The Greatest Moments In DCI History

A self-indulgent essay in several parts.

Please bare with me…

Part 1


 

The smell of diesel and tar.  The comforting feeling of finally getting out of your uniform.  Having a smoke and chatting with the other corps before the busses leave.  To where?  You can never remember where you’re corps is headed next.  Another show.  Another night under the lights.

If you didn’t march, there’s no way for you to possibly understand how important these simple memories are.  Like the feeling of relief when you take your hat off as your walking through the tunnel; sweat running down your back.  It may have been a good performance or a bad one but it’s over.

Once the summer is over, memories are all we have to hold on to.  As time fades and adulthood creeps in, memories become elusive.  But these memories are visceral and have texture; like the smell of freshly cut grass.  For me, every summer the memories return.  I start to feel that need to hear some Drum Corps.  I wait – just like the rest of you, to see what my favorite corps’ program is.  My marching days are long gone, but the memories are alive and well.  I’ll attend a show and perhaps see an old friend.  We’ll talk about when this happened and laugh about when that happened.  I’m not only part of the past but a member of the future, because it’s that past that is creating the future.

The Drum & Bugle Corps activity has come a long way baby, from it’s meager beginnings in 1971 to where it is today.  We struggled through innumerable changes; both good and bad, but always moving forward, always evolving.  Drum Corps International has been thrilling fans for over 45 years.  The memories of those decades are thick with emotion.  And just like any other historical moment, these memories become frozen in time as we sit in the stands and cheer.

There have been so many great moments in the long history of DCI that it’s not an easy task to recall them all but I will do my best.

These recollections are in no particular order.


“The Winter Palace.”

 

On a foggy humid night in 1977, I saw The Phantom Regiment perform for the first time at a high school stadium in Belvidere, IL.  There were several corps competing that evening but none of them held me captivated like Phantom did.  The helmets gleaming in the field lights.  The long black capes; they were fascinating and mysterious.  I salivated over every note of the opening number: Dvorak’s New World Symphony.  Ironic, don’t ya think?

From that evening on, The Phantom Regiment was my favorite corps.  And though I did not march with them, they have forever held a special place in my heart.  Several of their programs throughout the decades are among my very favorite shows; save one: 1986.  The opening hits of Carnival Overture were powerful to be certain.  But there was something missing.  I didn’t know then what it was.  I can’t be sure that even they knew.

Placing 10th that year at nationals in Madison, WI might very well have been an omen of things to come.  There were whispers: “What’s going on with Phantom?”

“What’s going on with Phantom?”

Nobody outside of the organization could possibly have known the change that was about to come.

These days – with YouTube, Facebook, and other social media outlets, it’s not very hard to find news on your favorite corps.  We all wait impatiently for the first report of the upcoming season.  But back then, in 1987; it was winter, and no one was talking.  Little did any of us know:  “Winter is coming.”

If I recall correctly , I was in Des Plains, IL watching a show with a group of friends.  I didn’t march that year and regretted it.  I remember hearing a gasp – a sudden intake of air.  And someone pointed at the corps moving towards that backfield.  They wore a blast of clean white and black; flecked with shimmering silver.  Gone were the heavy shirts and baggy pants.  The most amazing transformation however, was the silvery-white plume perched on the helmet.  It was regal.  It was new.  It was shinny, and it was awesome.  They looked so good.  The name of the program that year was Songs From the Winter Palace, highlighting Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Nutcracker.  It was a beautiful performance from beginning to end.  Seeing that show and witnessing that transformation brought me back to that foggy night in Belvidere.  Those same emotions returned.

The addition of the plume and the updated uniform brought a needed element to that and future programs.  And it didn’t hurt their GE score either…

 

The Garden

I sat on a rickety old chair inside the garden this morning and watched as the birds circled overhead as if waiting for me to die. Soon enough I tell them. What else is there to my life now?
All happiness has vacated. I walk the halls of this lonesome home wondering where I went so wrong. You were here just 10 short years ago, sliding on the hardwood floors in your slippers that were made not to slip. Your blonde hair cascading over unusually tan skin; too tan for the
winter season. You would have sand in your shoes from constant walks along the icy shore. I never did you wrong. I never meant for you to be hurt. I never meant for you to die. I never meant to kill you the way I did. I never lied to you. Why did you lie to me? The images in my mind of your presence are out of order. I see you as you were on that summer evening; blood trickling down from a gunshot between your eyes. Still, more beautiful than anything on this
cursed planet. Then I see you as the young lady I met so many years ago; spinning like a top on black heels. Our dance was a mystery. Did you love me then or was it later? Did you love me
at all? Did you love him more than I? Nothing matters to me anymore but the garden I have planted myself in. When the vegetation has grown around me and my heart no longer beats, then will you see me? Or will I have to enter through the gates of hell to find the two of you together
again?

