Monday, July 5, 2010

The Fourth of July . . . and the Third . . .

This year, due to certain cutbacks in our sponsors' budgets, we did two parades again, but the Sandy one was the evening of the third and it was a mild day, and the Park City Parade was on the fourth in the morning, and it was milder.

No heat stroke happened.

Still not a good experience.

3 July 2010 1700h Tune-up
1800h Step-off

We all started tuning ourselves since Jason hadn't arrived within 5 minutes of the assigned tune-up time of 1700h. I think he was 15 minutes late or something. We had some tuning issues, myself included, but we got them worked out just minutes before step-off. I say "we", but you know I mean "PM". Aaron and Ian helped. Being late seems to make Jason angry. But he wasn't too late so he wasn't too angry. We still joked around, in between focusing. The parade went very well. My whole family, including some Extendeds, were there, too. It was nice to have somebody personal to play for.

Halfway through the parade, BJ who was calling out the sets, lost his voice. It was so funny to hear his voice cracking from the last row, jumping up the octave as if he was 14.

About 3/4 of the way around, I was about spent. Even skipped the last half of the Mill set. Just couldn't do it. Then a little kid started throwing pop-rocks at our feet and I threatened him with beheading if he did it again. He was instantly cowed. I, on the other hand, felt MUCH better, and was able to finish the parade with energy.
No sore lip, either.

Park City
04 July 2010 1000h Tune-up
1100h Step-off
The band had been assigned the #15 slot, per our request to be as far forward as possible, and had been advised to arrive at 0915h. This arrival time was scoffed at by all; we did not want to stand around for 2 hours tuning and wearing out our lips. But shortly after I got there (1010h), a parade lady wearing Not Much At All told us they had moved us up to #4 so we could pace the parade at 4 mph. After delivering this tidbit, she dashed away in her halter dress and high-heeled sandals. Sandy and I started warming up; presently Jack found us. Nick arrived and started the tuning process, but he couldn't get my chanter to tune correctly, no matter what he did. I suspect, looking back, this was because I had dampened my sponge* the day before (per instructions) in preparation for a hot day and then it wasn't--this day either. If my (and possibly other people's) sponge is damp on a chilly day, the chanter won't stay tuned. More and more people arrived and got busy tuning.

Time passed.

The more time passed, the more people looked stressed and anxious, peering down the hill periodically. We all knew that the later Jason was, the more angry he was. Not necessarily at us, just at the situation in general. This was the latest he had ever been. Traffic jams and blocked streets exploded all around us.

At about 1035h when everybody (except me) was pretty much as tuned as Nick and Tyler could get them, he appeared.

I don't really know what to say about the next half hour. To say the least, it was very stressful. I kept hookah-ing my pipes to keep them warm (did I mention it was chilly?), and got light-headed and had to lean on Jack's shoulder, with Karen and Sandy and BJ clustered around offering first aid and support if necessary, until I could see again. Jason's hands shook as he tuned, and he didn't say much except to demand who had accepted that we be moved to #4, or to tell somebody their D was flat. Waves of anger and frustration radiated off him. Corresponding waves of stress radiated off the rest of us. There were no smiles, no jokes.
The electric cart lady buzzed down at 1105h to nag us: we were supposed to already be up at the top of the hill, the parade was starting! More arguing ensued--not worth repeating--and we silently strode up the hill.

Floats were indeed moving out, and the USAF did its flyover as we circled up again at the top of the hill and got drones one more time. The block that we formed . . . um . . . four pipers in each of the first two rows, and me alone in the last row. I didn't say a thing, even though usually with 9 pipers, we have 2 rows of 4 and Jason as Odd Piper Out, directing on the right. Half the time I shared my row with Dennis on bass drum.

If Pete had been there to bet on which tune we started with, he would have won again this year. We did the Mill Set, Minstrel Boy/Wearin' O' the Green, Green Hills/Battle's O'er, Highland Cathedral, and Scotland the Brave Twice Through over and over down the parade route.
Just after the jog, we got to Green Hills. BJ called it out, and we struck up. But for the life of me I could not remember how it started, even though I had just played it perfectly 10 minutes before. Seems I wasn't the only one. After two measures of Something Terrible, something happened that almost never happens: we were cut off in mid-performance! With flames shooting out of his nose and ears, Jason started us again, in front of the whole parade.

It was embarassing.

At parade's end, according to custom, we circled up and reviewed how it all went. There was no excuse for that Green Hills start, we were curtly told. Some other errors were pointed out to us, PM handshakes all around (which I nearly missed because I was trying to get my tuner back from Nick at the same time) and we were dismissed. I did not stick around to see the rest of the parade, as I had to be in church in an hour to conduct Relief Society, with my mother-in-law in attendance. I skeedaddled.

*Inside the bag is a moisture control system with 4 chambers. Three of the chambers have kitty litter to absorb moisture; the fourth has a sea sponge that can be dampened to add moisture.

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