A journey....through space....

Welcome...from launch sites to love, heat shields to hearts....join me as 20+ year rocket scientist transitions to the world of romance novel writing.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

They Say the Neon Lights are Bright....first time falling in love...

This is by far my most favorite story....for so many different reason....it was a very special day in my life, which I'd like to share. This event has basically shaped many of my decisions, and I'm positive that half of my friends today are because of this decision and this day. 

First, the story. My whole love of marching band and performing started in the spring of 1979, when I was a mere freshman in high school. And you can blame it on a guy, too.  I can't remember who told me that the band was having tryouts for tall flag girls. I decided to try out because of a little crush I had on someone in the band at the time.  I have no clue what happened to him. But the way Facebook is going, he'll show up in a week or two.

I digress. I figured if I tried out for tall flags, and made it, I'd have more reasons to talk to him, more shared memories, etc. A brilliant plan!

I was the girl who'd been picked last for teams for years. Who over the years didn't quite suck as badly in those stupid yearly Presidential fitness tests. Who actually wasn't very bad at soccer or tennis once we got to do them for longer than 6-8 weeks. Still. This was the first time I'd tried out for anything, and I barely made it; I think I was on the bottom 8 out of about 28-32 girls. All we had to do was march and do commands; there was no flagwork involved. But no matter, I was IN!

We then spent the summer of 79 at rehearsals. For the first time ever, I was not bored during summer vacation. Sometimes the instructor, who happened to be our drum major, didn't show up, but when he did, we learned quite a bit. We learned some basic flag moves after buying aluminum poles (read pipes) down at a local lumber and plumbing site. Now you can order a flagpole online and have it shipped to your door. Progress. We also learned some more marching and maneuvering techniques. Most importantly, I learned how to whistle through my fingers that summer. Fold your tongue back, and put your fingers on the fold and your bottom teeth. Thanks, Michelle!

All the while, I was waiting for the magical date of August 6th. This would be the day that we'd begin band camp with the rest of the band, and I'd get to see HIM. It had been fairly hot and somewhat smoggy all summer; that morning, it was foggy and almost cold. Our instructor Stacey had the idea of us marching down to the band room in rank, to show the rest of the band how hard we'd been working all summer. So we did just that. Once we broke rank, I had my eyes open. Nope. No dude. But a few people were at Bellis Music camp (anyone remember that? I hear they're still in business. Wow, huh?) and I figured they'd show up next week. And they did, but not HIM.

Again, I'm thinking no big deal. He'll show. And in the meantime, we started getting ready for the first football game, and when school finally started, I found out what happened to Mr No Show. He'd dropped out of band to join a sports team which met at the same time as band practice. Well Damn. But I was committed to the show, and there was no stopping me.

But fear not. Although there was no band member in my immediate future I discovered something else on Saturday, September 15, 1979--that I absolutely loved performing. And now, for your reading pleasure, I give you my diary entry from that evening, 31 years ago. It was the first football game of the season and at the Rose Bowl. How many HS kids can say their first halftime show was at the Rose Bowl? Pretty cool, I thought. The other interesting thing about this day is that there was a fire raging in the foothills about 10 miles away, and ash was being blown everywhere. It was a hot day, and a good one. The diary entry will be annotated with comments to explain certain things, as well as things that happened that I didn't write about.


Sept 15, 1979
Well, today was the day of the first game, and it's only appropriate that I scribble something about it.

Last night we had a practice to make up the marching parts and when to come in with the routines [now that I read this, I'm surprised how last minute we were]. Then we had to be at practice at 6am in the morning [note: this should have warned me of band practices to come at USC, what with us having to be on campus at 6:30am some mornings]! Stacey was late, but we did go over the routine. Then we went down to the band room to get our flags (white) and gloves.

When we got on the bus [to take us to the Rose Bowl, barely 2 miles away-- note: our Homecoming game against  was always played at the Rose Bowl, since it's both schools' Homecoming game and no one ever seems to leave Pasadena after graduation, so the game is pretty crowded. For Homecoming, we normally paraded down to the Rose Bowl], Stacey said to have the first five rows reserved for us, but the drum corps didn't want to get up. Finally, we all straightened up and were on out way to the Rose Bowl, cheering.

We arrived and got off the bus with our flags. Before we lined up, we prayed, and I laughed to myself the whole time. Then we lined up behind the band and strode into the Rose Bowl onto the field. We then marched into the stands.

[I know that we did a pre-game show and played the Star Spangled Banner. All of us tall flag girls were lined up alongside the band, but we didn't do any flagwork. What's odd is that I wrote nothing about it. Oh well. I'm also pretty sure that Blair's band did not show up. However, I do remember that their drum corps was there, as was ours. This is the group to which I now belong, and play strap tenor]

We were so nervous and I was totally confused as to what to do on the field. I was actually wishing that the first half wouldn't end. Since so many of us were confused, we left our seats with Stacey so he could show us what to do [The thing is, we were ALL brand new to twirling flag, except for maybe one or two people. A few of the girls had played flute in band the year before, but it was a very new experience for us] When we came back, we found we has scored a touchdown! [this is very reminiscent of USC games where I was a TA, and the team would score while I was escorting bandmembers to the bathroom...wow]

The second quarter was over, and we got ready to march out of the stands. I was scared!!! Then we marched to the other side of the field to line up. I heard my friends calling my name and I got so nervous. [I remember just wanting to pee so badly.] I was so nervous that I kept talking to Tonja [who stood in front of me] about how scared I was and that I wanted to leave. She told me later that I was making her laugh!

