drumming

Forget Regret?

Watch 1994 Madison Scouts in Music  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

That right there? That video was the first exposure I ever had to Drum Corps. Some Friday night in October '95 I was sitting in the high school band room. (Go Ben Davis Marching Giants! Animals Forever!) Anyway, twas the night before State Finals and the drumline was busy changing out drum heads, wrapping sticks with tape, tuning the drums, making them sparkle and shine for the big show the following night. Someone put on a video of Drum Corps International finals from the previous year and that served as background noise to our regular chatter and the thumping/hacking of high school drummers.

I didn't notice anything on the tv until ^THAT^ appeared on screen. If you watch the above video, you might understand why at 3:20 the entire room back in '95 stopped what it was doing and stared. It's been a long time since that night. I've seen and done a lot of things in the last 18 years (dear gods, 18 years?!), but I remember the electric awe of that moment. Cymbals, snares and holy god! My jaw was on the floor, and it certainly wasn't the only one. We begged our band directors, our percussion instructor... we hounded them. Please can we do that? Teach us. Can we do it? Please!! 

I said to my percussion instructor, "I want to do that!" "You and everyone else," he slurred. "No, not just the stunts, but THAT. What is that?" "Drum Corps. That's the Madison Scouts." "I want to do that. I want to be in that group." "You can't," he said. "You're a girl. They don't let girls into the Scouts. Men only." "Are there Drums Corps that let girls in?" I asked. "I want to do it!"

He never responded.

I never did Drum Corps.

You know how people always say, "If I knew then what I know now?" or they talk about the one that got away? Drum Corps is my white whale. For years I thought it was something I couldn't have. A teacher told me I couldn't. By the time I realized he was wrong--that I was wrong--and learned how to audition, and had the confidence to do it... I was too old. There's an age limit and I'd exceeded it. I'd waited too long to even try.

I learned from that mistake. This might be why I look fear square in the yellow eyes and say, "Fuck off, I'm doing this!" I don't want to run out of time waiting to be better, stronger, the stars to align or other such rot. I take the shots I'm given even if it's foolish to do so.

If I knew then, though... I totally would've done it. I would've auditioned for every corps I could find.

But I didn't.

I can't tell you how many speed limits I broke listening to that show (particularly with the soul-piercing trumpet at 10:53. Gah! Love it!!) I know that it's been a long time and people have improved upon drill and stunts and all sorts of other things that make this video chump change to some people. But for me, when I see it or hear it, I'm still 15 and wrapping my bass drum mallets with tape...my jaw on the floor.

Damn I love that show.

Consider the Bees

This weekend was great. It sucks that we had to gather because of the death of such an amazing woman, but the experience of our Ohana-style wake was beautiful. Singing, crying, laughing, drinking. People ate fire and potato leek soup. Women danced with swords on their heads. Drummers called to the gods with their hands. And we torched a unicorn! For a too-short time, our tribe came together to love each other and remember our dear friend Nicki. Sunday was spent in various forms of hangover and afterglow, noshing on the leftovers and trying to recover emotionally from the catharsis of Saturday.

A friend of mine asked me today,

"Do you ever feel a sense of emptiness after having been at a place where everyone is hugging, and then going to a place where no one touches each other?" 

Yeah, I do. I see other people complaining of being in a funk today. It's more than just a "case of the Mondays" or residual hangover from the various libations we poured. It's more than grief. What it seems we're mourning is the loss of a good experience of being human.

A lot of status messages today are talking about getting back to the "real world". What they mean is, "back to the grind. Back to work." Back to the places where we're detached and unable to just be ourselves.

Why is that the "real world"?

Why can't we get together and play music and dance and be free to be ourselves all the time? Why I tell someone that I think they're astounding every day? Why does it just have to be at funerals or when the shit hits the fan? We distract ourselves with the "real world" and ignore the important things - each other. We put off actually living for another day. When tragedy happens and we're reminded just how short life is, we cling together for a brief time and then scatter, saying, "We should do this more often, just on happier terms."

Why don't we?

We've got it backwards.

And that sucks.

