Man...what a weekend THAT was!
You'd think that a three-day weekend would allow me some much-needed quiet time. But then you'd be forgetting that it's ME
you're talking about! [nervous]Ha ha ha ha ha![/nervous]
So...what happened this time? I'm glad you asked! Allow me to elucidate!Saturday, September 15
Today was the undokai
(Athletics Meet) at my children's elementary school. Those are always loads of fun. It's basically what we called a "field day" back in my own school
days, but in a much larger scale. There's also much more parental participation...not to mention a stronger sense of neighborhood rivalry.
It all starts out simple enough. The student body is divided into two teams, red and white. Then the events kick off with a 100-meter dash involving all the students, competing in four-person heats decided by grade.
Here's my daughter (red cap) awaiting her turn to run in her 5th-grade heat.
And there she is, in the distance, crossing the finish line almost half a lap ahead of the competition. She may be having trouble with her motivation to study these days, but she can still run!
Now, at a later event (a sort of costume race), my son, second from the left, is getting pumped up ready to go. As you can see, he has plumped up more than a little (mainly thanks to his grandfather, who owns stock in McDonalds and thus gets lots of nice, little discount coupons...which he's only too determined to use several times a week despite my protests). However, he can still move his shrimpy, little legs fast!
Now we move on to the team drills. Here you can see my daughter literally carrying the weight of the team on her own back.
These things just keep escalating!
As for me, I did my share of participating, too. I'm (theoretically, at least) the chief of the PTA Welfare and Study Committee, which is responsible for a lot of what goes on at the Athletic Meet. I was in charge of organizing and preparing for some of the events. I also got to fire the starter pistol for a couple of them. But that wasn't all...
My neighborhood district also asked me to take part in the District Relay Competition (A diminished 7th fanfare, modulate to slightly out-of-tune D sus4 resolving to a rumbly D minor)
. I knew I'd have to do that someday, but I never expected to be named the ANCHOR
. I was. When my turn came up, I started out in the third position out of seven, ran my arse off, passed one person, got passed by another, and caught up with another just too late to pass. I wound up in third...and I was seriously hating life afterward. I mean, I did track & field in high school, but nowadays I'm anything but athletically inclined. I must have put about a month's worth of energy and strength into one 200-meter sprint. To be honest, I was amazed I even made it all the way around the track, let alone defended my team's third-place position against runners that were all volunteer firemen and probably averaged about eighteen years younger than me!
I was not a happy camper afterward. So naturally I went to our neighborhood's customary party afterward and allowed them to show their gratitude by wining and dining me into oblivion. Perhaps if I'd been in a bit less exhausted it wouldn't have been so bad. However...Sunday, September 16
I forced myself out of bed and somehow got myself to Ye Olde Academy
for the morning rehearsal I had scheduled. I had been smart enough (thank goodness) to take Tylenol before going to bed the night before, so my head felt okay, but I was still weak, shaky, pale, and drenched in sweat. I also felt like I could hurl my breakfast at any minute. The Flying Eggheads
had a performance that very afternoon, and we were expected to put on a full hour show
, but the twisted schedule of the previous two weeks had made rehearsal a rare luxury.
By some miracle I got through the rehearsal more or less okay, and the kids sounded more or less alright.
Getting to the performance venue was surprisingly smooth and easy this time. Once again we were unable to borrow the school vans, so we had to divide transportation between my BLUE RAV4
(with a removable back seat, thank goodness) and Mr. Ogawa's white Estima. We were going to have the kids walk there, since it's only a few kilometers from the school, but since temperatures had climbed up to right around 33 degrees C (90 F) again we decided to shuttle them. Even so, we had the whole lot there with all their gear more than an hour early. That gave us time to relax, eat the food they provided, and check out some of the other acts.
The performance venue was outdoors in front of Kashima City Hall. I mean it was literally RIGHT
in front of it! We were set up under the roof partition right in front of the main entrance! It was an all-day festival of "pop and jazz in Kashima" featuring mostly amatuer acts. We, as it turned out, were the headliners. Low-key events like this are usually kind of fun, but it would have been nicer if we'd had a bit more shade and a lot more audience. When we arrived there were only about eight or nine people in the guest seats, clutching either fans or umbrellas and not looking very happy.
(The manager kept trying to get the Eggheads
to sit in the guest seats so that they'd triple the audience size, but our well-sheltered kids all immediately ran for cover and didn't come out till it was our turn to take the stage!)
When our turn finally arrived it was like a comedy of errors. They told us to use their "electric piano" instead of bringing ours, but it turned out to be a classroom keyboard with no sustain pedal. (I ran and got our pedal, but it wouldn't work right with their keyboard. The kids tried to use it anyway, but it kept sticking...with disastrous results.) We had brought our own drum set, but the "stage" crew couldn't figure out that we wanted them to remove the borrowed set they had placed right where our trumpet row was supposed to go. Once the chairs and stands were in place, the sound man set up the mikes...and told me the emcee mike wouldn't reach out in front. He finally attached an additional extension cable, but then we had connection problems, and the emcee mike kept popping in and out and making obnoxious, electronic noises. To make matters worse, though it had cooled off thanks to some passing clouds, the wind had picked up. I had told the kids to bring clips, and they had, but there was still a lot of struggling with music going on.
