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Fanfare: The Madison diaries, part two






Several months ago, Donna Leal e-mailed me to mention that she was going to be on tour with the Madison Scouts for ten days, working on the cook truck from Sevierville, Tenn., to Denver. She agreed to keep a log of her thoughts for a future Fanfare column, which I am ecstatic to present here.

Her notes were so comprehensive that we’ll be reading them over three installments. This is the second of three parts. Read part one.

If you’ve shared a unique experience with a corps, please share it with us by contacting me at boomike@dci.org.

Day two: July 30, 2004

This morning finds us in Noblesville, Ind. Let me clarify that innocent-sounding statement. The Scouts are in Indiana. Our equipment truck is somewhere around Clarksville, Tenn. One of the windshield wipers on the truck cab is not working properly and a new cab has to be brought in. So, we have no equipment or uniforms.

John Morrow -- who marched with the Scouts in 1979 -- visited us today. He was a great guy and just could not do enough for his corps. What is it about this corps -- or any corps -- that inspires such loyalty? I can understand someone who marched, but me? I never marched with a corps. Quite frankly, I never had the desire. Yet, the feeling of loyalty I have toward the Scouts is something that has not diminished since 1975. Even when I stopped attending shows and watching the annual PBS broadcast, I still thought about the Scouts and wondered how they were doing.

Thankfully, the truck eventually shows up. We are, as usual, busy in the kitchen. I am becoming acquainted with Mike Brenche, one of our assistant conductors. He’s quite entertaining and a great help to us.

I am not going to the show this evening. A power nap is in order, as I will be riding in the equipment truck with Arlen after leaving Indy. My responsibility will be to keep him awake and alert as we drive across the country. This could be a great deal of fun; I’ve never ridden in the cab of a truck before.

A group of us try a sushi restaurant near the stadium. I’m really not hungry, but I can’t remember if I’ve eaten today or not, so I have some soup. After returning to the ‘Bago, I immediately fall into a deep, deep sleep. I talk to my buddy Mike after the show and confess I chose sleep over the Scouts. I don’t even know who won or what the scores were I finally discover the Blue Devils won the evening’s competition, but only after checking DCI.org long after my return home.

After another visit at yet one more truck stop, we hit the road for Emporia, Kan. Truck stops are strange places. I find myself buying food items I never buy -- incredibly unhealthy things like Krispy Kreme doughnuts and economy size bags of potato chips. Of course, I use this opportunity to leave a message at work just so I could tell them I was at a truck stop in Indiana. I find truck stops useful, if for no other reason they provide an opportunity to find out just where in the world I am. This is bizarre -- this drum corps life. I only know where I am by asking a kindly worker at a truck stop. I wonder what they think when someone asks, “Where am I?”

In an attempt to pick up a radio station, we stumble across a station playing speed metal, which I admit I kind of enjoy. It’s rather strange to be driving through the wilds of southern Illinois while listening to Motorhead.

Day three: July 31, 2004

I climbed out of the truck into the most brutal heat I’ve ever encountered. I’m from the south and am no stranger to hot and humid weather, but the heat in Emporia, Kan., literally takes my breath away. It’s like getting into a car that has been broiling in a parking lot on the hottest day of the year. However, the people of Emporia could not be any nicer.

The mother of one of our members and two of driver (and tour manager) Rouland Charles aunts are here to assist during out stint in Emporia. They are incredibly kind and solicitous of our needs. They endear themselves to Deb (who runs the food truck) and myself by insisting on doing last night’s dishes. It’s off to the dorm for us to catch up on sleep (HA!) and get a shower.

I was sitting under a tree on the curb talking to Mike when he showed me his driver’s license. I noticed his birthday year as being 1985. “That’s really depressing!” I thought, as I laughed and tossed his license back to him. “I was 24 years old when you were born!”

The corps did a run-through for a large and most appreciative crowd this evening. After the show, I finally got to hear something I’ve wanted to hear for years. The Scouts sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to the audience after the run-through.

We’re having major problems with two of our buses, which may result in an overnight stay in Emporia.

Deb has not seen her son Nick in weeks and wants desperately to see him tomorrow when we hit Colorado. A prolonged stay in Kansas means she won’t get to see her Nick. Luckily, we’re able to lease two buses and are soon on our way west. I have no explanation as to how two buses were obtained at 11 p.m. on a Sunday night in Emporia, Kan. I call it a drum corps miracle.

Day four: Aug. 1, 2004

I’m sitting on a concrete road barrier somewhere. Where am I, anyway? I ask myself, “What on Earth was I thinking?” I could be relaxing on the beach on Florida’s Sanibel Island or at least savoring a summer evening from the comfort of my deck while enjoying a well-made cocktail. Instead, I find myself at a truck stop parking lot.

I think I want to go home.

It’s not that the Scouts aren’t perfectly lovely. I just want to go home. I miss my husband so much; I can’t bear to think about him. The smallest things remind me of home. I watch UPS trailer trucks roll by, and wonder what they are doing at work. I notice a man with two dogs and, missing my pets, go to visit. In a brief moment of wild insanity, I entertain the idea of asking a strange truck driver if I can get a ride back to Tennessee.

