I got up at around 1030 and found that family friend Karl was here and about to cook us all breakfast. Karl is one of Dad’s buddies. They met in the Army, I think, but they haven’t been together in that context for decades. Anyhow, Karl made us breakfast. I had a lot of bacon. I love bacon. (Rosie, if you’re reading this, just keep your mouth shut.) Then I sat around for a while; then it was time for the band competition.
I biked up to the school at 1328ish and we had a short practice for about twenty-five minutes, just fixing small details before we headed off to the 13th annual Talawanda Marching Band Competition. Then we piled into the buses. It was very crowded. Sardines get more maneuvering room in their can. And we had to sit like that for around forty-five minutes–I know how long it is, because my grandparents live in Oxford, where Talawanda is. And for some reason–they said it was to “keep the focus”–we weren’t allowed to talk. So I tried to sleep. But I never could do it. Too uncomfortable, I guess. Keep in mind that at this time we were in our monkey suits for band–not the thick red winter jackets, but the pants are more than enough to make you sweat as much as those fat men who hang around in saunas. They’re about two feet longer than normal pants because they come up to your armpits, about, and they’re made of something like felt. All I know is that it’s not comfortable–very itchy and hot. And what’s more, they’re a particularly dark shade of black, so as to facilitate heatstroke. I hate uniforms.
We arrived in the Talawanda High School parking lot and scrammed out of the buses real quick-like. Then we stood around sweltering on an area of grass where we weren’t allowed to play our instruments unless we wanted to get disqualified. You’re not allowed to play your instrument pretty much anywhere at a marching band competition except the Designated Practice Area, because if you do play you get disqualified. A surprising number of things can get you disqualified. For example, if, when you’re backfield and waiting for the lady on the loudspeaker to tell you you can Take the Field for Adjudicated Performance, you for whatever reason step over the line and onto the field, you’re disqualified. Just like that! Luckily, nobody was stupid enough to do that before we got our clicks to march out to the front hash and change the block we were in into our form.
It was still very hot. It was like being inside a really fat guy’s armpit after an exhausting workout. Nonetheless, drum major Chad Rogers gave us our “dups” and we all brought up whatever instrument we happened to have to start playing our first note.
DAAAA da da da Dat Dat Dat Dat DAAHHH, …dadada daaa Daaa DAaa DAAAA-Daat! If you don’t read music, that’s the first couple of measures in our program for this year. I, just like everyone else, march a very inconcise route around the field, taking a tour of all there is to offer: the front hash, a few numbers, the back hash, and a lot of grass. I have to constantly stay between either Tom and Mike or Mike and Matt, while moving very fast, playing a trumpet, standing exactly straight, and not being allowed to turn my head. About half the time I’m walking blindly backwards. While you march at a competition, there is a judge who walks around out on the field, getting up close and personal while talking into a minicorder. Mr. Canter has instructed us to, if a judge stands in front of us while we’re marching, run over him. Apparently this has happened before, somewhere. I did well on the opener once I got into a “groove”, and I just kept right on through all the other three pieces. It was still monumentally tiring, though. Once you’ve marched your first five minutes and your hair has so much sweat in it that it feels like a drowned rat, you think, “Say, let’s get out of here,” but of course you can’t, because aside from the fact that that’s just not done and you would make the entire band lose the entire competition, it would probably get you disqualified.
We finished the show without dying, and immediately I walked a long, circuitous route to the buses to change out of my sweat suit. Good thing for dry cleaning. Then my dad, who had previously shown up a little while earlier, took us to my grandparents’ house for Chinese food, which had been ordered from Phan Shin, a local restaurant. I ate every bite of my Szechuan Spicy Chicken and an egg roll and a fortune cookie (“Life is a bold and daring adventure for you”) and drank a can of root beer and took another with me to the awards ceremony, which theoretically started at 2000 but in actuality started at around 2115. They announced all the class-C bands first, which didn’t take long because they’re so small nobody cares about them. For the record, something called Green Marching Band won it. Then they announced the class-B bands, our class. There were a total of two bands competing in class B today, so it wasn’t as much of an accomplishment as it could’ve been when we won the class-B championship over I think Batavia Heights. The judges went on to announce class-A and class-AA bands, and then told us all who had qualified for State competition: two AA bands. Figures, huh? Nothing else mattered after the loudspeaker lady said that, so we stopped listening and a little later I went down to meet Dad to go home.
File under: band