One of the very, very, few things that make me nostalgic for high school is what thousands of kids are experiencing right now: The absolute euphoric joy when you wake up one morning and realize with a thrill of excitement and wonder that today, finally, is the last day of school. Nothing in your life rivals the ecstasy of that moment. Wedding day? Sorry. Move over, birth of first child. The last day of school was and always will be the pinnacle of human experience.
Some people see high school as their glory days. Just ask the 32-year-old who still wears his letter jacket out on Friday night. I've never waxed nostalgic about my days at Warren G. Harding High School. It was fun, and I had lots of great friends. I had great teachers, great classes, and I credit my time there for many of the things I know today. But to go back to high school, to experience all of the torment and doubt and heartache and pimples and bad hair ugh. The cruelty that can only be experienced and inflicted by teenagers whose brains and bodies are rendered uncontrollable by hormones is definitely something I don't want to relive.
Though, there was one solace that flannel and alternative rock and teenage Jared Leto couldn't provide. I was a misfit of sorts, stuck halfway between straight-A students and scary-looking punks that get escorted out of the mall. Too geeky to be a hoodlum, too weird to be preppy. My love for sleeping in made sports unattractive, and my levels of cheer and pep were not adequate for those respective squads. Like many others, I found an outlet for my potential and a place to make friends where creativity is encouraged, you get plenty of exercise and make lots of noise: Marching band.
Marching band was tons of fun. You get the sense of camaraderie that comes with being on a team, the creativity of being a musician and the freedom that comes with being out of the classroom. It didn't hurt that Warren G. Harding has one of the best marching bands, if not one of the best music programs, in the area.
Our directors encouraged us to be creative and made it fun. A halftime or band night show from us was usually peppered with classic rock standards and newer hits. While we had to play the obligatory Disney movie du jour soundtrack, we also got to play Parliament Funkadelic. I also had the honor of taking the field alongside the now-famous professional jazz trumpeter, Sean Jones. People would come to the football game, watch us, and go home (partially because Harding would be playing their third string and winning 175-0 or something). We would eat our smashed Subway subs at halftime in our ornate, if not stiff, uniforms and blast the Raider theme every time we scored in rain, heat or snow.
Shortly after last-day-of-school joy wears off, marching band season begins. A few weeks of unadulterated summer, and it's time to dust off my clarinet and get back on the blacktop. It's not like I was missing much, having no car or money and living with my parents. A few weeks after that, it's time for band camp, the secrets of which lie deep within the woods where we ran wild during that two-hour lunch break like "Lord of the Geek Flies." Swimming in the gross river, listening to our Walkmans, romantic encounters in musty cabins, sandwiched between hours of sweaty, sweaty practicing.
We worked hard. As a WGH alum, I felt for the kids who recently were hospitalized after performing in Washington, D.C. I'm sure they were looking forward to the parade. When you look good and sound good, it makes you proud. I'm proud of those kids, and of Harding's tradition of encouraging students to get involved with music. It pays off (just ask my jazzman brother), and left me with one or two memories of high school that aren't nightmare fodder. So WGH band, here's to you, and to another season on the field. And ask Mr. Rollo about the time he got attacked by bees.