A little something from the Vault…

West Minster Abby

My first attempt at the great American Novel


 

Chapter 1 

 

The moon waxed purple and silver.  It was a vision I’d never witnessed before.  I have seen many strange and wonderful things here since I arrived ten years ago but never a purple moon.  I’ve seen a harvest moon; with its oranges and browns signaling the coming of autumn.  I’ve even seen a blood moon though I’m not quite sure what it means.  But never in my life have I seen a purple moon until this very evening.  Now it was around this time last year that Page’s hardware store burnt to the ground.  That was strange because prior to that, the last fire of any kind other than a camp fire in West Minster was 1973.  There were plenty of rumors floating around town that old man Page had had a number of financial problems.  We were all relieved to learn that old man Page and his store were fully insured.   

A year prior to that a child of six had gone missing; last seen on her way home from school.  The girl’s father had passed out drunk and forgot to pick her up.  This was not so strange; unforgivable yet not strange at all.  She thought she would have no difficulty at all finding her way home but after taking one wrong turn down a block she assumed she was familiar with, she got lost.  Three hours later she was found by her older sister sitting on a curb with her knees held to her chest, scared and alone and just a block away from home. 

I imagine that these events and others like them happen in small towns all over the country; nothing out of the ordinary.  And that’s why I love it here.  There isn’t much crime to speak of.  If I were a criminal West Minster, Illinois would not be on my list of potential visits.  We’re not even listed on the map.  When I say ‘the map’ I mean any map at all.  The closest interstate is thirteen miles away.  A few years ago, some congressman got lost on his way through and now the state is currently accepting bids to build a bypass to I-55.  Once that happens the peaceful town of West Minster will be no more.  

The increase in traffic will create more gas stations and the obligatory fast food chains.  Why hell, we might just get one of those trendy coffee shops with all those high-brow exotic flavors and free Wi-Fi.  I just might take advantage of that one. 

For now however, not much happens in this boring little hamlet.  That purple moon will most certainly make the front page of the West Minster Chronicle.  As a matter of fact, Lindsey Shae, the town’s one and only photographer was making her way up the path along the canal with her Nikon; seeking out the perfect vantage point.  Surely it will be her photos featured in the newspaper.  I strode up the small hill to greet her but she was gone.  She’s a quick one that Lindsey Shae.   

Soon enough the entire town was filing out into the street to gawk at the purple madness.  I stood there in silence; listening to their proposals and questions as to what might be the cause and watching the silver ripples in the water.  To most folks in West Minster the Canal is nothing more than a haven for mosquitoes.  It was once used, or so I’ve recently learned, to haul produce and other trade goods to and from Chicago and other towns along the Illinois River.  But I’m afraid that now it’s nothing more than what they say it is: a haven for mosquitoes. 

About one hundred yards east, down the dirt trail that runs along the entire stretch of the canal is an old wooden bench.  It was built in 1850 by Wilbur Hounds tooth, or so says the West Minster historical Society.  You can’t get a decent slice of pizza in this town but we have an historical society: go figure.  It was on that very bench about ten years ago that my life changed forever. 

Still glancing at the moon, draping everything it touches in a warm violet glow, I strolled to the bench and sat, inhaling the late spring air perfumed in lilac.  Please forgive me my dear reader.  I enjoy irony but unfortunately it is wasted here.  The lilac is simply a coincidence and by no means is it a by-product of the celestial glow. 

It was here that I met the man Tom Abby: the man that changed my life.  The man that saved my life, and the world… 

A sneak peak at my new book…

Winifred Melancholy


Chapter 1

 

Patrick Wells could not believe his dumb luck.  He always knew that bad luck seemed to follow him wherever he went: it was his destiny.  He knew from the beginning that this project would be a challenge, but never once did he imagine that it would be anything like this.  Usually, he didn’t have any trouble selling fairly priced, family sized homes.  The Baxter house though; well that took a set of balls that were larger than the ones he currently possessed.  Any real estate agent worth their salt knew that the Baxter house was a test.  It means that your firm is wanting to fire you and this is your last chance.  The task wouldn’t be so daunting if the house hadn’t been abandoned nearly 40 years ago.  

