I had a brief conversation with a friend the other day, and we shared memories of marching band. I got to thinking about it, and when I get to thinking about something it usually ends up on here. So blame her for this.

I have talked before about where I grew up and the challenges facing the unathletic in a place where sports are even more disproportionately important than normal. I was spectacularly awkward physically as a youth (is it because I was born a month early? I wonder); if it were be possible to be picked after last in gym class, I would have been.

Then I started marching band.

I was still awkward, but for some reason, it would go away when I had a horn on my face and had to move from one dot to the next. My body, which I would fight every other waking moment, actually did exactly what I asked it to and when I asked it to. I lost weight, made new friends, and felt like I actually belonged somewhere for the first time in…well, let’s go with “ever.” I did it for four years, earning the marching band equivalent of a letter jacket, and decided to major in music in part because of the experience of marching band. Majoring in music led me to music theory and composition, so you could say my entire career exists because of one choice I made in 1986.

Slightly more than a quarter-century has passed, and I still remember aspects of marching band shows in incredible detail. I have done research on Jesus Christ Superstar because we did a JCS show my junior year. (Went to Finals with it too!) Playing those charts gave me a sense of how to write those charts, which led to all my drum corps arranging/composing.

So yeah, I’d consider my high school marching band years “formative” in just about every sense. There are many things I’d do differently, but I’d still march no matter what.

WF

Well, I’m not down 40 pounds, and likely won’t be by the time Feb. 22, 2013 rolls around.

But, at least before the holidays, I was down 13 pounds. Given all that the past year has held, I’ll take that. That’s a pound a week since I changed my diet. Clothes are fitting more loosely. If I can keep up a pound a week, then in 2 – 3 years I’ll be in really good shape. We are hopefully joining the school’s gym this year as well, so even on those non-walkable days (and hey, it’s -3 out there right now, so this is one of them) we can still get some exercise in.

WF

This article resonated with me, because I understand why the author feels the way she does.

Believe me when I tell you this – and I tell you this not to elicit sympathy (as I recognize that I have had it so, so much easier than so many people) nor to brag or humblebrag: When you grow up academically-inclined in an area that is not particularly understanding of or sympathetic to those who are so inclined, you fight these battles. There are many, many things about my hometown and my upbringing that I love, and I would not be the successful, mostly-stable person that I am today without those aspects (including an informed love of country, a strong moral code and a thorough grounding in basic education).

However, no one would ever mistake Bedford, Indiana for a place that nurtured young scholars. It is a decent enough small town and county seat, and if one knew where to look one could find a support network to indulge academic whims. But one must know where to look, and the community does not go out of its way to help you in that particular search. I am lucky in that I found that network, and there are teachers (some of whom I will now mention by name, because they deserve it; if your name isn’t listed and you feel it should be, I do apologize – Jane Goodwin, Loretta Bailey, Paul Hinman, Bill Tatom, Jo Stuckey, Dennis Whitaker) who encouraged academic rigor and success by their examples. I am also lucky that I had a family who tried to get it, though to be fair, they didn’t always. I don’t begrudge them for those occasional failings, as even people who have been around academia their entire lives often fail to get it. Still, explaining to people who think in terms of grommet bearings and socket sets that the work I do, while not physically taxing, is incredibly challenging and rewarding in its way is usually an exercise in futility. I take as much blame for that as anyone else, for there are times I failed to recognize that grommet bearings and socket sets are vital and important as well.

Some people are content to be where they are, and I envy them that contentment. Others must flee the nest, and I was very much part of that group. When “nerd,” “geek,” “smarty-pants” “too big for your britches” and the like are the words most people use to describe you, and your only crime has been liking books more than basketball*, it does tend to sour one on a location. I fought back with the tools at my arsenal. I developed a quick wit – some would say “biting” – at an early age, and I will cop to a certain smug superior attitude at different times. It took a long time to accept that, while it will always be where I’m from, it is probably best for all involved that I’m not living there.

I’ve made my peace with Bedford, and I keep that peace primarily by minimizing interactions, but it will likely be an uneasy peace for my entire life. I love my home and my family, and as many of you know they are inexorably tied to the community (though Dad did say if he was a few years younger, he would be looking to buy some land up here in Minnesota, as the soil is so rich and black); because I love them, I feel it necessary to stay away most of the time, lest old wounds with the community be reopened and my bitterness spill over into relationships that I value.

Wow. This was harder to write than I thought, and it also turned out longer than I thought.

