The View from the Guard Lisalisamomeesa Johnson, Guard
DISCLAIMER: apparently my parents didn't wash my mouth out with soap enough times in my life -- if swear words offend you...sorry!!!!!
Over DCA weekend I had a lot of people ask me what "Seven" means. Here's what it means to me:
Roy and I go out to dinner to this fun little Italian restaurant called Bucco di Beppo. Decor includes plastic Virgin Marys and a photo of the Pope in a zoot suit. There's people strolling around singing opera, and guys throwing bread dough in the air. It was good to get in some last minute lovey-dovey time as I know I'm going to be spending 5 days w/ my drum corps freaks--I mean--- brothers and sisters and when we get together, it's almost as if we begin speaking another language. And hey.no time like the last minute to wait for packing!
THE DAY IS FINALLY HERE!!!!! I get to the airport shortly after 4pm. Slowly but surely a big group of us conglomerate in a bar. It's been a while since I've had anything stronger than wine so apparently, I've retrograded back to the realm of "Lightweight" and I'm now shit faced by the time we get on the plane. I have to give major thanks to my pal Patrick (NorCalSop) for keeping me from doing anything truly stupid ---although Lee was concerned that I was on the brink of causing a major FAA violation.
DANGER DANGER DANGER: TWO HOUR LAY OVER IN LAX. "Somehow" we (Patrick, Lee, Jerry (tripdid), movie maker extraordinaire Jay, Majia, and a zillion others) make it to another bar. That's when things got interesting. Jay, who directed our 2002 documentary is putting together 2K3. So while he's interviewing someone, I plop down on their lap and begin to pontificate. While holding my glass of Glennfinnich (12 year old scotch--I think that's how you spell it) I point to the camera and say "Ya know, this is only the first night. You've GOT to pace yourself." Yeah..... ha ha ha crazy drunk girl run amok. What ever. Get on the plane, snuggle up to Patrick, who makes a great pillow to pass out on. (Thanks Patrick --hope I didn't drool on you!). There were Renegades seated all around us, however, our 3rd seat partner was a randomly placed older Asian lady. She didn't look too happy, and the look of consternation on her face reminded me of Mrs. Chin, the 200 year old 400 pound bald Chinese lady with one tooth who babysat me all throughout my childhood. Jeepers Creepers it's amazing what happens when you relive blocked memories. (:::shivers:::) but she sighed, shook her head and then was either sleeping or pretending to sleep the look of consternation never really leaving her face. Miraculously, 5 minutes later,(Thanks to the Glenfinnich, anyway) we were landing in Newark.
Landing in Newark---::::::Take Inventory::::::: tongue velcroed to the roof of my mouth, smeared makeup and shaky walking ability makes me look like Ozzie Osborn and my head feels like it weighs 400 pounds. WOOOO HOOoooOOOOOoooOO Drum corps weekend!!!!!:::::
Four members of our Soprano section and I rented a HUGE black Excursion. It was a tank. In fact, I think it got 7 gallons to the mile. Hereinafter I will refer to it as "The Tank". If the tree-hugging SUV=terrorism folks in Nor. Cal could have seen that!!!!! Unfortunately, a couple members of the clan were on the San Jose flight, so we had to wait for them. Plenty of time for me to head off to the bathroom and rake a comb through my hair, brush my teeth, wash my face, re-apply some make up.......I felt like a whole new human being.
We get loaded up in The Tank and got on the road. Over the next 5 days, Patrick, Chris, JT and Mike become my "BOYZ". Perfect gentlemen --- I had all my doors held for me, help in and out of the car, rides to the door of places while they go and park. In short, I had 4 instant big brothers (Ok, so maaaaybe Chris is younger than me.... don't confuse this argument with facts!) This especially became vital after I became a gimp. (More on that later). About an hour away from the airport, we start driving through some very beautiful country-side. I have no idea where we were, but it was somewhere between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Simply gorgeous. After a while, I managed to get some more sleep and had strange dreams about coming to a toll booth about every 20 yards through New Jersey. Come to think of it, maybe I was awake.
