Joe Smith, a frequent contributor to last year, will be contributing essays to on a regular basis. Living with 134 other people for almost three months being in constant contact can at moments be very frustrating, but the other 95 percent of the time it's very enjoyable. After those three months you're left to go home by yourself, no longer in contact with all of those 134 other people in fact. I must say, since I have been tour, I have not kept up the contact with all of those 134 other people.

Joe Smith (left) and his seat partner, Steve Beatty.
When you do happen to get ahold of those drum corps people, it is as everyone else has said: "You pick up where you left off." The people that were there for you in all your times of need on tour are still there for you, even if you haven't talked to them very much since tour. In fact some of my relationships with people since tour have been better than they were when we were actually on tour.

It's also humorous to find that generally the only people I can hold a true conversation that lasts for over an hour with are drum corps people, and I never do get bored during those conversations. Tonight I had the chance to talk to one of my very best friends that I haven't heard from in awhile. We did truly pick up where we had left off. We had the chance to reminisce about past experiences with staff and the other members from the past two seasons. I'm also very excited to have the chance to hang out with Mr. Bus Captain once again this weekend. Sometimes these are the moments we need to help us pick ourselves up after a tough day. It's great to see and talk to the people we march drum corps with, because the great memories far outnumber the bad memories. So why not pull out that old address book and get back in contact with someone you marched with? It's almost like pulling out an old scrapbook with someone there to help fill in all the holes you left.

As I sit here and type about the drum corps experience, I'm reminded just how much of it I hold dearly to me. For instance, I am ecstatic that I'm still wearing my fading orange, plastic, finals day wristband.

Why would I still be wearing this, you ask? Sentiment, I guess you could say. The thought of even cutting it off has not even crossed my mind during these last few months. I will let it fall off when it's time.

How much sentiment a little plastic wristband can actually hold, you ask? A lot. Aug. 7 seems like so long ago, especially with auditions just around the corner, but in the grand scheme of things it hasn't been that long.

That brings me back to another fond memory. I remember last fall as I reflected on the season and upcoming start of the pre-season, it felt like the off-season was drifting by much faster than in 2003. My friend Chris told me that it would only go by faster and faster as the years pass by. He really was right. The last three months of my life seem like a blur.

So if you're a rookie preparing for your first camp and it seems as though time is only creeping by until camp, I can completely relate to you. I felt the same way back before the 2003 preseason. The anxiety will pay off in the end, though. Just soak it all up while you can. 2004 columns by Joe Smith: The Other side Preparing for tour Getting away from it all: Report from a Colts' camp Strong winds, early sunset: Report from a Colts' camp Meet the visual tech New challenges in Dubuque My favorite place: Alfred, N.Y. Freezing rain, full ensemble: A report from Dubuque Discussing drum corps over the holidays