I don't want to lose what we had this weekend. For a few hours, all differences flew out the fucking window. Old grudges or dramas went into the fire pit along with that damn unicorn pinata. For a while we allowed ourselves to fall apart and be perfectly, unabashedly, nakedly human...and we took care of each other. No manipulations or bullshit. No taking advantage of raw and vulnerable people. When someone needed to break down and cry, there was a quiet corner with loving arms for that to happen. When someone needed to be lifted out of melancholic haze, there was a pint of cider or a cup of soup or a fresh-baked cookie. We nurtured each other and supported one another. Just like a tribe does.

Now... going back to the "real world".... it feels like the cold side of the bed. Empty, lonely... and I can't help but wonder if it was all a dream.

You might not understand what I'm trying to say, so let me tell you a story.

Sunday morning, I was sitting on the patio with some of the friends still gathered. Bottles, cups and soda cans still littered the area and bees had started to come in search of nectar. We tried in various ways to keep them away, but ultimately, you can't stop the stubborn little insects. (They're busy supporting their hive and don't really care what you need to get done.) Anyway, I looked over to the table and saw a bee slowly climbing out of someone's left over drink. For some unknown reason, there was a spoon in the drink and the bee was using it like a lifeline. She crawled up the spoon to the rim of the cup and I noticed that one of her wings looked broken. I put my finger on the edge of the cup and she climbed up onto me, one cold little foot at a time.

For ten minutes, I held a bee in the palm of my hand and watched as she cleaned herself, using her long tongue to lick away the drink. She was content to sit there and soak up some of my body heat, to accept that my hand was a safe place for her to collect herself. Gradually, she dried off and that lame wing unfolded from her little hairy body. She danced on my wrist for a bit, batting her wings without achieving lift-off until finally she flew away...back to her hive to tell the others about the house with lots of nectar...just stay away from the red cups.

Our "hive" is our tribe. Our tribe is Ohana. Ohana means family. Family is your safe place to fall, a place to be ugly and flawed without remorse or judgment. Sometimes, you fall apart. It happens. And when it does, everyone deserves a safe place where they can clean off the muck, dry off the tears and put yourself back together until you're ready to fly again.

Why do we just do that on weekends or when disaster hits?

 

Girl Resurrected

Sunday, Sean and I took K to the Science Center. I have to boast about the fact that my Mom Voice stopped 3 teenagers from banging on a computer monitor. Seriously, who the fuck lets their children (I don't care how old) get away with that shit? To give you more detail...you know how museums have the touch-screen monitors next to exhibits? Well, the Science Center has two next to one of their anatomical exhibits. That particular feature was down (after a free weekend and unattended kids, are we surprised?). I was at the next space over piecing together an anatomy dummy with the Hobbits when I heard terrible banging. I look up to see the afore mentioned twits pounding their fists on the wall screens like imprisoned apes.

"HEY!" I barked. I turned on the stern voice I usually withhold for serious problems with the daughter or when the cats are trying to unroll the toilet paper. "Stop that. Right. Now. It's already broken and you don't need to destroy it and make things worse."

The kids flushed and went off, heads hanging.

My Mom-Fu is strong!

But enough about that...

So, with the kiddo back in school I have more time to put toward my creative endeavors. Of course, this means writing! Woo! Some projects I want to spend time with:

  • Editing flash/short fiction to send to lit. magazines for publication.
  • A fantasy short called "The Giving Tree".
  • More work in the Zombie verse I've got going including editing the novella (title: Stitch), getting sequels outlined and written in a way that satisfies me and more shorts from the point of view of other characters.
  • Research and work for the YA novel I want to write (title: Banning Elizabeth).
  • Work on the short story "Woebegone" and see if I have a novel in there.
  • New fiction yet to be imagined.
  • Overhaul of the first novel I wrote back in 2008.

