Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

The 31-Day Blog Challenge, Day Twenty-Nine: Before the Kick

Today’s writing prompt:

31 DAY BLOG CHALLENGE, DAY 29: “top things on my bucket list”.


I’m going to have to get back to you on this one. I’ll say that up front.

For fun, I Googled “weird bucket list items”. That was fun in and of itself. But now look. I’m all for adventure, but some of these ideas would cause the bucket moment to arrive well ahead of schedule. To wit:

Do the Polar Bear Plunge. Take your picture with a tiger. Go skydiving. Run with the bulls in Pamplona. Swim with sharks. Jump off a waterfall. Survive a tornado. Fly into a hurricane. Bungee jump.

I’m not a fraidy-cat – well, no, actually I am. Read my piece on my trouble with climbing four steps up a ladder and you’ll sense just what an utter lie that was. I guess I just have a different definition of adventure than some of my online colleagues do.


Most of the bucket-list lists that I’ve found online have been to do with seeing places and doing things.

Yes, there are places in the world I’ve never seen (heck, there are places in the US that I’ve never seen, and I can see those without a passport). And there are places in the world that I haven’t visited in a great long while, which are probably are different now, or which certainly I would perceive differently now that I’m not 12 anymore (hello London! Hello Paris!).

And yes, there are interesting things that I’ve never done. Plenty. That list will always be longer than the list of things that I have done. If I’m looking to be a comprehensive achiever, let’s be honest, I’m tilting at windmills. (Hey! Maybe that’s a bucket list item. Hello Netherlands!)

Happily, there are bucket-list items on some folks’ bucket lists (and items which nobody appears to have thought of at all) which, thanks to my associations with people and my adventures within my chosen profession, I crossed off my bucket list pretty early. (Accompany someone singing “Alice’s Restaurant”. Write a Christmas cantata. Throw a mace, roll, catch, wave at between 4,000 and 8,000 people. Boom. Done.)


So, again … even though I’ve had four weeks to think about this one since I started this little writing-prompt festival, I’m going to have to get back to you. For now, here’s one thing I know I want to do before the bucket gets tipped over:

See my niece and nephew take over the world.

Because they will.

May 29, 2016 Posted by | blogging, family, travel | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Scuse Me Pardon Me

This past weekend, I spent a little time in Manhattan.

The last time I was there with my boots on the ground, as it were, was in 1996, when I was a grad assistant with the Boston University band, marching in the Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

I was reminded, therefore, of two important truths about New York City which I believe set it apart from anywhere else in the United States. And this is a lifelong Boston-area resident writing this, so it really counts.

First, this weekend, as I rode on the tour bus (well… if sitting in barely-moving traffic counts as “riding” on a bus) and we arrived on the island of Manhattan, I looked out the windows with a sense of urban wonder. Although the seething mass of humanity walking past us on the sidewalk contained more humans all at once in a small space than probably anywhere in America, it seemed as if each individual carried with them a distinct and unique back story.

Okay, you’re snorting, everyone everywhere carries with them a distinct and unique back story, since we are all individuals who come from our own particular background and situation and conditions, and none of our circumstances are exactly like anyone else’s. What made these New Yorkers different and special in that regard?

Nothing quantifiable; nothing scientifically measurable. And maybe it’s that so many television shows and movies have been about characters who live in New York, and I mean characters. Jerry Seinfeld’s show about nothing … Woody Allen’s movies about curious people … “Sex and the City” with its cast of The Beautiful People … “The Odd Couple” … or perhaps it’s all the documentaries that have been done about people who were in lower Manhattan on 9/11. I’m not sure.

But no matter who they were, what they looked like, what they were carrying, what they were wearing, what facial expressions they were sporting … no matter what color they were, no matter what social stratum they appeared to be representing … in my eyes, every person seemed to have a caption floating beneath them that read, “you’d be interested in me.”

The contrasting impression I got from the aforementioned seething mass of humanity … to go along with my frozen-in-time, clichéd slow-motion, Ken Burns documentary -grade mental pauses to imagine each person’s background and thought process … was this:

Back in ’96, we BU band folks stepped off our buses after arriving in front of the Macy*s building at lunchtime on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and dispersed to enjoy an afternoon of sightseeing. And even for those of us who went straight into Macy*s in order to see that big escalator and the architecture and maybe even a price tag or two, in that moment, there was one overriding “dominant impression” (hello, fellow HS freshman-year English class colleagues!) that the city of New York offered us, right away. And that impression was reinforced for me last weekend, as I observed thousands of people careen past each other on sidewalks and somehow miraculously witnessed not a single head-on pedestrian-on-pedestrian collision …

That humble hamlet, capital of the financial world, home to millions, generator of one of the most interesting accents in America, musically celebrated by George Gershwin, Frank Sinatra and Alicia Keys … sports the most ferocious sustained pace I’ve ever experienced.

That joint moves fast.

You’d never catch me trying to drive my car in there … but I’d be willing to stand on the corner of 42nd and 7th for hours and hours (out’ the way, of course), and just observe. I might never run out of stories to imagine – even if they did walk past me at Ludicrous Speed.

April 4, 2014 Posted by | travel | , , | Leave a comment

Are You Kidding?

Another week, another free-associating flashback to an ancient memory.

