When I was around 5 and asked where babies came from, my parents decided
to answer my question by showing me 8mm footage of my own birth. It's hard
to say what scarred me more: the viewing of my own mother's vagina on a
movie screen, or my small, wrinkled, lizard-like head emerging from it.
The only thing I can say for certain is that I decided at that moment that
I didn't ever want children.
You're probably wondering where I am going with this. Trust me, it will
all make sense.
The DCA weekend starts at about 8:30pm on Wednesday after a painfully long
day of recounting my underwear for about 4 hours. I immediately hit the
bar and consume enough alcohol to ensure that I will pass out on the
flight as soon as I board. This is pretty easy to
do and my flight is mostly a jumble of random images and something about
Josh Powell asking me to wear a blonde wig and talk to him in a British
I wake up in Chicago wearing Josh's neck pillow; a consolation prize for
being too drunk to fight for the window seat. I decide that I will not
rest until I have one of these for my very own. Done and done. I don't
think the cashier is quite as excited as I am about the pillow.
The trip to Scranton is pretty uneventful and the drive to rehearsal even
Upon arriving at Hanover Area High School, the horn line begins to unload
and warm up. I go to inspect the field to find that it is in fact a soccer
field, a football field and a field hockey field, each one superimposed
upon the other. We eventually figure out that the football portion of this
field is in fact 15 feet too long and the hash marks are missing. No
problem. We get some white paint and a measuring tape that looks as though
it has been submerged in said paint. After doing the hashes, we measure
off the back sideline and I do one of my "let me eye-ball it" jobs at
painting an accurate back sideline. I'll let you use your imagination
about how that turned out.
We warm up and do a quick run-through before retiring to the hotel. That
evening, Crunchy Frog meets in Lee's hotel room to discuss the show and
decide what we'll be wearing and playing. As we go around the room, the
image of the ensemble begins to take shape:
"I'll be dressing like a cheerleader and dancing."
"I'll be dressed as Hamlet and smashing two irons together."
"I'll be dressed in drag and playing a gock block."
"I'll be dressed as death and playing a tambourine."
"I'll be wearing a suit made from puppies and playing a live manatee."
We wrap up the rehearsal after memorizing the feet song and all retire to
our rooms where I pass out watching an HBO special on strippers.
Friday is a huge rehearsal day, lots of production runs and too little
time to clean the stuff we want to. Angry custodians accuse us of
ruining their field. Sorry pal, it was broken before we got here.
We focus on the first rotating block in Halloween and some other exposed
portions of the drill before it is time for lunch. Lunch and dinner are
provided by the school and is in the cafeteria. We line up like a bunch of
enormous 6th graders and I notice the chalk
propaganda on the sidewalk: "School is good. You like school. Ignore the
man behind the curtain."
The cafeteria acts as a time gate through which all entering immediately
regress to age 15. Rachel begins bitching about her algebra homework and
I keep looking over my shoulder making sure that the cool kids don't roll
me for my lunch money again. On the way out I catch a pair of legs
sticking out of a garbage can. Ah, youth.
We wrap up rehearsal and have dinner. I notice that the smokers in the
corps are all trekking about 5 miles to smoke legally up on a hill
outside of campus. Must be worth it. Maybe I'll take it up. Taste the
The evening block is Renegades family day. We get to see the Hanover Area
High School Marching Band (they shall now be
known as the Renegades C Corps) perform. The band consists of roughly 10
wind players, 5 color guard, one snare, one tenor and a bass drummer that
is wearing a bass set the size of a VW beetle on his head. On top of the
bass drum scaffolding is a large stuffed goblin. The performance is
absolutely the most charming thing I have ever seen and the kids all get a
standing ovation that lasts about as long as their show. We are also
treated to SoCal Dream arriving and playing their show, along with a
contra bass trio playing Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne. Need more drugs.
The full corps lines up and performs their show and I notice a CorpsVets
member in the audience slowly pick his jaw up off the ground. Everyone is
completely blown away by the performance and I think I may have actually
fought back tears at one point. The show is simply nothing short of
amazing. After the mini corps performs we go back to the hotel. After a
long season the corps has matured a great deal. The Renegades have grown
The finale consists of the band being assimilated by the rest of the corps
and fitted with their implants to perform the closer once or
twice. I'm pretty sure the flute standing in the soprano line was playing?