The owners wanted this house sold for half a million, and they wanted it on the market in a week.  He gave his word that it would be.  That was before he stood on the front lawn and witnessed for himself just what he gave his word to.   

“What in the world did you get me into Patrick?”  A voice called out from behind him. 

“I am so glad to see you.”  He said as he turned around and breathed a sigh of relief. 

“I bet you are.”  The woman said. 

Carol Cook was the top closer in the entire state of Illinois.  With nearly thirty years of experience in selling high end homes, Patrick needed her help but not her real estate expertise.  Given the demographic of the area, Patrick felt that he needed a woman’s touch.  She would do most of the work and he would collect the fees.  All she had to do was stand there and take the applications.  In other words:  In order to sell the Baxter house, Patrick needed a nice pair of tits; and Carol Cook had the best any man could ever wish to see.  Her legs were the type that most women half her age had to work hard for.  But her greatest quality was behind her.  At fifty years old, Carol Cook had an ass that was referred to in some circles as a dinner table. 

Yes Patrick Wells was a pig – a gaunt sickly little man with a permanent limp from an infection in his foot at a younger age. What was left of his hair was gray and stringy. His glasses were thick and heavy and did nothing to help his eyesight.  He had no chance of selling a house like this by himself.  But with Carol on board, he could do it. 

They walked up the broken flagstone steps together and took in the yard from the porch. It wasn’t much of a yard. The grass was dead and brown. The only green to be seen was weeds. Carol made a mental note to call Lawn MD. Patrick fumbled through his pockets and found the keys. To the astonishment of both of them, the front door pushed right open. What they found inside was beyond anything either of them had ever seen before. The floor wasn’t much other than dirt with a number of broken planks of wood scattered about. There were mice and rats everywhere. There were bags of garbage thrown about, and the smell was intolerable. 

“Let me see the sheet on this place.”  Carol demanded. 

A red brick Tudor style with five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a two bedroom servant’s cottage, and a driveway that encircled the entire home; built in 1921 by Nathan Thomas Baxter, as a wedding present for his wife Ethel. 

“Are you serious?”  Carol asked.  “This is so bad.” 

After their son William was born two years later, Nathan found that he enjoyed the company of other women to his wife, many other women.  In a jealous rage, Ethel got out of bed early one Sunday morning, dressed herself in her best finery, walked out to the garage where her husband kept his shotgun, and loaded it.  She stopped in the kitchen for a glass of wine then walked easily upstairs where her husband lay sleeping.  She placed the muzzle to his forehead and pulled the trigger; blowing most of his head into his pillow.  Ten minutes later and after a nice breakfast: Ethel turned the gun on herself. 

“Have you read this?”  Carol asked.  Patrick hopelessly nodded then they both stepped inside.  He felt as though he were walking through the carnage from some overseas conflict.  They stepped lively through the entranceway and into what appeared to be a family room.  Wax from decades old candles covered the mantle above a hand-carved stone fireplace.  Newspaper and unopened mail was scattered about the entire floor. 

“What do I need to read that for?”  Patrick exclaimed without looking.  “I’m right here in it.  Plus, I loathe reading those historical side notes.  Who cares?”  He bent down and snatched up an envelope.  The writing on the outside was illegible, and the paper itself deteriorated in his hands.  The sound of a crunching twig broke the silence and they both stepped towards the greasy window to see who had arrived, but when they peered out onto the yard, there was nothing there. 

They turned and instantly froze at the sound of someone whistling on the stairs in the next room.  No one was to be in this house but with the front door being unlocked there was no telling who might be sneaking in here.  

“I’ve seen enough.”  Carol said and walked back outside. 

“No Carol, please!”  He ran after her and tripped over one of the several loose floorboards; sending him through the air and landing directly behind her.  Moldy ash and splinters of rotten wood exploded into the air as Patrick dropped through the floor.  A deep moan could be heard coming from the newly formed opening as Carol knelt down beside it.  

“Patrick!”  She yelled.  “Are you alright?”  Nothing but a painful moan could be heard. 

Without having a clue where she was going, Carol carefully ran towards where she thought the stairs leading to the basement might be.  At one point she thought she might end up falling through the floor as well.  Along the hallway leading to the kitchen was a locked door.  Once again the wood was so rotten that she was able to simply open it with a small amount of force. 

“Patrick!”  She called out into the darkness as she made another mental note to suggest to the owners that they condemn this building, have it torn down, and take their losses. 

