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Tuesday
Mar152011

Jason The Drum Major Participates in Take an Author to Work Day

It is a season to purge, and just before I left for Ohio, I administered a wicked enema to the boxes I've been toting from Cincinnati  to Florida to DC to ummmmm I forget to Alabama.  The one good aspect of boasting fifteen addresses in the past eighteen months is that you get real unattached to various crap, real quick.  So:  Participation trophy from third grade summer bowling league?  Gone.  Outstanding bench warrants?  Not important.  Baggie of Random Pieces of Somebody's Lawn...?

I sat for a very long time holding the Baggie of Random Pieces of Somebody's Lawn.  It was in fact blades of grass from the field at Notre Dame Stadium, gathered in my freshman year the night the student section rushed the goalposts after beating USC.  I split the handful I grabbed, sending the other half to my high school history teacher, a Notre Dame die-hard who wrote my letter of recommendation to Saint Mary's.  What remained was transferred intact from upper desk drawer to upper desk drawer in offices from Ohio to Orlando.  The blades had long since dried, some still bearing the chalk of the sideline.  That is the price of dealing in organic material, in what is graspable and real... it'll turn on you.

In Alabama, as I sat with my back to a pile of notebooks and Grown-Up Writer Girl skirts bound for Columbus, I stared at the little pocket of plastic, remembering my thin blue glove reaching to the Indiana turf, grabbing part of my brother school in my hand, the closest I could come to trapping the whole moment in a microscope slide, having it.  Now I sat a decade later with the brown and crumbling remnants, the tearing seams of the plastic, unwilling to throw it away and unable to have it in sight.  

 

A week later, with snow choking the parking lots and Charlie Sheen waving a machete from atop a hotel roof somewhere far away, Jason took me to see his office.

Nice, cozy little shack.

As we passed through an entrance gate, I made an exceedingly attractive noise which was somewhere between a laugh and a sob without quite being either. 

"You haven't been in here before, have you?"  he said.

"No," I told him.  "And I am having A Moment."  A Moment in which I was realizing that a Cincinnatian who had once buried her hands in the groomed grounds of the House that Rockne Built was currently being escorted through Ohio Stadium by its Head Drum Major... a product of the Cleveland area.  The meteors had been summoned.

In contrast to Notre Dame Stadium, Ohio Stadium seats a bigger crowd, boasts a more recent renovation plan, and brings the fans closer up on the field, but--and I did not say this to Jason, fearful of insulting his house and his manhood--it struck me as smaller than expected.  Maybe it's because a great part of it is sunken.  Maybe it's because it was built in the middle of a state capital instead of a cornfield.  Maybe it's because it was empty. 

The grass is fake here, forever striped.  It is not a mere simulation of the element earth-- it's an outright improvement.  Jason told me it's easier on his legs than hard turf, magnificent to strut upon. 

We stood facing the south end zone.  Jason let me acclimate for a few moments, as one might adjust to a shock of subzero temperatures, or news of the impending zombie apocalypse. 

"What's it like?" I said finally, not needing to elaborate.

"Loud," he answered, also not needing to elaborate.

"You come in here even when there's no real reason to, don't you," I said, and I will keep his reply between the two of us, but when he was done answering I stared at the concrete for several moments, remembering how many times I'd walked the long way from Notre Dame Library back to my dorm at Saint Mary's, just so I could have the Golden Dome in front of me and the busy, modern side of campus behind.

"You have got to be freezing," Jason said suddenly, and led me to where he does a significant amount of his work on game days.

He stopped midway down the ramp which leads to the north endzone, where, two by two, the entire band precedes him onto the field, leaving him alone with his baton and his adrenaline.  And the loud.

"It's only a few seconds," he said, "but it's the only time I have to myself all day."  The first time he performed as the Head Drum Major, the Alumni Band was lined up behind him, and he looked over his shoulder to see Stew The Kind of Big Deal, baton in hand and blending in with the scarlet background, now-- a whole host of alums who had stood where he was now standing, strutting where he was about to strut and beginning what he was about to begin.

I turned around myself, looking up through the damp quiet and the weak-tea February sun, and my dark German sense of humor was stirred by what I saw, there in the walls of the signature building of this very enormous, very public school.

"What's up, totally unexpected stained glass windows," I said, more to myself than to Jason, and finally surrendered myself over to the Instant Saccharine Analogy, because seriously, if I should someday read that a Catholic had fled her Catholic brother school for not being Catholic enough only to land at a godless condom-distributing state school where she is confronted by architecture imported directly from the Vatican, I would immediately fling the book across the room for Being Twee.

Jason, meanwhile, was tracing a thin, jagged X in the wall to our left.  "You ever wonder how we know where to stand before starting Ramp?"  he said.  "X marks the spot.  Drum Majors made this, with their batons."  I reached a glove out to the scar-- this defiant slash carved by hand and steel within sight of state-of-the-art Jumbotrons, the mark carved by different people wearing the same uniform,  deepened by Ohio cold and the shake of the band running past.  And since it was part of a gray wall that was missing, there was nothing to take from it, not a thing to seal away... but I felt that fissure against my hand, and it was real.

So is this.  Jason with a backhand cartwheel catch:

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