I suppose not everybody would consider attending band practice to be at the top of the list of San Francisco vacation activities, especially for a band with which you will not actually be performing the concert for which you are rehearsing. But this trip I didn't just attend band practice, I had total band immersion. I had all the fun and excitement without any of the background preparation.
I thought I would be carrying flags or banners or water bottles for the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Freedom Band for the Chinese New Year's Parade, but when I arrived in town Doug told me that the marching director was supposed to have called me about playing the drum. So I called Richard and said I heard he might be able to use me on bass drum, and he said, "Use you? I'm relying on you! I've arranged for your drum and your music and your uniform and I've put you in the marching order. In fact, I did everything but let you know."
I sometimes claim that I don't mind marching in the rain (and it surely was raining). It's a band macho thing. It turns out that while I don't mind marching in the rain, I do mind standing around in the rain waiting for a parade to begin. But it's all a bonding experience. Whatever you experience in terms of discomfort you are all experiencing. The rain let up some for the actual march, anyway, and I was even recognizable on television, if you knew to look for me. I thought it was an absolute blast to be able to participate in this major event, and I even enjoy the edginess of determining the bass drum parts for cadences while we're actually on the march playing them. By the end of the parade, I had them down cold. ("Which means you are ready to join us for Pride in June" suggested the lovely lone snare drummer for the evening.)
After the parade we all went out for margaritas and Mexican food and I caught up on the lives of many of my friends in the group.
Then home to Doug's because we all had to get up early the next morning for the ceremony at the Emperor Norton's grave. In the morning there was a different lone snare player, the tri-tom player from the previous evening, who doesn't usually play the snare part. This meant that it didn't matter how well I had learned the cadences the previous night, as there was going to be a little bit of improvisation. But hey, this is my comfort zone; I watch the snare player out of the corner of my eye and try to work out where the rhythmic accents will be. There is a fairly standard pattern for this.
By Tuesday evening, my last night in San Francisco, what I wanted to do most was meet up again with the folks I'd spent all that time with over the weekend. I was at practice a little early where I ran into one of the newer players, who had joined the band since I last attended a rehearsal (one year ago). He was very sweet, and told me how much he enjoyed having me there the past weekend and complimented the enthusiasm (or maybe the volume) of my playing. We chatted a little and he made a reference to my not living in San Francisco anymore and I realized that he'd made the assumption that I had once actually lived in the city and played with this band -- that was the most logical explanation for how the older members were greeting me, for the director being a friend of mine, and for my being able to play the band's cadences. I was quite touched by this, for what it said about what was evident in my interactions with the band members.
I love that I can travel halfway across the country and have that sort of friendship circle.