We get to the hotel (about an hour before the bus people, mind you ) I get a shower and another brief nap. I wake and I am READY for rehearsal. The weather was beautiful and there was a light breeze. After getting lost and driving through what looked like Mayberry RFD, we finally get to the school. After a beautiful warm up with Carol, we all get in a circle and talk about one thing in the show we are going to absolutely SPANK in the run through. We also talk about what we are thankful for. As we are ending a very special season, it is very emotional. I see sides to my brothers and sisters I haven't seen before. After we break the circle, I am still discombobulated. I was so impressed by the humanity and the selflessness expressed by some of my guard brothers and sisters. Those that were thankful for things OUTSIDE themselves impressed me. It wasn't "I'm thankful that I have....." it was "I'm thankful that you're here..." For what ever reason, my head wasn't in "the moment". I was thinking about my guard brothers and sisters. Had I been there for them? There are those that I wish I had gotten to know better --Eric comes to mind. I guess this was where my mind was when we started the run through of our music. The guard set up on the track, but there wasn't enough room. So I was on the grassy [uneven] area in front of the field. I could not shake the distant, uncomfortable feeling in my mind.
Right after Ave Maria and into Bonanza, it is a real emotional moment. One of my favorite in the show. We have a move called a sote. It's just basically a jump in the air, but, like I said, it's such an emotional time for me so I'm sure it feels like I come off the ground by 20 feet. Anyhow next thing I know, I come down, WRONG on my ankle and hear this incredible crack as I hit the ground. And then....pain upon EXCRUCIATING PAIN. Pain like I have never felt before. Pain that seemed to have wracked my entire body. It was the most overwhelming .......okay okay...you get it. Really...I was in pain. So the guard staff comes running over and my ankle is already starting to swell and my foot is getting tight in my shoe. There seemed to be a flurry of activity around me and I can't remember who all was there. I remember Carol looking me in the eyes and saying "Just look at me, don't look down" and Cathy holding my hand tight. Chris, a member of our Bass Drum section and conveniently enough a paramedic got a wrap on my ankle and elevated it. That was when he told me I was going to have to go to the hospital to have it checked out. It was at that moment that reality set in and I looked up at Cathy and started crying. My god--- the show..... I have to march the show. I just felt this most incredible sorrow over the level of pain. Bill, a color guard member was there for me and worked really strong to keep me "in the moment" and not focus on the days to come.
Someone affiliated with the Hanover Area High School (I'm sorry, I can't remember his name) drove Bill and me to the hospital. Bill went back w/ him to get his car rental and I got moved into the x-ray room. At first glance they though my ankle and a few bones in my foot were broken. A second set of x-rays revealed that to not be true, thank fully. Apparently, the official diagnosis is that I sprained my foot, my ankle and my lower leg. I got a good wrap and an air cast. Bill brought me home and my own self pity mixed with the heavy pain killers didn't make me very good company. It was a pretty quiet ride home. Bill popped in a Nora Jones cd though. That was nice and it kind of pulled me out of my funk. It seems that Bill and I have a friendship that transcends words. He has a way of just making things right with his presence. I wish everyone could have a friend like Bill.
I knew alot of people were meeting at TGIF's that night and I knew alot of folks would be wondering how I was doing, so back at the hotel I splashed some water on my face, changed my clothes and crutched it down to TGIF's. I ended up having a beer w/ Lee and learning of an all important Crunchy Frog rehearsal back at Lee's room. Fortunately there was a recliner chair in Lee's room that I claimed as MINE. There were alot of Crunchy Frogs there. Actually, with my superdosed pain medication, I felt more like a smooshy frog..but anyway we went through the show a few times. (Yes, there actually was a show plan.). After that, I'm sure the party went on, but I needed to get bed.
Through out the night I woke up in alot of pain. My WONDERFUL roomies made sure I had plenty of water, my pain meds and an icepack by my bed so I was ok.
Got dressed and met up with "My Boys" for the ride over to rehearsal. When I got there I had so much help, an offer of a chair, an instrument case for my foot. Everyone was so kind and understanding. However, in the rush to get on the field and begin warm-up, someone accidentally knocked my foot and it was at that moment that I thought "What am I doing here? If I want to march, I need to get off my foot and get some rest". Jay Lee, film maker extraordinaire whose working on the 2K3 Renegades documentary gave me a ride back to the hotel. We stopped off at a pharmacy to pick up my prescription for pain meds. It was actually a huge supermarket with a pharmacy. Fortunately upon entering the store, a manager spotted me and led me to one of those motorized "Old Lady" carts. Uh-oh, Evil Renegade color guard member, hopped up on pain med running amok in a supermarket in Pennsylvania. The thing was cool. It even beeped when I backed up. Although my injury was "minor" in the grand scheme of things and it is certainly temporary, it has given me a whole new understanding and appreciation for handicapped folks as I had to rely upon the kindness of Jay and other strangers to help reach things that were to high. (life lesson #458 this weekend).
