When I was a freshman in band, our football team did really well and advanced to a play-off game at a big stadium about six hours away. Because we had such a long bus ride, we stopped at a rest stop about halfway through.
I proceeded to buy a shit-ton of toy mustaches from a capsule machine for a quarter and run around sticking them on random posters, books, and toys all throughout the stores there.
Hanging around and watching random passersby— or even better, people I knew from band— finding the strategically placed mustaches and reacting to them might honestly have been the funniest thing I have EVER seen. 8D
although it was sort of… interesting… that when I sent my mom a picture of that Asian woman in the first picture, the mustache that started it all, she excitedly texted back “great picture of you sweetie!!!!!!!”
TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE BAND CAMP
Twas the night before band camp and inside her room
Jenna was thinking about her impending doom
Her trumpet had last been played months ago
And she knew nothing about the music in her show
There was no way she’d quickly memorize her dotbook
When she hadn’t even given the songs a look
Plus now she was a junior and really quite old
But didn’t know how to make freshmen do as they were told
Her knees often got wobbly, she ran out of breath
And long hours on the field to her spelled certain death
She couldn’t hit high notes though her glide step was fair
But her posture demanded getting tied to a chair
She knew she’d spent too much time talking (she thought she was funny)
Though for the summer fundraiser she hadn’t raised money
So the directors would hate her, she’d make that a bet
And the drum major’d despised her the first day they met
She yearned to see her friends once more
Even though the reunion would be awkward, for sure
And there was that one asshole kid who she’d stop talking to
But if he started feigning nice she would crawl back, she knew
Yes, band camp was scary and normal people would fight it
But against all odds Jenna was rather excited
It felt pretty shitty when it actually happened but looking back, sophomore year’s band trip did have quite a few amazing moments.
Promising Platte Time to win him a stuffed animal whenever we passed a rest stop claw machine, buying vintage Beanie Babies for a single dollar from the hotel gift shop with Skurts, having impromptu morbid singalongs in the hotel rooms, sitting cross-legged in the hallway playing something called The Killing Game against a clique of freshmen as a thunderstorm roared on outside, randomly invading the rooms of freshman friends and rolling in their beds, playing Pokemon with G Daddy in McDonalds, everything about Medieval Times (ASIDE FROM MY CHOSEN KNIGHT LOSING IN THE FIRST ROUND), philosophical discussions on the couches in the hotel lobby (largely about why everyone hates the orchestra so much), six-foot-tall plush penguins named Penny, us roommates accidentally flooding the bathroom after dropping something in the toilet (and having to hide in the corner when the hotel staff came to check it out because they were all grown men and most of us had only towels on), karate-chopping random people’s necks while screaming “Sweeney Todd!”, selfies at Cracker Barrel, recording delirious skits about drunk stuffed animals at two in the morning, and of course, watching more movies on the bus ride back than I has ever thought physically possible…
… In fact, in retrospect even the part where I had cramps, a debilitating migraine, a stuffy nose, a few “girl problems”, and an unbearably sore throat and couldn’t speak a word while all that was happening is mildly amusing.
This is the kind of sleep where my eyes don’t close and I wake up feeling more tired than I ever have.
I want to tell stories to them. I don’t mind listening to their own— in fact, I like it a lot— but the thing about listening is that none of them know that I’m doing it. It makes me feel empty, or realize that I already was. Either way, I don’t like it.
I want to say that I almost wrote “happy” there, and caught myself after the first three letters. I’m thinking it was a Freudian slip.
I think about where I was exactly one year ago. I was on a bus just like I am now, going to the same place that I am going to now. Maybe it was the same bus even, the same seat.
It’s not the same story, though.
I had a good time. I had a group of friends. I had a role. I did not do what I am doing now, which is sitting alone with my back against the window and writing things no one around me will ever see. The group felt so much smaller last year, but infinitely more interesting.
Rachel’s studying veterinary medicine and music theory now. I don’t know about Michelle (who once pretended to hug me and then, when I got close enough, growled in my ear and tackled me near to the floor), but she’s probably drunk (maybe even in a hotel bathtub, as per her claim to fame). Lily’s at a regatta and Matt is climbing rocks. Will is likely just at home. I don’t think very much about Andrew (who had mentioned several times that he never should have missed his session volunteering at an animal shelter for this, and that he’d rather be playing with chinchillas than with the band, especially since his best friend Conor had gotten sick and cancelled at the literal last minute) anymore.
But last year…
I blink, and it’s as if I’m lapping memories from a well.
"Did no one else hear that?" I remember Nolan’s incredulous hiss of horror, as he side-eyed Michelle and her simpering smile. "She said that her least favorite thing about the power going out is that she can’t get on the Internet to read yaoi!”