Yeah, it's a lot. But, some is editing, some is new work...and it's all do-able. But, other than writing, I've got a proverbial bug up my ass to do something else. As long-time readers of this blog will know, I auditioned for Blue Man Group about 7 years ago. For a while, all I wanted in life was to be a Blue Man. For various reasons, that did not happen. After I had my daughter, my priorities shifted and I made the conscious choice to let go of that dream. For a few years, that stung a bit, I admit. I felt like I'd failed. Now, though, I understand that I did the right thing for me and mine and that's what matters.
So, now, with a bad back and fifty pounds that won't look great on stage, being a Blue Man just isn't in the cards. (Not to mention that I just don't have the Oh-My-God-I-Need-This feeling about it anymore.) But, that doesn't mean I can't still play like a Blue Man.
For a while, I've been silent. My sticks are collecting dust and I never play my electric kit. My chops are rustier than the Tin Man's joints. I've let my musical muscles atrophy out of fear and shame from an imagined failure. But...the other day at the Science Center, something of that me woke up. We were playing with some of their acoustic toys (long pipes that just channel air to form amazing drone sounds, a ginormous sound box with 4 strings to pluck). And Sean and I started talking about how the notes on the "guitar" sounded very Blue Man. While we sat down and let K build things with magnets, Sean and I "composed" a piece just talking out patterns.
At one point, I elbowed him and said, "What are you doing? You're going to make me a musician again!"
"Again?" he asked.
Those skills have been dormant, it's true, but they haven't left me. Not entirely. And now, I have a desire to build my own instruments. I won't get the chance to play PVC IV on the stage at Briar Street...but what's stopping me from doing it in my own back yard? Or yours?
Lack of plumbing hardware, really.
So, I've decided that in the coming months, I will be gathering some like-minded troops from the Local Ohana and I will be making my own Blue Man instruments. I want to make a PVC instrument, a Drumbone...possibly a backpack Tubulum...and I want to have some Airpoles for good measure. The build will be a fun, communal  learning experience and playing the instruments with my daughter would be a blast!
When I do this, I will be documenting the build(s) on this blog, and possibly on my neglected percussion blog, Chickaboom. Pictures, hints, tips, rants...possibly video once they are ready to play. (I still have Drumbone memorized. Just need two people to get the slide going.)
I think this is going to be a blast.
How 'bout you? Ever build anything crazy? Geeky? Any homemade instruments or flame throwers out there? I want to hear about it.
What's rooting around in your brain and ready to hatch?

Reunion and Communion

So last night I had the most amazing dream. (Even better than the Conan O'Brien and Adam Savage dream!) And chances are that if you're reading this, you were in my dream! How cool is that? (You were clothed, I promise.) As is usually the case, I can only remember snippets of it in vivid detail, the rest of it is rather amorphous and has been reduced to a series of snapshots and emotions.

Now, over the years I've done a lot of analysis of my own dreams. I've come to understand a lot of the symbolism that my mind uses to show me things or work through problems. An example: If I dream of the house where I grew up, or a school that I went to, I'm usually trying to work through an issue that happened at that time, when I was in that mindset. I look at my own mind like a high rise condo, so buildings in my dreams tend to refer to minds/attitudes from that specific time in my life. Also, I have vivid dreams. Full color, full sensation. Faces of others, though, can be blurry or completely wrong. Many times I will dream of someone and only get the "feel" of them, rather than see their face as I know it.

With me so far?

Okay. So...last night's dream started with me walking along the halls of my junior high school. I was with two girls that I had passing friendships with. We were all grown up and strolling down memory lane in a very literal sense. So, one of the girls looks at the next room we're about to enter... it's the high school auditorium and we can hear a theater production going on.

"I'm not going in there," she says. "If I had it to do over again I never would've gone in there."

I step away from the two women, look in the door and I see images from my past swirling about. There's my drama teacher, there's my first boyfriend, there's my last performance on that stage. All of these events are walking along the same stage at the same time, all unaware of one another. It's like I can see threads between them, one that leads to another.

I look at the girls and say, "I'm going in."

And as I step inside, it changes. I'm in the high school auditorium, yes, but EVERYONE is there. All of my friends and teachers from high school, people that graduated before me, after me, with me... past present and future of this place are all in one area. The stage is in front of me, the seats are all packed around me... to the left is a huge open door. In the next room I can see a similar place... People mingling and smiling, laughing. Among them I see my college professors and friends that I went to ISU with.