That evening is Crunchy Frog dress rehearsal? "Dress" being the operative
word. Had someone not known what was going on (and I?m sure there were a
few) one might have thought that it was Mardi Gras that evening. We had a
French Maid, a cheerleader, a drag queen and a 7-foot chicken just to name
a few. I received a lot of compliments on my 3-inch high heels as Bill
Gallimore gives me a crash course in how to walk in them with out looking
like cheap hooker... ok, a clumsy cheap hooker.
(FOOTNOTE: Now, I don't know what it is about a guy in drag, but I got
more attention from the women in the corps while
wearing a dress and heels in that one night than I had all season in
shorts. I'm still not sure what secret of the universe I stumbled upon
that evening but I am pretty sure that that secret comes in size 11 high
Zion fills in for the five year old cymbal player and he moves with a
chimp-like gait that really makes me want to get Lee to write him into the
show somehow. Rehearsal goes well and we decide to break it up as a cop
pulls up and starts staring at us in the parking lot.
Back in the hotel, I change out of my dress and watch South Park. It's the
episode where the Romanian quintuplet gymnasts defect to
America. Kenny is singing "Conte Partiro" by Andrea Bocelli while Stan's
grandfather has sex with the grandmother of the
gymnasts. It's disturbing to say the least.
Saturday is perhaps the most surreal day of my life. We get up early and
go to the school for a fast run through. I finally
get a chance to listen in on one of Jim's freeform arc warm-ups. He begins
with Ave Maria and then begins playing the horn line like
some enormous instrument. I am simply stunned. I have goose-bumps covering
my body for a solid ten minutes. The corps does a quick run through and we
head to prelims.
For once the warm-ups for prelims are drama free. No broken busses. No
rushing to make it to the gate on time. What it
lacks in drama it makes up for in water. Lots of it. It's a good thing DCA
said they would cover the bases on the field. Glad I can get that load off
We pack our dripping selves onto the busses and head out to the stadium.
At the gate, Watrous and I grab all the megaphones
from the middle horns to set them up. We catch up to the pit and look at
the field. The bases are uncovered and have devolved into quicksand pits.
Several members of the corps performing have significant mud stains over
large portions of their uniforms. I exchange a long glance with Dave and
he says, "I'm not even going to say anything. They're smart. They'll
figure it out."
Luckily as we set up the pit, a field crew arrived and dumps fresh sand
onto the bases. It's certainly better than it was, but I'm nervous about
Now all I have to do it set up the megaphones. After all, how hard could
it be, it?s only been a month since I've done this. It goes from the 2
steps inside the forty to the other forty? Or was that the other
forty-five? Let's start at the other forty and see if they fit? hmmm? The
corps is entering the field. It must have been from the forty to the
forty-five. All the megaphones are behind the pit. Lets just assume I got
I race up the first flight of steps and grab onto the railing as the corps
warms up. Dear god, please don't let anyone slip. Toccata begins.
Oh for the love of Christ, please no one slip. Halloween begins. Please,
please, please in the name of all that is holy, don't let the drums
slip. I see people tense up as they cross the mud, but no one slips.
For the entire show no one slips.
I am going to slip though, because the entire audience just crapped
themselves during our show. In fact, it was as if the entire horn line
all had big ACME boxing gloves in their bells and had physically punched
the stadium in the face. People's reactions ranged from laughter to gasps
to cheers to screams to just stunned silence. About four measures before
the show ends the entire crowd is on its feet displaying what can only be
described as mass hysteria. Dave and I are both wiping tears from our eyes
and we exchange an "I'll take it" nod. If this show were a child, this
would have been the equivalent of graduation or prom or some other
I am overcome with pride as I run down the stairs to get the megaphones.
I'm too late. The color guard has already collected them without us even
asking. Chaz is using one megaphone to yell back up at the stands as the
audience continues to throw babies onto the track.
Cool. Maybe we'll make finals.
I head back up into the stands and eventually out the back of the stadium
towards the busses. As I am walking I hear that they are about to announce
our score: "Nine." "Three." "point." "Eight." "Five."
