My co-worker, Chris, always tries to get me out every once in a while. He invited me to his 25th birthday party on the Upper West Side this past weekend. I wanted to go but not alone. First, I invited my friend, Kelly, to come with me, but at the last minute she had to be somewhere else. I called in my always-ready-to-go friends Nick and Josh.

Becky Novac
Surprisingly, they didn't mind going to someone's birthday party that they didn't know, after all, it was at a bar and they were going to be plenty of other people. Our first stop of the night was to Hell's Kitchen to meet up with Nick's friends for a quick drink. We finally arrived to the birthday party an hour late, I called it fashionably late. The three of us grabbed a small table and minded our own business. Turns out, there were only about five people from work that I knew and the rest of the 45 attendees were strangers. I was thankful that Nick and Josh decided to tag along. As the night came to a close we were pretty impressed with ourselves for having a good time despite the lack of other friends to talk to. Sometimes you just need time away from everyone and a good time can mean just you and a couple of friends, especially when there are 135-plus people around you at all times. Any drum corps veteran would probably say that they loved spending time with all the people they've marched with year after year, but there are times when you just need some space. When I needed some space I went on "dates" with my friends. At times the dates were unplanned. In 2000, Bree and I would often grab our food and go down a hallway of the school away from everyone else. We were typically the first ones up for breakfast, much like Amy, Erin and I were my ageout year. Many times we would eat breakfast by ourselves because the rest of the corps would sleep just a couple more minutes. Personally, I'd rather get up first and be ready first, and lay back down if I had the time. Other times the dates were planned like a neurotic soccer mom, because knowing that there was a plan got you through the tough times of practice. Our first block of free time that we had was Wal-Mart, mall and dinner on your own time. My fellow 2000 rookie and 2004 ageout Emily Vanston and I planned this trip and talked about it for days after making concrete plans. Our plans were simple. First on our itinerary was Wal-Mart, the most heavenly place on Earth during tour because Wally world is one-stop shopping and there's a toy section. The second and last thing on our list was eating and drinking. We decided for Applebee's, along with the rest of the corps, but unlike the rest of the corps we got a booth all to ourselves. I imagined at practice stretching my legs out in the booth and drinking a strawberry margarita. Fellow color guard members Kim and Reiko asked if they could join us in our booth and graciously, as always, Emily simply replied, "Actually, we kind of wanted to stretch out." Thanks Em. I think we sat there for almost three hours. The waitress kindly asked if we were with the "Other tan and white-footed people." Of course we were. I honestly thought I wasn't going to make it back to the bus because I was so full. In one sitting, I knew that I had gained all the weight back that I lost during move-ins. I don't mind being by myself sometimes. I'll go out and wander around by myself and it doesn't bother me. Some people would never eat alone in a restaurant, I don't care. Most of the time it only takes a few good friends to make a great party. Because of my few good friends and the "dates" we've had, I kept my sanity along the course of tour. While drum corps is about being with your family of 135 members, it's also about discovering the individuals that make up your family and a little more about yourself. Too often many of us walk in with stereotypes about the people we are surrounded by and don't give people a chance. I think we break the stereotypes during tour, for once everyone is on equal ground. Of course, not everyone is going to like everyone else. You're entitled to your own opinion, but more often than not, people find themselves discovering that the person next to them isn't what they expected at all.    If only the tour bus went as fast as the cab driver that took us from the Upper West Side to the PATH station on 33rd in about five minutes, I could have had more time for "dates." Then again I don't think I would want to be that scared every time I got on the bus. Becky Novac currently lives in Hoboken, N.J., and works for Universal McCann in New York City as an assistant media planner. She is 22 years old and a recent graduate from Penn State University where she majored in journalism and psychology. Becky marched with the Bluecoats in 2000, 2002 and 2004 as a member of the color guard.