A voice asks if I want to go there.

"No," I say, "I don't need to right now."

So, I stay in the high school auditorium and things get blurry for a while. I walk around, I talk with people, I share memories and smiles. Contact is fleeting but potent. Then, I'm walking backstage and through another door and I'm in the old band room. Once again, the place is bursting with people. Now, all of us are wearing the purple. Satin jackets or letter coats, t-shirts with show themes from decades past. There are people here who marched the drumline before I started elementary school. There are trombone players reminiscing over the "Zifflemeyer" story. Directors are trading secrets. I sit down among a wall of drummers and look down to see I'm in my old regalia--baggy jeans, band t-shirt, Chucks and a band jacket. I've got sticks in my pocket. Everyone there is in their personal prime. Some may be 30 and others may be 16, but everyone is at a place of comfort.

I look around the room and I can see that other me...the one who was mingling with the theatre group in her torn jeans and white button-down. Past her I can see the choir robes and Madrigal costumes. Beyond her I see that room that leads to ISU.

This is where I'm hit with a wave of emotion and the emotion has words inside of it. Kinda like a fortune cookie--only tastier and more filling.

It says - "You are all here. All of you. And you are all as you should be. All parts of you shine. All parts of  you have meaning. All of you are good."

I just stand there in awe and whisper, "Wow."

My husband joins me and the memory place falls away. Like a pond reflection rippling when a stone hits the surface.

"I just had the most awesome dream," I tell him. "I need to write this one down."

Yeah.

That was a kick ass dream. I'm glad I walked into that room.

Drumming With My Daughter

If ever my various incarnations did collide, that moment of explosion and being happens in the above phrase.

Drumming with my daughter.

I started drumming at the age of 11 or 12...more than half my life ago. I did concert band, orchestra, steel drums, drum set, marching band, mallets. I even auditioned for Blue Man Group in 2004. While my audition wasn't "successful" in the sense that I went on to rock the bald cap, I call it a success. When I went into that audition, my goal was to someday drum on the stage at the Briar Street Theatre in Chicago with my personal Blue Man idol.  Guess what my audition was... drumming. On stage at the Briar. With that same man. I lived my dream, and these years later I say that's enough for me. It all worked out. After all, if I'd made it as a Blue Man, I wouldn't have moved to Arizona, gotten together with Sean and had my daughter.

Soon after she was born I put the drums away. I'd pull out sticks or hand drums occasionally, but I'd just about given up on drumming. It was part of that other life. Not to mention that any time I got the idea to play, K would freak out. Couldn't touch sticks, my electric kit, my practice pad or play Rock Band lest the kid melt down. So, I just took the few private moments I could, but moved onto other expressions of rhythm -- poi spinning, writing (which was actually me reconnecting with an older piece of myself). Yes, I consider writing an expression of rhythm. You tell a story, but the words are important, too. The flow, the inherent combinations of sounds that come from words on a page... there is rhythm there and sometimes when I edit I'm trying to see if the story sounds right. It might be something as minute as a syllable, putting emphasis somewhere else, a comma here to give the reader a pause... but it's rhythm.

Anyway. Drumming. Recently, I've picked it back up again. I started Chickaboom and my dear friend Eric donated a snare drum to the project. K, my kiddo, saw the drum last night and started running around asking me to teach her. I told her we'd do it today. She woke up and immediately asked me to teach her about the snare drum. So, for about a half hour we took sticks and played. PLAYED.

It's pretty cool to watch someone so pure, so innocent of bias or training, dive into playing an instrument. Her eyes lit up and her tongue wagged in her mouth. So excited! Too much for such a little body to contain. She drummed faster, louder and started screaming.

I know that moment. I know what she was feeling.
I wish I could bottle that wonder.
I wish I could give it to you and everyone else, because that moment was so beautiful it hurt.
But, I can't. And that makes it all the more precious.

"Come on, Mommy!" she yelled. "Let's rock out some more!"

What do you say to that?

The only thing you can do is pick up some sticks and start rocking.

Boomdeyada!