dailybell: 5/4/08 - 5/11/08

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Got Fear?

What are we afraid of?
Over the years of working with strangers in public spaces, I have experienced a great deal of reluctance on the part of people to engage with me and whatever activity I happen to be doing at the time. It feels like anxiety and fear and I don’t understand it. I was planning to speculate a bit this week, but my musings have gotten out of hand and they are holding up the posting. So I will offer my opinion next week- my ideas about this general societal fear center on genocide, denial, the flip side of the Golden Rule and emptiness.
What do you think? Why are people reluctant to engage? Any thoughts or ideas? Let’s hear them.
Regardless of the root of the fear or anxiety or even indifference, I believe that the cultivation of curiosity is the antidote. From my personal experience, I know that curiosity trumps fear. If I want to know something bad enough, I will do whatever is necessary to find out.

So my current regular visits to the Ferry Terminal are motivated by the desire to provoke or stimulate curiosity in the people who pass by each morning. Maintaining a constant schedule and repeat visits to the same location is part of the plan to both reassure people and to provide multiple opportunities for people to find out what is going on.

Unfortunately, because the regularity of my schedule follows the cycle of the sun and not a 24-hour clock, I have already drifted past the earliest ferries to arrive at the terminal. However, come September, the ferry schedules will again coincide with the sunrises, and I will return there for a week or two, offering the possibility to investigate once more.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Last Week of April

4/24 AM Sounds in the Neighborhood

I missed the Ferry Building this morning. I set the alarm for 5:25 PM “by mistake”. It was great to sleep in until 6:00. I never thought I’d say such a thing. Anyway. The latest routine is to record audio only if I am in my yard or around my house. It’s nice to just LISTEN for a change.

4/24 PM Passing Ships

Norman and I walked down to the corner so we could look down the street and see the ocean at sunset. There were quite a few joggers out as well as other people just walking around. So we set up the camera to look at the ship on the horizon then walked across the street and back. Ships passing into the night.

4/25 PM 2nd Skin at the Exploratorium

Sunset inside the museum was a festive event. Just a few of us started ringing bells and as people passed by, we offered bells to them. Being that this was the Exploratorium and visitors are used to interacting with strangers, Participation wasn’t conditional on knowing why. They just took the bells and joined in. As if it wasn’t enough noise and wonderful cacophony at that moment, a parade of people on bikes began to ride by. However – not just bikes and not just ordinary bike riders. Michael Brown led a line of huge suspensions of colored fireflies hanging on loose limbed trees attached to the bikes. It made the pedaling wildly erratic. The branches swayed and light bounced and floated in an arhythmic dance. We couldn’t stop ringing and so accompanied them as they careened by.

4/27 AM Are you Sleeping... Are you Sleeping?

We rang from inside the house. It was a quiet morning and we wanted to start slowly. Today is the memorial for our friend Ann Chamberlain and we did a gentle, easy awakening.

4/27 PM To Ann
Because Ann's memorial was planned from 2-4, I thought there would be plenty of time afterwards to go home and get my bells. However, at sunset, we were still sitting in a restaurant with Ann’s family and close friends. So instead of bells we used several wine glasses that were on hand. Catherine took some photos with her iPhone as we very gently clinked our glasses together. Victor began by blowing very softly on a small whistle and we quietly but insistently joined in with our glasses. It was exquisite, and the entire restaurant was quiet for a moment… listening. We were suspended for a moment in a silent bubble- out of time- only the sound of glasses touching surrounded by a high, soft warbling whistle. Another goodbye.

4/30 PM A Divine Toast

Rebecca A. Hoffberger, director of the American Visionary Art Museum visited the Exploratorium today. The American Visionary Art Museum sounds like a unique and wonderful place- definitely check out the link.
After Rebecca’s presentation, we rushed away for dinner and I forgot to bring my bells and the camera. Having recently been at a restaurant in a similar situation, I wasn’t worried. This evening was much more raucous ringing than the other day (silverware tapping not so gently on glasses instead of lightly touching wineglasses). Nonetheless, it was very festive and Luigi documented the moment with his cell phone. When we had finished, it was momentarily quiet in the restaurant (the fabulous CafĂ© Divine in North Beach). The other diners were expectant and wanted to know what was going on.
I later realized how perfect this moment would have been to quietly and briefly introduce people to the project. However, at the time, I merely said that the sun had just set and that we did this everyday and had been observing the sunrise and sunset since the beginning of the year. I didn’t have any cards or other information with me either. It was a good lesson—if only I had been a boy scout…

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Where Have All the Ferries Gone?

Ferry Building Info , Vallejo Ferry Schedule , Other Ferry Schedules
Since I am continuing to go to the Ferry Terminal 2 or 3 times a week, and since there is very little difference from day to day except for the earlier and earlier times, I thought I would lump this week's Ferry Terminal ringings altogether.

4/25 AM Sandwich Boards and Sun Crossings

We made a little wooden sandwich board type of sign last night. So now I can announce the time of the sunrise and sunset and people can ignore or glance at it as they wish. One side of today’s sign said, “THE SUN RISES AT 6:21 AM TODAY”. The other just said, “SUNRISE 6:21 AM”. As a result of that beautiful sign, this morning was the first encounter I had with someone getting of the ferry. The man saw the sign as he was walking by. He looked at his watch, paused for a second, looked at me and said, very pleasantly, “You must have been announcing the sunrise”. And I said, “Yes. I was”. Hallelujah!

4/28 AM This is For the Birds

Back to the Ferry Building this morning. I finished ringing before the ferry ever landed. So I packed up the camera but went back and rang the bell as the boat docked. Then I got in the car and left. Even the custodian had yet to arrive. I hoped that the people on the ferry could hear the bell and associate it with the sunrise. (The sign on Friday should have been a big hint). I also felt vaguely smug like "You had your chance (to ring the bell), but you waited too long". It made me think about how the window of opportunity opens and closes and how it's not always convenient.

4/30 AM Resume the quiet landing

Ferry Terminal- I finally passed the time table for the Ferry from Vallejo and the one that gets in even a few minutes before that one. The Vallejo Ferry was still out in the bay making it's approach to the dock when I finished ringing at 6:15. So I packed up the bells, tied the big one down in the back of the car and left the signboard out until last. The boat was just docking as I drove away, and the sun had already cleared the hills in the east- Very beautiful and clear. I felt a small twinge of smug glee as I pulled out of the parking lot. The passengers on that boat had walked past me for several days -- not looking or acknowledging the bell ringing. No curiosity or good mornings, and hearing the ringing bell must have been a lovely way to get off the boat. Oh well, I hope they are pleasantly surprised in October if I still manage to go there.