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Pay to Play

Monday, finally, it got really busy at the store.

Whole lot of people showed up to rent string instruments. Fortunately there were four of us in the store so everything went well. Afterward I tried to take stock of what we'd run out of so I could place orders.

At home, I received a letter from the IRS claiming that I owe them over a thousand dollars from 2015. Always pleasant to come home to something like that. Special thanks to my tax preparer, this is maybe the third such bill I've received. Clearly I'm not stressed out enough already.

After losing a lot of sleep over this Monday night, I got up early to practice, then went to work. My boss was out for the day. Kristy (woodwind tech) Eric (brass tech) and I spent the day doing repairs, waiting on customers, placing orders, doing QC on some flutes, and more. I waited on four different people who have colds, one of whom was wiping their nose with their hand while typing on my personal computer, so can't wait to catch that trend. At the end of the day my boss came back with a bunch of instruments for us and tales of his frustrations with various parts of the company. The problem with Matt (my boss) is that he cares so much that he'd rather do other peoples' work than watch it not get done. I hope his incredible work ethic pays off for him in the future, because he certainly deserves to be rewarded for his efforts (if nothing else, give the guy a vacation).

Wednesday was just weird. We expected it to be busy again...but for some reason, business was slow. I mean, in some ways it was nice, because we could clean up the shop a bit and get some other things done. I did some inventory control, tagged some instruments, and QC on the woodwinds. Our boss was out for the day, working down at the factory. After some discussion, Kristy and I decided to keep the store open until 6:30 in the hopes that maybe some business would show up. Some folks came in, but not as many as expected.

Thursday, I got up early again to practice, this time the small bore trombone as I'd be playing with Flashback KC at the annual American Royal BBQ Competition on Friday. I had really been looking forward to subbing in on this gig, but there was concern over whether I'd be able to leave work on time to make it across town. I feel like that's par for the course for anyone who accepts a gig, ever. Anyway, that day at work we had a meeting that was more for the education reps than anyone else, although I learned some things from listening. We had a nice company-provided BBQ lunch, then got back to work. I got a lot of QC done, to the point where if it's slow on Friday I'll be able to finish all of the woodwinds. By 6pm we hadn't been busy, so closed up shop.

Friday was actually a bit busier than I expected, but it made sense with a holiday weekend coming up that people might want to rent their instruments beforehand so they could enjoy the Monday off. I was still able to finish a lot of the QC before it was time for me to clock out. I drove out to the Speedway and parked in the grass. At the entrance I met up with the sound guy, and together we waited until a golf cart came to get us. From there we were taken through the Speedway grounds to a catering tent. The band was set up in a corner of the tent, across the street from a BBQ smoker. It smelled great. After setting up, I took a moment to look around. Nice night for this event!

Around 6pm we started playing. More and more people gathered to eat and enjoy the music. After about an hour we got a break, and the chef came over to let us know we were welcome to the food. Sweet!! There were several meats to choose from, but I liked the smoked pork best.

We played a second set, then got another break. Now it was dark and people were getting a little tipsy, so there was a lot of weird dancing going on in front of the bandstand. Well, if people are having fun, no reason to stop 'em!

By the third set I was feeling pretty tired, but we still had a large crowd and wanted to do our best for them. We ended with Chicago's Beginnings, where I get to make up a little solo at the end. I was scared but tried anyway. After that we began the long process of packing up. Many people from the crowd came over to tell us how much fun they had, how we sounded "exactly like" Chicago, etc. That felt really nice!

On the way back to the parking lot our golf cart battery died, so we abandoned it and walked the rest of the way. It just so happened that we were in the fallout path of the fireworks, which were being launched on a hill nearby. Pieces of firework shells rained down on us as we struggled through the smoke. It was really cool to be so close to those fireworks though!! My bandmates were complete gentleman, and despite my protests, carried my instrument for me and walked me to my car. Chivalry is definitely not dead. Thank you sirs :)

By the time I got home it was midnight. I got very little sleep before having to get up for work the next day. I woke up feeling kinda bad, sneezing and coughing...not sure if it's a cold from all the sick people touching my computer, or a reaction to the BBQ and firework smoke. I got to work, and it was rather busy all day, so the time went quickly (though we were there two hours later than closing time!). Finally we closed up shop. I had time to grab some grub before heading to the next Flashback gig, a wedding just a few blocks away. It was on the lawn of a very nice, very fancy-looking house. When I arrived most of our equipment was set up, and we weren't playing for another hour, so I just tried to relax and enjoy the scenery without falling asleep on the spot.

During that time I chatted with my bandmates. Awesome people and awesome musicians, all of them. Some of the guys asked about my trombone, maybe because it's so vintage-looking. I'm such a geek about the Williams, I'm happy to talk about it to anyone who will listen! While describing how I came to own it and its many good graces, it occurred to me that my trombone--being around 60 years old and having been played by a professional trombonist for that entire time--has played more weddings than me!! My instrument can teach me a few things. And that's why I love it.

Eventually we started playing, but pretty soon (a) complaint surfaced that we were too loud, so we scaled it back with some light-and-fluffy lounge junk. This gave the horn section more down time than expected. Some of us got burgers from the wedding's food trucks. We stood just outside the tent in case we were needed, and waited.

(I can feel my trombone rolling its eyes)

Eventually, after the bride and groom left, we did get to play a little. But few people stuck around to dance, and the beverages and food were already packed up, so only a little while later we ended up calling it a night. Although I would have liked to play more, I was also a bit relieved as I wasn't feeling great. Because I wasn't sure when I'd be filling in with Flashback KC again, I went around and shook hands with as many people as I could find, and thanked them for letting me sit in. Even if I don't get to sub, I hope to hear this band play again!

On the drive home, I realized that my odometer was about to hit a landmark. Grabbed my phone to record this momentous occasion. My car is such a trooper.

I got home, and slept and slept. Still woke up early, but the big plans for Sunday were to just rest, for real, for once. The last thing I want is a full-blown cold for the bulk of rental season. My boss generously gave us Labor Day off, even though it meant he'd have to work (and he hasn't been feeling well either). So I used Sunday to rest. I cleaned and did laundry. And got groceries so that I wouldn't be getting them on Labor Day, when by all rights folks should enjoy a day of rest. Tomorrow I will cook, and work on various projects.

Many circus people were effected by the hurricane in Texas this week. Some were lucky to escape damages; others lost everything. Circus family, I hope you know, we are standing by to help. Let us know what you need.