Nolan and Will, they tried to teach Lily about memes and trolls and the Internet after that. She just scrunched up her nose.
"I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about," she’d whined. "It just sounds to me like you have way too much time on your hands."
To this day I firmly maintain that she is the busiest person I have ever known.
Last year comes back to me in shocks and snippets, pieces of memories, pieces of lives.
Michelle and I sharing a caramel sundae for breakfast at the Ben and Jerry’s in the mall at ten o’clock in the morning, Rachel asking whether I preferred to shower early or late, Jenna reveling in her own grumpy glory on a mattress on the floor as the rest of us tittered and gossiped and giggled in bed in the dark, saying things like “We used to be good friends when we were little” and “I think she has multiple sclerosis now.”
I remember Michelle slipping Andrew’s hand into hers as we walked away from the record store to the mall. We felt like we’d been kicked out. It had been empty but for the maybe five of us and we’d been sitting on the floor blocking up an aisle, paging listlessly through music books and lazily lisping out whatever lyrics caught our eyes.
"Weep, little lion man, you’re not as brave as you were at the start…"
Only one man had come into the store while we were there and we think we scared him off.
That was the first time Andrew had told me to kill myself, and the last time he’d meant it as a joke. My singing voice was just that bad, he’d explained with a critical shrug. No one should have to hear that.
The next morning at breakfast he ignored my offer to give him a tour through my milk carton graveyard at the end of the table, which, luckily, Matt was plenty interested to see. Later, during the bus ride home, sometime after Will had told me that Apples to Apples was his favorite game and then refused when I asked if he’d play with me, Rachel and Andrew and I talked about Pokemon for two whole hours. His mother had forbidden him to play it anymore once he’d gotten to high school. She said it was a game for kids, and she gave his DS to his little brother even though he still wanted it.
It was a lot better than the bus ride down, where I’d eaten too much pizza at the rest stop and gotten sick, lost a fortune on cheap claw machines, and ripped my pants.
It was the first time I’d ever been away from home without at least someone in my family.
I don’t know if I was thinking about it then, the way Lily laughed at me when I’d asked her if we could go to the GameStop in the mall, right before she’d suggested Hallmark, but I’m thinking about it now.
Later her and Michelle gave me a ridiculous makeover at Sephora as I sat there with my eyes shut tight, a different color and pattern of neon polish on each nail. We had gone into the store to escape from Brandon, Eric, and Daniel, whom we wished wouldn’t find out about the carefully-crafted love letter in my sweatshirt pocket. The threat of a little eyeshadow was the perfect put-off and even though it seemed to falter, our plan for that envelope’s secret midnight delivery went on without a hitch.
That was after I’d bought Snooki’s book “A Shore Thing” from the mall’s Barnes and Noble— first as a joke, until I’d started dramatically reading it out loud and all the girls had gotten invested. Meanwhile Matt and Andrew pilfered and pored over Michelle’s Cosmo, which we’d used to give each other arbitrary personality profiles and skeevy nipple tips in our hotel room the night before.
There were bad times mixed in with the good. Sometimes I think they were even the same.
At dinner one night, Daniel adopted a campaign. He was on a mission, he solemnly swore, to hear the waitress’s Boston accent. There was a word he was trying to get her to say, “peppah”. He kept prompting her, dropping her lines, and she’d ignore them. The minute he turned his back she said the word, two hours later, and everyone laughed until we almost cried.
Another time we almost cried was the night before, when Nolan and Will poured ketchup and pepper and salt, guacamole and ground-up chips and mustard and soup and soggy paper straw wrappers into their Cokes and passed the glasses around the table for everyone to take a sip. It was maybe the most communal thing I’ve been a part of, the most disgusting, the most feral.
Andrew’s lips lingered when the glass got to him, at the table’s head. “I don’t understand the fuss,” he’d lamented flatly. “It’s really not half bad.”
On the bus ride home that night Rachel, Nolan, and I argued for an hour about whether the word gamine means looking like a deer or a rabbit, while Brett silently watched and silently judged. I was having a great time with my vocabulary, constantly lauding our pedagogical questioning and warning the others to be obsequious when they got a bit too boisterous, much to their confused chagrin.
Later in the ride, when we realized Matt had fallen asleep, Nolan leaned over his hunched shoulders and whispered in his ears in his most ghoulish voice “You spilled your milk”, because he’d heard that if you say terrible things to people when they’re sleeping they get bad dreams. The only thing that happened, though, was that Matt woke up and asked sharply, “What are you doing so close to my face?”
On the elevator Lily and I created the game Find Burger, where we challenged each other to stumble upon Burger— our band’s requisite resident pothead percussionist with severe ADD— first in the most random places possible. One round of the game took place in our own room, where Burger had most definitely not been invited, and had most definitely somehow shown up anyway.