So I picked up some orange juice, a disposable camera, and a word puzzle book. (I'm a word puzzle geek). Back at the hotel after getting settled in, it was real quiet and things seemed still. I was able to get some really good thinking done. I won't bore you by going into the details of it, but I really has some time to think about the people in my life, the things I was doing, school, career, marriage, family. Jeezie Creezie ($1 to Randy) the pain meds sure were making me loopy!!!! I also felt really bad about not being there with the rest of my corps. My heart really ached because I knew I was missing out on something very special. Somewhere around that thought I conked out for about 5 hours solid. These pain meds were incredibly stronger than the ones they had given me at the hospital the night before.
I woke up around 5:30pm or so. I had some family who were staying in the area and I knew I wasn't in any mood to hang out and party with everyone. I was still in "feel sorry for myself" mode. And I was still in alot of pain. I think I just wanted to be away from everyone for a time. I felt like such a burden to my roommates and the rest of my corps. So I spent some time with my uncle and his new wife. We had wine and interesting conversation about philosophy, religion, life... what ever. The events of that night, who I was with, what we talked about probably had just as much to do with getting my head back in the right place and putting me on the road to quick healing as any Western Medicine could have done for me. It was a good night in which I did a lot of soul searching ("excuse me Lucifercan I have my soul back?"yeahstuff like that.). I did a lot of thinking about the choices I've made recently. Things I've done that I wish I hadn'tthings I've done that I wish I've done more of. Like realizing the amazing gifts I have within me. Like telling myself "I love you". Like telling people I love them. Like taking inventory of the people in my life and realizing there are those that I need to spend more time with..and those that I need to spend less time with. Like how I miss praying. I thought about things I really can't quantify into words here further. So I won't.
By Friday evening I was able to bear a little weight on my ankle by standing on my toes, I couldn't flex my foot into a flat position though, but it was a step forward. I was hoping to have some more progress and be able to bear weight on a flat foot. But that wasn't to be. In fact, as the doctor predicted, I had an incredible amount of bruising all over the top bottom of my foot and around my ankle. I dressed in my uniform anyway. I knew it was an impossibility to march as I couldn't take more than a few steps without my crutches. Talk about serious "lump in the throat" syndrome. The weather that day (downpours at times, gray skies all day) pretty much mirrored how I felt inside. There was one funny moment though. When we were at the movie theatres above the stadium warming up, it began to rain. Hard. Good ol' Scranton Liquid Sunshine. Soas a motivator I yelled out "MAKE THE RAIN YOUR BITCH!!!!". Well, I didn't realize that there were "civilians" starting to show up for the early showing of what ever kid movie was showing that day. There were two little kids standing right behind me upon hearing my potty mouth, they started to cry. I couldn't be more apologetic to their mother who was herself crying from laughing so hard. She thought it was funny and planned to use that very phrase the next time it rained. Phew. Good thing the Amish do not frequent movie theatres we probably would have been kicked out of Pennsylvania.
Time to head down to the stadium. My heart is in my throat again. I know the time has come for me to face reality that I cannot march today. I dunno, I guess I just kept hoping for some divine intervention or something. I wasn't looking to walk on water.just a muddy baseball field. And it's not like I felt that I needed to be some hero where everyone falls to their feet and says "Gee Lisa how did you ever pull that one off". I just couldn't leave the season unfinished like that.