At 3:00 p.m., amazingly right on schedule, we hit the downbeat and launched into a shuffle-swing version of Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" followed by a nice, peaceful "It's Only a Paper Moon". Both tunes went well, though our bass player kept fighting with her music and often wound up dropping out. I also got fed up with the noise produced by that sticking sustain pedal and yanked its cord out of the socket halfway through the first tune. We continued on to Mancini's "The Pink Panther", in which our lead tenor sax player delivered another fine performance. Then, with gritted my teeth, we concluded the first set by doing "In The Mood". (We had only started rehearsing it a couple of days before, and the tune was sadly rusty. Today, fortunately, the kids were in the groove, and it sounded pretty good...even with that clanking, sustainless keyboard and the bass often off collecting her music.)
Once the first set was done, it was my turn. The organizers of the event had asked me to give a solo performance with a professional rhythm section. I had declined citing lack of practice and confidence. Instead, I had worked up a few quick tunes with the Flying Eggheads
rhythm section. First we did a quick, easy arrangement I'd slapped together of "Georgia on my Mind", with lots of improv and drama, and it felt great! Then we continued to another quickie of mine, this time of "Satin Doll". The first time through the chorus I played the melody with a bit of license. The second time through I picked up the emcee mike and sang. The third time through I took up the sax again and broke into an improv solo, but realized to my horror that I didn't match the piano at all. The silly girl had continued to the coda instead of repeating again. Realizing her mistake, she tried to jump back into the chorus partway through, but by then my concentration was completely shattered. There was no way I could pick up the groove again. I vamped around a bit, trying to find a key that worked with the still-struggling piano, got thoroughly disgusted, and wound up feeling very embarrassed. I was happy when the tune mercifully ended. I closed my set playing a ballad, the song "Someday" from Disney's "The Bells of Notre Dame" with only piano accompaniment. That went really well until the open cadenza I'd added at the end. Normally I keep it simple and beautiful, but this time I was still pissed off over the "Satin Doll" debacle, so I suddenly broke into a wild, aggressive swing. It was fun, but it was also overkill. Oh, well. The audience, which now numbered at least a few dozen, seemed satisfied.
The Flying Eggheads
came back and played their second set, which opened with Jobim's "Quiet Nights and Quiet Stars" followed by another Latin standard, "Mas Que Nada". From there we went to a tune that has always worked well for us, a really cool samba arrangement of "Blue Bossa". That was technically the end of our show, but for our encore we played Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" (actually more like the funky Maynard Ferguson version), and since the kids were pumped we went ahead and did Chase's high-wailing "Get It On". It went so well, and felt so good, that I ran and grabbed my sax and took a solo break myself. THAT was fun! When it was all done, we ended both our set and the whole festival by playing an arrangement of "Auld Lang Syne" (a la "Moonlight Serenade") that I'd concocted for the recent La Boheme performance. We ended miraculously right on time at 4:00 p.m.. Then it was time to break it all down and head back to the school.
We were all dog tired, especially me, but it was worth it.Monday, September 17
Today was, thankfully, a day off. Specifically, it was Keirou no Hi
(敬老の日 - Respect for the Aged Day), a national holiday. Father-in-law already had plans for the day, and mother-in-law still didn't feel like doing anything but rest, so the rest of us decided to load up in my BLUE RAV4
and go somewhere. Naturally, the others wanted to go shopping
, which was the LAST thing I wanted to do, so I decided to take a detour first. Actually, I was hoping to go and check out the National Aviation Museum near Narita Airport. I had always wanted to see that, and I'd heard entry was free that day. Moreover, there was a special exhibition of Japanese TV superheroes such as the Power Rangers and Gamen Rider (literally "mosquito face rider" because he wears a bug-like mask), which I thought the kids would like. My daughter, who'd already been to the museum twice, didn't seem so excited about it, but my son was tickled, and my wife offered only limited facial expression resistance. We hopped in the car, set the navigation system, and we were on our way.
Unfortunately, we arrived to find a great, big long line of cars waiting to get into the museum parking lot. Apparently an awful lot of other people had had the same idea. I didn't really want to deal with that, and neither did the others, so I gave up, reversed course, went into downtown Narita, and we spent the day shopping
. Oh, well. I came out with some new CDs, some really good coffee bought 50% off, a new sustain pedal for the Flying Eggheads
, a very satisfying lunch, and a lot more fun than I probably would have had elbowing my way through a crowded museum.
I hoped to leave a bit early so we could hike around a nearby park. We didn't, so we didn't. Just as well. We got back just in time to prepare a really nice dinner for my wife's folks and give mother-in-law a belated birthday party. I won't post the picture because of the sad state her illness has left her in, but believe me when I say that smile was more than worth it.
And now tomorrow, Tuesday the 18th, will bring me back to work AND