I have a tendency to tell stories about my past in this webspace, often doing so on Wednesdays so that my Mondays and Fridays can generally be given to the Robin Hobb reread on which I continue to work. (As I write this, I am approaching the end of the Liveship Traders series; there’re three more series in the Realm of the Elderlings, along with several shorter works, as well as the Soldier Son trilogy and some miscellany to plow through, so there’s no shortage of work left on that project.) Given some events, both those I’ve discussed and others I’ve not, I’ve had more cause than usual to look back and reflect; that means it’s storytime again.
Back when I was in the high school marching band, I was one of a great many people who were…irreverent, given to assing off instead of showing the discipline to do good work and get things done well. (For the most part: I had my moments.) But as much of a cut-up as I was–quipping, often lewdly, about things the director or other members of the band said, or making odd noises with things other than my horn–I was as nothing compared to one of the older percussionists, a guy I’ll refer to here as DB. (Those who know, know, but initials offer at least some pretense of deniability). Among others, DB had laid out an interloping kid in the bandhall, one who was in the room for a required speech class and who did not heed the friendly warning not to mess with the percussion equipment that was left out; I am told it took removing the carpet from the room entirely to get rid of the bloodstains.
Anyway, DB would, from time to time, be observed walking through the bleachers at other schools’ football stadiums, taking with him a cowbell and a drumstick. He’d take a few steps, hit the bell a few times, listen, and usually shake his head before repeating the process. Over and over again, until at last, he’d smile and nod and come back to where he was supposed to be. And he’d do this while the rest of us were loading in, week after week, occasioning…comments from the rest of us.
But there was a reason DB did his noisy little walk. My second year of high school saw us get a new band director; a scandal had, rightly, forced the one in place my first year to resign (he should’ve been fired and prosecuted, really), so a replacement was sought in haste and found. Said replacement was…less indulgent than his predecessor had been (which was to the good, really; the next year, the band finally started doing well again), and he…disapproved of certain songs in the band’s bleacher repertoire–among which was “Low Rider,” a student favorite. Copies were smuggled out to the students who needed them, and DB would make his way to his smiling little spot, cowbell in hand, and hammer out the opening measures of the song–a cue that I was not alone in following.
Admittedly, it’s a stupid little story, and I probably tell it badly. And it’s not mine, as such; I was never the person to step out first, although I’d follow gladly. Still do, most of the time; make of the example what you will.