By Marco Buscaglia Excuse the cut-and-paste approach of this column, but since I haven't written a Free Day for a while, I thought I would rid the "to-do" folder of a few ideas I never bothered to finish and start fresh. **** Haunted houses pop up all over the place during the weeks before Halloween. There are spooky sites operated by the Jaycees, local football leagues and other non-profits, as well as the numerous for-profit locations. This was easily my favorite of fund-raisers when I was in the Cavaliers. Actually, I was still in the cadet corps the few years the corps ran a haunted house, but for a 13-year-old kid, the trappings of working a haunted house -- hiding behind a black curtain, dressing in a black robe and wearing a mask, waiting for unsuspecting coeds to turn the corner -- beat the pants off of any other form of fund-raising, including sales of pizza, cheese and sausage and home-show program ads. And it was way better than the always-dreaded tag day. Not that tag day was that bad if you ended up with a good location -- in Park Ridge, Ill., those consisted of outside grocery stores, post offices and other spots in town that attracted crowds of people on a Saturday. You'd come back to the home base with a can full of coins and the feeling that you actually accomplished something. Of course, if you were unable to snag a good spot, you'd have to go door-to-door, wearing your uniform, asking for donations. Sure, some guys would come back with tales of women in various states of undress answering the door, but for those of us who told the truth, we faced a seemingly unending parade of senior citizens, girls our own age and the occasional man who angrily answered the door with a screwdriver in his mouth and a few nails in his hand -- all incredulously looking at the kid dressed head-to-toe in polyester, satin and ostrich plume, waiting on the front steps for a handout. SLAM! When the haunted house went away, so did the "fun" in fund-raising. **** Every time I hear people whining about the highbrow art of the activity today, I get a little confused. Sure, there are plenty of sophisticated concepts and subtle moments during today's shows, but I would argue that there were more "park and blow" moments in Denver in 2004 then there were at DCI in the same city in 1978. Nearly every top-12 corps featured one of those "spread your legs and lean back" brass statements we automatically associate with the 1970s. Of course, the tone quality no longer cuts through the bleachers, but it's loud nonetheless.
In fact, if DCI had to choose an image that would represent drum corps today, it might be a silhouette of a trumpet player with one hand on his horn and the other pointing to the crowd. Who knew the Blue Devils soprano soloists of the 1970s would be so influential 30 years later?    **** Do you ever shake the travel habits you learn in drum corps? When I marched, we used to announce a last-second "COMING BACK!" right before slamming our seats back into the unsuspecting knees of the person behind us. Frank Skerletts, a friend of mine, told me how during the flight home from O'Hare after the 1986 season, he accidentally announced his presence by slamming his seat back into the person behind him, who may or may not have been wearing a Phantom Regiment jacket. One of my traveling habits hasn't endured, though, at least not completely. While I used to be able to sleep on the bus for hours, I can't sleep for more than 10 minutes in a car. Put me on a train home after work, though, and I'll sleep right through my stop -- deep sleep, too, the kind where your own snoring wakes you up. But in moving car, I just can't grab any decent sleep. Maybe I need a bigger car. **** Speaking of Frank Skerletts, the family and I took a vacation to see his family in New Jersey this summer. It was a variation on one of those vacations my wife and I talked about for a while -- a swing through Hershey, Pa., then on to Philadelphia. From there, up to Skerletts-ville in Pt. Pleasant, N.J., for a few days. Needless to say, it was a great time. Aside from some reminiscing -- surprising little, actually -- it was nice to see another set of parents deal with the rough-and-tumble lifestyle of four kids, especially when you realize that your sarcastic friends raise sarcastic kids -- and vice versa. Our kids felt comfortable enough to spend the night at Frank's house. But most importantly, it was reassuring to realize that the bond Frank and I created nearly 20 years ago was based on more than shared performances and Clarke studies. **** We missed a big one this summer. Sure, DCI and drum corps around the country celebrate anniversaries of shows, championships and other noteworthy events, yet most of us probably forgot about something that happened in the summer of 1979 that changed the activity forever, a new concept by a company that revolutionized the drum corps world by introducing something so powerful, so all-encompassing, that we haven't been the same since. In July of 1979, Sony introduced the Walkman. Scoff if you will, but the old bulky Sony Walkman -- originally called the Soundabout and retailing for about $200 -- laid the groundwork for 25 years of a little private space during those summers of constant togetherness. Imagine bus rides without your own personal music player, whether it was a cassette, CD or mp3 player. Sure, everyone loves touring, but when your bus partner is waxing poetic about the girl back home for the 13th straight bus ride, it's nice to know you have the option to escape to your own musical reality, especially right when he gets to the "I knew it would be hard but I never thought it would be this hard" part of the nightly soliloquy. Thanks to Sony's little marvel, most of us were able to avoid those excruciatingly boring moments, leaving our bus partners to instead read letters from home for the 47th time and stare longingly at the photos they taped to the back of the seat in front of them. As long as the batteries didn't run out. **** Marco Buscaglia marched from 1978-1989 in the Cavaliers' organization. He can be reached at Previous Free Day columns: Drum corps spectating: A primer Drum corps is for everyone Feeder corps put big ideas in small packages A Mascot proposal Corps thrive thanks to members cut from different cloth Leaf it to Canada to break the monotony of tour Aging out isn't worth the weight The ABCs of drum corps fans Show concept promises all-out KISS and tell