I spent Saturday making the 10-hour trek from school in Baton Rouge back to home
Knoxville. I've made this drive enough times to recognize the landmarks as I go by, like an oft-watched movie or favorite TV show.

Emily Tannert
One exit in particular always amuses me as I drive by. It's somewhere in the middle of Alabama -- where, exactly, I couldn't tell you -- but you can see the Super Wal-Mart from the Interstate. A regular reader of this column will know that I am particularly familiar with Wal-Marts in general, and the reason that exit makes me smile is because I've shopped in that particular Wal-Mart. If you've done enough drum corps, and lived enough places (as I have on both counts), you start to recognize places because you've been there on tour. You start to know what a typical truck stop should look like, and you remember where this or that state highway leads from the Interstate. You can navigate hospitals without looking at signs. The lights on football fields are like homing beacons for your confused brain. One of my favorite things about my job was that, as designated errand-runner, I got to get out in the towns in which we rehearsed. I got to see the lay of the land and meet the people -- at least the ones working in the Wal-Marts and Home Depots! Some of my favorite memories of the last two summers are of driving through cornfields and cobbled streets, hunting for the local hardware store or the 24-hour Laundromat. Sometimes, after long overnight drives, I was only in a city long enough to find the grocery store; but other times, when we'd stay some place for several days, I'd get into a routine of where I could find a soda and a newspaper, who had the best deal on milk, how to get to the local airport. For two or three days, I got to be a citizen of that town. And then I'd pick up and move again, and get to know a new place. There is a certain novelty to being free as the wind, always with a new spot on the horizon and a new place to explore every day. Of course, like anyone else who has made epic cross-country journeys and lived to write their tales -- and there have been plenty over the years -- I can tell you that the boundaries that delineate city, state and country are arbitrary and man-made. A cornfield in Pennsylvania looks very much like a cornfield in Ohio or Illinois. An Interstate in Chicago looks much like an Interstate in Boston, and traffic looks the same no matter where you are! People are pretty much the same no matter where you go, too, barring some regional language and accent differences; it's amazing how far a smile and a "please" will go when you just can't find the white electrical tape. Produce clerks' eyes got just as wide in upstate New York as they did in Texas when said I needed 50 pounds of bananas. And drum corps fans appreciate good drum corps no matter where you are. As much as I hesitate to use this space for public service announcements, I'd like to remind all drum corps fans that a lot of children from the Gulf Coast are facing a holiday season without not only friends, loved ones, and their homes, but without anything under the tree or menorah. No one is going to pretend Christmas gifts or Hanukkah gelt can make it all better -- but it might make one day a little less unhappy. I'd also like to remind all drum corps fans that the school music programs across the Gulf Coast region are still struggling to recover from the massive loss of physical assets. Many schools that have accommodated displaced students have also struggled to meet the needs of their enormously enlarged programs. Please support the various national organizations that are working to help these programs recover and move forward. And remember, finally, that some Gulf Coast residents' drum corps dreams did not die with the disaster. Some members may face a special struggle with the financial responsibilities of drum corps membership this year, and will be grateful for any extra help; the director of your favorite corps can help direct your assistance to those members in need. Have a peaceful and blessed holiday season. Emily Tannert is a sophomore music education/percussion performance major at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, La., and holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University. Emily aged out of the Glassmen in 2003 and was assistant tour manager for the corps in 2004 and 2005. You can contact Emily at emily@imoses.com.