That morning at breakfast, I had been the only one who didn’t order pancakes. As we were spellbound by an infomercial— fitness made simple, made for real people, though Matt and I both swore it said “from”— someone made fun of Rachel and I for sitting with the freshmen.
That was also the day that gave birth to Andrew’s nickname Mancaves, which caught on like wildfire and is still around.
"My first name comes from the Greek word Andreas, which means man," he’d explained, matter-of-fact. "And my last name is Spanish for caves."
People were always mistaking it for the word for Thursday, though, or the word for eggs.
It doesn’t seem too hard a mistake to make, thinking back on it. He really was kind of like an egg, I guess, when he cracked…
And I’m thinking, this isn’t a bad place to write, on the back of the bus. Maybe I could do this forever. Perhaps more importantly, maybe I should.
The trip has been going slowly.
About two hours ago, standing on the auditorium stage, wishing I wasn’t— wishing that I could, at least, be sitting— I told someone that the trip hadn’t even started and I was already bored. But the thing is, I don’t think I’m bored anymore, at least right now. I’m feeling thoughtful, but I’m starting to believe that I was wrong, in the past, when I thought that that was the same thing.
My mind idly lapses into other people’s conversations. I’m not in the right state of mind to foster my own, so for a while I’ll just sit and observe.
Joey is speaking to himself in Italian.
"She never talks to me anymore," mutters Jackie, forlorn, and though I don’t see her I can imagine her eyes cast down.
Kent calls for Conor three times and then gives up.
I hear Phil The Freshman’s wheezy giggle and it almost coaxes out my own.
Then someone points out that we’ve just passed Yale. I haven’t been paying enough intention to know if that’s true. But I probably wouldn’t know anyway, anyway.
"I brought my own snacks too, I just made the mistake—" Nolan protests, and the rest doesn’t make its way to me. I guess I’ll never know what his mistake was and to me, it’ll be like he never even made it. I bet he’d like it if it were the same way for him.
GiGi’s sleeping, hood pulled over her eyes.
Serena and Catherine are chatting rapidly, pleasantly, exchanging words that I can’t understand. Every now and then there’ll be a cracked voice, though, a chuckling squawk riding above the rest, and then they’ll fall back into comfortable conversation again for a few more seconds.
"I think the best way to get rid of garbage is incineration," Joey asserts calmly, or perhaps he’s just stating it angrily. I’ve lost my nuance today; today, it’s all the same.
I decide to get back to my book.
That Cracker Barrel the other day brought back a hell of a lot of band trip memories; the Eg-no-ra-moose game with my roomies, Olivia’s infatuation with the adorable little syrup bottles, the fact that there was one day where I accidentally ate ham every meal without realizing it (possibly influenced by Scout’s costume in “To Kill A Mockingbird”, which we had just finished reading in English Class) and started imagining giant dancing ham hocks everywhere…
And Cracker Barrel aside, there were a million other things that happened; majestic fountains/“water fottles” that my roomies and I rhapsodized about from the see-through lobby elevators, Bally’s Great Adventure (pertaining to the rubber ball that I had purchased for a quarter from a gumball machine in the back of the seedy Old Navy, which was the scene of the episode where my brother tried to put me on a child leash, that I had been forced to go to after our tour of the Coke Factory was replaced by a stop at this shady strip mall because the bus driver missed had missed our appointment while stopping at McDonald’s) on the bus (where he was returned serendipitously—and surprisingly—by Mike, who Sarah and I had gigglishly been referring to as “Scary Friend” amongst ourselves, laughing at the fact that he’d never stoop low enough to talk to us… our other upperclassman “friends” on that trip included Fitz, his older brother, who was also known as Best Friend, Best Friend’s Older Brother who, cleverly, was Best Friend’s older brother, and Stripes, also known as Style Buddy, so called because every single day he wore a brown and white striped hoodie that prompted us to sing “THE BEST TIME TO WEAR A STRIPED SWEATER IS ALL THE TIME” whenever we ran into him), that hilariously awkward dinner theatre, awkwardly navigating that awesome obstacle course on Stone Mountain where, after I tragically wiped out on a swinging rope, a staff member had to regretfully inform me that “Ma’am, you aren’t Tarzan” (and where I got that humongous delicious chunk of peanut butter fudge), Bryan’s delirious ape man-chant “OOGA BOOGA BIG, OOGA BOOGA STRONG, I’M GONNA SING MY OOGA BOOGA SONG”, avoiding getting lost in the UGA bookstore (and making it out with a humongous Rice Krispy five times the length of a normal one), the MLK monument, winning HAT SQUIDS by self-consciously playing a little-kid Test Your Strength game at Six Flags and then parading around in them proudly with Sarah and Lil, getting said Hat Squid (and NO, it is NOT “Squid Hat”, thank you very much) subsequently stolen a million times by my brother (who was still perpetuating that whole child leash rumor), finding pictures of myself delirious under a desk one night wearing my awesome Chick-chick Pajam-jams (a pair of pajama bottoms with ducks on them) that I had no memory of taking, indulging my claw machine addiction while Mrs. Corona went skydiving, having the honor of holding TETSUYA on a glorious mountaintop, 123 Asian pic!, taking selfies with our famed badass 300-pound Asian, Kevin, in a Wendy’s and sending them to my jealous sister who was stuck at home in Italian class, buying wallets and leggings and trying on weird bibs and bike helmets in that shady Target…
