dailybell: 8/24/08 - 8/31/08

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Baby Crow Story

This is a 3 part story that I will tell as it unfolded itself to me.
(Try playing the movie to listen to the soundtrack while you read)

Part 1: 8/28 AM
A new bird! A sound I have never noticed here before. Or anywhere else, for that matter. It’s the only one like it. At the end of the sunrise, you can actually also hear a few songbirds. Maybe the change in birds has something to so with the change of season. It’s the warm weather here in San Francisco now. It was 105 degrees in Marin yesterday and over 100 elsewhere inland. However, it’s heaven here. I would have recorded the sound this morning but Jerry still has my microphone. Tomorrow. I hope that new bird is still here.

Part 2: Later in the day, I heard a terrible racket out in the backyard. Many crows screeching. When I finally went out to look, the noise had calmed down a bit, but Norman had been watching and he said there had been a terrible battle. Two crows had locked their feet together and were fighting on the telephone wires. Other birds were screeching and flying in and out of that huge tree. The brand new bird voice this morning must have been a baby crow. I don’t understand birds, but we were watching a fierce battle. Some of the crows were attacking the spot where the little voice was. And other crows were defending it. I seemed to catch them at a moment where they were catching their breaths.
Part 3: 8/29 AM
A terrible silence.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dreaming of Plants and Poison

8/23 AM
Ringing out back by the Williamsburg Bridge. Those are Penelope’s tomato plants in the foreground. I always said that I would never eat anything that grew in such proximity to those fumes and exhaust. I had a dream many years ago after riding on a bus through Newark, NJ. When I was a child as we approached North Jersey in a car, the air would become brown and opaque. We couldn’t roll the windows up fast enough. The sun vanished; the air was so thick you could taste it, and so caustic that it burned your eyes. I would bury my nose in whatever clothing was thickest and nearest to my face and try to filter out the particulate matter as well as the smell. It was a living nightmare.

Years later, as I was riding the bus on the New Jersey Turnpike and we approached Newark, everything had been cleaned up. It was remarkable. The air was clear and didn’t smell bad. The marshlands had come back to replace some of the industrial wasted landscape. It seemed to good to be true. In my dream I was riding in an elevator and when the doors opened I was standing before a lush green rural scene. It was sunny and felt festive. People were walking around enjoying the weather and the greenness. Apparently, this was a newly opened area that had recently been determined to be safe after some kind of apocalypse. The elevator was the conveyance to this world and until that point, we had all been living inside. Long tables were set up and people were serving and eating all kinds of food. At one table someone was preparing a salad and was chopping and slicing a scallion. As the white part of the scallion was sliced into thin, round slivers, the pieces fell over onto their sides. When I looked closely at the sliced rings, I noticed that each ring was like a band, and the band was rotating. Each band was slowly turning in the opposite direction from the one next to it. The head of the scallion was alive in a way that no vegetable should be alive. I decided to pass on the salad, but there was a Chinese man in the line in front of me and he ate the salad. After the picnic was over, I returned to the elevator to go home and prepared to get off at the 4th floor. When the door opened, there was the Chinese man, lying dead on the ground.

When I woke from the dream, it was clear to me for the first time that toxicity in the environment could mutate plants so they could and probably did contain poison and contaminants long after they looked “normal” and restored to health. That it was no longer possible to trust our eyes when it came to the food we grow. That the air and soil could poison our food in ways that was invisible to us. This was an old dream and it seems to be even more prophetic now in regards to genetic engineering. Pollution seems almost benign by comparison.

However, I couldn’t refuse when Penelope offered some of her homemade pesto and fresh tomatoes from those vines. And it was delicious. Maybe if I ate them everyday, I would develop an extra appendage, but once in a while, it’s really amazing to eat something growing within ten feet of that massive air putrifier.

Third week of August- PUBLIC

8/16 AM Sleepover Sunrise
A short story of a very long night- in the wrong airport. For now here’s a list of what I remember: the skateboard guys, the kind woman who held my bag, Doritos dinner from the vending machine at 3AM, the very nice steward who returned to the empty plane to get some salt (and pepper) for my contact lenses, the woman with dog who tried to rescue the stuck puppy in the conveyor belt (it only sounded like a squealing puppy), sleeping on 2 seats with my neck brace and head resting on my computer pillow, the wild insomniac child running the length of the terminal at 3:30 AM, his non-insomniac parents following him around, the lies (oops, I mean reasons) that we ended up spending the night in the Syracuse airport instead on landing in JFK, the piece of paper circulating on the final leg of the journey gathering names and email addresses for a class action suit, the disappearance of said list, the recirculation of a piece of paper during the 1 1/ 2 hour wait for our luggage at the baggage carousel, the kindness of strangers and incredible patience and good humor for the 24 hour journey from LA to JFK.