So we enter the field and I walk to the sidelines w/ the Guard Staff. They invited me to come up top with thembut stairs were temporarily not my forte. However, it was from this prospective that my life changed. Really. It sounds cliché. But it's true. From the first note I fell in love with the corps. Not "Cool, I'm in the Renegades, isn't that neet-o?". Not a strong like. No. "Love". I love the Renegades. I love the people who started the corps. I love the people that donate to the corps. I love the people in the corps today. A strong, familial love that means that for as long as I have breath in my lungs I want to be involved with the Renegades in some fashion. That even though I was considering not marching next year, there's no way I can't NOT be on the field next year. It was at that moment I fully realized what it is that I am a part of. It's beyond music notes on a piece of paper or flag work that gets written. It's the melding of 130 people's souls. People who are working together to create something that is bigger than they are individually. People who are sacrificing great things just to march this year. It got me to thinking about the 7 people and a ham sandwich that started the corps. I mean, it wasn't always fun and cool to show up to a Renegades rehearsal. You never knew which small handful was going to show up, they had no money, no instruments, no support from DCI, DCA, the CIA or the FBI. They did what ever it took to get on the field. It was at that moment, during the second "Bullet Time" before the "Matrix Reloaded" that I realized my drill set right there was right on the front side line behind the pit. I realized I had to do what ever it took to get on the field.
The other thing I got to do was watch the audience's reaction (as well as the judges) during our show. Based on everything I saw, I didn't care if we came in 400th place with 77 points in penalty. PEOPLE WERE DIGGING OUR SHOW. They were screaming, yelling, clapping, high fiv-ing each other! People were even cryingmyself included. I have never in my life witnessed something like this. This was the drum corps audience reaction that hasn't been around in a while, and even though I truly missed being on the field, I feel completely blessed to have witnessed what I did in the audience and judges' reactions.
After the show, I talked to Julie, Cathy and Carol about my plan. They said if I could show them that I could do it without a) hurting myself and b) without hurting the corps, they'd let me in. I can't remember a time when I felt more elated. My heart soared, SOARED. I cried from joy. I COULD MARCH FINALS!!!! I swear to God, I told just about everyone I saw!
Heading out to the parking lot I ran into the Buccs.and.Jeff Zehner. We talked for a few minutes but I seriously don't remember a word either of us said..I may, in fact, have been speaking Apache.. He really IS dreamy. :::sigh:::.and married..:::double sigh::: (Sorry Jeff If I was incoherent I had a lot on my mind. heh.)
Back at the Stadium Club, Lesa and I are enjoying a couple glasses of wine while I have my big ugly club foot propped up on a chair. I'm tellin' ya, there is just no way to feel sexy when your accessories are a couple of metal crutches and a big ol' plastic cast on your foot. Oh well.
It was around this time when one of "my boyz" came into the Stadium Club with a completely pale and stunned face. "We're in first place". "Ha ha.. funny.. JT, of course we're in first place, there's like a bazillion corps that still need to go on." "NoLisa we are currently in first place and there are only 3 corps left to perform". WTF????? Lesa and I are just stunned. We're not crying..we're not laughing..we're just shaking our heads with stunnation. (New word). As it turned out.. we ended prelims in FOURTH PLACE!!!!!!!!! Our second time coming to DCA and we're in FOURTH PLACE. Not only were we completely thrilled with our placementbut we were HONORED with the company we were keeping.MBI, Briggs, Bucs, Cabs, etc. HOLY SHIT!!!! As if I couldn't have been happier, Shirly Dorittee informs us that the color guard scored a 19.0 and that the judge not only scored us a 19.0 but wrote "Well Deserved" next to it. This must be what it's like to have children. This must be what it's like to win the lottery. I don't know all I know is that I was so completely happy, I was BURSTING!!!!!
So let's take a recap thus far:
1) I'm car mates with four of the cutest guys in the corps.
2) I kill my foot/ankle/leg (Ok, that sucked majorly, but work with me here)
3) I get to watch our prelims performance
4) I meet Jeff Zehner (and become a drooling, babbling, puppy dog-eyed fool for 5 minutes)
5) We're in 4th place at Prelims
6) Guard scores a 19. A well deserved 19.
8) I some how break through the CIA-like security and get to go in THE FRONT GATE instead of STUPIDLY having to walk all the way around to the side gate. (Someone explain to me how that policy made any sense and I'll give ya $5)
OK let's move along........
After being hopped up on pain meds, I sleep through the Crunchy Frog rehearsal and am summarily disqualified from Crunchy Frog. (Ok..so I wasn't really dq'd, it just sounds cool). Besides, I have no business running around a dimly lit uneven parking lot. (If someone can explain to me how a national championship show can only garner a back alleyway parking lot on a remote mountain top for a performance venue, I'll give ya $5 more bucks.)