I read a brief post on the local social media engine this afternoon that referenced the Vince Lombardi rest stop, toward the very northern end of the New Jersey Turnpike. For most people, this location is at best a place to remedy the difficulties of a long highway journey – gotta go, gotta eat. For most people, this location is assuredly not a garden spot, in spite of it being located in the Garden State. For most people, this location is best experienced by utilizing, as one of my favorite teachers once said, “the ol’ git-in and git-out deal.”

But if you’re a college band person, and your band ever traveled between New England and the lower Mid-Atlantic, this joint may be the location of one or more of your favorite memories. Or at the very least, when you drive past at 70 miles an hour, you still look over at it and smile a little.

In my case, not a memory I would like to experience again, necessarily; but as with so many things in life … it’s amusing now.


The graduate assistant of the Boston University band (your humble correspondent) stepped up into the cab of the band’s equipment truck. It was the biggest truck which I was licensed to drive, and easily the biggest vehicle I’ve ever been in charge of, then or since. I was up high! and in control!

The second annual Allentown college band show was finished, and so was our weekend trip, which had taken us from Boston to Bridgewater State College (a brief appearance at their football halftime) to the University of Delaware (this was when BU had a football team to put on the field against UD), to Allentown, PA, to participate in a Sunday afternoon of college marching band performances.

That late-September afternoon was yielding to early evening, and the sun was still shining, but not far above the horizon. The two BU buses pulled away from J. Birney Crum Stadium and headed for whatever interstate gets you from Allentown to 95, and after all these years I am still not clear about which one that is. Therefore, I attached my truck (figuratively) to the back bumper of the second bus and worked hard not to lose it amidst the considerable Sunday-afternoon end-of-weekend traffic.

It seemed to be getting darker. And darker. And darker. Yes, the sun was going down, and it was that wonderful twilight during which it is a trial to drive sometimes; but it seemed comparatively very dark considering my headlights were on.

Weren’t they?

I tugged on the lever that controlled the truck’s headlights, and in an instant I knew what the rest of the trip was going to be like. The high-beams came on. I let go of the lever, and the high-beams went off. And the regular headlights did not come on. Either of them. And now it seemed rather exceptionally dark.

In order to see properly, I had to pull the high-beam lever back and hold it there. All the way to I-95, and the Jersey Turnpike. And all the way up the Turnpike. Not complaining; you do what ya gotta do. Mister Pollyanna here declared that it was great that the high-beams were both working very well.

I flashed the high-beams off-on, off-on, at the second bus, trying to get the driver’s attention. The lead bus was pulling away at a fully ridiculous rate of speed. Throughout the weekend I had gotten the impression that the two bus drivers didn’t get on as well as they could have, and it had been curious to watch Driver One pull lane-changing maneuvers seemingly in such a way that Driver Two had to work extra hard to match those lane changes without wiping out cars while trying. I knew that my not-quite-late-model truck had zero chance of catching up to Driver One … but somehow, without words (and at the time, without cellphones or any other means of electronic communication), I successfully suggested that Driver Two had better not kick in the warp drive and leave me out there too. Happily, he didn’t. We formed a pathetic little convoy, the smallest convoy you can make without being a single vehicle. Bus changes lanes? Truck changes lanes. Bus changes lanes again? Truck changes lanes again. Don’t ask why. Just do. I probably looked like a little kid trooping around after a high school football player he idolized.

After either ninety minutes or a thousand years of driving, I saw Driver Two get in the exit lane that would take us to the mighty Vince Lombardi service area, and I gave out with a tiny little “…yay…” Idly, I had wondered if there was a plan, or whether all the BU vehicles were free agents now.

By this time, I had catalogued most of the possible ways to describe this experience that could possibly avoid dropping F-bombs, but was running dangerously low on ideas. Mister Pollyanna had (he now is forced to admit) become more of a Bill Cosby “foul filth and your filthin’ foul” expresser of notions. I will smack the truck rental guy across the nose, lousy pre-trip alleged maintenance check, amateur-hour operation, grouse grouse grouse.

We pulled into the Vince parking lot, cozied up to where Bus One was parked (and had been for some time), and shut our engines off. I shook my left hand vigorously to see if blood wanted to renew its membership. Keys out of the ignition, don’t have to shut the lights off!!! … and I stumbled down out of the cab. I followed the stream of BU band members from Bus Two through the rear entrance of the Vince rest stop building, and found a fast-food vendor line to join. I stood right behind Driver Two. Driver One walked over to his colleague, looked at him, looked at me, and cheerfully said words I shall never ever forget. They may ring in my ears until I join the bleedin’ choir invisible.

Well! I think it’s goin’ pretty well, don’t you?”

Your mild-mannered correspondent did consider, over the course of a long split-second, what his best response might be. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to take advantage of that perfect opportunity, to righteously unload on someone who surely had it coming.

Sadly, I’m still wondering.

Instead … I looked at Driver One, then at Driver Two, then back at Driver One, and executed a maneuver that I have watched a very dear colleague of mine use to great effect on several occasions. I closed my eyes very slowly … carried out a textbook about-face … opened my eyes … and Slowly. Walked. Away.

March 7, 2014 Posted by | band, BUMB, marching band, social media, travel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment