Thursday, January 21, 2010

F is for Flag

Did I ever tell y'all I was on the Flag team in Jr. High and High School? It's true. Here's my tale (grab a snack)....

So there I was...

In 6th grade, they gave the students an option to pick and learn an instrument. I wanted to learn piano but apparently, it had to be an instrument you could carry. Mom said an unequivocal NO to drums so I picked the flute. I played flute in 6th grade then on through Jr. High (7th and 8th grade where I lived).

I use the word "play" rather loosely. I didn't study and I never got very good at reading music but I played by ear fairly well. I'd read music just enough to learn/memorize the piece and that would be it. I never got past 4th chair but I was never in the back either.

In 8th grade, the band gave the girls the option to try out for the flag team. The flag team in 8th grade wasn't much of a job. We'd put together routines to the music the band was playing and we got to be in front when we marched in the parades. It was a way for me to be an even bigger slacker in the actual band and to still hang out with my band friends. It was also a lot of fun.

Then High School came around. I completely chickened out on trying out for the dance team in the Band and waited for the flag tryouts (stick with what I knew, right?). I helped my best friend, Nikie, make the dance team (had the whole dance memorized and just practiced with her) but was still determined to only tryout for flag. I can't remember why but you couldn't tryout for both.

Anyway, in a crushing blow, I didn't make the team! I was told I was really great but they had to have a certain # of spots held for the people already on the team (sophomores, jr.s, sr.s). I was told I would be a first alternate. I asked what that meant and it meant if somebody decided they didn't want to be on the team or moved or something, then I was in.

The summer between 8th and 9th grade flew past and a month before it ended I got a phone call from one of the Band moms. She asked if I was still playing the flute and did I want to be at Band Camp the next day. I said I didn't play anymore but that I was told I was a first alternate for the flag team and did that mean anything. She said she didn't know but I should show up anyway. So I did!

I spent the whole month at Band Camp. Not nearly as fun as it sounds. Band Camp at Clovis High School means you show up to the baseball field every day for a month and sweat your ass off in the hot Clovis, CA sun learning the placements/music/routines that will be used throughout the year for competitions and half-time shows.

I learned all the routines. I was a stand-in whenever anyone needed a break (or got heat-stroke) and that meant I learned every possible position on the field. Persistent little bitch that I am, by the time the month was over, I was on the team.

Freshman year, I was actually in a lot of the competitions/half-time shows. We flew to Indianapolis, Indiana for Nationals that year. We got 12th place - not so hot. But it was an amazing, fun trip! Nikie and I (and the 4 other freshman auxillary team members) had the job of switching out the props/flags/etc. during the show at Nationals. Whoopee.

Also, being in the band meant you spent the first half of the school year on a big smelly greyhound type bus, travelling around for competitions. Band was pretty big at my High School. We were the Clovis High Golden Cougar Marching Band and we had a separate semi diesel truck that was as big as our name to haul all the band gear/instruments/uniforms/you-name-it. It was called the Blue Goose and it broke down a lot. To make it even more fun, Band took up two periods of your school day so we all took summer school to make up classes. But it was TOTALLY worth it! Some of the best times I had in High School... band trips.

My freshman year was also the only time we attempted "Winter Guard". That's competition just for the auxillary teams. Our drum major (Chris Henrichs - where are you?) really wanted to give it a go and the school told him that we could but they wouldn't give us any money. We made our own costumes, had practices in the gym nearly every day and paid our own entry fees. To say Chris was a perfectionist would be to say the Pope is a little bit Catholic. We never did the same routine twice and we never really finished it. He was never quite satisfied with what he'd come up with or what we did. He was in one of the big professional Drum and Bugle Corps in California (California Dons? The Blue Devils? I think he did both) and he was amazing.

He taught us all kinds of tosses that we'd never attempted before and perfected the ones we did know. The single toss (no looking up... toss and catch while looking straight ahead), the double toss (toss on 1, look 2, look forward/catch on 3), the 2 & 1/2 (toss on 1, look on 3, look forward/catch on 4) and the helicopter toss (it spins over your head, parallel with the ground). For the 2 & 1/2 and the helicopter, we had to attach weights to the top of our pole so it would have the proper torque to make the turns.

I got injured on every single toss. The single, I wrapped the back of my knuckles good and hard, the double I bruised my palm (Chris made us catch it hard so it looked super sharp and practically vibrated the pole), the helicopter landed right on the soft spot at the top of my skull and I sat down hard, trying not to cry. The worst injury I had was with the 2 & 1/2. Toss on one, look on threeOhShitHereItIs - I looked up just in time to see the tip of the pole spearing down at me and it hit me right below my eye on my cheekbone. Still didn't cry but it hurt like a mother.