E.V.I.L Cyms of course RULES.and then Crunchy Frog brings the house down. I felt bad missing out on the festivities. Anyone who knows me knows I just hate being the center of attention. (Heavy Sarcasm!). Funniest moment of the night thus far: An older lady in a drum corps jacket (it was red, don't know what corps she was with) said VERY angrily "Those God Damned Renegades do not understand the sanctity of drum corps". I think she gets it. I really wish I could have watched my corpsmates in the mini corps win their victory, but my ankle just wasn't holding up and I went for some much needed rest in the tank..err I mean SUV. At some point, Patrick came back to the truck and opened the door and scared the crap out of me. He was also looking for some R&R as the rest of our diehard car mates weren't ready to go home yet and I think the Renegades mini corps wasn't scheduled to perform till something like 2:37 am and they were running a tad behind. (heh)
Around November 12, 2007 the rest of the guys reappeared and we were hanging out in the tank waiting for the parking lot to clear. People were tying to see in the tinted windows of the tank, to no avail. It was around this time that I remembered a story Lee wrote about the Grim Reaper making an appearance on the SCV staff bus. Funny. Heh. Oh that was my outside voice. Soooorrry. Moving right along..
Hopped up on pain meds, I manage to sleep through the night. I was planning on partaking in the festivities at TGIF's but the minute I took my brace off for a quick shower, my ankle plumped like a Ball Park frank. Thought better of it and went to bed. After all.. I had to still prove myself at rehearsal the next day. I wasn't going to do anything to jeopardize that!
So I wake and I can move my foot around, still very painful, but I can bear weight on it (still on the tippy toe, but it was something.)
At rehearsal, I do as much of the stretch out as possible. The plies were ok..but there was no way the Downward Facing Dog was happening. This is our last stretch out with Carol. Carol Abohatab is one of the most incredible instructors I've had the good fortune to work under in 20+ years of performing. From our very first stretch and dance work out with her, she taught us how to move. Not "dance"..not "emote"but how to move our bodies through time and space. I know that Carol normally works with higher caliber dancers.but she never showed that in any one session with her. She never grew impatient if we tried to jazz run heel first, or just did some dorky dance no-no. (Which many of us did 5,798 times) She taught us to love what we have, whether we have too much or too little. How many women do you know have learned to love their bodies? This lesson didn't just make me a better performer. It made me a better human being. How many times have you met someone like that? Carol Abohatab, you made me a better human being. It's what I was thankful for in our "What are we thankful for" circle.
We get to the end of rehearsal and we're going to do two run throughs. The first one, the staff just wants me to do the work on the track so they can make sure I know the timing, etc. That one comes off w/o a hitch. Second run through and my heart's beating. I really hope I can do this. At this point, I don't really care about hurting myself, I just want to finish the season. I know that sounds irresponsible, but I read somewhere: Pain is temporary, Pride is forever.
The Second Bullet Time comes around and I hop in the drill. Next thing I know..I'M RUNNING!!! And I'm keeping up w/ everyone!!!!! Alisha is frantically reminding me "Don't go flatdon't go flat!!!" meaning, not to forget and try to put my weight on a flat foot. Finish the work, do the toss POSE!!!!! I'm done. I can do it!!!! I look up in the stands, color guard staff is giving me a thumbs up. I'M IN!!!!!! God, I feel like I'm in eighth grade again and I just made the high school color guard try-outs!!!! WOOOo HOOOooooOOOoooO!!!!!!!! (Of course, I don't tell anyone my ankle is fucking killing me!)
Later, back at the hotel, I'm dressing in uniform and I can't believe I'm wearing it for the last time. This season has been so incredible. Everyone in the corps has been so wonderful to me. I've made some pretty amazing friends. I've learned some things I know I will take with me all the rest of my days. Our color guard has shared a lot of heartbreaks but more joys together. There is some energy in the air, something that bonds us to one another in inexplicable ways. It's that sort of visceral feeling you get of loving and being loved that happens to you once in a life time. If you're lucky.