Once she reached the bottom step into the basement she felt something crawl across her foot and assumed it was a rat.  There was no light source of any kind; not even from outside.  She was standing in complete darkness.  The thought of going any further did not appeal to her, so she took one step backwards towards the stairs when she heard the door begin to close. 

“Hello?”  She hadn’t heard anyone else come in so perhaps it was just the wind.  There was no answer and the door continued to close. 

Still standing and the bottom of the steps, Carol felt an irresistible urge to vomit.  She raised her hands to her mouth in an attempt to block the smell of death.  But it wasn’t just the smell of death; it had permeated all of her senses.  She heard rustling on the dirty floor in front of her and hoped it was Patrick.  She bent down and felt for him, her hand felt something viscous and she instantly recoiled.  She reached out again and found his arm. 

A banging noise began from somewhere near the other side of the basement.  To Carol, it sounded like a hammer pounding metal.  Fear froze her in her place as she thought she saw something moving in the darkness.  The pounding got louder and she wanted out.  She hoisted Patrick up to his feet; draping his arm around her shoulders, and carried him up the stairs.  Once she reached the top of the stairs she kicked through the door and pulled him into the kitchen.   

The floor of the kitchen appeared to have the fewest amount of holes.  She placed him gently onto the floor and pulled out her cell phone.  No service, but that was no matter.  The scream that came from Carol as she turned was loud enough for someone to call the police for her.  She had turned to get a better look at Patrick but was horrified to see that not only was it not Patrick but Carol wasn’t even certain it was human.  The body was stained in dried blood, with most of its skin gone.  The hair was long so she assumed it was a female.  The police reassured her that the woman was more than likely homeless.  Taken in account the amount of decomposition, she’d been dead for about five to six weeks.   

“That’s impossible.”  She told them.  “When I picked her up, she was alive.”   

She attempted to explain to them what she had seen and heard but they were not interested in ghost stories, they were only interested in the whereabouts of Patrick Wells: and so was she. 

After that day, Carol Cook gave up real estate and settled down into a house of her own; alone.  She never wanted children.  Men would come and go but she no longer preferred the company of others.  She simply wished to live out her days in peace.  She would have done just that had it not been for the loud knock on her front door. 

 

The Followers

Just a little taste of what’s to come.  And I’m not 100% sold on the title.

 


 

What had he done?  

Without reason I turned around.  There – propped against the refrigerator; blood still pouring out of the hole in her neck – was my Mother.  In her left-hand was a pen.  Her right hand held a carving knife.  She had bled out onto the hideous Christmas sweater that I bought for her the previous year.  It was a joke but she loved it and wore it as often as she could.  It was destroyed now.  Blood had caked up any thought of Christmas.  The only thing discernable was the jingle bell on the elf’s hat.  Her face was pale and lifeless.  Such a ridiculous thing to say, yet true.  Her eyes held my gaze and I thought for a moment that she was actually looking at me as if trying to tell me who had done this to her.  I stepped back and fell; not to my knees like in the movies but like I was a broken puppet that just had its strings cut.  I looked again at the pen in my mother’s hand.  Wrapped around the pen was a torn piece of paper.  I took it and read it.  Then I reached for my cell and called the police.  They were pronounced dead at the scene, like that really needed some genius attempt at on their part.  Double suicide were the words that were told to me.

I never went back to Chicago.  That life no longer held any joy.  I learned a few years later that Emma had got into some trouble with the local authorities and found herself doing 10 to 20 for possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell to a minor.  Nor did I stay in Tennessee.  I left – hoping not to ever love anything ever again.

Everything I touch turns to ash.

The Followers

New story idea.


It began like a movie; slowly at first – giving you time to settle in to the idea, the plot. I always knew that I was different. I knew that I had followers. But as I got older the memories of the past become elusive like the smell of a distant lilac bush on a hot summer day. I can’t tell you when exactly that it began, only that it did and that’s it. It began and it hasn’t stopped.

I assumed, as a young boy that one day I would tell someone, but I never did. Not even my parents knew my secret. You, my dear adventurous reader, are the first to know my story. And I must apologize to you. For once you become aware, you too will be different. My advice to you would be to turn these pages cautiously.

Excerpt of “Charity”

This is a story I’ve been working on for many years.  The plot has change several times.  Enjoy chapter 1.

And why is Simms a popular surname with me?


