dailybell: 9/7/08 - 9/14/08

Friday, September 12, 2008

September 11, 2008

On September 11, 2006, I was tolling a 250lb bell in one of the parking lots at Arlington National Cemetery. The parking lot was deserted. There were no tour buses that day and I didn’t see a single person in the lot or the grounds immediately adjacent to the lot. I did hear, however, cannons being fired in the distance. A prolonged series of muffled explosions.

I had come to the cemetery to toll the big bell. At that time according antiwar.com- 2600 Americans had been killed. Iraqbodycount.org estimated that between 40,000 and 46,000 Iraqi’s had been killed in the war. Based on the tolling rate of that particular bell, I had calculated the number of days and hours it would take to commemorate every person that had been killed. At that time in 2006, if I tolled the bell for 45 minutes per day, it would take 2 days to ring for all of the Americans that had been killed. It would take another 34 days to ring for each Iraqi killed.

Two years later, the numbers of people killed in this war has more than doubled. Imagine waking up in the morning and hearing a bell slowly, constantly ringing for an hour. One peal every other second. Over and over. Each toll of the bell sounding for someone who has died. At the end of the hour, you would have heard 1800 individual sounds. 1800 individual souls. Now imagine waking up everyday for the next 2 and a half months and hearing the same thing.

People do not agree on the numbers of people that have been killed in the war. Especially when it come to the numbers of Iraqis. The most conservative numbers from iraqbodycount.org estimate that between 86,864 and 94,782 Iraqis have died as of June 2008. The Lancet Study places the count at 654, 9565 as of June 2006. Too many people no matter how or who is counting.

AM 2008
Norman and I began the day quietly in the backyard. I rang the new bowl(audio) that Norman had gotten in Germany from Der Glockenladen where the 3rd generation proprietor, Michael Metzler, makes the bowls and other bell creations. This bowl is not uniformly round or thick and so it has a shimmery quality from the different pitches. It's also a bit difficult to sustain the resonance, but it’s a lovely sound and I like it very much.

PM 2008
We went to the cemetery at Chrissy Fields in the Presidio to observe the sunset and ring the big bell. While Norman remained with the car, I climbed over a low stone wall and walked among the gravestones.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Beginning of September

9/1 PM
Such a beautiful, clear day. Most people associate Labor Day with the end of summer. But for us out here in the Bay Area, it’s the beginning of the nicest weather of the year. For the next two months, anyway.(audio)

9/2 AM Looking and listening.
Another day out in the back yard.

9/2 PM A Little Help From My Friends
As I ran out the door to take Norman to the airport I grabbed the camera case and some bells to ring later in the evening. However, at sunset when I went to get the camera, the case was empty. So I assumed I would quietly rang a few bells in the church courtyard, the same as last Tuesday night. Since the sunsets so close to the time our sitting group begins, there were a few stragglers arriving a bit late or waiting in line to use the bathroom. While there is no media documentation for this evening, there were a few additional witnesses to the sunset who joined me this evening. It shouldn’t matter whether or not I do this alone, but I love having company. Thank you stragglers!

9/3 PM Mummy Movie
Amir came by this evening, and we went to the movies again. This time we both set our cell phones to vibrate at 7:31. Since we were seeing the latest Mummy movie - preview. I had hoped that it would be very loud and that we would be able to ring from our seats. I like doing that. However, the movie had just started and was still warming up when it was time to visit the sunset. I went out to the lobby and there was an usher sitting on the bench. Only they aren’t called ushers anymore. Does anyone know what those young people in uniform with the badges are called these days? Anyway, I sat on the bench with him and chatted for a few minutes before it was time to ring the bells. He told me that he had just looked outside the theater and saw the sun setting already. So he and I rang the bells a few minutes earlier than I had expected. He is usually working at the theater at sunset and he said he would ring his little bell on other nights. Then I went back to sit with Amir and watch the rest of the Mummy movie.

9/4 AM Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning...
It’s too bad I am so sleepy first thing in the morning. I really do not appreciate the sunrise and some days I actually dislike it. Today was one of those days. I got up, stuck my head outside and pointed the camera around trying to find something interesting to land on. It looked the same as it usual does – either clear or foggy. And much too early.

9/4 PM Calling All Gongs!

This evening I walked by the living room and saw the gong hanging there. I had just finished writing the entry about Warren’s scary brush with death while he was in New York. The sun was still pouring into the room at that time and everything was very bright and magical. This evening’s observance is dedicated to Warren. Get well soon!

