I played clarinet in the school band from fifth grade through eighth. My mother had gotten the idea in her head from our neighbor's kids' experiences that Marching Band was just about the funnest, most fulfilling and enriching extra-curricular activity a high schooler could partake in. The only problem with that was that I was not going to keep up the ruse that I actually enjoyed playing that stupid clarinet any longer, but being constantly afraid of disappointing my mother, I still needed to be in Marching Band. The solution became clear: join the Color Guard.
I look back on my Color Guard experience with a mix of geek shame and real fondness. It was then when my I got my nickname, met some of my closer high school friends, and when my acquaintance with calamine_tea grew into a genuine friendship. Hell, I even got a varsity letter for it. But god dammit, I was a flaggot. And I had it put on my class ring. Dork.
Freshman year I wasn't one of the most skilled members on the squad, and as such was only an "alternate" - which basically meant that my friend Susan and I had to learn the steps for the same position, and perform at alternating football games. Being an alternate seems like it would have had its perks, like being able to skip out on the games you weren't performing at, but no. Absence was grounds for expulsion.
This was also during the period which my father returned to the household after having spent a year off of the whole family thing while he blew off steam in his swinging adultery apartment. Going out of his way to prove that he was a changed man, dad tried to show us a good time, and being a man of measurable local clout, was able to get his hands on tickets for a very limited engagement at a very small venue nearby to see Ray Charles. On a Friday night, of course.
I begged and pleaded with the Color Guard captains, the choreographer, the faculty advisor, the marching band leader to let me go...hell, I nearly went to the principal. It was Susan's turn to perform that night and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They had to understand.
Needless to say, the unused ticket remained on my bulletin board for the duration of my high school career. I passed up my chance to see Ray Charles so I could stay on the Color Guard. Of course, I quit the Color Guard two years later after telling the band teacher that he was a weak liar who was full of bullshit, but then it meant something, I guess.
So here's to you, Mr. Charles. I'm sorry I missed you. I'll be thinking of you on our birthday.