 

 

 

1 

June 1985 

 

 

It was dark inside the bag; dark and cold.  Instantly frightened, she began to panic.  Tears flowed and a whimper was heard as she pushed out her little legs in an attempt to free herself.  She felt a trickle of blood on her knee from when she attempted to break free.   Within mere moments, pressure was placed over her mouth as if trying to quell the blood flow of an open wound.  After an unknown amount of time she was taken out of the dark, cold bag and placed in a dark, cold room.  She couldn’t see what was inside this room but she knew there was a bed; she knew because she was chained to it.  The cold metal bit at her wrists and ankles.  She tasted something metallic in her mouth, bitter like a penny.  Charity was far too young to know that it was blood that she tasted.  She looked around frantically to get even the slightest glimpse of where she was.  After a short while her young eyes adjusted slightly to the darkness and she could make out what appeared to be a single room.  Ugly paneled walls and uncarpeted flooring was nearly all she could make out.  Opposite the bed was a door; at its peak she could see a faint light.  There was someone in there.  Was it him?  Could there be another person with him?  She thought of crying out. 

 

Charity had never before been afraid of anything.  She reveled in games of courage with her older brother Timmy.  While most girls her age would screech at the site of a bug of any kind; Charity felt no fear.  Heights were not an issue either.  Timmy would often dare her to do things in an attempt to have her punished.  One afternoon while the summer sun baked their little town, Timmy dared his sister to climb up to the roof of their home and stand there until Mom came home.  She did.  The victory was worth the wrath.  The only thing she was ever afraid of was being left alone.  And now, chained to that rickety old bed frame, she was unable to claim her fear.  Despite having spent an hour in the trunk of a smelly old car, her mind froze, and in that instant she realized what was happening to her.  She fought to stay quiet while tears welled in her little eyes; thinking quickly to what had happened. 

 

“This is absurd!”  Charity exclaimed, using the most grown up word she could think of.  She wasn’t completely certain of its meaning, but she knew that it was appropriate for this situation.  “Yesterday a scoop of chocolate was only fifty cents.  I don’t have a dollar!”   

It was plain to see how a 10 year old girl could lose her patience over the ever increasing ice cream prices.  Inflation is hurting everyone, her father would say.  She turned on her heals and left the shop.  As the screen door to the ice cream shop slammed behind her, she was furious to see her friends Tammy and Monica sitting on the wooden bench outside smiling blissfully; their faces covered in chocolate.  She stormed off down Jackson Street towards home.  Two blocks away she spied Billy Simms sitting on the steps outside the library with a chocolate ice cream cone in his hands.  Billy had a big crush on Charity, and he never let her forget it.  She walked up to him and surprised him. 

“Hi Billy.”  She said it as sweet as she could.  “Whatcha got there?” 

Bill Simms knew what she wanted and he immediately weighed his options. 

“If you want this ice cream Charity it’s gonna cost you.”  Charity tapped her feet in annoyance. 

“What do you want?” 

Billy turned his head to put his book down.  It was more than enough time for the man to throw the bag over Charity’s head and take off.  Billy was up in a flash and running after him.  He didn’t understand why Charity wasn’t yelling or fighting back.  The man was wearing a white t shirt and dirty blue work pants, fresh grease stains permanently adorned the cuffs of both legs.  He had curly blonde hair, of which certain amounts seemed to be permanently stuck to his face.   Billy tried to get a decent look but the man was wearing dark sunglasses.  Never trust a man in dark sunglasses, Charity’s father would say.  He stopped, and the back of a dusty old Nova popped open to reveal an empty trunk. 

“Hey,” Billy yelled to the man.  “What are you doing?”  

The man dropped the sack into the trunk and turned to face the boy.  Billy stopped in his tracks.  The man didn’t speak but pulled off his sunglasses to present himself clearly to the boy.  His face, etched with pock marks, was caught in the light of the late morning sun.  Billy cursed himself for not being brave enough to stop him.  He cursed himself for not running immediately to get help.  Billy froze right there in that little library parking lot and cursed himself for getting out of bed so early.  The man stared right at him and grazed his index finger across his neck just under his grossly protruding Adam’s apple.  The meaning of the gesture was understood: Tell anybody what you just saw and you’ll die.  Billy Simms was far too accustom to that threat to not take it seriously.  Who could he possibly tell?  Who would believe him?  They would ask him about the girl.  They would ask him how long she had known him.  They would certainly ask him about the man.  He wouldn’t be able to lie; not to a police officer.  They would ask him if the man was familiar to him, and he would be unable to lie.   

 

Billy Simms would tell no one.