9/5 PM Ocean Beach by Any Other Name...
Each time Monique comes to San Francisco, she visits the ocean at sundown. The last few times, she has invited me to join her and now it’s become something of a ritual for me as well. On this occasion, Monique is here to perform in the 9th annual San Francisco Electronic Music Festival (SFEMF) - which is already well underway. Although observing a sunset half an hour before the beginning of the evening’s events is cutting it a bit close, we met at the beach and rang bells together as the sun seemed to literally melt into the water. We enlisted a passerby to join us as well, and after the sun went down she said, “I don’t think I have ever been to Ocean Beach for the sunset”. It’s understandable that a place with such a practical and uninspired name like “Ocean Beach” would fail to motivate someone to visit if it required an effort at all. But don’t let the name fool you. For an urban location, this beach is relatively undeveloped with dunes and grasses and long clear beaches. Windy and cold it may be most of the time, but the air is good and the views are different every day.

9/6 AM Ringing tiny bells that sound like the birds

9/6 PM No Parking Karma
Driving around the Mission looking for a parking space, I went up and down, round and round the same blocks over and over again, hoping that something would change while I was somewhere else. After 4 or 5 times running the same circuit and looking at the same cars in the same spots, I decided to swing further away. In the meantime, I missed meeting up with Krys and Thea who were waiting in from of We Be Sushi. Having come in on public transportation, they were on time. So at 7:30 I grabbed a few bells, plopped the camera on the dashboard, turned it on and continued to drive around jingling as I went. Police at every turn...

9/7 AM
There was a lot of activity outside this morning – especially for a Sunday. I added to the noise for a moment (audio), trundled back into the house and fell asleep.

9/7 PM Looming Insanity
As so often happens, I am behind in editing the documentation for the blog. I am obsessed and will sit slavishly at the computer trying to catch up as long as there is media to edit. In the name of sanity, or merely a desperate rationale, I am curtailing the documentation. I am too obsessive to completely eliminate it at this point in the year. Or maybe I will do it when some other form of craziness overtakes the obsession. For now, I will continue to ring with pleasure. I look forward to it, at least in the evenings. And for the documentation- here’s a photo of the bells I chose for this evening’s foggy sunset observance.

9/8 PM Social Security- gone to the dogs
My neighbor, Helen called just before the sunset this evening. She had received her “Explanation of Benefits” from the Social Security Administration, and it got her all excited. She is due to retire in a few years and the amount of money she is entitled to receive wouldn’t feed a dog for a month. After we rang some bells together for a minute, we went inside and sat in the kitchen for a while. Helen doesn't have much confidence in her English speaking ability, especially when it comes to navigating any kind of official business concerning money. She said she was entitled to some percentage of her ex-husband's benefits and she wanted me to call Social Security in the morning and find out how much. The really awful part is that while her husband’s check could feed himself and a dog for a month, there wouldn't be enough left over for anything else.

9/9 AM Mindless Exuberance
I had decided before going to bed last night that I would like to ring as many bells simultaneously as possible. I tried it out and I loved the way it sounded. It was exuberant and melodious, and I looked forward to greeting the day in that way. Well, too bad. There’s a big difference in my physical coordination at the end of the day when I am fully awake compared with my abilities first thing in the morning when I approach stairs as if they were an escalator. Abundant enthusiasm without a mind or physical dexterity looks pretty frantic.

9/9 PM Meditation Bells
In anticipation of this evening’s sunset just a few minutes before the beginning of our meditation, I had invited everyone present last week to ring bells at sunset this evening. As people trickled into the garden, some walked directly into the Church and others began to congregate along a low stone wall where I had dumped a little pile of bells. As soon as someone had a bell in their hand, they started ringing it and very soon, the garden was sparkling with sound. And then it was over. (Historical photo of Church)

9/10 PM A Tree for Toyoji
This evening was the memorial for Toyoji Tomita. It was held at Mills College and jointly presented by the Mills College Music Dept. and the Deep Listening Institute, LTD. We gathered next to the music building just before sunset for the tree planting ceremony. The sun set a few minutes before the ceremony was due to begin so we all rang bells while we waited. After dedicating a young Red Maple to Toyoji’s memory, we all walked over to Lisser Hall where friends and family remembered Toyji with words and music. Very sad. Much love. Make a donation in memory of Toyoji

Return to the Ferry Building

9/1 AM Labor Day at the Ferry Building
Finally. Back to the Ferry Building. I was so excited about going back to the Ferry Building that I forgot that today was a holiday. No ferries this early on Labor Day. Since I was last here on Memorial Day, the area has been determined to be unsafe and is closed indefinitely. At least one other person arrived this morning and was surprised by the closing. He was angry and walked around swearing in front of the Ferry Terminal for a few minutes before leaving to find other parking. Fortunately for me, there was a tiny spot behind the bus zone that I could squeeze into.