Another funny/cool moment: My guys rented a limmo. A black, stealth stretch limmo. When we arrived at the stadium.the FRONT GATES of the stadium, our driver opened the door and let us out. There were a few different corps milling around the area. Someone shouted out "Will you Renegades stop at NOTHING?????" Mission accomplished!
Our warm-up was very light hearted, full of picture taking and hugging. But we got a good stretch out and was able to solidify the work in to our heads. However, what happened next was nothing short of amazing. We rejoined the horns and drums who were in a circle. We sat in the middle. We knew they were going to sing Ave Maria as they had before prelims. I watched something happen with me as well as my other guard members. We were frantically seeking each other out, trying to find that person you wanted to sit next to and hold hands with. But what was frantic about it is that we wanted to sit next to everyone. The sound of their voices lilting in the air coupled with the desperate feeling of "Thank you". "I'm glad we're friends" "I'll never forget you" "I love you".desperate because we were hoping we expressed it enough to each other. I think we did. I hope we did. Yeah, I think we did.
Suddenly, it was time to throw down. We collected our equipment and headed over to the stadium. My heart was racing. The stadium was full. Upon getting on the field, several people called out to me. That was nice. Not having anyone in the stands to watch you is a lonely feeling. Thanks to folks like Jeff and Christine Ream, Todd's parents and Terri Mignemi, I did not feel alone. I sat down next to Richard G's Tympany of Doom and begin to watch the show unfold before my eyes. The trick was to remain as inconspicuous as possible. But I found myself clapping my hands and shaking my fist at every cool moment. (Which was frequent). Suddenly the Battle at 9er2 begins and so does my fast heart beat. As the line rounds the corner and comes towards the pit, I stand up and grab my flag. At the right moment I hop into the drill. Al is holding out a hand for a hi-five and I give him one and ZOOM! We take off! I don't remember feeling my feet hit the ground at all. Perhaps I actually performed the Matrix special effect! Spinspinsspin.. :::remember flag is UP on all the odd counts:::: spin toss pose! SWOOSH. So much joy and elation fills my body that I have to open my mouth and laugh out loud just to let it out! All I see is a wall of people on their feet clapping and screaming. If you take all their enjoyment, put it together and put it in me it still wouldn't equal what I was feeling at that moment. I FINISHED THE SEASON!!!!!!!!!!!
We make our way outside the stadium, have our closing announcements and then like a wave, the season just flows out of us in a river of tears. The nervousness, the frustration, the anger, the love, the laughter, the sadness, the hurt ankles an broken fingers, and surgeries, the time spent away from family, the hours traveled on the road, the emotions that the music conjures up everything flows from us and leaves us spentweakyet stronger than we have been in our lives. None of us want to close the book on this season.yet none of us have anything left to give. We left it all and then some 10 minutes ago on the field. We can't go back, but we don't want to move forward. None of us want this evening to end. And it doesn't.yet.
We move to our next throw down venue. The State Farm building. The corps circles up, pit, drums everything. Fans and color guard in the center. Again the show my heart soared with the music, and ached with the knowledge that I can't ever perform to this music again. Never before have I shared something so special with so many people. Never before have I given so much of myself and gotten so much back. I may have long ago become a part of the Renegades, but tonight, the Renegades became a part of me.
I'm going to end here. I've already addressed my feelings re: the penalty and our placement on DCP. And Yeah, yeah, yeahthere is the many-storied "Pizza Orgasmica 2.0" (which, incidentally went on much longer than after the Hitler Youth police crashed the party). I did some crazy shit and really just had a great time. Stuff I'll never forget. Stuff others won't let me forget. But that's what brothers and sisters are for, right?
OK, so look. I know I didn't almost die in a car accident or something like that. I sprained an ankle. Rub some dirt on it and move on, right? I believe everything happens for a reason. Sometimes that reason isn't revealed right away until it comes full circle. Perhaps, hurting myself afforded me the time to slow down, shut up.and think think about how I just dive into everything and worry about consequences later. It's a quality I don't necessarily want to change..but perhaps I spent this weekend thinking about those consequences. I certainly do not have it all figured out yet, but I feel the circle moving and things keep revealing themselves to me in amazing and beautiful ways.
To finish, on Monday, waiting for the plane, I had a conversation with Lee that reminded me of just what a good friend I have in him. Thanks, Lee. Really.
So......Hope you enjoyed reading this. It's my "seven".