In 2000 we dedicated the new church, The Church of the Transfiguration. It was a big deal, and so I was quite exhausted after all the work and meal preps and making a cake to feed 1000 people. (that’s another story) We were given the next day off from work to rest. The rest did not last long however, since the Band was going to be touring across the country on its way to Calgary to compete as a Field Band, for the first time, in the International Competition there in July, just a few weeks after this big dedication. We had to put in extra hours and days of practice because we were told our performance stank and we needed to shape up quickly. It’s a wonder they even wanted to take us there by the comments we constantly got. But in my opinion it was the Band leader’s undying dream to make a name for himself with a world famous Band. But it is only “to the Glory of God”, of course. (Do you detect a note of sarcasm there? How sinful of me) I was tired of Band, but did not want to be stuck at home. The chance to see the country and travel west again spurred me on to yet another year of exhausting, back breaking work that is doled out with plentiful rounds of criticism and punishments.
Here is an example of what we went through. I was part of the Pit, or Front Ensemble as it was sometimes called. We played the keyboards, drums, cymbals, and other miscellaneous instruments. We were in the doghouse, as the Band leader didn’t think we played well enough. So someone was assigned to whip us into shape. We were set up to the side of the field, and given a part of the music to play. We spent literally hours playing just the downbeat. If it did not sound perfectly together, as one note, he would yell at us to stop, and we all had to drop and do 10 push-ups or sit-ups. He conducted with a little pencil, and if we did not catch the small movement he made, down we went again for more push-ups. We spent more time on the ground than we did playing. It was a pointless exercise, intended to break our spirit. I became so tired I couldn’t see clearly, and lost some muscle control. I was dehydrated and shaking from exhaustion. After hours of this punishing, grueling work we were told to stop, but we received no word on whether we had improved or not. I don’t think improvement was the goal. I think punishment was the goal. I am not angry at the person for this. In other situations he was a very caring person and we were friends. So this is also an example of how we were forced to be cruel to each other.
The tour itself was a grueling trip, geared to the younger ones who can take long hours on the bus, long practices in the hot sun, sleeping on gym floors (air mattresses that were ‘telebegged’) and high carbohydrate meals. I endured it as I endured all of CJ life. I put my attention on the music, lost myself in that. In between playing, I kept a low profile and tried to find something beautiful to think about. Sometimes I succeeded, and sometimes I was deeply depressed in the loneliness of my inner self. I felt there was no one to talk to about it. I was sure one sister would have ratted on me, another would not have known what to say, and yet another would have been furious at me. I’m sure any of the leaders would have been disgusted with me and told me I had so much to be grateful for, and I just didn’t want to give myself to God’s work. I did not believe anyone would have cared about my pain, inner and physical, and would have thought me to be whining and selfish.
We did our first show in Denver CO. From there, before dawn, we were on the buses heading west. This is what I have gone for. The country is breath-taking. Through Glenwood Springs Canyon, into Utah, and through the Bad Lands, or whatever they are called. It tugged on my heart strings. I grew up out West and it called to me. We played another show on the 4th of July in the Cougar Stadium in Provo, Utah, and marched in the parade. I did not march as my feet were blistered and I could hardly walk. All my crew mates knew this, by the way. As I look back, it amazes me that I never received medical care in Band, except when I had the migraines and had to be cared for. Otherwise I was left to my own devices. It amazes me that they were so uncaring and callous, and it amazes me that I did not know that wasn’t normal, and did the best I could with it. I had nothing to compare it against. That is how I had always lived at CJ.
When we got to Banff National Park, we had a day trip to “enjoy” ourselves there. What I was hoping would be a relaxing day in the beauty of nature was a frustrating day of being made to wait around. The Community’s spiritual leader was talking spiritual stuff with each section of the Band. Each section got to hike up to the viewpoint while they were waiting their turn, except percussion. We supposedly were going to be talked to “next” and had to wait in the parking lot for several hours. Then it was finally our turn, and in my opinion it was banal, stupid stuff that she was spouting off about. When she decided she was done, we asked if we could now go see the viewpoint. There was hesitation, then a reluctant ok if we could get up there and back in 15 minutes, which was when the buses were leaving. I was so angry that I took off with the younger ones, and we practically ran up this steep path. My heart was pounding so badly that I actually got scared and thought I was on the verge of a heart attack. I slowed down and was ok, but I was so mad at her for spoiling a good outing that I was so looking forward to. That sounds childish, doesn’t it? I’m afraid that’s what life was reduced to. I desperately looked for perks wherever I could find them, because the rest of my life sucked.
We got to Calgary, practiced, did the show in the competition. I really didn’t care at that point about winning. It was just another gig and all the fun had been beaten out of me. We came in 2nd, and this was the very first competition we had ever been in. You would think we would be proud and happy about that, yes? No! The Band leader ranted and raved about how we were the best and the only reason we didn’t get first place was because the judges were crooked and always picked their home team to win. Now in my eyes, that is childish!