I’ve decided to share my latest book (The All-Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man) with my followers here, free of charge, one chapter at a time. So… Where were we on this read-along… Oh, yes…
Chapter 12: The Best Damn Tuba Player
At the end of sixth grade, my parents gave me a choice as I registered for my upcoming junior high classes. I could take band, orchestra, or choir. There was no option for none of the above. There was no option for anything that wouldn’t ruin my social life. And there was no option for “what if I don’t wanna.”
But who am I kidding. Playing a musical instrument sounded like a blast. The trumpet. The trombone. The drums. They all made splendid options. There was no doubt that I was going to pick being in the band out of those three choices. I had no idea that where we then lived, band was a very serious nerd cult, and once sucked in, few people ever got out.
I added band to my roster and anxiously waited for orientation day to arrive when I would learn about all the different instruments and pick the one I would play for the next six years.
That glorious day came. I put on my best crotch-hugging corduroy coveralls, slicked my hair to one side, and entered that band room with my head held high.
Mr. Harrison, the junior high band teacher and most famed middle school music instructor in the state, instantly came to greet us when we walked in. He looked me up and down, taking in my size and physique. “What do you think you’d want to play?” he asked. His thick mustache and slanted eyes instructed me that this was a serious matter and to choose my next words wisely.
I looked around the room. I really wanted to play drums. “Drums would be fun,” I said.
He gave it exactly no thought. “No. Too many kids want to be on percussion. What else sounds good?”
I looked around the room, disappointed that my first choice had been shot down so quickly. “I’ve always loved the trumpet,” I said. Yes. That would be fun.
Mr. Harrison squinted his eyes even closer together. “You know, Danny, your lips are probably too big to play the trumpet. I’m a trumpet player. It’s a good instrument. But do you know what might really suit you?”
Oh. I prayed for him to say the trombone. “What?”
Oh gosh, no.
He then spent twenty minutes convincing me that because of the size of my enormous mouth, and because of my incredible large stature, and since it would be good for my future, I should choose that big ass brass thing and commit to it for the next half-decade plus.
This is what he didn’t tell me:
Only the most rotund kids are heavily recruited to play tuba. Tuba players have to lug around huge tuba cases anytime the band goes anywhere. Tubas are easy to dent and damage which will cost Mom and Dad and eventually me all sorts of money for repairs. Playing the tuba was the quickest ticket to being the nerd within the nerd class. Playing the tuba was something I would never want anyone else in the school to know about. And, playing the tuba was the most boring way to spend an hour every day. Believe me, at the junior high level, there are no awesome tuba parts. Unless holding the same note for 25 measures is awesome. Hint: it’s not.
And because he was so adamant about it, and because Mom was sold on why it would be so good, and because I really didn’t seem to have another choice at that point, I agreed to become a tubist. As we walked away that day, being in the band suddenly wasn’t as exciting as it had been when I first entered that room with my head held so high.
And, starting the first day of junior high, I became a tuba playing band fag.
Band fag was the name students outside of band so blatantly placed on all of us band members. Being that I had started struggling a bit with same sex attraction about the same time that I started school that year, I never did quite latch onto the term as a term I should be proud of like so many of the other band fags did.
People inside the band took it as a compliment. They called themselves band fags and they wore the label with pride.
I suppose they could. I mean, none of them were playing the fat kid instrument. They were all banging mallets on bass drums or squawking out melodies on saxophones. They were cool, even though they were a bunch of nerds. I was just the tuba player. And everyone knew I only played it because I was fat…