I stop. Did he just say ninety-three? Ninety fucking three?!? We've been
worried about breaking 80. Now we broke ninety?? I pick up my pace and run
to the busses. It has to be a mistake. They said "Five Three" not "Nine
Three." That has to be it.
I arrive at the busses to see everyone in the same stunned state that I'm
in. At this point all I remember is a bunch of laughing and hugging and
joking that the judges are waiting for us to get comfortable before they
announce that they really gave us a "Five Three." We head up into the
stands to watch the other shows. I celebrate with a beer and a funnel cake
while we watch the remaining corps and try to defend ourselves from some
form of mutant flesh eating wasp that has decided to harass us for the
remainder of the afternoon.
As each corps finishes it' show and leaves, Brian and I look at each other
and one of us announces "Ok, there's no way we beat them.
We'll get 8th." Another corps goes on. "Ok, we'll definitely get 6th."
By the time Bushwackers go on we stop trying to guess.
Minnesota Brass takes the field and we begin to watch. About half way
through, I notice their ballad sounds familiar. I look at Brian and he has
the same look on his face. Suddenly it occurs to me. They are playing
"Conte Partiro" by Andrea Bocelli. Brian looks at me and all I have to say
is "South Park. Last night" for the realization to sweep across his face.
Neither of us can hear this song now without seeing the image of Stan's
grandfather having sex with a 90 year-old contortionist. I begin thinking
of a way to interpret that into MBI's field show until they leave the
A show or two later we figure it out. 24 hours ago we were a 10th place
corps. Tomorrow we go on as a fourth place corps.
We will get our second night performance all season.
Right as the Brigadiers arrive on the field we begin making our way down
the stairs. I pass Mejia and Zion and say hey. Suddenly and without
warning, Mejia grabs me and says, "You're warm." The next thing I know she
has sequestered my corps jacket with me still wearing it. It's hard to
describe the thoughts going through my mind at this point. There is a
Mejia strapped to my chest, feeding off my body heat. There is Mejia's
boyfriend standing next to me with an amused grin as I try to stand as
rigid and indifferent as possible while at the same time feeling like Han
Solo's Tauntaun after it has just been flayed open to be used as
insulation. Oh, the humanity.
We all head back to the hotel in a semi-euphoric state of mind. At about 6
p.m. we arrive at the hotel only to be told that the busses leave again at
6:30 p.m. for I&E. That gives me 30 minutes to get Lisa Johnson to do my
makeup. I run to Lisamomeesa's room and sit cross-legged as she does my
makeup. She works quickly, pausing only occasionally to stop, take a look
at me and say to herself, "I love me!" When she's done I hop into my
dress, grab my high heels and gloves and then run back to the hotel room
for my wig.
As the bus leaves, I'm told that there was a drag contest in Scranton last
night. Looks like I missed my calling.
Now, I never got much of a chance to even look at myself in a mirror while
all this happened. For all I know Lisa could have painted "Kick Me" on my
forehead. Either way, as I get on the bus I'm pretty sure that roughly
half the bus doesn't recognize me except Danny. Danny pauses for a full
minute in the aisle, staring at me. He continues staring at me for most of
the ride to I&E. I am fairly sure that by the end of the trip I have
caused Danny to question his own sexuality. Mission accomplished.
Once we arrive at I&E and the Crunchy Frog members welcome their newest
members from other corps.
"Hi, I'll be dressed as a goth bee and playing the
"Hi, I'll be half dressed in uniform and playing
my girlfriend's ass."
"Hi, I'll be five and refuse to play the cymbals
when I am asked to."
"Hi, I'll be the five-year-old's father and play a
trash can while yelling at my son."
You get the idea.
I do my best to stay with the pack and try to
stand near Jim Jackson in
the chicken suit while Jim tries to
indifferent toward me and at the same time, put
as much distance as
possible between us. I guess he is afraid I'll
make him look conspicuous.
We finally walk down to venue 5 where we will be
performing. Randy is
nice enough to "give a girl a hand" as I try to
navigate the rocky
slopes in 3-inch heels. A woman who just got done
looking at the 7 foot
chicken sees me and gasps.
"How's it going?" I say in my deepest baritone
voice. Laughter erupts
and I figure I'll be using this line a lot more
throughout the night. It
doesn't seem to stop people from grabbing my ass
all evening, however.
