Posted by: guinness222 | July 13, 2008

“T-28:30:30 and counting”

NB. This is Part II of the series of “T-(minus) and counting”. I strongly urge you to go to the previous blog “T-30:00:00 and counting”, for that’s where it all begins. This part by itself may make no sense at all , unless you’re one of “them” the folks who walk into the theatre half way through the movie and spend the rest of the movie nudging the person next to them and asking questions they would know the answers to if they were here when the movie began! Nuf’ said!

I left off with a few forward flash comments, so I better explain them first before we go back to the parking lot.
1. When I went in the Navy it was mandatory that you had “other activities” like cleaning the toilets, sweeping parking lots, etc. to do, BUT if you were in the Drill Team you got out of them, got to go places, march in Parades, get free food, and let me tell you a man in uniform is still the best aphrodisiac in the world for women, …they just can’t resist! 🙂 🙂
2. I will tell you that about two years after joining “the Corps” I moved to another Corps, and one night during the summer after competing on the field we had about two or three hours to kill until the Judges announced the winners, well one of our “Soprano’s” (You are what you play. A Soprano, a bass, a bass-bari, a Contra, a snare, a tenor, a Cymbal, you get the idea).
Anyway, I think his name was Tommy as well, was walking between the busses, that’s how we toted the entire corps around, in School busses, they were cheap and effective transportation for 60 to 70 kids, etc. from competition to competition, and I’ll tell you about Parades later. Anyway Tommy, not me, him thought it would be way cool to light a firecracker and throw it in the window of this all-girl Drum & Bugle Corps Bus. They just got off the field from competing and were changing (Da’ Devil made him do it! That was our story and we’re sticking to it!) He lights it, flips it in the open window and we run like hell. A great laugh huh? By the time we got home that night we found out it landed on the Drum Majorette’s arm as she pulled it up to protect her face, and BANG it went off next to her ear! We found out because they took her to the hospital and beside the scar on the arm and the loss of hearing for a day or two and the ringing in the ears, she was going to be OK. BUT Tommy wass instructed to go up to her house, about 60 miles away and apologize to her for being “stupid, dumb, and just plain sorry, AND YOU DAMN WELL BETTER MEAN IT!” Some how out of that I met the Drum Majorette, Barbara, Yeah, same one and only for the last 42+ years, and she still has the scar, but her hearing is fine. (One thing wrong with marrying a Drum Majorette. Early training on issuing orders to sixty or so people on a field the size of an American Football field or Soccer pitch, carrys through for the rest of your life, in other words you know when she speaks even with both your hearing aids turned off and a carrot in each ear!)
Ok, back to the story;

So I got sucked in, or so it seemed. (Found out M&M is not the candy, but “Marching & Manuevering”) Two nights later I’m out there learning how to March, “left,right,left, right,….no no no, left then right not left left right, keep your eyes on the guy next to you” (I was working at it, hoping to impress Pat. She was the color guard Captain, another really cute little girl named Paula was the real Drum Major(ette), she hated the “ette”, “that’s one of those girls in the twirling things, I have a serious leadership role here.” We were friends but she wasn’t on my short list for “girl friend”, you know?)
This was early spring, like February then came the Parade Season, begining with March 17th St. Paddy’s day, HUGE Parade day, then Memorial Day in May, plus all the parades for Little League opening day, etc. The Corps was paid by the Cities and towns to march in the Parades, that’s how we supported the whole thing back then, so usually a “Parade Day” meant leaving the house at 6a.m. on the bus by 6:30 am, and six or seven parades later, throbbing feet swollen lips from blowing the bugle all day, and ’round about 11:30 P.M. the bus would roll back into the parking lot and we’d head home. Most Parades were fun becasue you got applauded, they got us all drinks (no Guinness unfortunately, I was still only 17 or so), Ice Cream, and box lunches, snacks and we would collectively destrop a MacDonalds when 70 starving kids hit thier parking lot,….it waas an ugly sight!
After a couple of months I got the hang of the marching thing, there was only one button on the bugle and eight or ten notes were as many as you could effectively hit, I began to even “play” the horn. The horn instructor was a real patient guy. No trying to tech music theory, just stood in front of you and said “D,-g,g,DDD, G, got it, Go” then he’d signal you with his hand “higher note” ,”lower note” and when you got it he made you repeat it until you had it perfect. We used to practice in a school building, one of the parents was the Principal, the horns and drums were all in different rooms, all the Sopranos in one room the Basses in another, the Snares in another, and the instructor just shuttled between rooms all night. Horn practices were about three hours long, as were “M&M”. At the end of horn practice all the horns and drums would all get together in the school auditorium and play our parts together. You never knew what the whole song was like for weeks, only when the Instructors were sure we each had our parts down pat did they allow us to play together, but imagine, doing “D-D-GG-D, etc” for weeks on end and then all the horns were raised and he counted off, “On Four, ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR,..” It all came together in an instant, from there on we spent the rest of the entire year fine tuning our 11-13 minute “routine”, learning “dynamics”, “staccato”, “fades” and a ton more. And all winter we went to a cold old National Guard Armory (only indoor facilites big enough that we could practice the M&M. That was done in “small chunks” as well, and we never put it all together until we got outside in early March (Still colder than, well your lips would stick to your mouthpiece, trust me Chapstick will not help because you don’t get the right “seal” and pressure on your mouthpiece to blow right, so we toughed it, guess what we didn’t die!)
Somewhere in late january or February came the first “competition, “The Individuals” and “The Stand Stills” . If memory serves me Saturday they had the Individuals where a single horn or drum would go on stage and play solo and be judged individually, I never got into that. BUT “The Stand Stills” were a totally different matter. The entire Corps went. Full dress uniform, on stage together and play our up-coming years 11-13 minute routine and be judged on it for technical performance, “crowd appeal”, and dozens of other points. It wwas not so much that stuff as WHERE it was held. It was always held in Boston Symphony Hall, the MOST professional, most accoustically perfect, most really real place in our teenage knowledge base of the Mount Olympus of Musicdom. ME, who six months ago couldn’t march, could’t play any instrument, couldn’t read music, ME. Now standing on the Stage at Boston Symphony Hall, playing to a packed house, in unison with 60 to 70 other pimple faced teenagers. You have no idea what a rush that is, particularly when you finish and there are standing ovations,…on the same stage that the Hall of Fame Classical Composers and Musicians have been playing on since 1884! There can never be a bigger rush, trust me. Oh and my wife, God love, did me one better! As the Drum Majorette of her all-girl Corps “The Immaculate Conception Rockettes” she DIRECTED from the podium at Boston Symphony Hall!! Name a modern day Music Conductor and they would give thier eye teeth to not just play, but Direct at the Boston Symphony Hall.

Break time boys and girls, time to hit the Pub and invigorate the grey matter to complete the third and final installment of

T-30:00:00 and Counting

Lord inspire my Guinness, to inspire me, writing for the final chapter for all these patient folks! 🙂

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