Monday, October 19, 2009

HHS is the best -- Blue Devil Marching Band Reunion...

This past weekend I went down to Long Island to participate in the alumni marching band reunion. About 100 alumni members showed up, which is kind of a lame showing considering how many actually still live in or near Huntington. People have their reasons for doing or not doing stuff.

I wasn't going to do it until my friend Eva asked me if I was coming; and then my sister asked me to, because we were never together in band at the same time due to our years apart in age. Both of us were very active in the band, and it meant a lot to each of us. Why not share it together once?

Sure. Why not.

I honestly did not remember a note or word of my high school fight song. I looked at the sheet music last week and just ... drew a blank. A total blank. It wasn't until I heard the high F trill in the flute practice room that it all came back to me. ah yes... and here we go.

My flute was in ill-repair so I had taken it in for a tune up last week. I guess I should have taken it out and tried it before driving to NY... because it still didn't work. I thought it was me until someone handed me a flute that worked, and then I realized my 40 year old Armstrong was most likely total shite... and should be retired. With a loaner flute and a willing heart, I sat in a room with a dozen other flute players from the 70s, 80s and 90s, and we slogged through the fight song and the national anthem.

Over and over.

I won't say it "flooded" back, but eventually I remembered fingerings, I remembered how to get from one register to another. I would play down an octave when I couldn't get the old lips to purse enough to hit the high notes. The percussion section was rehearsing across the hall, and when they'd come to the part in the cadence where we'd whip our instruments up and get ready to play, we rehearsed that and nailed it.

Eventually they pulled all of us into the auditorium, and we ran through the fight song. It sounded like this:

Not too shabby for a pantload of old farts, some of whom had not touched an instrument or played in 20 years. We practiced again and again, sped it up a bit, marked time in place, and broke for the night.

I had the honor of going and hanging out at a very overcrowded bar with a mess of people from band, and some who were there because they knew we'd be there. Old friends, new friends in the form of spouses... we didn't stay out too too late because 8am rehearsal time was going to sneak up on us way too early.

We met at the parking lot of the junior high (now called middle school, which made me sad). When we marched around, it felt natural. Everyone knew their rank, kept in step, and did a spectacular job.

The actual parade was great... turning the corner onto Rte 25a from the parking lot where we'd assembled, there was a huge crowd, and there was cheering. Actual cheering... for us. It was kind of funny. We played the fight song over and over and over. After about 10 times I realized I'd forgotten it on purpose, blocked it out like a horrible memory. Enough of THAT crap! Oy.

HHS alumni band reunion 37We marched up a nasty hill that I honestly do not ever remember marching up before. I think we used to end in the parking lot at the shopping center. Trumpet player Ted said that we most certainly did march up that hill because his father has pictures of us doing it back in the day.

So I think I'd blocked that out, too. I likened it to childbirth. It's awful, painful, hellish; and you deliberately forget how bad it is so you'll be silly and tell your husband "oh sure, yeah ... let's have another baby!" And then there you are back in the labor and delivery room saying "OMFG!!!! I remember NOW how bad this HURTS!" Actually, I can honestly say that even for a hugely overweight fat old lady I had no problem with the hill. It wasn't until 2 days later that I felt it...

The arrival at the high school was joyous. Our band director said "one more time and it's your last time!" on the fight song... so we played it loud and proud, finished with the final measures of the drum cadence and stopped. Everyone cheered... it was fantastic.

We played the national anthem at the football game with the high school band. Our band actually was better and more prepared than the High School band. But we sounded okay together and video evidence that people posted to Facebook shows that we were indeed spot on and did a great job. I sat with my sister and our friends Mike, Eva, Dan and his wife Meg, a girl named Chrissy who I didn't recall from back in the day but she knew me. (Crap I'm bad with memory on some things...) The rain was holding off, the forecast was that we'd get our asses kicked but that didn't come to pass. The cocoa was "special" and warm and wonderful, and we played along with the marching band the best we could with their silly interstitial musical pieces. We were good at "Let's Go Band" (which I remembered from Geoff playing a few years ago and I relearned that with him), and we had our section laughing at us as we cheered for the Blue and White.

Linda and I left after halftime and went home for a disco nap. We had a dinner to go to with the alumni, and wouldn't have made it through the evening without a nap. Again, feeling way too old. Dinner was decent, the bar was good, and the companionship was fun. We all tore the place up, laughing and sharing and watching Dan's teeth and lips turn purple slowly from the amount of cabernet he was enjoying. After dinner, we went to a martini bar in town that wasn't my scene at all, but found a dark corner where most of us fit. We drank more, laughed louder than we should, hugged people, laughed more and did the "dirty stay out" until 2am. We shut the bar. I've never done that before. Never shut down a bar. We all enjoyed some pizza. 2am NY pizza is the best. There is honestly NOTHING like it. And we tried two more bars but decided the scene wasn't what we wanted so we went our separate ways at about 3am.

