This one time at band camp


One of the best times of my young life was band camp. In high school, we’d show up a few weeks before school started, stand in a parking lot in broiling heat playing instruments, then drive to lunch at the mall.

When you’re 16, that’s super sweet.

By the end of the first week, I’d have a farmer’s tan going, as did the others.

The cliques were apparent, even in marching band. I hung out with the smart kids (or, more likely, the smart kids took me in out of pity).

The summer wouldn’t be quite over when we’d report at 8 a.m. Monday in August, always the hottest part of the year. We had a healthy disrespect of our band director, and in some years, of the drum major, too.

It was a program going downhill, and we knew it, but didn’t care.

We’d practice on the baseball field or in the parking lot, around cars as need be. Never on the football field, precious turf reserved for the sometimes hot, sometimes not, football team.

With the parking lot, the sun would hit us from all directions, with the glare of dozens of windshields. You’d be crazy to walk barefoot on the searing blacktop.

I was always unhappy about the short shrift given marching band when it came to P.E. credit. You didn’t see the other P.E. classes coming out early to sweat it out, or spend long bus trips to lonely stadiums and sit in the cold rain to cheer on a miserable team.

It was work, but work for which we volunteered.

At least music rehearsal in the band room brought some relief from the heat. Plus, we needed the practice.

At lunchtime, we’d pile into my car and zip through the neighborhood shortcut at breakneck speeds. The faster we went, the more time we’d have to kick back, eat burgers and complain about the halftime show.

Some days, I’m surprised we went back. Not because we hated it, but because it was summer, with the chance to play hooky at the movies or crash at home.

But we were good kids. We hit the field like any other band geek.

The song choices were repetitive. The shows were lame, even by high school marching band standards. And yet, we still had fun, immersing ourselves in the notes, the camaraderie, the end of summer.


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