The air had a certain fall smell and sharpness to it this morning... It was the kind of stealthy November day that doesn't seem like it's that cold until you've been out in it for a while, then you're freezing your ass off. These kinds of days always remind me of standing on the field early, hunched in my jacket with my hands deep in my pockets, the wind whistling in my ears, waiting for the rimshot. It reminds me of the glories of being a band geek... The stuffy, scratchy uniforms worn by too many other sweaty teens, the bus trips, the pecking order, the romances, getting a 'I' at state...ahh... to be a band geek... It was a beautiful thing.
Can't you just look at someone and guess what instrument they played? The cocky trumpets, those mysterious french horns, the devious joker saxophones, the strong, silent-type trombones, those earthy tubas, the show-off percussionists.. the wishy-washy legions of clarinets, and of course the piccolo and flute players... either Polly Annas or Lolitas, the prime examples of the virgin-whore complex in action. Yeah, that was me...
'One time? At band camp?'
I was in band from fifth grade all through high school. I was first chair
... I had an ongoing rivalry with our drum major
, the second chair flute in symphonic band, sax
player in jazz
band and a strict enforcer of the perceived band pecking order
, which I despised. I thwarted her authority at every opportunity, as we were peers in the reindeer game
, struggling for supremacy. I was captain of the color guard
, yes, the flaggets... the anti-drill team
full of the more independent contingent of choice females who preferred to carry a flag
and a rifle
as their weapons of choice
... We highly despised our more flashily clad counterparts in the drill team, shakin' that ass
and flipping their pom-poms
... we'd laugh as a retributive wind would blow straight under their skirts, exposing their little blue briefs
! HA! We were cool, we danced, threw spinning rifles in the air, and kept our integrity
, unlike some people... At our full force our band three hundred some strong. A band to be reckoned with, able to smite rival high school outfits with sheer volume
and a particularly devastating brass section and super tight drum line
, as we were a feeder for a local drum corps
Being in band was never understood by others, as I'm sure I never understand those choir weirdoes always breaking out into song in the hallway, or those drama nerds with their never-ending angst... We were a sect full of our own rules, protocols, dramas and romances. Oh the humanity...
'They're doing what at the back of the bus? Now that's talent!'
'Play my CD next... (on your obnoxiously large boom box), it's time for the B-Boys! BRASS MONKEY!'
'Where's my mouthpiece? Someone hid it again... sooo original.'
'Yes, frosh, you will stand for an hour at attention with your instrument in hand and shaving cream on your nose... no, not really.'
Laughing your ass off when the freshmen were learning the heel-toe rolling step looking like ducks in a line... Playing Pomp and Circumstance
over... and over... and over... and over and... Thinking pep band was so cool... Knowing where to step after practice lest you slip on the floor slick with spit
The summer after my junior year we represented our state at some huge band event in Philadelphia
. For a week we traveled in coaches, infested a huge hotel full of nothing but high school band geeks
from all across the country and frolicked in hedonistic mass abandon
as only occurs when large numbers of youth congregate without their parents readily accessible... It was grand. Just picture it... hundreds of band geeks
thronging through the corridors, turning the pool into a boiling mass with our chicken fights like a piranha
infested river, the balconies thick with smooching couples, the walk of shame at breakfast in the morning and random phone calls inviting other kids to come on down and PARTY in room 508!! The capers we pulled and the whirl wind love affairs we had still makes me smile. Whatever happened to my redheaded Brendan from OreGONE
But why did we do it? Was it the roar of the crowd after a particularly moving rendition of Mack the Knife? Was it a place to goof off with a bunch of other freaks? Was it an activity to put down on your record? Lifers like me loved it and hated it. We derived a source of pride from our practicing and our ratings. We hated lessons and difficult band instructors. We did love the sound of applause, but we hated the smirks of those who were 'too cool'. We took ourselves seriously when the baton went up, even if no one else did. We felt good to march past another band and see from the corner of our eyes that quasi-absent look of fear from those who knew we were going to kick their ass... It didn't matter if kids we knew pointed and laughed at the homecoming parade cause they didn't understand. We belonged to something greater than ourselves, and it gave us lots of good memories, some of our best from high school, and some of our worst. But on fall days like today, when I hear the snare crack in that rhythm, carried on the wind from the high school and I fall in step involuntarily as I walk out to my car, I don't regret any of it.