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Staff Stories: Fanciful Imaginary Hash Marks
Marlan Smith, Visual Staff

I've been asked to reflect on the April camp. Now, I haven’t written a term paper since my 4th year of college, so needless to say I was reluctant at first. I mean, I read the Renegade Journal and that was like a novel. I’m not even sure I have enough words in me.

The marching staff generally shows up early on Saturdays to help paint the field and get yelled at by Jim Jackson for occasionally painting the measuring tape. We painted a nice diamond this time on the 50 which was good because the point person wasn't there and I was getting tired of stepping off 8 steps from the front sideline every minute. I was also made painfully aware of the fact that my previous 8 steps from last month were off by half a step. I’m sorry...I’ll give my 2 weeks notice next camp.

Speaking of grossly inaccurate step sizes: if you aren’t in the drumline you never see the field they learn drill on. It was drawn by me. With no measuring tape… It looks a lot like I got a group of 5 year olds together, got them drunk and then told them to draw a field with crayons, using only their left foot.

It’s fun learning drill and cleaning it at the same time. I helped out the hornline on Saturday while the drumline warmed up… ten feet away. It’s fun hearing Rachel swear a blue streak at her ear-piece metronome then throw it to the ground like it was a wasp that flew in her ear.

Fast forward: drums learned their drill. Our newest snare learned the other 22 pages by his preferred “Being Fed to the Wolves” method. Yay! Then we cut out 3 pages of it. Yay again. To be honest, the rest is kind of a blur. I know there was some ensemble and some stuff with the horns. Somewhere around 6 p.m. I think I was driving home.

On Sunday, I took the measuring tape finally to get more accurate hash marks. Dave Leon laughed as I realized that not only was my field wrong, it wasn’t even close. Oh well, now the drumline has real hash marks to learn drill as opposed to Marlan’s Fanciful Imaginary Hash Marks from Outer Space.

Lee shows up. No more playing on concrete for the drums. It’s all-day ensemble with the horns. At first I was concerned that my beautiful hash marks would be gone by the time we see them again. Then I remembered that Ivory soap has roughly a 15 year half-life. No more worries.

I showed my new shirt to an unnamed staff member. The shirt says “Shut up and march.” I wanted it to be the new marching staff t-shirt. Said staff member commented that “maybe more of the hornline should wear these.” Hmmm.

To avoid any negative vibes let me just say that aside from the missing people who couldn’t make it, I thought the rehearsal was very productive. Although I have to wonder about the fact that last season we experienced the best rehearsals and performances on days where the weather was, lets say, “less than agreeable.”

Examples include:

Concord – freezing minus 30 degree wind chill rehearsal on Treasure Island. As a result, the show that evening finally started to gel and come together early in the season.

Lodi – Africa-hot 105 degree oven weather, compliments of the Central Valley. Members were passing out and being rushed to the hospital. Result: another milestone performance.

DCA finals – Rain rain rain! Most of the field was like swampland. Final result: most people I talked to said it was the best performance all season.

I have come to the conclusion that there is a tangible connection between bad weather and good rehearsal technique. Perhaps the opposite is true with good weather. Maybe when the weather is cooperative (as it seems to have been the last few camps) there is a part of our brains that says “Ooooh! Look at me! I’m in sunny, comfortable California in wonderful balmy weather with a refreshingly brisk 60-degree breeze running through my hair! I think I’ll rest in my hemp hammock and drink fruity drinks by the bay!”

I hereby propose that from now on, all rehearsals will be held on a field painted with a snow machine. The staff will each be given a bag of snowballs to lob at the corps, yelling “MARCH, MOTHERF%^&ERS!!!”

Still the rehearsal this last camp went much better. Inevitably, as with every camp this year, where the News warns of hurricane winds and puppies falling from the sky, we find ourselves marching in the eye of the hurricane with little more than a drop of rain. Where’s my fruity drink?

During rehearsal we all got treated to a flyby by a National Guard helicopter. Orange people were waving at us from inside. Turns out the guy flying it was in Freelancers the same year I marched. I can just hear the conversation inside the chopper…
“It’s a marching band?”
“No it’s a Drum Corps!”
“They all play drums?”
“No, it’s like a marching band but with no flutes.”
“ it’s a marching band?”

Aside from that, oh, and the soft-core porn shoot going on 100 yards away, the rest of the day was all cleaning and run-throughs. We actually got a hell of a lot done. I’m sure Jenna Jameson was impressed. Ave Maria is pretty much a goose-bump factory. The push in Russian is so freakin’ amazing that I go home every night and cry in my pillow that I’m not out there playing it also.

This show kicks ass. Period. I don’t think people are going to know what hit them. Once we can knock the fruity drinks from our hands and come out swinging, I think we’ll see a lot of stunned faces amid the screaming babies being thrown from the stands.

See you next camp. I’ll bring the snow machine.


Editor's note: Marlan, a Freelancers alum, is a member of our visual staff, a professional video game tester, and Photoshop guru.

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