Thursday, January 13, 2011
We spend Thursday evenings at the Knapp School of Music, an arm of the local recreation department where instructors and students spend their spare time in small rooms with scratched wooden floors filled to overflowing with old pianos and benches and sheet music. A vast array of instruments is being perfected in these rooms: piano; drums; guitar; trumpet - all being played with gusto, at once, and completely without regard for whatever may be going on in any other of the rooms.
This past Thursday, the meaning of the word "cacophony" was driven home to me in no uncertain terms. You usually hear that word in reference to a flock of birds or the blaring of horns in a traffic jam. But believe me, the Knapp School of Music at 5:30 PM on any given Thursday is definitely producing a cacophony.
I spend my time there on a long, wooden bench in the hallway of the second floor. It has clearly been stained its natural wood tone during some era of its life but has now been painted deep green. The legs are held together with a tie rod and a long length of wire. It is not entirely uncomfortable, though, especially for people like me, who are not large in stature. (Okay, I'll say it; short) It's a nice height and the seat is not too deep so I am able to rest my feet on the floor and my torso against the back. Nice.
Last Thursday night, I sat on that bench and listened to the kid in the adjacent room play scales. A slightly more advanced piano student further down the hall was giving Chopin's ghost an unmitigated series of cringes, scowls and raised eyebrows. I watched a lanky teenager in not-for-the-faint-of-heart skinny jeans go thru the metal door by the "Exit" sign pulling drum sticks out of his back pocket and pretty soon, he was percussing up the place with vigor. Around the corner, I could hear an instructor repeating "D Minor" but I couldn't discern what her student was doing at all.
Up the narrow staircase, my eldest son had fallen into a nice little chord progression on his stratocaster while his instructor kicked out a complementary blues riff. They actually sounded pretty good together, but in combination with all the other noise, it was enough to give a girl a headache. I tried to focus on my new toy that I had brought along to entertain me. The IPad. My husband had loaded it up with games for just this situation. Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and the like. I poured all of my concentration into trying to beat one of his high scores. Before I knew it, all the noise had faded seamlessly into the background. So seamlessly, in fact, that all the dissonance of the assorted keys and tempos, timbres and styles completely disappeared. After about 20 minutes, it seemed the building as a whole had achieved a kind of harmony. Nothing stood out as particularly offensive on its own and together, it was borderline, down-right melodious. It reminded me of The 3 Day.
As of last weekend, I am officially a registered walker. Again. Atlanta 2011. A five-time participant. One for the thumb, as they say.
Anyone who has ever been involved in The 3 Day will likely tell you that while you are trying to decide whether or not to participate, there is a lot of "noise." You might even call it a cacophony. People will try to talk you into or out of it and will offer a million reasons why and why not. It doesn't matter what level of commitment you are considering; whether it's just showing up to cheer for a day or signing on for a full three or four day stint "on-event." The fact is, Walking, Crewing, Volunteering, Cheering - it's all time away from your regular life. You may have to fund-raise, which can be arduous. You may have to train, which is an almost year-round necessity. Traveling to and from the event, the expos, the meetings, the "shoe clinics," the crew days - it all requires some sacrifice of your routine, your time, even your money. Your feet may get sore and your muscles may ache; your friends may feel alienated or just plain baffled; your children will miss you; you may have to take days off from work. You've been warned that your closet may fill up with pink training gear (not all of it flattering) and you find yourself pre-occupied with things like the wicking efficiency of your socks. Acquaintances note that it's harder to carry on a normal conversation - you're distracted, impassioned, and less and less able to follow thru with your customary habits and practices.
These are all reasons NOT to commit to The 3 Day. They are imposing obstacles. They are persistent and vociferous. They are loud. Deafening, even. And you have never heard a more jarring and discordant set of variables setting up metronomes and music stands in your brain. But while they drum and bang and blow away, there is another sound creeping in. It is just as shrill and piercing. And just as persistent. It represents all the reasons why you SHOULD commit to The 3-day. Not least among them is the fact that you could be helping to save a life while changing your own for the better forever. If you could make the world a better place for everyone you know, and people that you don't, just by putting one foot in front of the other, why wouldn't you? That's some beautiful music there. There's a harmonious melody in there that makes you want to sing along or write a new verse.
So if you need to sit for a while and let your brain play Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja for a bit until the dissonance fades, that's okay. Just jump in when we reach the chorus and do what you're destined to do.