• DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    by Mary Beth Ellis
  • Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Random House Trade Paperbacks
This area does not yet contain any content.
« Slow Movers | Main | River of Grass »
Monday
Oct102011

Roll With the Punches, Play All of Your Hunches 

My time here in the Dagobah System draws to a close.  If I didn't know it was time to leave, the alligator who hissed at me as I walked past his pond-crib told me it was time to leave, and, in the event I missed his point, the other alligator draped over the hiking trail as I rapidly departed from the one in the water reTweeted the message. 

Security camera footage of my arrival at Artist-In-Residence quarters in Everglades National Park

In Columbus, meanwhile, the Band plays on even as the the football team it supports suffered the one of the most spectacular career collapses since Sir Mix-A-Lot released a second album.  The emotional barometer of these crossbelted mavens bubbles up and down the mercury tube from minute to minute within rehearsal to rehearsal, so for all I know they've been sitting in one big group therapy folding chair circle in full uniform, instruments on their laps, all, "The eighth time Joe Bauserman completed a pass to Row 514, Seat 92, I felt apprehensive and underappreciated." This may well have been immediately followed by row-on-row gladiator bouts, complete with octagonal cages rimmed in barbed wire and appropriate introduction theme music.  Nothing these people do with their Monday afternoons surprises me.

Or, they show up for rehearsal, music rehearsed and well en route to memorization.  They sit down, they inhale, and on the exhale they destroy and create worlds on the framework of a five-note scale.  That is where this Band lives.  Not on the football field on Saturdays; that's where it works.  Where it lives, what makes it so, is showing directly after the loss, the red flashing light of the rehearsal room metronome refracting on the surface of the dented brass.  These metallic smears, these occasionally ragged notes will vanish by game day.

And sometimes even then the muses are not properly satisfied.  Anyone who has watched the formation of Script Ohio, that living irony of flowing curves formed by rigid turns, knows that its true crowning glory is not the dotting of the i.  It is the bow of the sousaphone player after he or she dots the i-- head uncovered, bell of the horn swung behind and hat held aloft as though the little plume might counterbalance the staggering weight of all that brass and audacity. It is a contradiction of realities in tuba form, a roaring affirmation of eminence couched in what is traditionally a gesture of humility and deference.  It is a fully anticipated showstopper dipped in adrenaline and rolled in mythos.

It was born of a mistake.Jason The Ridiculously Awesome leads out recent i-dotter Mike Johnson-- about four measures early, as foretold by their ancestors.

At the end of a 1938 Script, Drum Major Myron McKelvey led out i-dotter Glen Johnson with too much music and not enough i.  Johnson was left alone before the world at his grand finale destination with about four measures of "Le Regiment" to burn.  What to do with it?

He bowed. 

He bowed with the dauntless confidence of a matador, awash in the crowd's immediate approval of this obviously well-planned and meticulously rehearsed maneuver.

He did not panic, blame, or despair.  He quite literally flourished. 

That bow is where this Band lives, too.  The uphill road on which they march for the rest of this season will endure a little longer than three or four dangling measures.  This horror of a season is not what they had in mind when they stepped off the field of the Sugar Bowl in January.  That's okay. 

The plumes are still on the hats, defying physics and suspensions and scorn and whatever else is dropped upon their heads.  In this rehearsal room, on this field, even a screw-up is one raw, brash bow away from the sublime.

EmailEmail Article to Friend