Becky Novac, an alum of the Bluecoats' color guard, will be contributing a column to DCI.org every Thursday. This is her second installment. Three months ago I unpacked my tour suitcase for the last time. Four weeks ago, I repacked the same suitcase but for a different reason -- I was moving to New Jersey. I had finally found a job in New York City.
I had only been to New York City twice before accepting my job. Once was in April for a career fair set-up by Penn State. I was able to see five blocks of the financial district before it was time to get back on the bus and head back to State College.^ The second time was for my job interview. I had no idea what to expect when I rolled my suitcase through Hoboken, N.J., to stay with friends. I packed enough clothes for about two weeks; everything else was left at home. I had no idea what I would do, but I knew that my friends' futon was a lot more comfortable than a bus seat, the last place I had slept other than my couch at home. I can remember my first drum corps bus ride back in 1999. The Bluecoats had a lot of staff coming from the Pennsylvania area, so the corps had arranged for a Pennsylvania bus to come and pick a group of us up. I went with a bunch of Penn State drummers, hoping that I would find at least one other color guard girl (the Bluecoats' color guard was all female until 2001). I found one, Bree, and we were the only two color guard girls on the bus. There may have been about two horn players, and the rest were drummers. Dan Delong was the percussion caption head that year, and he was from Pennsylvania, so he brought a lot of percussionists with him. We left the parking lot of Stoner and Associates in broad daylight when. We were dropped off at the Super 8 Motel. The corps couldn't provide housing for us that night because of the annual banquet. Since no one on the bus was a vet, we all stayed at the motel. I tried to go to bed early, because I knew sleep would be a luxury over the course of the weekend. I got back on the same bus the next morning. I took my suitcase off the bus and wheeled it into a hallway. Apparently, this is where it would stay until I was done practicing for the day. The first stop was a corps meeting, after registration. This is where I learned that the Bluecoats had finished in 13th the previous year, and it was our job to bring the corps back into the top 12 where we belonged. Now, you may be wondering how I had absolutely no clue that I was joining a corps that wasn't in the top 12. It's a simple story. Dan Delong had been the percussion caption head at the Reading Buccaneers, the senior corps I marched with in 1999. He told me that he was going to the Bluecoats and that I should come and give it a shot. Why not? Next stop was the gym where the color guard vets, all 14 of them, were going to get the equipment and bring it to us. There were 32 girls, including the vets, trying out for 36 spots, but I didn't realize the good odds. Looking back I was still nervous. The first day came and went. I remember being excited that there was peanut butter and jelly out at every meal, since it was my favorite sandwich. I wouldn't have been so excited if I knew how many PB&Js I would end up eating by the end of my rookie year. Bree and I went back to our suitcases a few times for sweatshirts and gloves. But it wasn't until the end of the day that I got to wheel my suitcase from the practice building to the Boy's Club gym, where I would sleep. I didn't bring an air mattress or a thin pad to put underneath my sleeping bag -- Bree and I just rolled out our sleeping bags and ran for the showers. I eventually went to sleep that night after socializing and eating snack. Morning came faster than I had expected, but it was time to roll my suitcase to the racketball room that was adjacent to the gym, since the drummers used the gym. We would later have show-and-tell in the gym as well. COBB (cereal, oatmeal, bagels, and bananas) was what breakfast consisted of, and off to practice we went. The first block was followed by lunch, then the second block was quick because we were about to go to show and tell. Show and tell is a mini-performance of what we had been working on the whole weekend. Before show and tell, I was told that I made it! I was going to march my first year of drum corps with the Bluecoats. The camp ended and I loaded my suitcase back under the bus. On the way home we ran into a lot of Thanksgiving traffic, and we didn't get back to Pennsylvania until late. I was sore. Parts of my body that I didn't even know existed ached. I had high school the next day, and no one understood where I had gone during break. I would pack my suitcase a few more times for camps before tour officially began in June. The suitcase that came with me my rookie year is not the same suitcase that now sits next to my futon in Hoboken, but just as I did my rookie year, I wheeled it to something unknown, when I took that one-way train to New York. My suitcase will go on one last unknown adventure when I move into my first apartment in Hoboken. 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. Past columns by Becky Novac: The Even years