9/3 AM Greeting Sunrise Commuters
I arrived at the Ferry Building quite a bit before the sunrise, and the first of two ferries was already coming in. I set up the sandwich board, untied the bell and spilled a few of the tiny bells onto the sidewalk in front of the board. By the time I finished setting up, all of the people were gone so I just stood around for a few minutes staring into the morning. There were still 10 minutes or so to go until the sunrise and as soon as I started to ring the bell- the Baylink bus showed up! I was so surprised to see it because it was much later than the one I had met in the Spring. Of course, it was a different bus and different driver. This driver didn’t even get out of the bus, but many passengers did. One of them came by to read my sign and asked me what it was all about. I told her the sun was rising and she smiled in surprise. She took a bell and blessed me. By then the second ferry had come in and those passengers were disembarking. I rang and rang for them and kept an eye on the time so I would know when the sun was actually crossing the horizon. I figured that would be my stop time. One more person came by and took a bell and rang it as she walked away. Those free bells are so tiny and quiet, the woman had to hold it to her ear as she crossed the street and then she rang it in her friend’s ear as well. When there was only two minutes until the actual event, I turned on the camera and rang the bell double time for the last few minutes. All by myself.

9/5 AM Leaving a Little Pile of Gold
Because I got to the Ferry Building just 5 minutes ahead of the sunrise, I had to rush around to set out all of my accessories and do my little chores: update the sign board so that it showed the correct time for the sunrise, scatter the tiny bells on the ground in front of the sign, unhitch the bungees on the bell and the clapper, etc. Once finished with the set up, there wasn’t much time left to look around and see what was going on. I quickly set up the camera so that it faced a different direction than the last time and began the filming and the chiming. Although no one stopped this time, it felt very satisfying to ring for the joggers, cyclists and early morning tourists who happened by.

9/8 AM Sunrise Under the Bay Bridge
As I approached the Ferry Terminal this morning, I saw the thin line of early morning passengers leaving the boat and heading into town. They have all disappeared by the time the sun comes up. Not so for the Baylink bus passengers who arrive just as the sun is rising. Not that there is much difference in the amount of light. The biggest change in light comes when the streetlights and parking lot lights switch off. The one person who stopped and spoke with me this morning told me that she worked at the next pier. She says she watches the sun rise under the Bay Bridge every morning when she is at work. It’s a great vantage point.

9/10 AM Losing Light
Another trip to the Ferry Building. We are losing light. The pace has noticeably accelerated since the summer solstice. At the turning point just after the solstice, we were losing less than 5 minutes a week for the first few weeks. Now we are almost 15 minutes of light per week. Last week when I arrived at the Ferry Terminal just before sunrise, the ferry had just arrived and people were still getting off the boat as I set up. Today, the boat was already pulling away from the dock and zipping along the bay while it was still dark outside. I had a repeat visitor this morning. The security guard who sang and rang last week, came back while I was setting up and I gave him another little bell. They’re like the little candies by the register on the way out of the restaurant. Maybe he is spreading them around. I hope so, and I hope others will do the same. I forgot the little pile of bells that I had spilled onto the sidewalk in front of the signboard today. It’s a lovely little pile of gold waiting to be discovered. At least I remembered the signboard this time.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Sun Also Rises (and Sets) in Berlin

DAY 1 in Berlin

The show at Phaeno in Wolfsburg, Germany closed a few weeks ago, and Norman went there this past week to pack up his pieces. His work will soon travel along with the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre to the Parque Ciencias in Granada. Since Norman was jetlagged the whole time he was in Germany he was able to carry on the dailybell sun observances without too much trouble. When he finally finished taking his show down, he stayed in Berlin on a houseboat for a few days and did a little sight seeing before coming home. One of the places he visited was a bell shop, Der Glockenladen where Michael Metzler (the 3rd generation to operate the shop), made his own bells and bell creations. The bell wheel in the video was inspired by one Michael saw in Toledo, Spain.

Day 2
(He bought one of those bells from Der Glockenladen)