We could have gone to India

8/16 PM Sunset at C-Town
Delta Flight #204 finally arrived in New York! Yay. The weather is perfect. Not too hot. A nice breeze. After taking a shower, unpacking and brushing my teeth about 5 times, I called my neighbor Penelope. She hadn’t called because she thought I would be sleeping in after my flight. Ha! She and I went grocery shopping at C-Town. It was the most intensely pink sunset I have seen in a while. Oh I am so glad to be here.

8/17 PM The Trouble With Santa
So much for the wonderful magic of the “free” word. It didn’t work here in NY outside of Macy’s at sunset. In fact, I felt a bit like an out of season Santa the moment I started ringing the bells. The association with the Salvation Army Santa and Macy’s at Christmas time is so strong it was disorienting and palpable. People looked at me as if I was crazy. And it was even worse when I offered the free bells. Hand extended, “They’re free. Take one.” You’d think I was passing out bullets from the looks of horror I got. People couldn’t get away fast enough. So maybe I can’t generalize about the universal wonder of “free”. Or maybe I shouldn’t generalize about the “New York” reaction. Perhaps it was just the proximity to Macy’s. I hate to think it’s just me so I’ll try somewhere else later this week and see how that goes.

8/18 PM Couldn't Wait
I just couldn’t wait for the sunset. The buildings and bridge were on fire! So beautiful. I rang and filmed about 15 minutes early in order to capture that incredible light. After I went inside, Mary and I rang the bells over the phone together again. I have added the audio from that recording to the mix of the blazing buildings- sort of a time lapse, time collapse.

8/19 PM Asian Bells at Sunset in Manhattan
After several recent long distance ringings over the phone where only one of us can actually experience the sunset at a time, Mary and I were in the same place at the same time. Our friend Betty Sue joined us and rang assorted bells from the Buchens’ collection of bells from several Asian countries. Conjuring cows and goats, they played the bells for Mary’s dog, Mr. Singh and me. Beautiful bells. Thanks!

8/22 PM Going to the Walk-In Movies
Penelope and I were on our way to the 6B community garden at 6th street and Ave B when the sun set. There were still a few minutes to go until the sunset as we rode over the Williamsburg Bridge on the bus. However, it looked so beautiful outside the bus windows that I snapped a photo through the windshield just before we got off the bus. We were going to transfer to the subway and then realized that it was quicker and more direct to walk. So we rang a few bells on the way to the garden where Richard Sandler was showing his film, “Brave New York”. It was packed. I love going to events at the 6B Garden and sitting outside watching movies with everyone from the neighborhood. It’s like a drive in - only better.

8/23 PM Chasing the Sunset at 30,000 feet
Riding on the plane from New York to California during an extended sunset, we rang the bells and celebrated 4 times. Each time, we thought, “This is it”. The first time was over Missouri. The man by the window said he thought the sun wouldn’t be setting for half and hour, but I didn’t believe him. And since we couldn’t actually see the sun, we had to guess from the what the man could see of the shadows on the wing and of the sun on the ground and clouds below. The second time we rang the bells was over Kansas. When we rang for the third time while flying over Colorado, we definitely thought that was it. A little while later, the sun was blasting a beautiful clear orange light through the window into the plane so we rang for the final time. Then the sun really was gone for the day. Even though it’s not possible, it felt like we were keeping up with the sun or at least playing tag. Even at 500 miles per hour, we finally fell behind and when we landed in San Francisco, it was dark.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ringing While Dining

8/20 PM Los 3 Padrillos, Brooklyn This evening, all of the participants from the AIR Sounds Elemental workshop at Harvestworks went on a field trip to Michael Schumacher’s gallery, Diapason, in Brooklyn. On our way there, most of us ended up eating together at Los 3 Padrillos. The food was good and the portions were so big we weren’t even close to finishing in time for our appointment at Diapason, let alone in time for the sunset. Most, but not all of us rang the bells at sunset, and we were joined by the gracious staff at the restaurant. Thank you everyone!

