Ain’t no river wide enough (to keep me from gettin’ to New Field)
A post in which Eric H, aka Deuce, reflects on playing through the 5HF (Fifth House Flu) and why he did it.
At a rehearsal for our upcoming performance of our series concert Luna de Cuernos, the wind quintet and I were reminiscing on the wonderful winter we had. The kind of winter where every one of us passes around a horribly debilitating illness that leaves the inflicted bed-ridden for a few days, curled up in a ball trying desperately to regain an appetite and work up the strength to step out of bed and practice despite how much our insides feel like we just swallowed broken glass and a solid brick of pain. The Fifth House Pathologist has deemed this disease the “Fifth House Flu”; although, frankly, the name lacks creativity. If anyone else has a better idea for what to call the illness, please let us know.
I happened to get the Fifth House Flu a few days after our Christmas concert, literally the night before our much anticipated New Field Elementary residency final performance. It hit me at 11pm, I couldn’t sleep because I had to wake up every hour to perform flu activities. Around 4 am, I finally made it to bed and got a solid two-hour nap before I had to wake up and head to New Field to play in the rhythm section for five second and third grade classes who would be singing songs that each class wrote. The songs were from the American Song Book with verses that were rewritten by the New Field students. These kids and teachers worked their tails off preparing for the final concert, and I had been looking forward to seeing the fruits of our labor pay off since my first visit to the school.
Despite being extremely exhausted, I woke up and dragged myself into the shower. All of my limbs felt like they were full of concrete or potatoes or something that makes it hard to lift them. I still felt awful, but I chugged a blue Gatorade and ate two bananas and sucked it up as well as I could. I made it to the performance on time, but I was not in great shape. Any time I stood up I felt fatigued and needed to sit down again, and any time I played my instrument, I got tunnel vision and felt like my eyes were getting ready to fly out of my head and bounce around on the gymnasium floor. Merideth claims that I turned a pretty shade of green (my favorite color!) as well.
Although I had to take frequent breaks to keep from passing out face down on my bassoon in front of a sea of students and scarring them all for life, I made it through the performance. It was a struggle. It wasn’t great, but I did it. The second the performance was over, I sprinted from the auditorium so that I could go perform some more flu activities. The students and parents were buzzing about the performance, and I was incredibly pleased to have been a part of the whole residency. I got in my car and drove back home, where I parked on the street in front of my apartment and accidentally slept in the driver’s seat for two hours.
It wasn’t until then that I realized that I had every reason to stay home that day. I was exhausted, nauseated, fatigued, and incapable of playing my bassoon for more than seven or eight seconds without hunching over and gripping my stomach and head simultaneously in pain. But I felt like I HAD to be there. Not because my boss would fire me if I missed this performance. I had to be there because I was a part of something bigger than myself, and I couldn’t bear to miss the culmination of it. I was driven by a powerful will and love of what I do, which sounds really cheesy. But I honestly can’t think of another time that I was at a level of health even half that poor and still had the motivation to get out the door in the morning to “go to work”. I think I may have picked the right career path.
The point here is not that musicians are really, really, really, unbelievably dedicated to their craft and completely disregard their own health for the spreading of the joy of music. That would be a stupid point because not everyone reading this is a musician. The point is that the only thing keeping me from staying home that day was an unrelenting passion for what I do. I found a strength and a drive that I never knew that I had, and the second I was done sharing music with the students and parents at New Field, my body shut down as I fell asleep in my car on a residential street.
Many stories are told to reflect this point: an elderly woman lifts up a car in order to save a baby (although I’m not quite sure how that works, was the baby stuck under the tire or something?). But I’ve never had an experience where I was so genuinely fervent that my body decided to channel all of its energy into sharing my passion with others. The experience showed me what I was capable of, and it struck me as an assurance that I’m totally doing what I should be doing.
One final slap-in-the-face moral: DO SOMETHING THAT YOU GENUINELY ENJOY! You may be surprised at what you’re capable of. Or not. Who knows?
Special thanks to Eric Snoza for transmitting the Fifth House Flu to me.
Health and Safety notice: I distanced myself from those in attendance at New Field during the final performance and washed my hands obsessively to prevent any further spreading of the Fifth House Flu to students, teachers, and parents.