Tuesday, October 28, 2008

All Hallows Eve - in the middle of the day

Manchester is a weird town. It’s a place where I’ve watched a man shout “ah, shut up!” at a passing ambulance’s (apparently annoying) siren. It’s a place where the local motel has a sign reading “Stay for a night… Or a lifetime.” It’s a place where, if I walk or ride my bicycle to work, people are astounded.

I only live about two miles from my office.

The political aspects are fun, as we are an epicenter of sorts for the NH primaries, as well as the presidential race in general. It’s certainly true that you are provided with multiple opportunities to meet any candidate on any ticket. The day after the elections, however, it is as the circus left town, pulling up the stakes and hurrying out on a midnight train. Even they don’t want to linger. Then we are just left with the town itself.

I’ve been here for nearly five years, and I can’t wait to leave.

One of my ongoing peeves is the insistence on “celebrating” Halloween on the Sunday before, in the middle of the day. Thus, last Sunday, (October 26), from 1-4pm was the “official” time for trick or treaters.

We also celebrate the fourth of July on July 3rd.

This year’s non-Halloween Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day. It was broad daylight. It was not Halloween. As a result, there wasn’t much Halloween spirit in the house minus our two black cats. Who, incidentally, were sleeping in the sun as it was the middle of the day.

The amount of kids that show up varies year to year. In our early years here we stocked up on candy (which we put in a special cauldron, even) only to have three kids show up at the door the entire time.

Two years ago, the neighbors’ grandson (who I’m guessing was around 12 at the time) came to the door dressed in a basketball jersey, big jeans, and sunglasses. I asked what his costume was and he said he was a rapper, pointing to a stretch limo parked on the street. Apparently his grandfather had rented it/borrowed it from one of his potentially crooked friends (a blog story for another blog day) as the cornerstone of his costume.

He was trick or treating for candy, but wasn’t going to walk? No effort and all the reward? I was not impressed. I thought I’d make him work for it, which was admittedly not the nicest thing I could have done. I asked him to show me his skills. Give me one small rap. Show me something in character. Even I can bust out the lyrics to “Jump Around” or numerous other 90’s gems upon command.

He looked at me quizzically and pointed at the limo again. No rap emerged.

I still gave him a full size candy bar, as that’s the kind of girl I am.

Slowly but surely we’ve cut back on the candy purchasing, until this year, when we finally didn’t bother at all. All we had to work with was some leftover items from a night of making s’mores.

(As a side note, that meant we had both plain chocolate bars and peanut butter cups. Try branching out with the s’more making components– delicious!)

And, well, you know where this is going… We had a small crush of kids this time around, all looking very cute in their various witch, ghost, zebra, action hero, etc. costumes. I tried to avoid them, but I made the mistake of stepping onto the stairs (I’d been hiding upstairs), thus exposing a living human being to the eyes peering intently through our front window.

I opened the door to at least 10 kids eagerly hoisting bags at me, and I didn’t have enough for all of them. I made some sort of silly joke about how they were going to crush my entire supply, and then tried to pick those kids that looked like they were holding lesser-full sacks. I ran out completely, and some kids simply had to go without.

Not without candy, mind you. They seemed to have plenty of candy. Just without candy from me. Still, I felt pretty bad that I had to look in their little eyes, shrug my shoulders, and simply wish them a Happy Halloween. Even thought it wasn’t Halloween, and they weren’t looking for my good wishes. They just wanted the sugar.

It was a small costumed nightmare, and I am so happy that this is my last year of this silly non-Halloween Halloween.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Marching band - A way of life

I took a different route to work this morning, and on my way passed by a sight that took me back in time: the local high school marching band was practicing. They were in a local park next to a very busy road, giving them an ever changing, yet ever present audience to show off their evolving formations and semi-rehearsed songs.

All through middle and high school I was a bit of a band geek. I played (and still play, sort of) both the cornet and the trumpet. First the cornet, as that is what my brother played. Then the trumpet, as it turns out only my brother played the cornet.

Where I went to high school, marching band was a big deal. If you wanted to play in the regular band, you had to play in the marching band. As a result, we had just under 200 kids in the group, which in a school of 800 is significant. Our band leader was a traditionalist, favoring old standards (“Old Man River” comes to mind), rather than the more contemporary stuff (“Eye of the Tiger” comes to mind, as, after all, it was the late 80’s/early 90’s). And we always stayed in long straight lines, unless we broke off into lines of eight people to make circles. This was cause for lots of teenage angst, as we wanted to be the cool marching band (think “Drumline”), but we did what we were told.

What we lacked in panache we made up for in numbers.

I think I could still do some of the routines if pressed. I could certainly play several of the songs, along with our fight song and alma mater.

A highlight each year was going to the annual Marching Band Festival, held at Hofstra University. It was a total showcase of good, clean dorkiness, and we took it very seriously. Extra rehearsals (two a days!), extra practicing at home, lots of chatter in the cafeteria…

It was a televised event.

As the biggest band, we often went last, and we stormed the field each year with our time-honored entrance of running on to the field in precise steps, with eight steps equaling 10 yards. Each step was counted off in a mumbly way, except for when you hit each 10 yard line and the final stop, at which point you shouted.

If you can imagine, it sounded something like this:
ONE two three four five six seven eight
TWO two three four five six seven eight
THREE two three four five six seven eight
FOUR two three four five six seven eight
DOWN!” (<-- = stand at attention)

The hometown crowd loved it. Man, those were heady days.

Oh – the uniform. As with any marching band, that was a critical component. Ours were a bit brutal – dark green wool pants, matching blazer, a thick vinyl overlay for the jacket with a big “H” across the chest. Plus, a stiff green and white top hat where the requisite tall plume was attached. And white gloves. It was head to toe boiling hot, particularly on Memorial Day, where we marched in the hot sun for hours.

I will say that the polar-ready uniform did come in handy in the winter months. For example, we played at a Jets game every few years (see where marching band can take you?) and I remember it being particularly frigid there. I am sure I had some sort of hot-coals-in-my-pocket contraption to keep my fingers from chipping off my hands.

I went to look up the uniforms to show you what I mean, but apparently they’ve changed it up a bit. Here is what they look like now. Lucky them.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I’ve been lazy with the blogging as of late. However, after a super fun dinner party last night, I’m reinspired to give it another go. Hats off to JordonCornblog for reminding me that they can be about anything, and they are fun to read.

Thing is, whenever I sit down to type an entry, I suddenly lose all the clever thoughts I have been thinking since I awoke. Any moment of the day could be blown out into a full entry… Some examples from this morning:

  • On my way to work, I passed by Olympian Joanne Dow out for a workout. She is a speed walker who probably walks faster than most people run. She and I overlap with our standard routes, it seems. Although I am guessing she doesn’t notice me in the same way that I notice her. I’m just another silver Jetta, not an Olympic athlete.
  • About three minutes after seeing what it takes to be an Olympian, a man on a Segway rolled on by. It isn’t uncommon to see these machines around here, as they were invented in our fair city. Still, they always strike me as sorta goofy. I kinda want one, but in the same way that I kinda want to walk Ari the Cat on a leash every day – that is, I think they are good ideas, but I’m not sure I want to be seen doing it in either case.
  • We have some new security posters in the office. They have goofy sayings like “Loose Clicks Sink Ships” (with, of course, an image of a ship going down). You can see the full repertoire of posters here. A silly reminder that I work on the set of Office Space, complete with TPS reports. Yes, we really have TPS reports.

All this, and it’s only noon.