Marching band music

I’ve been looking forward to my next guest post for awhile, because this talented writer holds a special place in my heart. Though it took lots of reminding (i.e. nagging), I’m psyched to finally share my boyfriend John’s work with you. I typically refrain from getting mushy here on the blog, but I must say – I like him a lot. Read on and you’ll see why.

witty title here guest post

john mancini

Laughter is the flipside of crying – neither being genuine emotions but rather reactions we hurl against experiences we don’t understand. So keeping it close to the vest may be some evolutionary strategy worth considering. If you’ve ever thought you were going to laugh but cried instead, or laughed at the wrong time, like say, at a funeral, then you know what I’m talking about. It’s not supposed to be funny, but then, it is.

Down here on my level, I’m still laughing and crying at just about everything life has to offer. Because life is absurd. Because change and loss are absurd, and some moments have the potential to crack us up. I’ve come to expect such moments in the fall. Autumn has always ushered in the big changes.

Two Octobers ago, on Cassie’s birthday, we attended a festival on Baltimore’s waterfront. While the Ravens played football on a large outdoor projection screen, we made our way from stand to stand with tiny thimble-sized plastic mugs, sampling local brews and enjoying the unseasonably mild weather. The wind was brisk that day, and the sun cut a low angle over the water. The air felt good and crisp.

I missed the first couple of phone calls telling me that my father had had a heart attack. The drive to the hospital was a blur. Later, as he underwent preparation for surgery, I stood outside the emergency room’s glass doors and stared up at the tall bricked smokestack that stood next to the parking lot. I was just trying to keep my emotions in check, to keep them from overwhelming rational thought and crippling my ability to deal with this situation reasonably. I focused on that smokestack, and I remember it clearly: the last of the sunlight was sharp against the red bricks, creating long individual shadows for each one. The red of the bricks was striking, and it stood out against the blue sky. I stared at it for what seemed like a very long time and kind of got lost. The wind was blowing the yellow leaves across the parking lot, and I realized – fall is here. It was terrible.

In the distance I could hear the music of a marching band on a nearby college campus. They were practicing their drills. My father has always been a trumpet player, and hearing that music reminded me of how when I was younger I had often been able to hear the local high school marching band playing two miles away from our house. My dad had pointed that out to me, and I had been surprised by how far music could travel.

The waiting was very difficult, but finally, before his big moment, I was able to see him again. The doctor came in to explain things. His hands were smooth and shiny like the hands of a much younger man, but they seemed capable, and he seemed confident. Not that we had any choice. My dad’s life was now being placed in these hands. The doctor told my dad that if he had not exercised as often as he had, then the heart attack may have happened in his thirties rather than his sixties. He looked at me when he made this point. I laughed. Then I looked down at the floor and studied the tile.

It’s hard to accept the fact that we can’t necessarily maintain the same lifestyles we grew accustomed to when we were younger.  Some of the most challenging moments come when faced with potential change and loss, but also when having to meet the demands of a shifting biology and culture, a continuous unfolding of conflict and resolution on which we have little influence. The result is tension, growth if you’re lucky. A good laugh maybe.

The three stents the doctor placed in my dad’s arteries should last another twenty years, but the act of saying goodbye hasn’t gotten any easier, and I doubt that it ever will. Without change and loss, life would probably be uninteresting. Some people are inclined to look for meaning in these sorts of experiences – as if something should be gained, some significance gleaned, a mystery solved, but I have to embrace the absurd because maybe there’s nothing to learn besides the obvious: life is short.

When you’re truly listening, music can seem to last forever, but really, the sound only goes on for a little while before dissipating in the air, and the band goes marching down the street. Still, I’ve always loved the sound of brass in the distance. I feel drawn to it. I want to find out where that sound is coming from and join the parade. Because life is like a procession of happy-sad drinking songs, and loss is just the price of admission.

Final_MusicZeitgeistPicJohn Mancini has published his thoughts on other sites almost as cool as this one but currently spends most of his time putting those thoughts to music. He will release his fourth album of new songs this spring. Follow his music updates on Facebook.

Get the newsletter

Sign up to get love letters, good reads, writing deadlines & more delivered to your inbox every week!

powered by TinyLetter

And don't forget to follow WTH on Twitter, Facebook & Bloglovin'!


  1. What a beautifully written entry. You picked a good one 🙂

    I especially loved this part:

    “Some people are inclined to look for meaning in these sorts of experiences – as if something should be gained, some significance gleaned, a mystery solved, but I have to embrace the absurd because maybe there’s nothing to learn besides the obvious: life is short.”

    It’s really as simple–and as complicated–as that. But it’s also really hard to truly understand. One of the toughest lessons to learn. I hope his Dad has many more years on this earth so that he can make the most of it surrounded by those he loves.

    • Thanks, Sarai. He’s a keeper. 🙂 And you’re right, it’s a hard lesson to learn. I often fear it because I’ve been lucky not to have to face it very much in my life. I think (or hope) it’s something we come to terms with more and more as time goes on.

  2. this is lovely, and really thought-provoking. i loved this in particular: “without change and loss, life would probably be uninteresting.” yes indeed. i take solace in remembering that when life gets hard. thank you so much for sharing.

    • Thanks for commenting, Shoko. It’s true, and though it’s sometimes sad, stagnancy wouldn’t be a desirable alternative either. There’s something to be said for change, even when it’s uncertain.

  3. This is wonderful, what a writer! I have this awful habit of laughing when something bad happens; for instance, when my dad drove to summer camp to tell me that my cousin had died, I started giggling. So I totally get what you’re saying.

    • It’s so weird how our bodies react to things like that – it’s like a totally chemical reaction and not even an accurate reflection of how it makes us feel. But whatever helps us deal with it. In times like that, we’re allowed to “feel all the feelings.”


  1. […] such person. If you’ve been reading long enough, you know that my boyfriend is a musician and writer. And this musician/writer boyfriend of mine is always working on something, it seems. This week, […]

Speak Your Mind