Monday, April 27, 2009

Band on the Run

Can you handle it?

Let me colorize teh sexy for you. The pants were red. The shirt? White satin with a red stripe. The dangly thing with the 'K' on it (which stood for the school and not my first initial, though I did secretly think it was cool that it was both) was black satin. The hat was 'white', that is, it started out white, taking on the aspect of a wad of dryer lint after a while, except where the red plume was nestled. There, it was pink. A good pounding of rain quickly made the hat look like a sodden bright red squirrel was taking liberties with it. At least the hat is clamped firmly on my head with a snazzy bead-tightened nylon strap.

Mr D. approached me during at-school band camp in the scorched dregs of August to ask me if I would like to learn to play bass guitar. In two weeks. Uh, sure. That might be more interesting than standing at attention holding one end of our school banner for the interminable duration of our 'field show'. I dutifully practiced.
And sometimes faked it a little. (Hey, I always LOOKED like I was playing. And I mastered the opening riff of the Barney Miller theme, not that I got to exhibit that particular talent much.)

It was someone's particularly sadistic notion that the bass player in our band should also be allowed to participate in parades. A large cart was constructed out of black-painted plywood that would hold an amp and a Kawasaki generator. This could be pushed by one of the 'runners', I would walk along beside it, and play.

There were a few logistics issues that seemed to escape the notice of virtually all of this brainchild's parents. First, the cart was large enough for human smuggling. A Kawasaki generator with a full gas tank weighs around 75 pounds. The amp, about 50. If we put the cart itself at around 50 pounds you have roughly 175 pounds on wheels being pushed by an 85-pound seventh grader who has to turn her head to one side at all times to minimize hearing loss from the roar of the engine and to avoid inhaling gas fumes.

Even if you turn it up to 11, there is really no drowning out what sounds like a push mower in a box with a bass guitar.

Christmas, 1986. Our band is marching down Main Street in our hometown. The streetlamps are decked out with tinseled candles, lights festoon the four blocks of downtown. They even adorn the small pine tree in a concrete pot on a wee concrete island at the convergence of two streets. A wee concrete island surrounded by potholes.

My cheerful plonk-faking through numerous Christmas carols is suddenly interrupted by a very definite tug on my power cord. I glance back toward my Flotilla of Sound and note the disconcerting absence of my cart pusher, my aide de camp, my tiny sherpa of soul. I step up on the concrete island. She's there, all right, frantically trying to dislodge the cart from a fissure in the street that has firmly claimed one of the wheels. I swing my guitar out of the way and help her. A distressing gap is widening between us and the last of the bass drums. The VFW is bearing down on us with grim and surprising speed and their banner bearers begin to wave at us, peevish expressions on their faces indicating their displeasure with our wanton disregard of their uniform and timely appearance before the review stand.

I back the cart up and with a desperate yank, its freed from the miry pit. There's just one problem.

A Fender bass has two things that make it hard to walk around with. One is the quite long neck. The other is the four giant keys at the top. I've never seen Adam Clayton or John Paul Jones have a problem with this. Though I would imagine neither of them ever stuck their guitar in a fully decorated Christmas tree.

I'm forever grateful to one of the Vietnam vets, who, being among the more sprightly of the VFW, jumped out of formation and helped disentangle the keys from the string of lights, freeing me but effectively rendering the bass out of tune and unplayable for the duration of the parade. We marched on, grim and silent, treating the audience to the throaty growl of gas-generated power.


Prefers Her Fantasy Life said...

What a great photo. I love it! Leave it to a Vietnam Vet to save the day.

Junk Drawer Kathy said...

Another masterpiece. I love your stories.

" tiny sherpa of soul" Hilarious.

p.s. The VFW are bad asses. I would have wanted to get out of the way, too.

Lisa (Jonny's Mommy) said...

I'm cracking up thinking of you guys struggling with that amp and the guitar because it reminds me of our high school band when they tried something similar...not marching, but on the sideline at a game. Your story was much funnier though.

Shieldmaiden96 said...

The sideline is where I usually was. It made a bit more sense, but I carried that generator from the 50 yard line to a waiting equipment bus a quarter mile away enough times to know that even that was kind of crazy.

JD at I Do Things said...

Oh, my god. I am dying laughing. A bass player in a parade??? Even without the generator and amp, I just can't see it. Hilarious.

Funny Videos said...

I love the post

Mrsbear said...

Followed over from Boondock Ramblings. What a great story, the beauty is in the telling. Envisioning the struggle with the bass and the amp was too much. The photo of you in the uniform was a bonus.

BohemiAnn said...

This is an awesome story. You can't beat real life events for the most hysterical laughs.

cathycrafter said...

I love it - the sherpa of soul. I had Emily read your story this morning and she loved it too. You truly have a gift with words.