Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Seaside Highland Games

(I just found this un-posted. I must have been waiting for pictures. I'm gonna post it anyway, and add pictures later. Sorry for the delay.)

Friday, October 9

In Transit, Salt Lake City to Long Beach, CA to Ventura, CA

I arrived at the airport early, but not as early as Andrew and Jessi who were waiting at the gate area for the rest of us. Sande showed up shortly afterwards, followed by Pete and Trenda, Liz and Ben, our Ben, Sean, BJ, Tyler, Teagan, Paddy, Aaron, Erin, Triona and Dan. Our Fearless Leader, who had advised us to be at the airport early, showed up less than one hour before flight departure. Transportation difficulties. But we all got there in time.

Much conversation and joking went on while waiting, boarding, flying, deplaning, baggage claim, and heading for the rental cars. Another passenger was taller than Aaron (6'9"), which was a favorite subject of conversation. Instead of Dan, Sande and I being in one car, and Aaron, Sean and Teagan being in another, Enterprise gave us a 7 passenger van which we shared among the 6 of us. Dan and Aaron were Designated Drivers. Our 6 garment bags, 5 pipe cases and 6 backpacks did all fit into the cargo area, but only just and only with Aaron's expert packing skills.

The drive to Ventura (87 miles north) took several hours due to typical California traffic. We gave it up about 8:30 pm and stopped at an ihop for dinner, which made us feel better and allowed the traffic to clear out. We had some language/communication difficulties in ordering and paying. My scramble ended up with peppers, but I was so hungry I ate it anyway. The coupons HH had pressed on me before leaving came in handy, too, and saved us a bundle.

Our hotel was gorgeous! Each bed had a duvet and FOUR pillows! I remember vaguely calling home to let them know I had arrived, putting my pipes together so that they could acclimatize and falling into bed, asleep in an instant. Sande and I shared a room, as before in Jackson, WY.

Saturday, October 10

Ventura, CA

Saturday dawned gray and 50F. Sande graciously woke up at oh-Dark-hundred hours Saturday morning and went with me in search of breakfast. We were told specifically that the breakfast bar was free, but as we were walking back to our room full of scrambled eggs, orange juice and sausage, a Person in a sous-chef jacket ran after us and requested our room number, and the breakfast was charged to Sande's card, anyway. Dirty rotten ratchafratch! But oh well. It was going to be one heck of a day, and it really needed to start with a good breakfast. I gave Sande $17 for my part.

At the front desk, I woke up first Pete and then Sean, calling to try to find us a ride to the Ventura County Fairgrounds, about 1.5 miles away. In the end, Dan dropped Andrew, Sande and I off. It was a mostly concrete venue with 4 or 5 quonset huts here and there. Little collections of sleeping mobile homes leaned up against the fences. Very little life was evident. We did see Aaron Shaw striding this way and that while we tried to get our Gale chanters and drones in tune with one another. Andrew gave up and switched to McCallum, so I did, too. Sande-fine tuned my drones and I started warming up my mind and fingers.

My march solo competition was scheduled for 0835, with the slow air at 0840. I was just hoping I could make all the notes sound; I was having real trouble with pressure. After all the work I put into Captatin Norman Orr-Ewing and the throws on D . . . I reverted back to my original faults and crushed every single throw. My slow aire was nothing to speak of, but I got all the notes right.

About that time, Dennis showed up with the van, tents and chairs, and pretty soon we had our little Salt Lake Scots home of tents and lawn chairs. The tables were quickly covered with pipes and drums as other band members arrived. Then the piping began.

Opening exercises were to be in an incredibly small space for the amount of bands and spectators. We were paired up with a band from Westminster, CA. It took awhile to decide on a tune we both knew, but we finally settled on Mari's Wedding, and agreed to play that together while we marched around the tight circle. Just before we started off, I remarked to Triona that I hoped we weren't going to have to play Mari's 12 times, like we played Scotland the Brave at one Salt Lake games during fireworks.

It turned out to be only 6 times.

Then we went back to warming up.

We seemed to be pretty focused. Everybody was in time and in tune and on the right note. People put their Gale chanters back in (McCallums for massed bands) and tuned their drones pretty much by themselves--even me! to lighten Jason's tuning load. Very little major tuning by Jason and Sean went on. Only fine-tuning. Jason kept us playing a tune, resting and playing another tune, etc., so we were pretty much stuck there behind the quonset hut waiting all morning for the next call to play to keep the pipes in tune. We were on at 2:10.

Traditionally, a band going in to compete forms up into a block, pipers in front and drummers in back, and plays a tune on the march. When the tune is over, one just keeps marching while the lead snare drum taps every left footfall. Everybody tries to make this a positive thing. "Have fun," and all that. I, however, always feel like we are marching to the block to have our heads chopped off. I've watched too many French Revolution movies, I guess. At 2:05 we played Minstrel Boy and marched around the quonset hut, across the parking lot, and up to the line between two smallish bleachers. (Talk about lush vegitation and beautiful scenery! NOT!) Last minute pep talk from Jason, and we struck in.

