30 April 2006

onder den toren 42

What should I find in Bruno's mail when he's not home but a newsletter dropped by a Vlaams Belang volunteer and a nice issue of the city-published Onder den Toren. The publication certainly does a good job of making Mechelen look amazing.

Let's take a closer look. There's a photo of a man at his laptop on the south side of the Grote Markt, sitting in a cafe bent towards the flickering mechelen.be website. This may seem like a normal image in some cultures, but stage this in Mechelen or even Antwerpen and you will get generously stared at by all guests and passerby. Not to mention that there is no wireless on the Grote Markt and that the newly redesigned site is the poorest looking thing in the photo.

Next is an offer made for the free-eats list: The opendeurdag of the Huis van de Mechelaar with "taart en drank". Makes me wish that Mechelen was at walking distance for my fellow freeloading Yalies. (Sad note: I missed the date.)

The centerfold made me double over thinking that the photo of Josephine and Victor taken by some media photographer in Lamot had actually been published in poster-size format: a middle-aged Chinese couple, the man holding an old-fashioned camera advertising an amateur photo contest, thuisindestad.be. Why they chose that particular picture to entice Flemish people into taking photos of their Flemish towns, I cannot divine.

27 April 2006

mechelen romantiek

Learned more than I ever wanted to know about Mechelen romantic music, gained my admission to Amersfoort, and spent the next day blissfully in love with Utrecht. More to come.

23 April 2006


Showed Australian aunt and uncle around Mechelen on Erfgoeddag (in Kleur) and climbed St-Romboutstoren to play the carillon for them during Eddy's concert. Biked 35 kilometers with Elvo, who pushed me during the last part of the way. To be continued...

15 April 2006

forget the easter bunny!

It's Easter and the bells have flown away to Rome. I almost died when I saw a yellow penny bank shaped like a smiling bell with wings and animals playing on it in a chocolate shop in the Gentse Patershol. If only such loot would fit in my luggage back to the US! But I've already bought four chocolate bells, a giant cookie bell, a bell-shaped container of chocolates, and a chocolate bell with a muzzle and ears. What carillon-chocolate-addict could rightfully complain?

12 April 2006


torenwachterThis morning Geert had me input part of an eighteenth-century melody written by Johannes DeGruytters (1709-1772), his ancient predecessor as city carillonneur of Antwerpen, onto the automatic drum of that same carillon with the same pins DeGruytters used two centuries past. It was surprisingly fun, especially when the cheerful torenwachter would turn inside the drum as we rotated it to the next row.

That melody will resound over the city at every half-hour for the year, and if anyone misses me when I'm back in the US, you may always hear me there. :) Creating this little legacy was a good way to console myself as I struggled to convince the Antwerpen post office to let me spend 30 € on international express mail so my acceptance letter for Eastman would reach the office on time.
Johannes DeGruyttersEven the Antwerpen post office headquarters personnel seem to think I look too poor or too unimportant to afford, let alone need, international express mail. Same story with every business in this country besides the American-owned FedEx, it seems. But I finally received the Fulbright's decision on Tuesday, and the decision was no, which means Eastman even if I eventually win the Flemish Community fellowship this summer. My second time making the Fulbright short list and not making it--but the third time will be the charm. I'll be back. It just sucks to have to move across the pond multiple times and to break my progress at the carillon when I'm advancing so quickly. What will become of me without my great teacher? I'll still advance, but inefficiently. It will feel like lost time.

In the meantime, however, I'll have my very own carillon to play--a dream come true. Not to mention the coolest organ program on the planet.

Afterwards Geert and I gave ourselves a little tour of the new Law Courts complex by architect Richard Rogers (who also brought us the Centre Pompidou), which stands just down the street from his house. Difficult to imagine that a building with its courts inside soaring metallic sail forms is a solemn hall of justice, but Antwerpen has pulled it off. Apparently the sails, assembled in a shipyard, came by barge over the Schelde--imagine that! Remarkably, the tram lines to that spot were laid in the early twentieth century, and it will take less than a meter of rails to connect them to the currently running Lijn 8. 't Stad finds an impressive number of ways to be cool.Antwerp Law Courts

10 April 2006

score again!!!!

I've been making rapid and fervid progress in writing the catalog for the Carillon Museum, but my plans for professional photos of the objects weren't quite working out; there were shadows and reflections I couldn't avoid. On Saturday, I contemplated painting an umbrella white to use as a light diffuser, but already it sounded like a doomed attempt.

Today Foto Nelissen on the Brusselsepoortstraat generously agreed to send a retired employee to the museum to see what equipment I would need and to set me up with it--courtesy of the shop!

This catalog is gonna knock everyone's socks off.

For some reason the USB mico hub that I ordered on eBay showed up at the Match supermarkt, so I had to find the supervisor to pick it up. The hub is nice, but I don't remember reading about it being USB 1.1...i.e. t3h 5ux0rz.

08 April 2006

let us scratch

"Aigle essorante sur couple ou socle entre 2 griffons" (description from the 1955 Beiaardmuseum catalog) is brilliantly translated by Altavista Babelfish as "eagle drying on couple or base between 2 let us scratch".

07 April 2006


Climbed all 461 steps to the carillon of the Onze-Lieve- Vrouwekathedraal in Antwerpen and managed a better but still very simple conversation with the Dutch-only-speaking tower keeper, whom I could barely understand through his thick (Antwerpenaar?) accent. Playing the carillon was much easier than I remembered it--I've finally gotten used to these big old European things. [Notice in the photo how the narrow Belgian houses fit the tower arrow loop perfectly.]

Savored a "magic mushroom" sandwich afterwards (despite the exciting name, the unassuming avocado ones are better) and almost unbearably intense ginger tea in Lombardia (which I've renamed Hippie Heaven No. 2) seated on a psychadelic green tree trunk that might have been driftwood, then discovered gigantic bell-shaped cookies in Philip's Biscuits on Korte Gasthuisstraat. Need I describe my ensuing course of action?

06 April 2006


Suspicious of the accuracy of information in the Carillon Museum, I looked up the source of a bell, Apolda, online and immediately was faced with proof that the object probably did originate in the German city, which calls itself "Glockenstadt" and has a photo shaped like a swinging bell on its splash page. The city itself has a Bell- and Town-Museum. Road trip time!


Traded in an afternoon of measuring bells indoors for biking => My first bike tour since the accident. I was beaming the entire way.

Who should I run into for the first time on the canals but Alice and her dog Ijs?

And what should I notice for the first time but that one can see St.-Romboutstoren even from the Kanaal Leuven-Dijle in Battel-Zennegat?

Some of the boats along the canal are part of a historical boat association and have informational signs that I had never tried reading before, since I couldn't read much Dutch at the time. These signs reminded me of the bike tour I want to lead for Bulldogs in Brussels, and for the rest of the trip my head began filling with ideas of what a carillon and historical tour of Mechelen on foot and bike could feature.