Overly Appreciative of the Perspective

Posted on September 8, 2010

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It’s difficult to expound upon shifting social paradigms without sounding like a pompous pedant, but I believe a funny thing has been happening lately.  I’m going to call it “Communicative Overload,” or perhaps just “Over-Sharing”.

I believe that, at this historic juncture, the human species is very excited to be able to communicate and share ideas so readily–but it’s starting to become a bit loud.

Similar to the Renaissance period (1300s), we’re once again becoming very self-aware of our existence and our ability to connect and disseminate our ideas.  But what I’m really getting at is how this phenomenon has manifested itself through Facebook, the largest social networking website on the internet, with over 500 million users as of July 2010.  Somewhat fun-fact: The European Union has a population of approximately 500 million.

Ever since reactivating my facebook account after a two year hiatus, I’ve been diligent about the pictures I’ve uploaded, not only because I know they’re all being stored in the haystack, but because I know not all of my pictures are worth a look-see.  And plus, it’s nice to keep the winners private, sometimes.

There’s just something bothersome about the unmitigated uploading of what was once considered private–it almost seems competitive at times, a race against changelessness.  And I fear for the social psyche of all future generations of typing conversationalists–forever circumspect of the camera’s wrath, in that it might catch one at an unforgiving angle.

I’ve been hesitant to publish anything regarding my recent experience as a night watchman at band camp because I’m aware of the forest-fire nature of “scandalous” topics.  Not to say that anything about the job should elicit scandal, but  I envisioned writing a comparative piece on my personal band camp experiences (when I was a student at the high school), to today’s conservative model.

I wanted to incorporate a sociopolitical/conjectural analysis of why students are being treated the way they are now, and why the parenting body feels so strongly towards upholding this level of “discipline,” as compared to a decade ago.

I realize now, that communication, via vastly improved mobile networks, has allowed for that parental tether to tighten its hold. When I was a freshman, nobody had service on their cellphones, so we took turns making calls on a land-line ten minutes into the woods. Technology and certain events (American Pie [1999] & The Mepham HS Scandal) have changed the band camp experience in remarkable ways.

I suppose this is me being overly appreciative of the perspective–having witnessed the interesting metamorphosis of parental mentalities and the decadence of traditions I had known during my respective years.

But I shudder at the thought of what would occur if the small legion of parents at Mineola High School caught wind of the words and pictures I intended to publish.

One day in high school, perhaps sophomore year, I decided to open an umbrella indoors. It’s funny to me how that sounds like a figure of speech but it’s not. That very day, I was called into the principle’s office to discuss pictures I had uploaded onto Yahoo of a recent party. Granted, these pictures exhibited under-aged debauchery in many forms, I was still very surprised to hear that my pictures had been viewed by the majority of the PTA and that I had no choice but to remove them immediately.

Not only was I made to cower before the superstition of umbrellas ever since, but I’ve also had to learn how to censor myself over the years, which I believe this site to be an excellent practice of. When you write for a faceless and numberless crowd, since the crowd is formidable in size, your voice really changes.

And so, a slideshow of sorts:

Even with all the layers I packed, I had forgotten boots and wool socks.  Even after seven years of band camp, I still can’t pack right.

I just had to switch the biological clock; sleep during the day, stay awake at night–easy job.

I enjoyed the mornings at Camp Echo Lake in Warrensburg, NY.  At 5 AM, all the lights on the camp-ground would shut off, and a dark fog would envelope the cabins.  And it was usually coldest at this point, with nothing else to do but read or shoot some hoops, quietly, so as to not wake the sleeping children.

This was my third attempt at the mid-court shot, and I promised Chris it would go in.  I imagined summoning Kurt Russel would help me accomplish the task, and it did.

Here’s the scene I’m referring to, sadly/hilariously dubbed:

And Chris Wallitsch, for the life of himself and for those few who love him, could not manage the sleeplessness our shifts as night watchmen entailed–note the tell-tale slump of deep slumber:

These pictures are from three years on the job, but most are from Echo Lake.

I wouldn’t bother Chris so much about falling asleep on the job if he didn’t insist on having been awake while these pictures were taken…Parents rest assured–nothing was getting by this vigilant watcher of the night. Those quiet hours of darkness became a sharpening stone to my senses.

But nothing alarming occurred at this year’s camp.

Two years ago Chris and I heard around sixteen gunshots caroming off this lake in the pitch-black morning. And we suspected the shots were growing nearer, but they stopped altogether after we ran to inform the band director/wake him up.

As the kids annoyingly say these days, NBD.

Although I didn’t capture many of the pranks from this year at camp, I’m proud to have been a part of this collective effort, although I wish I could have woken up inside the confusion myself.  Chris and I aided the seniors in their efforts since they were very limited in what they could do on their final night at camp echo lake, which was a rather charming venue in retrospect.

Not only did this camp have one of the most inviting trees to climb

Lit path between the lake and cabins at Echo Lake

It also had pleasant little surprises, such as the one above–very Midsummer Night’s. But it amazes me that just a few months earlier, two young adults were killed by a drunk driver on the road that bisects the camp and its adjoining fields/mess hall.

