A Feast for the Senses

Thursday was a very long day for me, but a good one. Exhausted, on the verge of sensory overload, I recall....

...the parking lot that is the LIE on a weekday morning. I am so glad that every day job I've held thus far has been on Long Island, close enough to home that I can avoid highways completely. I don't know how people do it every day. I left my house at 7 AM, and traffic actually wasn't bad for the first half hour. When I was within a mile of Brooklyn, it all came to a screeching clusterf**k of merges. It doesn't pay to be nice and let people in either. You'd think they'd be grateful but instead they'll drive along the shoulder if they have to in order to cut in five cars further ahead, as if that gets them anywhere. That kind of leap frog causes traffic jams. It ended up taking me an hour and a half to get to the job.

...seeing the band crossing the street ahead of my car. It was almost an out of body experience, but at least I knew what direction they were heading in so I could catch up.

...looking around for my dad after I found a parking spot and unpacked my instrument, only to see the old man a block and a half ahead of me already. When he comes to watch these gigs he likes to “test” himself and see how much he can push before getting chest pains. It's a dangerous game, although I must admit he's in far better shape than he was back in April and May when he couldn't walk more than a block. On Thursday he kept up with us almost all day, and probably walked about 10 miles before he had any problems.

...the most amazing breakfast spread yet. Every year the feast has a different “queen”, some little girl in the neighborhood who rides on the float with the saint after we play her out of the house with ”A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody”. The parents of the queen always put out a table with bagels, donuts, fruit, and various juices. This year there were TWO tables. I started out small with a banana and a plain bagel, knowing a long day and many more food stops were ahead.

...scrutinizing the White Castle menu to decide between lunch or breakfast, and find what was least likely to make me ill. I settled on a sausage and egg sandwich with a hash brown and an orange juice. After we pick up the queen and march for an hour to the local church, we have a break during which White Castle is the nearest place to sit down in air conditioning and our best bet for a bathroom break of the day. Buying food is less about the actual food and more about justifying our presence there and our use of the facilities.

...the real-life Senor Cardgage ahead of me in White Castle. Oh, he was wearing a shirt and lacked a luchador mask, but he sounded exactly like Cardgage, mumbling and mispronouncing words in a low rasp. He couldn't figure out the coffee machine and kept coming back to tell the cashier it was broken and not coming out coffee. Finally the cashier came out and pointed out the reason it was clear was because he was using the hot water spigot for tea.

...hearing that the queen's grandmother fell down some steps during the mass and had to be taken away in an ambulance.

...drinking water at every stop we had. Of course the feast fell on the hottest day of this year, and when we sweat that much staying hydrated is a bigger concern than finding a restroom.

...creepy twin baby dolls. In one backyard where food and drinks were served, the hosts allowed us to use their restroom, located in a small finished basement. There was a line, with me at the end, and as I sat on a couch waiting for the last guy ahead of me, I noticed another couch had two creepy dolls with identical heads with plastic short hair and Chucky expressions. I think one was a boy because he was wearing blue overalls with a sheep on the front, and the other was a girl in her pink pig overalls. They creeped me the f*** out.

...one cute actual baby. I've made my share of jokes on hear about the bandleader's son and the current and future mother of his child(ren), but their first daughter is a cutie despite the odds. I do hope they had sunblock on her though, and that her big half-brother is strong enough not to drop her. At one point I saw the 7 or 8 year old boy bouncing around his kid sister while we played the Tarantella. The mother was sitting on a stoop halfway up the block, staring in to space, and the father was busy playing the snare drum for us. Throughout the song I kept looking across the street and thinking, “Please don't drop her....please don't drop her...”

...cool cops. After we played the Tarantella, I thought I heard it again, and noticed one cop playing it back on his phone for the other. “Do you have a warrant for that wiretap?” joked one of our trumpet players. “Do you have a permit for that trumpet?” joked back the cop. Then he requested the theme to The Godfather, which we obliged.

...much better traffic on the LIE around 3 PM when we had to drive from Brooklyn to Queens for our second job. It took about five minutes, and I wished it was always that easy.

...the single best pasta slice I've ever had. We didn't have to be at the next church until 5, and killed time in a nearby pizzeria where the crust was almost as thick as the pasta and the sauce was perfect. I got my dad a chicken and broccoli slice which, not sharing my aversion to broccoli, he devoured ravenously. It had cheese on it too, which isn't really good for his heart, but one slip wouldn't hurt.

...losing my dad about an hour into the procession. He sat in an air conditioned church through mass with the rest of us, and walked most of the route, but at one stop did admit he was starting to get that tightness in his chest and then it went away when he had a hard candy, one of his famous cure-alls. When we reached a big hill, I glanced at the sidewalk and saw he had fallen behind. After the next song, I saw him wave to me from the bottom of the hill to keep going; he was doing the smart thing and not “testing” himself anymore, resting when his body was telling him to do so. I would not see him for another hour or so.

...a sign on a used car lot that said “FREE CREDIT FOR EVERY-ONE! We Approve Anybody!” I remember that was really funny to me for some reason at the time, and I made a mental note to include it here when I got home, but I have no idea why. By that point I'd been on the move for over 12 hours, and I was starting to feel tired and loopy.

...wiseass kids. Coming down a hill between tunes, a crowd of little kids clamored for us to play something. The tallest and likely the alpha of the group sneered, “Yeah, play some of your cool music.” We all kept our cool and kept walking, not at all disturbed by the comments of elementary schoolers, even when one little girl called after me, “Play your TUBA!”

...seeing those same kids run down the block after us, jumping and dancing when we finally did give them something, the theme to Rocky which includes a kickass drum solo. The tall alpha ran further ahead, tripping over his own feet and tumbling on the sidewalk. I may or may not have released an uncontrollable Nelson-esque “HAH-HA!” at this point; I admit nothing.

...finding my dad, who suddenly appeared on the sidewalk sporting a huge grin. The next time I had a break to go talk to him, I learned that once he reached the hill, he did the smart thing and told the cop trailing the procession that he was starting to get that tightness in his chest. So the cop let him hitch a ride in the cruiser, and my dad was able to keep up with us in style.

...a middle-aged woman with the voice of an opera singer. At the end of the procession, this lady belted out an Ave Maria that made me do a double take. She didn't even have a microphone. Susan Boyle who?

...an inexplicable delay on the LIE at 9 PM, at least until we reached the cop van, tow truck, and three vehicles on the side of the road likely involved in the accident that held everything home.

...the sweet feeling of being home, of finally being able to peel off my shoes and socks, to remove my t-shirt and assess how badly the sun had burned my neck. Sleep will be a welcome friend, before returning to the office on Friday and getting back to my normal routine.


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