Paula Hyman will be contributing columns to each Wednesday. Here's her fourth installment. What's a free day? I don't exactly know what a "free day" is, but I've heard a lot of people talk about them and they sound like fun, so I figured this would be a good topic.

Paula Hyman (center) with Dean Westman (right) and Jon Bilby, in Bristol, R.I., on Paula's birthday (also a Cadets' free day). Dean was the Cadets' brass caption head and Jon the visual caption head.
Seriously though, I know what a free day is -- I just haven't had too many in my drum corps career. Free days are like an endangered species here at the Cadets -- it is a rare occurrence to see one, which in turn makes actually having one that much sweeter.

I love rehearsal, plain and simple. However, no matter how much one may enjoy getting their butt kicked, everyone needs a little down time eventually or they will go crazy. That down time is a little something we like to call a "free day."

Eating is a HUGE part of any free day. During the summer your meals normally come off of an 18-wheeler, and yes you have some options, but it's not like you can just order a #1 with fries and a coke off of there. It is nice to be able to choose what you want to eat.

On any given free day, myself, along with an all-star cast, would come together to set out on a mission. Our goal, you ask? To eat as much food as humanly possible. We are an intense group of kids. Even when all are full, we surpass what we thought were our limits and find that we can work even harder and push to the end of that cheeseburger, or find the room for desert. Nothing is impossible -- you just have to work at it. Who is a part of this all-star cast? Well, I cannot go any further without mentioning someone who has been my partner in crime in free day eating for the past few years. It is no other than the incredible Matt Haines. You see, Matt used to be the drum major of the Cadets. I think that is what we used to call him. Unfortunately, Matt aged out in the class of 2004 but his legacy of eating enormous amounts of food will live on for many seasons to come. Whether it be a free day or a laundry day, Matt and me, among others, would always find a way to eat a plethora of food. We also made sure to find and drink lots of milkshakes. He is a bacon cheeseburger connoisseur and let me tell you, this guy can eat. I remember in 2003 when we went to Hershey Park, Pa. As soon as we got through the gates, he was immediately searching for fudge. He cracks me up -- everyday is an adventure with him. I know it's probably weird reading about someone you don't know, but I was writing about food and felt the need to publicly recognize him for his free day accomplishments. Simply incredible There is not much time during the summer to wear "normal" clothes. Not too much clothing is worn during the day at rehearsal, and at night you're in a uniform. Free days are your time to actually look seminormal. I say seminormal because people still look at you weird on free days -- wondering why you have a ridiculous sock, glove or hat tan. But there are ways to get rid of those, you know. Look down at your hands right now. If you have a tan line that goes from your wrist to your fingertips, making you look like Mickey Mouse because your hands are so white, there is hope. Well, not so much now in the fall (unless you go tanning). But if you were to roll up your gloves during the summer, it would help.

Anyway, we don't rehearse with sunglasses at Cadets so it's nice to be able to throw them on for a day. I wouldn't know, though, since I wear regular glasses. I should get clip-ons for next summer -- that would be hot.

On a free day, you actually have "freedom." Maybe that's why its called a free day, I dunno. You of course have a time where you have to get back on the busses and all that, but for the most part, you are on your own for the day and it's a nice feeling.

I'm going to close this out by telling you a little story about our free day during the Tour of Champions in San Francisco. This was the first time I've ever been to California so I was pumped. We got off the bus and some of the guys were playing the hand slap game. I am sure you are wondering what that is. Well, it's a really fun game and it's easy to play, too. You can either play in a circle, or one on one. All you do is hold your hand out, palm facing down, while the person next to you slaps your hands as hard as they can. It takes a lot of skill to be successful in this game. Well, the guys were playing and then I figured, well, we might as well get some girls doing this too. So then the girls started playing. Then up walks George Hopkins into the circle. Yes that is right, Hoppy joined in on the fun. He thought it was the funniest thing in the world -- and it was. We are pretty stupid, but it was so much fun. Most likely the best time-killing game ever.

Anyway, after beating each other, we started figuring out where we were going to eat.
We decided on an Italian place that was overlooking the bay. It was pretty good food and we had a great time. We always have a great time no matter what we're doing. We ordered way too much food but that's OK.

Afterwards we went to the dock to watch the sea lions. I don't know what we were watching because they don't do anything. The just sit there and make noises. It must be nice to be a sea lion.

We then walked around San Francisco just because we could. I think having a free day is such a shock that we don't know what to do with ourselves and are pretty much done after four hours on the loose. Happens every time. So yeah, we passed by an Asian market where I saw the Korean version of Koala Yummies in the window. Some of you younger kids might not have had the pleasure of experiencing koala yummies, and I am very sorry if this is the case. In my opinion, they were the best snack ever. They are little cookies with Koala faces on them, filled with either chocolate or strawberry stuff. Well, they stopped making them here a long time ago, but they had the Asian version at this store so Larissa (an awesome rookie trumpet player) flipped out and bought a box of each. We definitely ate a lot of those. SO GOOD.

We went to a couple other places and then the PUMA store before heading back. We took a trolley car back to our pier -- you know, the ones that you see on the opening credits of Full House. The car dropped us off at our pier, or so we thought. We were actually at Pier 39 but had to be at Pier 29. It was OK, we still had plenty of time to grab something more to eat. We stopped at In-and-out Burger, which I must say is the finest fast food establishment I have ever been to. They know how to do it. They have awesome food and they make it in sort of an assembly-line fashion. That chain is only on the West Coast, I believe because they do not freeze their beef, so it fresh. Anyway, maybe I was there on a good day, but I don't think so. I have heard that they are consistently great. I was impressed. So we got our food and they gave us these hats. They looked kind of like sailor hats and they said " IN AND OUT BURGER" on them. So we put on our hats and realized that we were definitely going to be late. Here we are, ten Cadets, running in a line with sandals and stupid hats on holding on for dear life to our bags of food. It was awesome. The random people on the street thought so too. We were champions though, and made it back -- early even. We sat down and started eating. I took one bite and then felt sick. Maybe it was all the food earlier combined with a quick mile run back to the busses, I don't know. All I do know is I gave my burger away like a dumb kid. Five minutes later I felt fine but it was too late. The burger was gone. There you have it, a typical Cadets free day. It was a great time had by all and hopefully I can get some pictures up here soon. Thanks again for reading and I'll see you next week. Past columns by Paula Hyman: Rest stop or heaven? The Move to Allentown Welcome back to the real world Paula Hyman is a fourth-year member of the Cadets where she is the mellophone section leader. She is 20 years old and currently single. Originally from South Florida, Paula recently made the move to Allentown, Pa., to work for YEA!, the umbrella organization of the Cadets, Crossmen and the U.S. Scholastic Band Association. She ages out in 2006.