe Coming in My Window…

On the SoHud Facebook page, there has been an ongoing conversation–almost like watching a stock ticker–about the varied and scattered explosions around Olde North and SoHud.  One poster got the ball rolling by saying, “Sure hope that was fireworks twenty seconds ago.”  There has been speculation about the origin of the sounds, with people reporting their locations and where they traced the sounds.  Were we hearing firecrackers?  Gunshots?  Or, since Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, did this mean a return of the bottle bombs that were so ubiquitous last year?

The explosions seemed to be consistently timed at one point, so a poster suggested we all stand on our porches and try to triangulate, and maybe figure out where these originated.  The suspects range from the residents of the various Xenos Christian Fellowship group houses, to a house on Medary Ave. where a heavy metal band seems to enjoy practicing regardless of what time of the day or night it is.  Also, today was the last day of classes for Columbus Public School seniors, so there are parties all over the place, and I have seen open containers galore all over a two- or three-block radius around my place.

I dealt with the problem in my usual way.  I was at the laptop reading friends’ blogs online, and I just turned up the volume on the music I was playing–a potpourri that ranged from Steely Dan to Gordon Lightfoot to the Alan Parsons Project to Seals and Crofts.  I heard a few more scattered explosions shortly after sunset, while I was taking a nap upstairs in my bedroom, but I was too woozy from being awakened to go outside to see where it originated.  (Later on, while I was walking outside, there was a slight odor of gunpowder in the air, but nowhere near as strong as it would be immediately after a firecracker or M-80 had exploded.)

Before I go any further, I should note that I cannot take credit for the title of this post.  The title comes from a spoken-word track Jack Kerouac recorded on Poetry for the Beat Generation, the 1959 album he recorded with Steve Allen.

I have wanted to blog about other sounds of the universe coming in my window.  The day I received the keys to this place, I was standing on the back deck and clearly heard the quarter-hour chimes of Holy Name Church, which is about a quarter mile southeast of here.  With the windows open, and minus any noise I create from music or TV, the chimes come through quite clearly, including the Baptism of Bells at noon and 6 p.m.

I have always found the sound of bells to be comforting.  Having grown up in the orbit of Marietta College for the first 19 years of my life, the quarter-hour Westminster Chimes from atop Erwin Hall, which is the most iconic building at the Marietta College campus.  Additionally, the hour and half-hour chimes from the Washington County Courthouse downtown produced a pleasant sound audible almost anywhere in town.

Erwin Hall, on the Marietta College campus.  Photo is from Wikimedia Commons.

Around Easter, Marietta College held (holds?) a festival known as Doo Dah Day–it may be called Etta Fest now.  When I was 13 or 14, the most exciting event was not trying to persuade servers that I was old enough to buy beer, but when a friend from the Marietta College Mountaineering Club let me come into the tower with him.  (I think they planned to rappel down to the ground, but they were overruled by the College, and they settled instead for flying a banner from the tower roof.)

One of my favorite recordings is Mercury’s 1812 Overture on its Living Presence label (Mercury 434 360-2), because it features cannon fire from an authentic weapon used by Napoleon in his 1812 Russian campaign.  Even better, the ending includes the bells from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Canon at the Memorial Church in Manhattan, all of them turned loose and recorded by microphones hanging at different levels in the tower.

Edgar Allan Poe apparently shared my love for bell sound.  Many kids resented having to memorize his poem “The Bells,” and I admit I never fully appreciated it until I heard Phil Ochs set its words to music on the album All the News That’s Fit to Sing.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Muslims who sought to build new mosques in their hometown have often faced petition drives and town meetings to deny them zoning, building permits, and all the paperwork that a new house of worship has to complete before even breaking ground.  These are similar to all the hand-wringing and protests around the non-issue of the Cordoba Center (misnamed “the Ground Zero mosque”) in New York.

One of the lame excuses, in a futile attempt not to clothe their protests in white sheets and hoods, is that the sound of the adhan (call to prayer) five times per day would be distracting.  Most of us have grown up around church bells–and we even sang about them in nursery school.  (The third line of “Frère Jacques” is Sonnez les matines!  Sonnez les matines!)  The Muslim call to prayer would be no more distracting, and would quickly fade into the white noise common in all neighborhoods, within days of a mosque’s opening.

