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Tuesday
Aug162011

Songs to Alma Mater Raise

Tonight I sank down on the ground next to Josh Halter The Supposedly Subdued One, settling into the field of little rubber pellets which I am slowly transferring from The Ohio State University to the interior of my car.  I handed him his water bottle, which I'd just refilled, not because I am a particularly sweet person but because the Summer Sessions candidates have begun to dedicate significant blocks of time to playing fight songs, and if you do not move your body in some way while this is happening, you have no soul, no heart, or no hearing.  It was refill the empty bottle he'd hurled in the general direction of his baton case or sprint through the bleachers a few hundred times, and the Lord had bestowed unto me a temporarily decent hair day, so Josh got a free non-trip to the drinking fountain.

The members were lining up to perform the ramp entrance.  "This is my very favorite part, as an alumni," Josh told me.

I summoned my best tender smile, for earlier in the evening, as cicadas churred from the slender trees of Buckeye Grove, I'd battened back a particularly vehement wave of homesickness for move-in weekend at The Womb.  I began to lift a comforting hand in Josh's direction.

"Because," he said happily, "I don't have to do it."  He trotted off to stand before Jason The Ridiculously Awesome Drum Major, Kyle Who Owns, and the rest of D-Row as they pounded their way through a quarter of a football field's worth of instrumentation.  He stood there alone atop Mount Alumni, longitude 50 yard line, elevation Josh Halter, and I cannot remember previously seeing a person so excited to Be Judgey.

This is because he's earned it in many calluses and emptied water bottles.  Beginning this week, Summer Sessions inclines to a semi-daily schedule, and I asked Josh if I'd see him before next Tuesday.  He was all, Yeah, don't count on it, toots.  Josh is a strongly dedicated member of the alumni ranks, and an extremely valuable role model for everyone from Jason to me to the toddlers bouncing Nerf footballs around the edges of the field, but... honestly

This is necessary.  This is healthy, this unplugging, because if there wasn't some sort of release valve on the umbilical cord, I sincerely doubt that I'd see Josh doing what he does when he probably doesn't even know he's doing it:  Relishing the fact that these summer sessions, this sharp-angled chaos and vibrant cacophony of the individual sections executing marching drills, are in the very marrow of him.

Though some struggle with the fact for the rest of their lives, there is no un-Drum Majoring a Drum Major.  Josh claps rhythmically along with the Band members as they assemble for warm-ups, marks the beat to "Hang On Sloopy" with his right foot, and so serenely flows through a demonstration of the ramp's toe touch salute that it would likely require a great deal of thought and an untold host of angry fast-twitch muscles for him to do it incorrectly. 

He jogs backwards during these rehearsal ramps with his successor strutting right at him, but it's an easy, rolling gait, not the jagged, wrathful steps of someone retreating at bayonet point from a zealously protected piece of turf he just doesn't own anymore.  Josh Halter isn't trying to rewind the digital clock in the stadium just beyond the field; he is doing his job by quite literally getting out of the way.  He is a man at peace with his baton, the one he holds now as well as the one he's passed to Jason.

Sometimes, while his charges take a water break or he awaits further Judginess, Josh touches the ball of his baton to the back of his shoulder in a semi-golf swing, like any good retiree, or drops into the bleachers for a moment of bonhomie.  But this stuff, the core of the Band, the scales and the anvil of the metronome clanging the rows into shape, is part of the melanin.  He enjoys the Drum Majorness of Columbus campus life without the weight of the seriously uncool accordion file that Jason occasionally hauls around.

"I can't wait to be an alum," Jason told me once, and even though I'm a graduate myself and often wish that I wasn't, I see the easy, practiced arc of the baton of Josh Halter and begin to understand what he means.

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