Tuesday, March 10, 2009


My brother Muleskinner's birthday was today.

When I think of him, musician and artist immediately come to mind as descriptors. Now, I think he would be the first to agree with you that these descriptions conjure up the idea of a "free spirit" or a tempestuous individual that struggles to find place in conformist society. He has done some of this over the years, but without those events and challenges, he wouldn't be who he is now--and he'd also be the first person to agree with that statement as well.

I could/should spend about five or six hours carefully crafting a detailed post about how amazing and interesting he is and how much of an influence and a role model he has been to me since I was growing up . . . but in typical WWYG?! fashion, I'll try to give you a tenth of what might be inside my head.

"Muleskinner" introduced me to the idea of High School marching band--an organization that meant a lot to him when he was growing up and subsequently meant a lot to me as I was growing up after him. I remember the feelings of pride and admiration that I had when he was selected to be the drum major for his senior season, and how that season was one of the most triumphant in the history of a very good band/orchestral program. They won every tournament they entered that year, they were invited as the state's representative in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and my brother was at the front of the column in every instance. I knew that halftime performance by heart, having listened to it many times in the stadium. I knew many of the moves. I felt so proud of him.

Later when I was in the same band, there was a moment in my junior year when people asked me to try out for drum major. I did not want to do it--in part because I didn't think I was suited for the task of stand-out leader. I also knew that part of the motivations for the requests from my peers was to serve as an alternative to another potential candidate that many feared might win the job. But . . . I also didn't want to compete with the memory of my brother and his accomplishments. I couldn't match those moments; I didn't want to be compared to that and needed to find my own place outside of him. (Long story short--I DID try out, but justifiably and rightly for all, I didn't get the post. And yes, I did find my own way outside of "Muleskinner's" shadow.)

Another moment in my HS band career--there was a small room off the main rehearsal space, adjacent to the director's office. I don't know what it was SUPPOSED to be used for, but it became a sort of trophy repository. I always viewed it as a sort of museum. One day I was spending some time in there between music practice and outside marching practice. Hanging on the wall was a pressbox-view photo of the 1984 version of the marching band--Muleskinner's championship senior year. I was looking at it and remembering my younger memories of standing on the stadium bench, conducting the groups in tandem with my brother who was off to the right and down on the field. 

I flipped the picture over and saw words written in ink pen. In my brother's familiar handwriting. I started to read. It was something he had written, describing his own feelings about the band and what it meant to him. I grabbed a piece of paper and copied it down. To this day I remember phrases. I have my paper somewhere, but I don't know where it is right now--and I wouldn't put it up without his approval anyway.

But if he ever says that it's okay, I do my best to find it.

"Muleskinner" is now much more than memories of high school long ago. He is and has always been a person that I have looked up to, admired, and wanted to emulate in many different part of my life. I am extremely grateful for all of the things we have shared and will share as we grow older every day.

Happy Birthday to you, bro! I only wish I was there right now to give you a hug while I say it in person.

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