8/21 PM Ray's Restaurant, Manhattan

Since I am in New York for just this week, I spend most of my time working, sleeping and traveling from home to work and back. There is not much time left over to visit with my friends so I eat most of my meals out and with friends, as it‘s a convenient and New York efficient way to spend time with the people I want to see. As the sunset approached this evening, I was finishing my meal in yet another restaurant (Ray's Restaurant on Prince Street), this time with my friend Jenneth. We were ringing an assortment of little bells when someone form across the restaurant yelled, "What’s going on!?” Since everyone was looking at us anyway, I hollered back across the room “The sun is going down!” And then I got up and went around offering bells to the other diners and passing out my dailybell cards. Quite a few other people rang the bells. I gave away all of the little bells and our waitress kept one of the Buchens’ bells. She liked it so much and continued to ring it even after the sun was down, I didn’t have the heart ask her to return it. I love those bells and they are Norman’s favorites. Of three bells 2, have almost the same pitch and one is slightly lower, Fortunately, the waitress kept one of the duplicates, so I don’t’ mind so much. It was definitely worth it to think that she might ring that bell in the restaurant every now and then. A family sat at the table nearest ours. The woman really like the bell and the idea of ringing the bells. And her husband wryly thanked me for providing his wife with a little bell to wake him so early in the morning.

Third Week of August- PRIVATE

8/17 AM Sunday Faithful
Every bone and muscle creaked to life this morning as I went out to visit the sunrise. It’s still lovely and warm even at this early hour. Noisy, too (audio). Subways crossing in both directions, faithful to their schedule even though they are almost completely empty this Sunday morning.

8/18 AM Hanging Out (the Window)
Even though there was not much human activity yesterday morning, the subways are usually so noisy that human presence isn’t much of a factor when it comes to density of the sound environment. This morning, I thought I would see what was happening out front for a change. While there’s still not much in the way of human life, there is also not much in the way of noise, either. What caught most of my attention was the building across the street. I remember ringing and filming out this window sometime this past winter. It was cold and the building was dreary looked abandoned and burned out. Big change. Not only has the old building been fixed up, but an additional 2 floors and an elevator shaft have been added. Pretty fast work. I wonder how long it will be before people start coming and going and moving about inside.

8/19 AM Can You See the Sunrise From Any Of Your Windows?
Because the windows in my apartment face north and south, it’s not possible to see the sunrise from either place. Even when I go outside, I can only point in the general direction of the sunrise. As long as you can’t see the actual place where the sun rises, it doesn’t matter very much whether I ring in the back or the front. So instead of choosing one arbitrary place over the other, I sampled both.

8/20 AM Surrogate Ears
Instead of leaning out the window and looking up and down the street while ringing my little bells, I thought I’d literally follow my gaze for a change. Walking around, crossing the street, wandering back and forth in front of the window, I rang the bells (audio) for my ears waiting on the windowsill.

8/21 AM Surrogate Self
Alone in the morning, one morning after another, I am witness to the sunrise, bell ringer and documentation committee. Also, I am not awake. In fact, I try not to fully wake up so that I can go back to sleep for another hour or two before really starting the day. In light of the number of things I am trying to accomplish while trying to remain asleep, and the fact that I have already passed the 200 day mark, it’s no wonder I have run out of ideas of “things to do” in the mornings. Yesterday, I put the microphone on the windowsill and carefully walked down a flight of stairs out onto the street to ring the bells with the rising sun. By the end of the day, however, I had forgotten exactly what I had done in the morning. When I went to download the media from the morning’s activity into my computer, I rewound the camera and was dismayed to see that I had recorded over yesterday morning. Then I looked at the still images in the camera and saw a photo of the microphone on the windowsill and remembered that I had only made an audio recording. The reason for the longwinded and detailed retelling of a basically boring story of no consequence is that when I woke up this morning, I thought about the movie I thought I had made yesterday. So I set the camera on the ledge below the window and did the same thing as I did yesterday- wander around out front. Only this morning, I walked in front of a bus on my way back across the street. That’s the end of the story. No point, No punch line.

I missed this morning’s sunrise. My alarm is my cellphone, and the ringer was set to silent. It felt really good to sleep a full, uninterrupted 8 hours. It felt so good, in fact, that I am not really sorry about missing the sunrise today.