As I am waiting to perform with Crunchy Frog, I
get several make-up,
posture, hair and shoe tips from passing guard
members and a video
interview from Lesa Barker. I had no idea drag
queens were so popular in
Finally the cymbal ensemble goes on before us,
however a confused crowd
begins chanting for Crunchy Frog and screaming "No
frog, no peace!" As I
watch the cymbal line get escorted out to the
field by the seven bald
bodyguards, I am reminded of my place in the
bodyguard team last year at
I&E. Anthony was disappointed that I couldn't do
it again this year.
"You are dead to me" were his actual words, I
I think there is a children's book there
somewhere. I'll call it "The
Prettiest Bodyguard." It's about a young bodyguard
cross-dressing and is disavowed by his father. It
will star Hal Sparks
and Jack Palance. We'll see it on the Oxygen
network next fall. Have
your TiVo and Kleenex handy.
After the cymbals perform we are up, which is good
because my feet are
killing me at this point. As we enter the field of
competition, we seem
to have a snowball effect on the crowd and end up
collecting about 8
more members including Jeff DeMello who simply
marches back and forth
behind the lesbians. Needless to say, we get
interesting part is that if you take away our DQ
and 20 penalty points
we come in only half a point behind the real
cymbal ensemble. We also
score first in content. I guess seven-foot
chickens and transvestites
The crowd reactions vary from amusement to heresy
and I think one judge
said that he "got it with perfect clarity." I hear
afterwards that one
woman was constantly muttering "Only in
That's right honey, that's why we choose to live
there and not Scranton.
Enjoy your fever dream while it lasts. Tip the
veal, try the waitress.
We'll be here all week.
I walk back to the bus to change and get out of my
costume. It was the
longest walk ever in those damn shoes. Good lord.
I can't figure out why
women do this to themselves. Note to self: Burn
all of wife's high heels
when I get home.
I grab the markers for the mini corps and sit
through some really good
and really bad mini corps performances. I am
somewhat amazed at how good
some of them are and how amazingly bad others are.
Finally the mini
corps comes out and kicks ass. Murray plays drums
like the right hand of
God. It is said that he arrived from a pod, fully
formed with tenor
drums strapped to his chest.
Among the other winners was Rich Atcheson of the
contra basses who
apparently kicked everyone's ass that night. I
make a note to try and
get him to perform for us later in the weekend.
Also the cymbals walk
away with a medal as well as Anthony in individual
Overall we end up nabbing something around 27
The evening winds down and we head back to the
busses. As we drive out
of the parking lot someone yells something about
the Contrabago and
points out the window. I look out the window to
see Morgan trying to do
doughnuts in the RV through the parking lot. The
fever dream continues and
I pass out.
Sunday starts at the high school around noon. The
day has a much more
somber tone it seems. Jim warms up the horn line
and then plays Ave
Maria for the arranger who is weeping afterwards.
The horns sound simply
incredible. I've never felt more pride in a
group of people. This is
one of the more profound days of my life. The
corps is all grown up.
We hand out member patches and watch the color
guard perform the show
for us. This experience is completely new to me.
Normally I am looking
at the horns and drums the entire time with my
brain in Instructor
Mode and have never really spent a lot of time
watching the guard. I
have to say that I have never seen so much talent
in such a different
way. It was also one of the first times I got
complete chills just
watching work being done. It was as if the guard
had transcended to a
level of perormance that I wasn't quite sure I
I watch in awe as Rich plays his contra solo. I
had no idea contras
could even do some of the things he was doing. The
rest of the corps is
equally impressed and I hear people looking at
each other and mouthing
"What the fuck?" as he plays some of the most
complicated music I have
ever heard for a contra bass.
Finally we set up and do the final run through.