Meet Peter Goldblatt, 39

He supposedly chugged a beer after the collision to “calm his nerves,” adding to the .11 BAC he blew once reprimanded. Goldblatt left work from his family-owned golf course that night with the intent of meeting with a lady friend. Sad part is, he tried to flee the scene, but his car was too fucked up to let him get very far. He’ll be in county jail without bail until his sentencing on 2 February 2011.

Update: Goldblatt was found guilty of all the charges brought against him, including vehicular homicide.

But enough with death and DWI’s–let’s  reminisce some more about band camp!

Ahh, my respective years (01-05)

Here I am as a junior amongst the venerable staff at Camp Cayuga in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, being a smart-ass and insisting I take a picture with them as they serve lunch.  I like the guy to my left because he never put his arm around me, and I like the guy all in black for just being his cool self.  The thing that was magical about this camp was that it was essentially a property relinquished to the school for a week, no supervision by the camp save for the Swedes, assuming the staff was comprised entirely of Swedish men.

And judging by their swimwear, I had no choice but to concede to their assumed nationality.

Tim & Jess get their freak on

Because of this free reign, students could have late night dance parties in the cafeteria without worrying about curfew or only having enough time to shower before lights out.

My generation got away with murder on many of these nights, or just plain old “hazing”.  I don’t think anyone was scarred from this prank.  It may have been cold for a while, but I’m pretty sure the freshmen were allowed to move all of their belongings back into the cabins whenever the seniors deemed it okay.

This would have been a good one, except the sleeping pads gave way under John Chau’s weight–such an easy target, dead sleeping weight.  We were going to place him in the middle of the field, I believe, but we all kept laughing like hyenas–it was hard not to.

I feel like that video was filmed with a broken Betacam.

This was probably the best prank I’ve ever been involved with since a smart freshman decided to leap onto the strings, folding all the (hinged) bunk beds  inwardly.

I may have been a junior when I snapped this shot.  I can’t remember.  I do remember that these boys decided to sleep in the bathroom to avoid being pranked in the middle of the evening.  It truly was a free-for-all.  Freshmen would stay awake if they could, but normally the exhaustion from the hours of practice would overpower their wills.

When I was a freshman, I woke to the sounds of my cabin’s quiet invasion and I watched all the senior girls creep slowly inside, and instead of shouting bloody murder to save my comrades, I simply watched and swooned for the women at the edge of my bed, pretending to fall asleep to the sounds of fizzing shaving cream and muffled laughter.

Here’s  my cabin being raided by the seniors one evening.  Mike Purdy fights valiantly by clutching onto a maniacal Doug while Dan Zarchy dons a ski-mask and shoves Tim into Alex’s grasp.  I’m fairly certain we were forced into “midnight drill” or to stand in a circle and hold each other’s man-boobs–the PG version of the “elephant walk“.  Urban Dictionary’s definitions of the act are just a tad more extreme than the version I’ve heard of, but it’s inconsequential.

Band camp in a nutshell

The infamous “Last Supper” was the ceremony in which the senior boys would march into the dining hall wearing togas and be served by a designated “bitch,” who so happened to be Chris Wallitsch, an underclassman by one year.  Although I make frequent reference to Wallitsch, I actually hated him when I first met him, which happened to be through my involvement with the marching band.

We both liked the same girl on the drum-line, and it became very heated, of course, being the manly-men that we were.  But through the vicissitudes of band, we became good friends, good enough of friends where, even to this day,  I’ll respect his entreaty and not publish pictures of him as our “bitch”.  But I did buy his bib and I did enjoy him serving us our food and picking it up shortly after, as all “bitches” were required to do, since the senior boys were never quite satisfied by their final meals.

Frankie’s maraschino nostrils

Another dining hall tradition–the ice cream social. When I was a freshman, this event was held outdoors in a gazebo, and resembled more of a legitimate food fight by the end of it. This eventually morphed into a “dunk a freshman’s face in ice cream” party. Today, freshmen have the option to use a spoon, but are heavily encouraged to inhale the frozen dairy.

Drum battle

One tradition I’ve witnessed gone down the drain is the drum circle. Near the end of the week at camp, if not the final night, the drumline marches together and wrangles up the band with the syncopated beats of their drums. A steady tempo is held while changes in dynamic occur so a drummer can perform a solo and show off their flare mid-circle.

One year, Chris and I had a drum battle, much to likeness of the one in Drumline (2002). Over the past few years, this tradition has lost its stronghold, either because of disagreements or lack of organization. I hope the kids eventually figure out it’s not often one gets to beat the quiet out of the night.

Me & the boys flaunt our mocha nips

I can’t leave out cross-dressing day–quite self-explanatory really.

Zac

I’ve always enjoyed this picture of Phil Carvalho leaping into the air on cross-dress day.  This picture was actually taken twenty yards or so from where I saw the camp ghost, “The Lady in White,” walk into the woods one night, but that story is always for another time.

I like to see all of these things, these memories frozen, explained, and now, what I believe constitutes as  “sharable”.  Phil’s shameless leap embodies a lot of these experiences–it really does seem that fleeting in retrospect, but all the more worth saving.

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Posted in: Reminiscence