By no means is the Oregon Marching Band a classy institution. Hell – to call that organization ‘civil’ on their very best day would still be a pretty gross exaggeration. By and large, it’s a group of people who were nerds all through high school thanks to their enthusiasm for band, the most maligned of the school music ensembles, and as a result their senses of humor run to the obscure, the absurd, and the catastrophically puerile and filthy. I was in it for four years and all of those things I just said apply to me in spades.
It’s interesting, the circumstances under which people get close to one another. I mean, you sort of take it for granted that a large group of very different personalities can bond and become greater than the sum of their parts in some sort of Full Metal Jacket situation where they’re fighting the Viet Cong and death is around every corner, or even in a Remember The Titans situation where they’re fighting to win a state championship and end racism.
A marching band, though, is different – what a band does is not directly competitive or explicitly demanding; it’s just a cold, wet, boring slog to the finish so you can perform for a half-empty stadium while everybody either reads the paper or hotboxes the handicapped-accessible bathroom on the concourse. You wouldn’t think there’d be a lot of camaraderie in that environment, but there is – and it’s strong. For those of you keeping score at home, that was why I did it.
Eric Humphrey joined the trumpet section as a freshman last year. He had a remarkable enthusiasm that he brought to everything he did – he was always busting his ass to get his music memorized before anyone else, consistently early to rehearsals, always with a smile on his face – which, to burned out seniors like myself who would’ve just as soon stuffed the entire marching band into a cannon and shot it into the sun at that point, was quaint, borderline adorable behavior.
Looking back, it’s weird how quickly we warmed to Eric in spite of the fact that, as a Mormon, he didn’t participate in the drinking end of our shenanigans – shenanigans that are a pretty big part of social acceptance in the OMB. I mean, don’t get me wrong, he still came to our parties – he just didn’t drink, and was still able to have a good time and avoid the judgmental, holier-than-thou bullshit I used to engage in back in my teetotaling days.
Rereading what I’ve got so far, it sounds a lot like I’ve got a pretty huge boner for Eric Humphrey, and, y’know, maybe I do, because he kind of reminds me of a better version of myself at an earlier age, and Lord knows I’ve got a boner for myself.
But the thing is, basically everybody in the Oregon Marching Band has a boner for Eric Humphrey. That’s what I’m trying to get across to those of you who don’t know him and can’t understand why I’m devoting so much space to talking about him – he’s the rare member of the OMB who pretty much everyone likes. They nicknamed him Humpalump.
Late in 2011, Eric was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer. There’s a malignant tumor in his shoulder, and he’s undergoing between seven and nine months of chemotherapy, with surgery to remove the tumor somewhere in the middle of the process.
I think jackasses who cheat on their wives and yell at waiters probably get just as much cancer as the Eric Humphreys of the world, so maybe ‘unfair’ isn’t the right way to describe what’s happening to my friend. ‘Shitty’ applies pretty well. Every day we get it hammered home to us that bad things happen to good people with astounding and uncompromising regularity, but you never really appreciate it until it happens to one of the good people who you know.
Eric finished his first round of chemo four days before the marching band left for the Rose Bowl. He insisted on going to the game with the band, and, on the day that he had his lowest post-chemo white blood cell count, he got on Bus 1 with the rest of the trumpet section for the first leg of the drive to LA. He participated in all the rehearsals and pregame events, and marched the six mile Tournament of Roses Parade with the band. Eric did these things because he is a badass.
Out of solidarity for Eric and his chemo, around 20 other members of the OMB shaved their heads before or during the trip. OMB members are selling T-shirts and beanies to support Eric’s treatments, and during the parade the entire band wore yellow ribbons – which, according to Wikipedia, can have a variety of meanings, but in this case meant, ‘Eric has cancer, fuck you, cancer.’
Things like this make me proud to have been in the Oregon Marching Band. It is not a classy organization, but it is full of some of the best, most generous and caring people you could ever hope to meet. Say what you will about our uniforms - we take care of our own. To that end:
There’s a PayPal donation button on the sidebar of my blog. Click that button to donate money to Eric’s family to help cover the various costs associated with having cancer. If you’re on the fence about whether to do it or not, you should probably do it.
Eric will undoubtedly beat this thing, because as I may have mentioned earlier, he’s a badass. Really, Eric Humphrey doesn’t have cancer – cancer has Eric Humphrey, and cancer is fucked.
Truman Capps is trying to assuage his guilt over not shaving his head.
In the interests of transparency, you should know that in lieu of a direct line to Eric’s family, the money donated will currently go into a PayPal account of my own creation. At a later date, barring a more direct method of donation, the whole contents of this account will be transferred to the Humphrey family. If they do not accept the donations, the money will instead be donated to the American Cancer Society.
Yes, the money is going into a personal account of mine – that’s because right now this is the simplest way I know of to do it. I have no money in my PayPal account, so I know that anything that winds up in there belongs to Eric and not me. Likewise, I should probably point out that I won’t take any of the money for my own use, because it’s being donated to help my friend fight cancer, and I’m not a bad person.