What other adventures... let's see.... Should I tell you about my friend Tiffany Mount? She was also in one of the professional corps. At the end of the competitions, the bands would all be on the field in formation for the ever-so-long handing out of the awards. Tiffany was hypoglycemic and she'd often forget to eat a little something before going out on the field for awards ceremonies. One time we saw her starting to sway. We knew what was coming and it was particularly bad since she had this 8 foot pole with a tip-to-top flag on it. We were joking that she was going to be picked up by a gust of wind and blow away. If only. She passed out. Not only did she pass out but she took out a drummer on her way down. Clocked him with that giant pole and knocked him cold!

Then there's the time when I was a sophomore and we had a girl get really sick so a freshman who'd never actually been on the field had to take her place. During practices, the freshman had always been on the other side of the field and this particular part of the half-time show, her half of the field is moving forward while the other side is moving backward. When that time came, she went forward, as practiced. We're all whisper shouting to her and when she saw her mistake, she started laughing. She was laughing so hard, she just sat on the field and literally peed her pants. Luckily, it had rained that day and the field was a soggy muddy mess so no one could really tell.

Sophomore year, I tried out for and made the dance team in the band. We were in the Rose Bowl Parade that year!

Here's a pic of Nikie and I coming in from practicing in the rain in L.A. while waiting to be in the Parade the next day....

I'm on the left. I remember we were so pissed that the Band powers that be made us practice in the pouring rain! I also remember a reporter from the Fresno Bee came up and spent the night with us (in the school gym where we were staying - no hotel rooms for band!). A band mom came and kicked the reporter's sleeping bag (with the reporter still in it!) and barked at her to get out of the aisle. We said, "Hey, she's an adult! You probably shouldn't treat her like you treat us." The reporter put my picture on the front page of the Bee (although it might've just been the front page of the Lifestyle section - I can't remember). It was pretty cool! She took it when we were out practicing in the rain. We were in a football field (of the school where we slept), practicing our half-time show. The routine starts with the dancers facing back-field and when the music starts (BOOM), we turn and stick our jazz hand in the air and smile. She said she took my pic because I was the only one who smiled every time.

So next question.... If we were on the dance team, why are we carrying flags? There was some rule or decision or whatever that all the auxillary would do a flag routine for the Rose Bowl Parade. As the dance team, we were pretty pissed about it, but what could we do?

The parade was... surreal. We get up at oh-god-thirty in the morning and get to the parade site. Get in formation, walk about a block, turn a corner and that's where the judges stand is, then walk another 5 miles. We put Vaseline on the bottoms of our feet because it keeps your feet from slipping around in your shoes and that means no blisters. Also on our teeth so they don't dry out from smiling. We weren't allowed to eat or drink before the parade because there wouldn't be any bathroom breaks. And 90% of the spectators had spent the night in their spots. Spent the night but not asleep. Most were drunk beyond drunk and some would offer us drinks or offer us food by throwing cookies at us. Gooooood times.

My junior year, our dance coach got an opportunity to start a dance company at the school, outside the band. We all jumped on it and that's what I did junior and senior year.

I'm sure I've got a million other band stories but this post is long enough. I do want to show you one other thing....

About 2 months ago, I started working out at the free rec centers where I live. I have been listening to music that occurred to me would make great music for choreographing flag routines. (It's not band music.) Once I got the idea in my head, I couldn't get it out. A month ago, I went online and bought a flag. It wasn't expensive (although the shipping cost as much as the actual flag!) and I thought it would be much more fun for working my arms then lifting boring weights.

The rec center I go to has a full-sized indoor soccer field and I am in there 4 days a week, after I do my cardio, with my flag and my ipod. It is SO much fun! My husband can't stop laughing at me but I so don't even care!

People (including me) toss their kids into that field with a ball or two while they work out and I have this strange, small audience. Particularly two girls (7 or 8 years old) that come a'runnin' every time they see me. They sit in front of me Indian-style and just watch. It's a bit weird and I always tell them to move back as sometimes when I'm doing tosses, it gets away from me.

I'm having complete cellular memory with my flag and I'm also getting a couple of the same injuries. I've whacked my hand a couple times and I've also taken a couple of good head shots. Still hurts like a sonovabitch, just like I remember! But it is more fun then a bag of cats and my arms are starting to show results so, what the hell!

Flying my geek flag high, Ruth!


Anonymous said...

Remember: geeks rule!

Mountain Mama said...

I still pull my Colorguard flag out every once in a while and toss it around in the back yard. I did it a year in HS and then four years in college. Definately some of my favorite memories.

Kristyn said...

I was also a flaglette in HS. I tried out for the color guard at Michigan State but didn't make it.

k said...

Wow. I think you just found the book you should write.
I was a total loser in high school.

Yarnhog said...

I really enjoyed this post! I'm smiling, thinking of you tossing your flag around with your little audience of puzzled kids. :)