Chris Hartowicz turns 50 on Sunday, following my fall across that imaginary boundary by just over two months. We marched together in the Cavaliers from 1975 through 1977, but he had an additional six years on me. That's right, he marched in the same top-level corps for nine years. Actually, this is to somewhat make up for the fact that I didn't mention Chris in my September 30 50th birthday reflections column, "Boo Looks Forward to Another 50 Years." I received a somewhat terse note from Chris reminding me of that, mentioning that I kept talking about Dennis DeLucia but didn't think of mentioning at all the corpsmate whom I publicly knifed at our corps ageout banquet, resulting in a standing ovation. More on that later. You see, I never liked Chris, at least back then, back when my hair wasn't a distinguished tint of silver (it's not gray and I'm sticking to that assertion), back when I was thin, (not to imply anything now), and back when I was still going to be known for having to build a new bookshelf for my collection of Pulitzer Prizes -- back when I was a young idealist. Life has a way of tempering dreams and reality has a way of redirecting one's efforts and passions, but both life and reality have ways of mellowing one's thoughts of someone one wouldn't be caught dead in public with -- not that I'm implying I would have never been seen with Chris when we were marching together, even though I wouldn't. Chris was part of the "old school," a tough-as-nails guard member who would have scared the military drill sergeant in "Full Metal Jacket." He grew up tossing rifles that weighed the same as bowling balls and he grew up in the neighborhoods of Chicago, back when most corps relied on members who lived nearby. My first year in the corps, rehearsals were still held on Wednesday nights during the school year. I was "new school," a music major with ideas about how the "old school" was holding back the development and evolution of drum corps. Actually, I wasn't as interested in the evolution of drum corps as I was the revolution of the activity. I looked forward to drum corps entering the 21st century a couple decades early with music majors leading the masses to the bugle call of "Charge," or even the trumpet call of same. I wondered aloud why snare drummers had to wear their drums on leg slings and why they couldn't just place them on harnesses like tenor players did. I wondered why guard members couldn't utilize (gasp) dance. Chris, I perceived, wondered why corps couldn't utilize erudite music majors as kindling wood. One day, while the corps was officially based out of Park Ridge, Ill., some local street toughs started harassing corps members near the corps hall, which was located on the Northwest side of Chicago. Chris got in his car, placed his rifle so it could be seen poking out of his driver's side, and drove up and down the block where the street toughs were located. Not so tough, they quickly disappeared. Now that's tough. Foolish, perhaps, but tough. Meanwhile, I was working up my speech on global brotherhood, with quotes from Mahatma Ghandi, just in case I ever found myself the object of derision of a bunch of neighborhood bullies who could be reasoned with, bullies who would listen to an impassioned plea of non-violence tempered with a plea to contribute to UNICEF. Chris and I really just never had anything to say to one another. Back to the 1977 ageout banquet: When it was my turn to accept my Cavaliers ageout buckle and give a little speech, I couldn't resist paying homage to Chris' nine years in the corps and how I knew that if I needed to know what it really meant to be a proud Cavalier, I only needed to look at him. And then, as a postscript, I added, "But Chris, I never did like you." At this, the corps pretty much jumped to their feet and applauded. Not that they hated Chris, (and I didn't hate him, either), but it was a good zinger and boy, did we ever live for those. So I get this note a few weeks ago from Chris, chiding me for not mentioning him in my own 50th birthday article as he was the butt of one of the biggest laughs I've ever received. The point was well-taken. Back in 1990, the Winter Guard International World Championships were held in Buffalo, N.Y. For the finals of the top division, I ended up sitting across the aisle and about two rows in back of Chris and his wife, Cathy. He met her through his sister when both women marched in the same Chicago winter guard, the Golden Knights, a guard Chris instructed. Both Chris and I sat on the aisle. I still really had no relationship with him, some 13 years after we aged out together. Oh, we were polite to one another, but we never really had anything to say. Just as finals was about to start, a man went to enter the row right behind Chris, carrying four large drinks on a tray. Just as he got behind Chris, the tray collapsed and all four drinks tumbled on Chris, with soda and ice going down his back. Now, there was a day when I would have paid to have witnessed that incident, but I was too much in shock at actually seeing it happen, concerned for that clumsy man's health and well being. Chris stood up -- his sport jacket drenched -- to shake the ice off his back. His shirt was soaked and he had to be freezing. The man was apologetic to the point of practically throwing himself off the balcony. Chris began laughing about it and told the man to take it easy, that no harm was done and it was just one of those things. Then he sat down to watch the show as best he could with a cold and wet backside. I realized at that moment that at least one of us wasn't what I thought he was. And to tell the truth, that was the beginning of a friendship I never thought I would see. I told Chris afterward how impressed I was by his reaction and he just shook it off with something like, "Well, he didn't mean for that to happen." Chris went to work for a package delivery firm and is now a big-shot, executive-type sales manager with Federal Express in the Indianapolis market. Fed Ex has a skybox at the Indianapolis Speedway. One day, a few years ago, Chris surprised me by asking me to come down for the day to watch the time trials from the box, and afterwards, I could spend the night at his and Cathy's house. That was too good an offer to pass up. Chris had to entertain quite a number of clients in the box, and it was interesting to see him interact in such a skillful fashion, concerned that everyone had enough to eat and drink while the cars cruised past like bullets. That night, after a relaxing dinner with him and Cathy, I met his son, Jeff, a high school student. Late into the evening, Jeff came to him with a questionnaire that needed to be filled out by the student's parents about growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. Chris asked when it was due. Jeff said, "Tomorrow." I sat, waiting for the sparks (or the Jeff) to fly. Chris said, "Well, I better get to it, then." And so he took several minutes to fill out answers to questions about his memories of that era when we marched together and yet didn't know one another. At the time, his daughter Robin was marching guard in Phantom Regiment, and Chris was doing the corps parent thing -- some driving for the corps and even some working with the visual staff. Phantom Regiment! You would have had to be in Cavaliers in the mid-to-late 1970s to even come close to what I want to get at, but know I can't convey. Later, his son, Jeff, would make the Cavaliers in 2002, serving the first year as a backfield conductor during the "Frameworks" show, later to march three years in the corps' baritone section. Chris sent me a note about how he cried when he saw his son in a Cavaliers' uniform for the first time. I was so taken by the emotion that must have been present at that moment; I got all misty-eyed as well. Pride is a contagious thing. Chris and Cathy bought an RV, one of those vehicles that you can use in a pinch to house an extended family of 25. On one side of the RV is a Cavaliers sticker -- on the other, a Phantom Regiment sticker. Again, it would take too long to set the scenario from three decades ago. The RV is used to travel between Cavaliers, where Jeff marched until aging out this year, and Phantom, where for the third year this coming summer, Robin will be managing the corps' souvenir booth while she works on her master's degree. Time is this mysterious thing that separates us from those we used to know well, but it can also bring us closer to those we either didn't know or didn't try to know. Time, and wisdom and maturity ultimately open up new horizons, new opportunities and new friendships. Time has much in common with drum corps. Chris, I guess after all these years, I've got to tell you that I do like you. I really do. Just don't push it.
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.