Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Love a Parade

Good day, everyone! I hope you are all having a splendid week thus far. How am I doing, you say? Well, I have some big news for you! It appears that I have now become a popular artist (on Facebook)! Does this mean I am famous? Maybe. Does this mean I am going to be rich? Only if I sell out.

The only downside to my new found fame is that I am now feeling a little pressure to keep up with demand. My past reactions to this sort of thing have not been favorable. My main example would be my somewhat defunct cookie baking blog. Last winter, while on break from school, I decided that I would take the old school Betty Crocker Cooky Book and bake my way through.

This idea was good in theory, although not original. I was able to keep up through about five or six entries before classes resumed. Unfortunately, I soon found that I was not able to find time for baking in the middle of all my homework assignments and working full time. My original plan was to take a hiatus from baking until summer break, but then I decided to take a summer course.

I am presently on a one month break before fall semester, but I find that extremely hot and humid weather makes me hesitant to use my oven for more than half an hour per day. Therefore, I have started this blog as it is a bit easier to maintain entries and it doesn’t require me to do dishes afterward.

As part of my new blog format, I sometimes find that illustration is required to emphasize certain features of my stories. In some circumstances, photographic evidence is available to attach to my narrative, but in most cases, no such documentation exists. I am therefore called upon to put my artistic abilities to the test and produce renderings from my own memory.

For these drawings, I have had to renew my familiarity with MS Paint and Apple’s Paintbrush. Way back in my earlier years, I learned to draw on the computer using Apple’s MacPaint application, which is sadly no longer in production. The newer versions function largely in the same manner, but they do require some patience.

So far, I have utilized these drawing programs in two arenas: my blog and Facebook. My blog drawings are done for the purpose of illustrating a specific story. My Facebook drawings are usually in response to everyday (often workplace related) happenings and are done for the benefit and amusement of my friends and coworkers.

Originally, I had no intention of sharing these drawings on Facebook as I believed them to have limited appeal. However, once one of my coworkers decided to share some of the pictures on her page, I found the effect to be quite amusing (and positive).

Now that I have a mini-following for my artwork, I feel like I need to come up with new and creative subjects to illustrate. As I sat pondering this dilemma last night, I found myself thinking about my clarinet. At present, my clarinet sits in a case within my guest bedroom closet and has not been put together and played since my high school commencement. I have high hopes of one day getting it cleaned, re-corked and serviced so that it may yet again find use. That day has not yet arrived.

In my band-geek musings, I was ultimately drawn to the spectacle that comprises the least pleasant requirement of my clarinet days: marching band. To give you a brief background, during my tenure at WHS, marching band was not a top priority of the director. In earlier decades, previous directors had taken much greater interest in marching band, and I even remember watching field marching during football games in the fall.

By the time I reached high school, a new director had arrived, and his primary interests were concert band and his own rock band that was best known for playing the high school prom each spring. As a side note, you should know that my band teacher greatly resembled the actor Gary Sinise. I’m not sure if this could be considered a compliment or not, but it was a fact. My friend Kellee noticed it first, and it gave way to the clarinet section referring to our director as “Gary” behind his back.

Even though Gary did not enjoy marching band as part of his directing duties, he was under some pressure to make the minimum effort to show that the WHS Marching Cardinals maintained a presence. This equated to approximately one month of extra band time into June every summer. Early morning marching practices and a few scattered indoor music practices were all that was required in addition to the three or four actual parades we marched in.

This requirement was not totally horrible, except that they occasionally required us to be awake before noon, and no teenager would willingly choose to do this on their summer break. Unfortunately, it somehow played into our grade for band, so we were without recourse. Additionally, we were forced to memorize our marching song. This usually proved to be the most difficult and frustrating piece of the puzzle for our director. Faced with unmotivated teens along with rising temperatures, he often experienced several emotional breakdowns in the month of practicing.

All of this hoopla ultimately led up to the big performances at the end of June. The performances themselves were not so bad, and we often got some interesting bus rides out of them when traveling out of town. Honestly, we couldn’t have cared less about the fact that our performances were being judged for prizes in most parades.

In the end, the most memorable part of our marching was not the music, Gary’s emotional break-downs or our bus ride games. It was the marching band uniform. These relics of earlier decades were truly a sight to behold. When most people picture marching bands, they envision clean, sharp uniforms with shiny buttons and flashy embellishments. In order to get an idea of what we were given, you will need to erase this picture from your mind.

Our uniforms were made of polyester. Hardly surprising given its durability, but it has never been known to be a very “breathable” fabric. Our shirts (or jackets) were dark red with high collars and full length sleeves. Our pants were black with red stripes down the side. Over all of this we wore white cummerbunds and white sashes. No shiny buttons, no sequins or capes. Our only other pieces of school issued clothing were our hats.

To describe these hats accurately it somewhat difficult. They were black and had a brim similar to a cowboy hat, along with a string to tighten under our chins. On one side of the hat, the brim was pushed up and attached to the top of the hat in what I can only liken to something the Three Musketeers once wore. Within the fold created by the brim, we were given a red “plume” to jam into place before each performance. The trick with the plume was to make sure that it curved the right way to avoid putting out the eye of the person marching next to you.

Here is my artistic vision of the uniform as apparently I would not allow my parents to photograph the real thing:

All in all, I’m sure we were a sight to behold. Essentially, the end result was that we found ourselves dressed in outfits that allowed for no ventilation whatsoever for any part of our bodies. The tight fitting hats had leather-like bands around the inside to keep them in place. These bands also served as sweet sweat generators that left us with wet hair within seconds of putting them on.

Why am I sharing this story with you? Probably selfish reasons, I suppose. On the radio this morning I heard that this weekend we are supposed to have weather akin to the squishy hot ridiculousness of last week. From my previous entries, I think I’ve been clear about my feelings about hot weather, but it’s sometimes nice to have a little perspective on the subject. I will therefore endeavor to use my Jedi mind control to think of my sufferings from the band uniform when I feel that the heat is unbearable. It could always be worse. I could be wearing polyester.

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