This was our timed medley, which includes 2 marches, a strathspey, a reel and a slow aire. We played very well. I heard some rushing in the reel, but for some reason Jason either didn't hear it or didn't mention it. In 4 minutes were were done, and marched out.

After that we had to hang around until closing ceremonies--pretty much the same as opening, except there was massed bands. Two things of interest: one of the drum majors couldn't have been more than 10 years old, but he had his moves down EXACTLY! Another pipe major had to have been at least 80 and could barely stand up straight. His band was pretty much the same age. I was amazed they were still playing, but hey! good on them! We did not get any awards, but then neither did the Grade IV LA Scots.

Then Sande and I went back to the hotel, changed and walked across the street to an In-And-Out Burger for dinner. I was seriously considering just passing on dinner, but figured I needed sustenance. Dan and his brother Andy were there, and we had some conversation with them, but not very much. We were all too tired. Back at the hotel, we met Teagan just returning. He had been left behind at the games and had to find his own ride back. We were shocked that we had abandoned the only jeuvenile in our group! Upon comparison of notes, we realized that the van driver had been told Teagan was going back with one of the cars, and the car people had been told he was going back in the van.

Back in room 3079, Sande found Kung Fu Panda on TV and we started to watch it but I fell asleep so fast I don't even remember getting fuzzy. One minute I was awake, the next I was waking up at 2230 to the sound of other band members in the hallway returning from a beach volleyball party. I changed into pj's and went back to bed and slept until 0730 Sunday morning.

Sunday, 11 October

Ventura and transit

Sunday dawned gray and about 55F, same as Saturday. I slept in until about 7:30. I got my uniform back on and packed while Sande waited. We had breakfast across the street at Denny's. Back at the hotel, Sande packed and I waited. We then located Dan and Aaron, who decided to go over to the games with us, so we waited while THEY packed. We made sure Teagan had a ride, and that the ride knew they had him. Don't forget Teagan! After a quick stop at a 7-11 or similar, we arrived at the games and warming up began almost immediately. Opening Ceremonies this day was a parade down the street, about 3 or 4 blocks long. Instead of having to play Mari's Wedding over and over with the Westminster band, we got to play any tune or set we wanted. Parade stuff is old hat to us, so when our turn came, we started in.

Mickey, a female drum major from California with a voice of thunder, was our drum major. Must have been a requirement: You must have a drum major to participate in the Opening Exercises. She is a familiar face, having done workshops in Salt Lake for us. Drum Majors have all sorts of acoutrements: a big metal stick with a blob on one end, sometimes a hat with black ostrich feathers, a tartan sash, spats . . . Mickey was throwing her stick (called a mace, I think) around before we stepped off, and I wondered to myself if she ever dropped it. I had never seen her drop it, but maybe when she was just starting out drum majoring . . . We stepped off, and Mickey tossed and twirled the mace, and suddenly . . . she dropped it. The whole band was only about 10 feet behind her. She bent to pick it up, missed her grip, and had to try again. By this time we were almost on top of her. She looked back, and I saw a gleam of panic in her eyes.

The good news is we didn't run over her, and she didn't drop the mace again. Good thing, too, because the bass drummer would not have been able to see her and it would have been a mess.

We were on at 2:10 again Sunday. The difference was that Jason decided to use McCallum chanters instead of the lower Gales today. Well, OK. Whatever. McCallum chanters sound harsh and shrill in the high desert air of Salt Lake, but 100 yards from the ocean they sounded beautiful.

Same drill as the day before. This time, we played our march set, which is a collection of 4 marches, some slower than others. We have been playing this set since before I joined the band, and it is getting rather old even with changing the last tune. We do it well, however, so we did it well again and marched out.

Some of us had to be back in Salt Lake for work or whatever, so we changed, packed up the van and headed south for the Long Beach airport. We made sure we did not forget Teagan. (He was probably chafing at all the attention by this time.) As we were driving along, Sande and I compared notes and realized . . . she was booked to return on Tuesday!! And no names changes less than 24 hours before flight departure! Aaaaaagh! When we stopped for lunch (or perhaps it was dinner), I talked to jetBlue for about 30 minutes and finally Deb Watson said she would change the name of Joel Fairbrother (who didn't leave Salt Lake at all but was still scheduled to return on Sunday) for Sande's name, no fee. I was very worried, standing in the bushes as far away from the traffic as possible so I could hear, and waiting on hold for her decision. I have to bring her food every day and paint her house for her, if she loses her job because of this. Sande said she would help with the painting, too.

After that we had no more problems. We did NOT forget Teagan. It was our battle cry all Sunday. And Dave, his dad, was waiting to pick him up at the airport when we arrived.

Good things:

We did not mess up; we did not appear stupid; no bags were lost; everybody arrived in California and then Salt Lake safely and on time; our hotel was lovely; we got 4th in both events, even though they did not give out 4th place awards; it did not rain.

We did NOT lose Teagan

All in all, it was a very good weekend.