On Friday morning Kristin showed me around the East Carolina University campus, pointing out buildings and campus sights and such things. When we were near the library, she casually mentioned that "a pirate clown pops out of the clock every night at midnight and yells things."
"A pirate clown pops out of the middle of the clock at midnight, and yells things at people or something."
"What? Can I see this clock?"
We drove past the clock tower, and it looked like a clock tower. No pirate clown, no yelling. On the other hand, it wasn't midnight.
I thought about this for a day or two, especially after Kristin produced a Youtube video. There definitely was a clown head in the middle of the clock, and flashing lights, and it seemed to be saying something, but you couldn't quite hear it over the people talking. The clown's mouth wasn't moving, so was it saying anything at all? Or was that just more people talking?
What the hell was going on inside that clock?
Intrigued, we scheduled last night as our time to go see the midnight clock clown, and have our questions answered.
After watching the Vols destroy Utah State in the season opener, we puttered around the apartment a little to stay awake (that was more for me than for Kristin, who stays up pretty late most nights), and then headed to the library plaza to await midnight, and see the pirate clock clown.
While we waited, people began to gather:
and soon there was a crowd of about thirty-five, and only a few minutes until midnight. During the wait, Kristin looked up the pirate clock clown on her phone, and informed me that the clock tower is part of ECU's Sonic Plaza, an art installation commissioned in the early 1990's under a state law that said a certain percentage of every new state building had to have some kind of art deliberately included in the design. The steam cloud in the center of the plaza was part of the design:
and off to the side there was some sort of wall fountain that didn't seem particularly exciting. There was supposedly also a set of tones that plays when people enter the plaza, but it either didn't play or we didn't hear it. The last element of the installation is the clock, and different things pop out of it at different times of the day. At sunrise there is a rooster, at noon a steam whistle, and at sunset a cannon, each accompanied by sounds and lights.
And then, at midnight, there is clock clown.
"He sings a song," a student on one side of me said, as we gathered closer in front of the clock.
"No, he tells a poem," one of his friends countered.
"It shouts at people," the girl on the other side of me said.
"It tells the future," her friend argued. He'd been in a lengthy break-up conversation with his boyfriend on the phone the entire time we'd been waiting, so I wondered if maybe he'd come for guidance.
It was 11:58, and clock clown was going to appear and do... something.
As the clock reached 11:59 (but Kristin's phone said no, it was actually midnight), the doors in the center of the clock opened:
Midnight Pirate Clock Clown! You appear! Impart us your wisdom! Shout at us! Sing us a song! Tell us the future!
Midnight Clown Clock, clearly a harlequin and not a pirate, did none of those things.
We moved closer.
Midnight clown clock silently retreated, and the doors closed.
"The clock still says 11:59. Maybe it's not done?"
"My phone says 12:01."
"Sometimes it doesn't do anything."
We drifted off through the mist at the center of the plaza, no more enlightened, amused, or educated about the future than when we'd arrived.