No Longer "The New Place"

I spent most of April moving my belongings from one half-double to the other, and I am happy to say that my new place now looks more like a home, and not like the warehouse in the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  April was the month for transporting possessions, and May has been the month for unpacking and arranging.  (I want to take this opportunity to thank the friends and neighbors who ran relays of books, records, and furniture to the new place for me, and who helped me move the more cumbersome items, especially the furniture, into my new home.  You all know who you are.)

I am not posting pictures yet.  (And I am also striking the phrase “the new place” from my vocabulary… this is now home.  As of this moment, 1:54 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time, May 10, 2014.)  Susie will be here for most of the month of June, arriving on the 30th of this month, and I want her to see her new home in all its 3-D glory before I share with readers far and wide.
When I moved in, I saw a frame for a flat-screen TV hanging over the fireplace mantle.  The owner told me it would be cumbersome to take down, and said it was mine.  I have no desire to own a flat-screen; I doubt I watch enough TV to justify that expense.  Plus, the previous tenant on E. Maynard left behind a big JVC TV, which came with me when I moved.  So, rather than horse around trying to take down this frame, I ordered a framed poster of “Blown Away” (although I briefly flirted with the idea of buying a “Dogs Playing Poker” poster), and hung it over the frame.

Steve Steigman’s Blown Away.  Many of us probably saw this as part of Maxell print ads in the ’80s and ’90s.

My enthusiasm aside, leaving Maynard Ave. was heartrending.  No, I don’t want to be paying higher rent to a landlord just to keep the place where I had settled.  But, as I blogged when Susie and I moved here to Weinland Park, there is a sense of community on Maynard.  We learned that less than a month after we moved, when our new neighbors invited us to a backyard showing of El Mariachi one autumn night.  It was Susie who summed it up best: “I’m not used to having neighbors we don’t hate.”

Especially telling was last month’s Festival of Hilaria–all of us on Maynard Ave. being silly together, hosting a parade, and a joyous after-party at Café Bourbon Street.  I put on a jester’s hat and carried the banner at the head of the procession, along with a photographer from the Maynard Avenue Methodist Church and his granddaughter.  Had Susie been there, her initial reaction would have been, “I do not know any of these people!”  I’m sure she would have come around and become one with the festivities within minutes.

Truly heartbreaking to part from neighbors like this (I’m to the left of Henry the Octopus, of The Wiggles fame.  I rest assured, however, that once Maynard Ave., always Maynard Ave.

There does not seem to be the sense of community here on E. Blake.  My landlord told me that the house diagonally across the street used to be the home of three or four metalheads, who often blasted their “music” until the wee hours of the night.  Since my bedroom faces the street, I am glad this is no longer the case.  I am dreading football season, because I anticipate finding my yard scattered with discarded Solo cups and beer cans (there are students on this street).  I had way too much of this in Weinland Park, where the rule seemed to be to blast car speakers loud enough that the bass rattled windows and registered on the Richter scale.

Next weekend is Rock on the Range at Crew Stadium, just on the other side of the railroad tracks from Maynard Ave.  Chris Rock, Slayer, and Guns N’ Roses are the biggest acts this year.  Besides the noise, the biggest inconvenience is that all the cell towers in the vicinity are severely overloaded.  Very few people keep land lines anymore, and many people have mentioned at Block Watch meetings that they worry about being able to access the police or 911 should the need arise.  I think I am far enough away that I won’t be hearing this, or having to deal with all the noise and the drunkenness from the Crewanderthals after a home soccer game.  (A friend of mine has taken me to task for my use of the word Crewanderthal, and testily informed me that they are, at the very least, Crew-Magnons.)

One change from the house on Maynard is that I do not have an “office” anymore.  I am writing this blog entry (and the ones to come) at a desk in my dining room, which is also the mooring place for the trike (which has not been out much this spring).  I’ve hung up the staples for any home work space: a picture of Susie as a toddler, and a drawing of Lev Tolstoy rendered like an Eastern Orthodox ikon.

I think that today’s rain and gray skies are a sign to me that I should be at home and bringing this long neglected blog up to date.  I’ve unpacked enough that I am not constantly having to veer around boxes, clothes baskets, and stacks of books and records.  (Ironically, Susie’s bedroom was the first room that looked organized and settled.  I moved the furniture–bed, dresser, and desk–in the first load, along with boxes of clothes and her belongings (books, journals, posters, jewelry).  She has an L-shaped walk-in closet, with much more space than she had at Maynard, and yet I am sure that I will never see the floor again once she starts to settle into the room.