February, 2008

Mastering any musical instrument is hard enough, but if you want a real challenge, try adding motion and choreography to it... especially when you're 11 years old, and playing in the junior high school marching band at your town's Homecoming Day Parade.

I was a neophyte trumpet player, and all dressed up in my brand new, Marching Band uniform (Go, Tigers!) We'd marshaled outside the school for our little parade down main street, around the square and back to the football field. I had my sheet music in my holder, and was actually counting out in my head "1, 2; Left; Right: Left; Right..." as we started up.

It all went just brilliantly... for about 2 blocks, until Buddy the wise guy sax player nudged me, and pointed to the left. I automatically made an abrupt left turn at the corner (when I should've actually made a right-- thanks, Buddy...), and led a trombone player, another trumpet player and a tuba player right into a used car lot. Everyone else continued on the route that had been pre-established.

The four of us marched smack-dab into a cul-de-sac formed by the dealership's side wall, and a couple of beat-up Buicks parked at right angles. It's 1963, I'm itchy in this damned stiff, woolen uniform, it's a hot Summer day, and I'm disoriented and now quite mortified...

There was a minute or two of hysterical blatting and honking as we bounced off the wall, the cars and each other, got sorted out and turned around the right way. This was followed by a few minutes of very high-pitched, wheezed-out-on-the-run tootling and squanking as we hauled ass to rejoin the parade and get back in line.

Our fellow band members had closed ranks, and it took some vigorous kicking and elbowing to re-establish our places in the midst of the parade, but we managed it just before we all limped, sweaty, disheveled and ankle sore onto the field in time to play the team on. Buddy was smirking and chuckling at me.

The assembled crowd hooted and yelled and laughed and pointed and threw candy wrappers and hot dog buns and stuff at us.

I don't actually remember whether the Tigers won-- I've blocked it out, I'm sure-- but I do recall punching Buddy in the face. Band wasn't very much fun after that day.

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