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.

Advertisements

These Are the People in Your Neighborhood…

When Susie and I moved out of Weinland Park a year ago, I was under no illusions that we moved to a crime-free Land of Milk and Honey, just because we were now in Olde North (or Baja Clintonville, or SoHud (“south of Hudson”), depending on who describes the neighborhood).  I knew we were just close enough to the Ohio State campus that we would be dealing with the petty crimes that prevail during football season–vandalism, littering, people urinating in public, loud parties, etc.

I have joined the small Neighborhood Block Watch that our neighbors have been organizing.  We are going for full certification by the Columbus Police, but concealed carry permits or any type of vigilantism are not options.  The group was originally an ad hoc organization to combat the epidemic of graffiti in the neighborhood.  The police tell us none of this seems to be gang-related.  A Gang Unit officer showed us a booklet of the different Columbus gangs’ trademarks, and in this neighborhood it seems to be mostly tagging than any of these gangs marking territory.

This is the type of graffiti that genuinely scares me and brings out the vigilante within.  This appeared last February on the bridge over part of the Glen Echo ravine, less than a mile from where Susie and I live.

Once one of these “artists” is caught in the act, I am wondering what the punishment will be.  I doubt arrest and punishment will be much of a deterrent.  My pet theory is that this is not gang-related at all.  There are groups of reprobate kids from the rougher neighborhoods who band together, call themselves gangs, and destroy property and commit petty crimes, but this is not Crips and Bloods land here.  I think our miscreants are bored kids from New Albany or Bexley who are vandalizing because it is fun, and because they are in neighborhoods where no one knows them or their families.  If these kids are arrested, their parents will grease the appropriate palms to make sure the problem quietly disappears, and their charges’ future employment or college enrollment is not jeopardized by this.

However, if I am wrong, and these are kids from the rougher neighborhoods trying to show the size of their testicles by vandalizing property of people who have never met them or done anything to them, arrest and even jail will not sufficiently scare them.  I have lived in Weinland Park, and before that Franklinton, and these are neighborhoods where going to jail is almost bar mitzvah for many of these kids (“today I am a man”), and the kid who gets in trouble with the law at the youngest age comes home as a celebrity to his peers.

A small incident several weeks ago has restored my faith in the people who live, work, and pass through my neighborhood.  Faithful readers of this blog will remember that in June, a week or so after Susie went to Florida for the summer, my red Schwinn Meridian adult tricycle was stolen from my front yard.  After filing a report with the police, I made the rounds (online and in person) of the bike shops, pawn shops, and bicycle communities here in Columbus, putting the word out about my stolen trike.  Several Facebook friends posted descriptions as their status, and I knew the Third Hand Bicycle Cooperative and other less orthodox channels, such as the World Naked Bike Ride organizers, would keep their eyes on the street.

Almost immediately, though, I ordered a new Meridian online, and by ComFest I was back in business, the only difference being that the new bike was blue.  Several weeks ago, I was riding at night (it was around 9:30-9:45 p.m.) back from the Whetstone Library, where I had gone to drop off some books.  I was on High Street, headed south back toward home, when a young kid in his early 20s began running after me.

I thought he was going to mug me, so I tried to pedal faster, but he ran after me and shouted, “Hey, you!  Is that bike stolen?”

This caused me to slam on my brakes.  I told him no, but I did own one that had been.  I had never seen this kid before, but word had spread about my theft.  I told him that I had been the victim, that the stolen model was identical, except that it was red, and not blue, and I had never seen it since.  I also told him I appreciated his being concerned enough to stop and ask me about it.

Maybe the spirit of OSU dropout Phil Ochs rests a little easier when he sees that he was not entirely accurate in this song:

My Prophecy Was Not Fulfilled

The victory celebrations around the OSU campus after the Buckeyes’ victory over the Miami Hurricanes produced the usual drunken hooligans, but did not erupt into car-flipping, Dumpster fires, and couch-burning, as I had predicted and feared.  Saturday afternoon, after Susie was finished at Hot Times in Olde Towne East, I made a trek all the way to Upper Arlington to return some electronics at MicroCenter, and then went to Kafé Kerouac.  (I’m proud to say I was rather productive there–wrote my first poem in God knows how long and also completed a 2½-page diary entry, all of it in longhand.)

The poem had been percolating for some time, and I felt confident enough that I went to College Town while the game was in progress and bought a Roaring Spring single-subject notebook specifically for the purpose.  The finished product was almost three pages long.  I need to type it up, and then decide what lucky publication will get first crack at it.  I’m arrogant enough to be considering either The New Republic or The New Yorker.  I celebrated this productivity by buying (for $5!) a hardcover copy of I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg, by Bill Morgan, which I had not read previously.

