Thursday, May 29, 2008

Memorial Day

Sunday, May 25, I was excused from the band performance, and went instead to Mountain View Memorial Cemetery. I had never been there before, but I had the address and had done both a Google search and a Mapquest search to get directions. I was supposed to start playing at 1600, but at 1550, I was on a dead-end street behind a high school looking stupidly at my maps. Noticing the time, I drove frantically on, hoping maybe I'd turned at the wrong place. I finally saw an elderly gentleman raking something by the street, so I pulled over and asked him where the cemetery was. I had my hat on, my stupid black felt glengarry with the black pompom on top, so maybe he guessed what I was doing. But anyway, he vaguely pointed me in the right direction. I stopped at a gas station in the general direction, too, just to make sure, at 1559, and then hurried on east and finally found the cemetery, about half a mile east and 2 blocks north of where the maps said it would be. At 1610 I walked into the office with Angus over my shoulder and asked where I should start. The director said, ' play where the people are'. And so I began.

My job was to walk around where people were and play slow aires and slow marches for half an hour, then take half an hour break, then do it again. I was off at 1930.

It was an interesting 3.5 hours. People showed up in all sorts of groupings: alone, young couples, old couples, small families with 1 or 2 children, extended families with camp chairs and blankets . . . One time I saw a father, a grandfather, and 2 or 3 boys walking purposefully westward. People cleaned the gravesites, took away trash, added fresh flowers or balloons, then stood around talking while the kids played amongst the headstones. One grave had a glass jar of peanut M&M's standing on it. Little children were the most likely to come up and talk to me, but older people did, too. Many people complimented me or thanked me. One man in a suit thanked me for spending my Sunday creating such a wonderful atmosphere at the cemetery. Another man told a story of how his son had died 4 years ago when all the Salt Lake City pipers were in Scotland at the Worlds, and after much searching they were finally able to find someone who would play Amazing Grace at the funeral so would I please play Amazing Grace and here . . . he handed me a roll of bills. I declined the money, feeling he'd already paid enough in funeral expenses and sorrow, but I did play AG while he walked away. People took videos and pics of me; I tried not to notice, but it's kind of obvious. One lady walked past me humming the last tune I'd played, evidently oblivious to my being there still. And everybody had a story: when the person died, how they died, how they were related, something interesting they did during their life, what tune was played at their funeral and by how many pipers. It reminds me of a quote I heard once: "A life without stories is no life at all." (Alexander McCall-Smith) I don't know anybody who doesn't have at least one story about their life. It would have been a boring life with no stories.

The weather was warm and sunny, with a light breeze. Perfect for wandering and playing.

I started having trouble with saliva. You know, spit. I'd get through about 2 tunes and then have to quit cuz I couldn't get a good seal, due to all the spit in my mouth. Maybe it was due to my lip getting sore. Monday with the band at the Holladay Memorial Cemetery, I didn't have the tuning issues that Pete and Jack had, but I couldn't keep my reed playing. I'm beginning to suspect this reed has seen it's last days. I'm listening to it like a hawk . . . if that's the expression I want. Walking up the hill, I couldn't keep the blowpipe in my mouth due to uneven terrain and spit issues, so it was a miserable performance. Yet when I showed up for my solos at the Redwood cemetery, I did fine. Except for the spit part. I can't figure out if it's a blowing issue or a reed failing. Maybe I'll ask Jason tonight at my lesson.

My slow aire is doing beautifully (having been practiced so much), but my march is suffering . . .

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