Anyway, Stacey had the band start, and we were marching and playing. "Superman" went by and so did "Mork and Mindy" [damn...this WAS the late 70s, wasn't it??]. Then we started "K-gee" [our feature], and my friends started yelling again--damn, did it make me nervous. We started the routine on the 8th beat, and everyone did okay. Afterwards, I started shaking. When it was over, we marched off the field and stood at parade rest. The band marched into the stands, and [the flag girls, led by Stacey] marched out of the Bowl.

That was all I'd written. I think I was a bit tired, which is why I didn't finish. What happened after that was, to the best of my memory, is that Stacey told us what a wonderful job we'd done! We marched back into the Rose Bowl all proud of ourselves. During the third quarter, we were allowed to sit with friends. My mom and sister were there, too. They all said we did a great job. I was really happy, and jazzed. That was the day I got addicted to the fear and excitement of performing....and it's never really left me.

Third quarter, we were allowed to move about the stadium, and I went to sit with friends and family, who said we did well. I was really happy, and jazzed. That was the day I got addicted to the fear and excitement of performing....and it's never really left me.

As I said earlier, there was ash blowing around from the fires in the foothills, and the scent of smoke was in the air. It was rather warm, and we were drinking cups of water. For some odd reason, the Pep Band was also in the stands near me. One of my friends wanted some more ice, and my sister noticed that some had fallen down near the feet of the guy I had a crush on. So she said this classic line:

"Just reach down between his legs and grab it!"

Comedy. She was only 13.

You know, I don't think I ever talked to that guy again. I must have, but I just don't remember.

I went home and wrote it all down in my diary....and the feeling never quite went away. The season went well, and I think we actually won a trophy at a competition that year. I remember dark wet mornings on the field, the smell of grass, scrambling to get to second period on time. Music from movies that came out that year ("All that Jazz", which led to my dancing career), and big band music were the staples. This was the very first time I was involved in something at school other than just mere classwork or a club, and I loved it.

At the end of our season, I found out that there was an honor band for the Tournament of Roses Parade, made up of HS and college band members, that I could try out for....

...and I MADE IT! So I began 1980 in a very cute uniform of tuxedo tails and top, black leotard, fishnet stockings and black flat shoes. And after a 7 mile parade, almost passed out. But it was so very very cool. TELEVISED, people! All over the WORLD! My mother had set up 3 TVs in the family room, and when I didn't show up on any of them (this may have been the year we did NOT PLAY GOING AROUND THE CORNER....a travesty!), she drove down to the parade route, told the 30 people around her to yell when we went by, and I heard a chorus of my name close to PCC as we marched by. Thanks Mom! This was the first of three times I'd do the parade with the TofR band. Every year that I did it, more members of Muir were a part of the group.

So of course, I had to do it all again the following year at Muir, but they made a terrible mistake and put me in charge. Good performers don't always make good leaders. I remember staying up all night to make flags before the Turkey Tussle. On a whim, for one competition, I switched from tall flags to majorette. I don't know why we had a baton in the house, but my sister taught me one basic move and I figured out a bunch more. I ended up with a first place trophy in a Christmas parade, and I marched majorette my senior year. I spent a lot of time in July and August of 1981 sewing individual sequins on uniforms while listening to ELO (another tradition which picked up again when I joined Danse Magique). Hindsight being what it was, I should have just asked my father for money for a proper costume.

Senior year was great, as it should be. I think there were maybe 10 seniors in band at that point. We had a great time at Band Camp, breaking in a brand-new band director, straight from the high-up hills of Westwood. It's funny now because I was 17, he must have been 23 or 24, but he was "so much older" than us. A few days before the end of band camp, we got the brilliant idea to teepee his house (we can't be prosecuted now for this, can we?). We went to the Bobs Big Boy on East Colorado (it's now a Dennys), stole about 10 rolls of TP, and went to his house about midnight. I found out later that he and his wife were hiding behind the curtains watching us.

We did a lot of crazy, new stuff that year. We actually did a western show and played the Theme from Dallas. Our Drum Major, Steve Daniels, spun a rifle instead of a mace. After the Turkey Tussle, a bunch of us went to Shakey's Pizza to watch a tape of the game. Keep in mind that this was 1981, VCRs were a million bucks and recorders were thousands. I exaggerate. So it was very lucky for us to actually see ourselves on tape! There were about 10-15 Muir band members and about 10 PHS football players there. We were up by halftime, but what we were there to see was the halftime show, and it was damned good. Then we left, because we'd gotten our butts kicked in the second half. The PHS players taunted us as we were leaving "oh, where are you going??? you should staaaaaay". Hah.

We made it to the playoffs the following week, but lost that game. And I cried at the end of our last halftime show, because I thought it was all over. Silly me. I'd only just begun....

(an unrelated thought, and I'm not sure why I remember this, but "Turning Japanese" was playing on the bus as we rode from the stadium back to campus)

Part of the reason I picked USC was because they had a flag line (the other was that their Electrical Engineering department was ranked 5 in the nation). But I didn't join band my freshman year....which was probably okay in the end. I was too afraid of getting crappy grades and losing my scholarship, and thus was bored my freshman year, having nothing to do with study, party, and wish I was in band. But I did try out and got my first sunburn at band camp in San Diego. I had no clue what it was.

4 years of band included the Olympic Opening/Closing ceremonies in 1984, The Statue of Liberty All-American college band in 1986, trips to the Bay area, Chicago, Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, Orlando and Hawaii. AND...another Rose Parade. That felt like an old friend, marching in that parade again.

Those who know me know I haven't stopped. And why should I? It's fun, I'm good, and I can still do it. I'll be performing again on October 30th at USC's Homecoming game....just like I was still 19 years old...

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