I desperately want to call home, but I’m afraid I’ll start sobbing if I hear my husband’s voice. I experience the same thing with the people at work. If I were to call and co-worker Kelly Brannen (a fellow drum corps fan) were to get even the slightest inkling that I wanted to come home, it would not surprise me at all if she hopped in her car, drove across the country, chased down the Scouts and picked me up. She’s that kind of a person.

I wonder if everyone in a drum corps goes though a yearning to go home. I can’t imagine being on the road for such a long amount of time and not wanting to go home at some point. Maybe it’s more difficult for me as I’m still new to drum corps life. I think it started when the Scouts sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” for it’s one of my husband’s favorite songs. Maybe I should have gone on tour with a corps whose corps song has no sentimental value to me.

We arrive in Denver around mid-afternoon on Monday. We’re staying in Parker, Colo., at Chaparral High School. It’s a new school and apparently the powers that be want to keep it that way. Basically, we are to keep a low profile while we’re here as guests.

The support staff will be quartered in what appears to be the guitar classroom. It’s a bit stuffy, so Deb and have decided to sleep in the ‘Bago. This ultimately was a great choice as we enjoyed nice, cool Colorado nights.

Day five: Aug. 2, 2004

Although the corps will be treated to a steak dinner this evening, we are still responsible for feeding and watering in the morning and afternoon. I feel as though I’ve been in the cook truck all day.

Luckily, Mike is around to keep me entertained and in a good mood. I’m sure he’d rather be on the field with the Scouts, rather than puttering around in a kitchen with a middle-aged woman, but he certainly is a lot of company for me. I’ve grown quite attached to him, as a matter of fact. He reminds me of my husband, Jim, when Jim was that age. He’s just so sweet and lively. I want to adopt him for a tax-write off, but he said two nasty words to me: “College tuition.” Maybe I’ll just introduce him to my niece, Temple, instead.

I’m starting to get a strange feeling. I’m feeling very maternal towards the Scouts. I’ve never had maternal instincts -- except for something with four legs and a tail -- so this is an odd state to find myself in. If they’re feeling poorly, I want to take care of their ailments. A lot of the members seem to be plagued with cold symptoms and I dispense cold medicine with a stern look and a “Yes, you have to drink all of it-and don’t make a face!” Then I insist they take a cough drop or two in the event they need one during rehearsal. I even make them choose the flavors. I’m sure the majority of the drops will end up going through a washing machine, but it makes me feel better. I want to care for them in the same way I would want someone to care for my son -- if I had one -- if he were on the road all summer.

I met Sal Salas this afternoon and immediately felt an emotional boost. Sal is one of those rare individuals who can make everything better just by his presence. What a magnificent gift, especially for the director of a drum corps! It’s funny to finally meet Sal. I remember seeing his picture in the 1975 Madison Scout yearbook. If memory serves me correctly, we asked our high school color guard instructor, who had toured with the Scouts in 1976, who he was as we pointed at his picture and giggled. We thought he was “cute.”

Bathing takes precedence over even a tasty steak dinner, as I finally get my shower at 9 p.m. Luckily, leftovers remain by the time I get some dinner.

I met Michael Cesario this evening and found him to be charming. Unfortunately, I don’t know how charmed he was by me as I was wearing a shirt from a corps that was not the Scouts. “Next time I see you,” he said, “I’d like to see you in a different shirt.” “This one matches my eyes,” I explained. He chuckled, so I guess I’m forgiven. I hope I am, anyway.

Day six: Aug. 3, 2004

At the two high schools where we’ve stayed, the band has been in band camp. Oddly enough, none of the students seem to be the least bit impressed over the fact a drum and bugle corps is rehearsing at their high school. I can just imagine the reaction if the Scouts had been at my high school. We would have stood around gawking, getting in the way and pestering members for pictures and autographs. I wonder if it’s because information about corps is so accessible these days. We had to wait for the occasional newsletter from the Scouts or DCI to find out what was going on in the drum corps world during the off-season. Now, information is only a mouse click away.

The Individual & Ensemble competitions are this afternoon. Deb and I stayed behind after the corps left, just to relax for a bit. As we drive into downtown Denver with Lauren Ripley (Scouts volunteer coordinator) and her husband, I realize for the first time how insulated I have been for the past few days. I have no idea what’s going on in the world. Did Bob Barker really die?

The ageout banquet was at the Old Spaghetti Warehouse. It was great to see the guys having a good time. Even better is the fact someone else had to cook. While the portions were hearty, Deb and I were still concerned about the quantity. An unscheduled late night snack may be in order. These guys can eat! But, I’m glad we have the resources and caring staff to ensure no one ever goes hungry. We’ve heard horror stories about corps who feed their members nothing but peanut butter and jelly all summer. I hope they’re just drum corps myths.

I rode back on the staff bus with Andy Mroczek, one of the guard instructors. I’ve never had a chance to really visit with him, other than to exchange a few pleasantries, but I absolutely fell in love with him tonight. He is adorable. We laughed and talked all the way back to the housing site. Now I really wish I was going on the Tour of Champions. Maybe I can call in sick from California.

NEXT WEEK: Donna’s stint with the corps approaches its end, and she wishes she could make members of the corps feel better about their score in quarterfinals. And all too soon, it’s time to say “goodbye.” While happy to be home, she discovers she really misses everyone associated with the corps.

Fanfare archives

Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.

He has a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in music theory and composition.
   
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors.

Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating.

His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes.

But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.


 

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