So I was in the south recently and I passed a BOJANGLES and BOY that brings back so many ninth grade band trip memories (because for some reason that’s a subject that’s been on my mind a lot lately). There were sooo many Bojangles in Atlanta… and also so many Waffle Houses… and Publix supermarkets… and sex shops and gentleman’s clubs…
And now I’m thinking about our pit stop at that fast food place where I got meal called corn puppies with someone known as a milkquake to drink (god bless the South)… and that buffet dinner where I sat with my friend Chris (back when our color guard had three whole male members, instead of the whopping zero it’s had these past three years) and made a lot of dirty jokes… and the dinner theatre where the geeky drum major Bryan made up a Friday parody called Gotta Get Put On Trial (the only words of which I can remember now are, well, “It’s trial, trial, gotta get put on trial, everybody’s looking forward to the verdict, verdict”)… and that same dinner theatre where a senior guy almost got beat up for accidentally hitting a random dude square in the face with a packet of butter that he launched from a spoon, trying to hit his friend, but accidentally overshot and sent flying to the table all the way on the other side of the room… but somehow that situation ended with the dude making a gracious apology to the director for his outburst and donating a large sum of money to our band… dang, man, I love seeing how certain things can trigger such a collection of positive memories. :’D
My freshman year on our band trip to Atlanta I decided to get myself a stuffed bird as a souvenir from Cracker Barrel (our band’s official restaurant, despite the horror stories some upperclassmen apparently have to tell) on the bus ride home because I realized I hadn’t gotten myself anything yet.
But then as I got onto line behind all the other band kids who were waiting, my chaperone came up and yelled at me “EVERYONE’S WAITING ON THE BUS TO GO! YOU’RE BEING SELFISH HERE BY STANDING HERE AND HOLDING THE WHOLE BAND UP! WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS AND YOU HAVE TO LEAVE RIGHT NOW!”
Of course, my poor, easily-spooked freshman self I felt all horribly guilty and I slunk back onto the bus immediately…
As it turned out we didn’t even end up leaving for another ten or fifteen minutes because of the rest of the kids who had been in line with me. The last person to get onto the bus? The chaperone, who had taken my spot in line directly after she had scolded me. … I still get war flashbacks seeing that brand of stuffed bird. |D
The other day my little sister showed up in my room at 9 in the morning, crying hysterically, because her first band camp ever was coming up and she was absolutely terrified.
… How familiar that feeling was. |D
I tried my best to console her, helping her to read her music, showing her some links where she could listen to the songs to help familiarize herself with them, telling her people I know in her section who’d be able to give her more specific help, and giving her a realistic run-down of what band camp’s like and how my experiences with it were and why she really doesn’t need to freak out… that seemed to calm her down a tiny bit, but this child is now pacing through the house again wailing “I HATE BAND” to anyone who’ll listen.
I know she’s a total attention seeker but it makes me so mad that she’s trying so hard to convince herself, over and over again, that she doesn’t like band even though it hasn’t even started yet… today is her first day of band camp and for her sake I HOPE SHE PROVES HERSELF WRONG AND TOTALLY LOVES IT.
So, uh, I’m leaving for college in three days. Which is absolutely INSANE.
That’s part of the reason why I haven’t been updating this blog as much lately… and also part of the reason why, when the blog is updated, it’s basically all giddily reminiscing posts about band trips past. I hope that’s not too annoying! They’re still relevant to marching band for the most, and they’re still true to this blog’s “mission statement” of me recounting stories from my personal experience, so I figure they shouldn’t be the end of the world!
I have the queue filled for the next few days with a lot of “throwback” stuff like that, plus a few oddly serious writing pieces that also happen to be about band memories, so there will be stuff coming out, even if it might not be the best. Bear with me here!
I’ll most definitely be joining the pep band at my new school, in the very least, though, so exciting new content should be on its way again soon enough ;)
Anyway, thanks so much to all of my fantastic followers who read my ridiculous ramblings and like even reblog my posts… and as always, if you have any questions or comments or want to tell me a story or even just want to say hi, I’m always here for you! <3