Suddenly I realize that
this is it. I'm done. There is nothing more I can
do. It's a very
strange feeling and I am suddenly overcome by an
After tonight I will never see the show again
live. I'll see it on tape,
but it won't be nearly the same. Again I am
fighting back tears as it
occurs to me that this is the best field show
performance I have ever
been a part of and now it's over. My hands are
I start to draw a similarity to raising a child in
my head. I never
wanted kids. Still don't. Yet, here is a project
that you work on and
work on, and become frustrated with. Some days you
feel great feelings
of accomplishment. Some days you feel like you've
Either way you just keep teaching and pushing and
hoping that it all
comes together. Now as I look at the show it's as
if this child that we
tried to teach and help and encourage is now
leaving home into it's one
last performance in the world and then I'll never
see it again. Never
feel the stands shake in the Matrix. Never feel
the same goose bumps in
Ave. Never feel that moment before the loudest
chord at the end of the
show as the middle horns throw down the megaphones
then proceed to punch
me in the face with a wall of sound. Never feel
this energy again. All
we'll have left will be memories.
The final run through is fantastic as I stand in
the bleachers, helpless
but to watch and cheer and cry.
We load up and leave to warm up at the State Farm
building. The marching
block is scary how focused the horns are. They
look incredibly fierce
and hungry and fantastic. Other instructors from
other corps are
wandering by to look. Get a good look, fuckers.
Next time you see these
guys they'll be tearing down the stadium. Enjoy
At last we walk down to the stadium and to the
gate. We hear the drum
line finishing their warm up all the way to the
stadium and realize that
they never really got quieter. Scary.
We get to the gate and wait, and wait. Finally
it's time. Dave and I
grab the megaphones and head down to meet the pit.
A really hot
Buccaneer guard member is dancing maybe 10 yards
away from us on the
back of the field. Nobody says a word, but then,
who needs to? I wish I
had my high heels.
We move out to the field and set up the megaphones
and the rest of the
pit, then run upstairs.
Before I know it, the show is over and I
remembered almost nothing from
it. I know it was clean, but I don't remember
anything else. I remember
loud and good and the crowd losing their minds.
Somehow I feel numb
though. It's over before it even began.
I leave the stadium as the corps waits for retreat
lineup. Everyone asks
me what I think and I try to be positive but
something is bothering me
and I don't know what. I explain why I think the
crowd was quieter. I
explain that it was a much better marching show
and that the drums and
horns had a much cleaner show this time through.
Everything should have
me feeling terrific, so what's bothering me?
After the corps set up on field for retreat we
sneak down behind them.
Something is definitely up, because the judges are
really taking their
time in releasing the scores.
Finally Jim McFarland comes by and tells us. We got sixth because of a 1 point penalty, otherwise we would have gotten fourth. My heart breaks for a moment and then I go about my mingling. As I think about it, my spirits lift, however. We had a fourth place show. Those 4th and 5th place corps will go home knowing that. They just got to have their names announced later.
The scores start being announced. The contra
section wins again. They
are now the undefeated contra bass champions of
And then, it comes. The score.
Last year we placed tenth in finals and the crowd
booed the judges,
which was cool. We have people who marched Madison
and have heard their
share of judges being booed. Tonight, the booing
was louder and angrier
than any of us have ever heard. It was what
happens when 3000 people all
agree on something and are equally outraged. Rumor
has it that people
even threw items at the judging booth. I was
stunned by the crowd
response as I think every other person in the
corps was. I don't think I
will ever forget how good that booing felt.
The placements finish out. The Cabs won. A
Brigadier was crying because
of the scores. One corps turned and left in what
looked like a fury
because they didn't score like they felt they
should have. Scores this,
and scores that. Blah blah scored a blah blah
point blah blah.
We move back to the State Farm lot and proceed to
play the show 3 feet
from the face of a crazy drunk guy that paid us a
grand to make him
deaf. I listen in disbelief to the show once
uncomprehending how far the corps has come.
People talk a lot about scores, and I never
understood what people meant
when they said scores don't matter when I was in
Junior Corps. But I
think tonight I finally get it. We made 3000
friends tonight. I had the
privilege of working with the finest drum corps I
have ever been a part
of, performing a monumental, history-making show
that will be talked
about for ages. I cannot remember feeling more
pride in a group of
people as I do tonight. While these other people
were angry with scores
and placements, we walked away knowing that we
came in, kicked ass and
walked away with the DCA world turned firmly
upside down, spinning and
begging us for more.
As far as I am concerned, they can keep their
We fucking won.
Editor's note: Marlan, a Freelancers alum, is
a member of our visual staff, a professional video game tester, and Photoshop