My sister and I drove home to her house, the rain started, and we were happy to get home after laughing out asses off because we sang song parodies to Kings of Leon and Black Eyed Peas about how we were going to go get some sleepies.

I took the ferry home in a wild nor'easter and had wicked vertigo all day today because of it. But, it beat driving home in the snow and rain. The photos are here, if you want to see them all. I keep looking at them and smiling. I love my friend Mike, and he looks so handsome and happy. My sister is adorable. My boy Herbie was owning the Drums... Eva was just an amazing laugh the whole time... the ridiculousness that was coming out of our mouths as we snarked around town. It was so nice to see our band director. She taught us all so much, and 25 years later, we still "had it.." thanks to her groundwork years ago.

It was an honor to go out and play that stupid song a million times over and over. I'm glad I went. And I'd do it again. I am almost inclined to go get a good, decent flute... and actually take up playing again. We shall see. We shall see...

Now, there is talk of a choir reunion in Bowling Green where our choir director lives. He can't travel to us, so people are starting to build up an event for March '10 for us to go do... Eva and my sister want me to go ...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Canoeing Merit Badge Story - "Awww, my life totally sucks."

On Wednesday, we had an interesting Geoff experience. 

When he went to summer camp, he did three merit badges and didn't complete them. On his canoeing badge, he had one requirement left, so we made arrangements to meet with a merit badge counselor (who happens to go to our church) and get this puppy put away. Geoff was stoked, he couldn't wait to go... and we got down to the waterfront and he and Steve got the canoe out and brought it to the water.

The docks and floats were pulled up onto the beach as they were getting ready for the winter. Steve was there before us and had planted the canoe next to one of the floats closest to the water.

Because he hadn't worked with Geoff on the badge to that point he asked him some "refresher" questions about safety, paddling styles, all requirements that Geoff had completed over the summer... but Steve needed to know before headed out to the water with him that Geoff knew his stuff. 

Satisfied, he had Geoff walk to the back of the canoe (remember the canoe is half in the water and half on sand) and instructed him to turn around and sit. Geoff did that. And the second he sat down, the canoe flipped over on its side. 

Geoff, in the water end of the canoe, went into said water. It was kind of like a slow motion train wreck. I saw it happening, and both Steve and I stood there and watched. The water was about thigh deep at this spot, so he was submerged. Soaked. Head to toe. 

He got out and said the above quote about his life sucking. 

Steve said in a very calm and matter of fact way, "that's one way to look at it. It's your choice whether or not you'd like to try it again. It's up to you. We can finish this today, or come back in the spring. Whatever you choose, I'm happy to help you."

Geoff looked at Steve and said he'd like to try again. I could see that the wind was out of his sails though, as he got back into the canoe and Steve pushed them off. His paddling was weak, gentle, reserved. Steve encouraged him to put some more muscle into it but I could tell that Geoff just wasn't loving it as much as he had been the minute he got there. 

The requirement he needed to do was to basically paddle out 50 yards, go around 2 buoys in a figure 8 and come back to shore. Steve taught him some paddling techniques that he didn't know, and they went and did their figure 8. I could hear Steve asking him if he was comfortable what with being soaking wet and all. Geoff swims in weather like this (it was in the upper 50s, and I'm sure the water was really cold) so he wasn't freaking out about being cold. He wasn't shivering or teeth chattering, so he was fine. 

In the end, he achieved what he needed to, and got signed off on that last of the ten requirements for the merit badge. 

On top of that, he didn't lose his cool and flip the mother effing hell out the way I kind of thought he might, the way he usually does. I was really relieved. 

Part of his success in this was the fact that neither Steve nor I reacted strongly to the spill. We kept our cool. Had he done it in front of 10 other Boy Scouts, I think he would have stormed off and quit. 

I know that was embarrassing for him... Steve said that it would have been embarrassing for him as a 56 year old man. He was impressed with how Geoff regrouped and got the job done. 

My biggest hope is that he can maintain that kind of skill, or come to the point where he can laugh at himself and just continue with a crowd around him who might be laughing at him and turn it into a crowd laughing with him. 

We'll see.

But, I'm proud of him -- he did a great job and that's fantastic. Whew.