For further reading: William Pannapacker’s stimulating “A Class Traitor in Academe” and Alfred Lubrano’s Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams.

*In Indiana, this is a capital crime.

WF

I’m getting more compositional nibbles lately, and think it might be time to go for the gold. Now that Jawa Girl is bringing in some money too, I think I’m going to get my own website (presumably http://www.wesflinn.com, but who knows?) and really do it up right.

Any suggestions for hosting services? They should make it easy to upload media files.

Also, thinking of taking credit cards. Have people had good experiences with PayPal?

WF

As we head into the end of the semester, it’s time to take some stock of how it’s gone.

(1) My classes have been outstanding. The kids eat it all up and ask for more. I’m raising my game, and it feels great. Nice to have to really push yourself.

(2) I’ve been playing again. Been rehearsing and performing with the UMM Brass Ensemble. Who knows – maybe next semester I’ll get in a quartet or quintet. Might be acquiring a euphonium as well, so there’s that.

(3) My Susannah research was quite well received at the SCI Region VI conference, and I am about to submit it to a journal. I also submitted my Jesus Christ Superstar research to another journal, and the Rocky Horror stuff is percolating nicely.

(4) It feels good to be composing again. Ghost Mountains is better than I thought it would be, and I have a couple of commissions coming up.

(5) I am taking on some additional responsibilities at work. This will keep me busy, but I believe this will also lay the groundwork for some nice opportunities. I am also stepping outside of the college and doing some discipline-related service.

(6) My niece Amanda is getting married in just under three weeks. While I am not old enough to have a niece getting married, I shall deal with it.

It’s not perfect; I’m not losing as much weight as I want to, but I’m hoping with some additional income (now that the missus has a job) to get a membership at the school’s gym and get in three or four good workouts every week. Also, Dad has had some weird health issues lately. But there’s nothing here that is really bad, and I’ll take it.

WF

(1) All of our stuff finally arrived yesterday. The unpacking has begun. Everything which needs to be at the office is at the office, and almost unpacked. The bedroom is complete. The kitchen is about 85 – 90% done. (That’s all Jawa Girl’s doing.)

(2) I lost two relations by marriage in two days. My cousin Betty’s husband Paul died Sunday after a long illness, and my cousin Harry Lee’s wife Rhea Dawn died suddenly Monday after a massive stroke. Betty and Harry Lee are siblings (two of seven from my mom’s Aunt Jessie and Uncle Ralph). It’s been challenging back home, to say the least. Paul and Rhea Dawn were both wonderful people, and though we weep for them, we know they are at rest.

(3) This is a really good bunch of students. I have to bring my “A” game every single day, and then beyond.

(4) Presenting at a conference in early October. Guess I’d better book the flight.

WF

Greetings from My New Office. This will probably be the only time that I actually update the blog from the office, as I try to keep work and blog separate. But, since I was here and classes start in a week, I thought I’d take the opportunity to let everyone know I’m doing well. Jawa Girl and the pets will be up here on September 2, and we’ll all be living in a house that we actually purchased instead of rented.

Gonna be a great year.

WF

I have made it to Morris, MN, home of my new gig. We’re buying a house, but we don’t close for a couple weeks yet, so I’m spending the rest of the month in a local motor lodge. It’s…quaint. Jawa Girl and the pets will be up at the beginning of September, once we’re in the house.

WF

This much I can tell you.

We are still at the in-laws’.

I am currently working on my classes for the fall (that’s mostly done, which is good, because all the books are now in Morris), a score for a short film, waiting to hear back from a journal about one article and doing preliminary work on another.

I begin walking in earnest again tomorrow. Hopefully soon I’ll be back to my 1.5 mile per day walk/jog/run-for-very-small-values-of-run.

Also, we should soon join the ranks of homeowners. More on that later. (Technically, I already own some land, but it’s just a plot in Pinhook Cemetery. I am thinking of opening it up to timeshares.)

Y’know, it ain’t a bad life, really. Got a good job (better than the last one, anyway, though I think it’s going to be good in its own right), got something resembling my health, got a wife I love like crazy, four great pets, and soon will be living The American Dream and owning my own home. It’s fitting that this is up during the Olympics, as I’m grateful to live in a country where we recognize that, the fevered dreams of Objectivists, fundamentalists and Capitalism-Über-Alles types notwithstanding, we are all in this together. I stand – we all stand – on the shoulders of the giants that had the foresight to build the political, social and general infrastructure that allows me to do all this.

U-S-A, U-S-A!

WF