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.

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