Steve had borrowed my Kodak EasyShare camera, so I had to reacquaint myself with the other Ph.D. camera in the house, Susie’s Digital Blue camera, when I wanted to take pictures of the girls performing at the Hot Times Festival.  (Hot Times is 100% volunteer-run.  Some people describe it as a mini-Comfest, and that’s a valid comparison, but if it’s like Comfest, it’s minus the topless women, public urination, and pot-smoking.)  Susie and friends performed at high noon, so she and I had to be there at 11 a.m. for check-in and warm-up.

This meant we were there as the food vendors were setting up.  I bought her a hot dog after she left the stage, and I’m sure I made her want the earth to swallow her up when the man gave us the hot dogs.  He said, “Condiments are right there,” pointing to the ketchup, mustard, pickle relish, and mayonnaise in front of us.  I declined saying, “I don’t use condiments, I’ve had a vasectomy.”  (I recycled a line I’ve used when a co-worker who moonlighted as a Realtor tried to evangelize me about “why [I] need to buy a condo.”)

Suzie Simpson, the director of Girlz Rhythm and Rock Camp, was grateful to the girls who came, since quite a few seemed to be laid up by seasonal allergies and autumn viruses.  I felt badly for Susie because she composed a song at camp she wanted to perform yesterday, but her guitarist/accompanist was one of the ones who was sidelined by the bug.  (I’ve been sneezing so hard I thought I had broken my nose, so I have sympathy for the girls who weren’t there.)  As it turned out, Susie had to sing a non-original song a Capella to fill out The Moonlight Band’s gig, holding an MP3 player to her ear for accompaniment.  (When I lived in Boston, a trumpeter frequently played on the subway platforms.  At his feet was a boom box–then known politically incorrectly as “ghetto blasters”–the size of an attaché case–labeled The Band in big letters.)

Susie and her portable accompanist.

This is as good a time as any to mention that Girlz’ Rhythm and Rock Camp can always use donations and support.  Pearl Jam contributed $14 thousand several years ago, which helped with buying instruments, equipment, and electronics, but they will always welcome a tax-deductible contribution.  To that end, immediately after the show ended, Susie took the jar and went to work in the crowd.  We heard both the clink of coins and the ruffle of dollar bills.
Wouldn’t you be quick to open your wallet and 
checkbook to someone with this sunny a countenance
when she comes to solicit funds (fundz?) for girls to
go to camp?

I roamed High St. for much of the evening after leaving the sanctuary of Kafé Kerouac.  My motives were not pure.  If honest-to-God rioting broke out, I was going to take a few dozen pictures and let my blog’s readership be the first to see the action in all its glory.  (I take after my maternal grandfather, Charles Lester McKee, in that respect.  In September 1925, he was home in Caldwell, Ohio and saw the crash of the USS Shenandoah (ZR-1), the Navy’s first rigid airship, in a squall line, which tore the ship to pieces and killed its commanding officer and 13 of its crew.  My grandfather, aged 30, saw that the ship was about to tear apart and crash, so, being the Christian and Good Samaritan he was, what did he do?  He ran home and got his camera.  By the time he came back, there was debris scattered everywhere and people were tearing off scraps of the hull fabric as souvenirs.  I’ve watched eBay for hull fabric on sale for a year now, so far in vain.)
The worst thing I saw all night was a guy leading three or four boys, the oldest of whom was maybe 12, selling candy bars for Buckeye Youth Basketball.  They had boxes of the fundraising Anthony-Thomas candy bars, and they were out there around 9:30 p.m. amidst all the drunkenness, open containers, airborne bottles, and sidewalk vomiting.  Kids shouldn’t be out selling at that hour on the most tranquil of nights, and this definitely was not one of them.
I only snapped two pictures of the crowd, neither of which came out very well.  The flash on the camera illuminates a radius of millimeters, so after dark, you capture more silhouettes than people.  I took a picture of the interior of The Sloppy Donkey, a bar that occupies the site of the former Larry’s Bar, where OSU dropout Phil Ochs (“Draft-Dodger Rag,” “I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore,” and “Outside a Small Circle of Friends”) had his professional debut.  Larry’s, the only bar which offered classical music in its jukebox, is now a sports bar.  (As a loyal Democrat, the name offends me.)
Post-game interior of The Sloppy Donkey.  May Phil
Ochs’ unhappy ghost haunt them night and day.

I was intrigued by the restroom at Kafé Kerouac.  Its walls are decorated, floor to ceiling, in items found between pages of books returned to the OSU Library over the years–letters, court orders, photographs, notes, scratch pad pages, postcards.  I could stay in there for hours and read them.
Some samples of the pictures displayed in the Kafé Kerouac restroom.  This holds my attention much more than “For a good time, call…”