Friday, July 4, 2008

On the Road Again


Somebody cue the Willie Nelson and then follow it up with Ricky Nelson and "Lonesome Town."

And then bring me the world's smallest violin so somebody can fiddle it for me.

What can I say? Been home barely 24 hours and I'm not quite ready to go yet. But as of 9 tonight, we're off to Kalamazoo and points beyond.

Maybe it's just coming home, and knowing the time I have with Katie and Jonah is going to be scrunched by the necessary rituals of laundry and repacking and all the chores I left behind -- lawn, weeds, catbox, bills -- and on top of that, a nice gooey layer of exhaustion that doesn't quite leave you with such a quick turn-around between arriving and back out the door.

And yet, I've got it lucky, since the corps and most its attendees were tromping off to three parades today after a mere eight-hour furlough in the Windy City yesterday afternoon. And I had my own bed to collapse onto last night, and my own coffee brewing this morning.

So hit me with the fiddle. My 30-hour homestand qualifies as being spoiled in the rigorous drum corps summer. But with my batteries recharged, I'm ready to get down to it again.

Being on the road has been FUN. Seeing the shows, meeting fans of the book and newcomers alike, slinging T-shirts and DVDs and hats and pins when I get a chance to climb aboard the CPI trailer, and yeah, even the nightly bus rides and a cold shower or two have a certain charm to them.

It's why you get attracted to an activity like drum corps in the first place -- all the places you go, and the people you meet. And that, too, is why I bother to pick up the pen or twirl the typing fingers as a writer: to collect other people's stories, to tell my own, to connect.

OK, I'll stop with the deep stuff and tell you where we're going to be next:

Saturday, July 5 -- Kalamazoo, MI
Sunday, July 6 -- Michigan City, IN ***
Monday, July 7 -- Louisville, KY

*** Means that The Old Man will be there as well, probably your only chance to pin down Don Warren for an autograph until DCI Finals week, and maybe not then, either.

So, hope to see you on the road. I'll be back July 9 with a fresh serving of DRUM CORPS LUNCH, when I'll be chatting with former Blue Knights tour manager Greg Kuzman, who published a diary of his 1994 summer as a member; and with Cavaliers driver Bruce Miller. If you don't think Bruce tells some whoppers, well, you haven't hunkered around the cook truck with him about 8 p.m. on a long rehearsal day.

Well, and now I'm about to go do just that. Tally ho!


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Rocking Rockford -- Opening Night Recap



And so it begins!

The weather was fine and the stands were shaking in the town along Rock River. And when the lights finally dimmed shortly after 11 p.m., SAMURAI had been unleashed and the Cavaliers found themselves on top.

Their score of 73.4 got the 2008 summer rolling in the right direction. But the boys' performance is what really blew minds. After Phantom Regiment's final encores faded, a pair of women approached the Cavaliers' souvenir trailed and gushed, "You guys were mindblowing. Simply mindblowing!"

I won't try to put it any better.

After my broken-down '06 Hyundai derailed plans for the Old Man and I to attend the season preview in DeKalb on Friday night, I was highly buzzing and itching to get to Rockford and raise the curtain on what is sure to be an amazing summer. Rockford, like the Green Machine, did not disappoint.

Thanks to all who came out to visit Don Warren and I at our first gig getting Building the Green Machine out to you at shows. This is what it's all about! Great conversation and tingly moments. Here are some of my favorites:

Met Dave Fiedler Jr., son of original Cavaliers drum major Dave Sr., and nephew to second drum major Jarvis Fiedler. Honored to talk to you, sir! Hope the book brings back fond memories of your dad.

Met Gary Warren, a former Belleville Black Knight from the golden 1950s. He suffered a long time for his name in the Cavaliers' "s***-kicker" downstate rivals. In fact, he asked Don Warren to sign his book to "My illegitimate nephew" and told us of how he was herded onto his bus, like the rest of his corpsmates, when the post-championship fight broke out in 1957. He wasn't permitted to jump out and help his "relative" or the Cavaliers, but told us, "in my heart, I was always a Cavalier, I think." Very cool.

Met Gordon, a Madison Scouts alum from the 1950s with lots of stories to tell, including how he battled at the 1957 fight alongside Cavaliers secretary Millie Magee, and was there when she swung her umbrella at eastern combatants.

Met several amazing 2008 Cavaliers, including Dean, an enthusiastic rookie with many gears to go in the ranks. He had Don Warren sign his Cavaliers jacket! And R.J. and his fellow Cadillac baritones. I especially dig, R.J., that you're from Ohio, like me, and know the magic of Skyline Chili!

Also had a chance to chat with Steve Vickers, publisher of Drum Corps World, whom I've spoken to on the phone and over e-mail several times but was happy to finally meet face to face. And had a great time talking with Dan Potter of DCI Field Pass. Look for the segment with Don and I hitting in the next week.

Somehow, in all the excitement, I forgot to eat. So I grabbed McDonald's on my way out of town about 11:30, and ate in the car, finally pulling into the garage back home just before 1 a.m.

Now it's time to prepare for the first broadcast of DRUM CORPS LUNCH, coming to you live this afternoon at 3 central. And the next stop? Look for me at Blue Water Brass on Monday in Port Huron, Mich.



Friday, June 20, 2008

Serve Yourself a Helping of Drum Corps Lunch


Can't get enough of drum corps and marching band?

Well, sharpen your silverware and fill your plate with Drum Corps Lunch.

We're a new Blog Talk Radio show, hosted weekly by Colt Foutz, author of Building the Green Machine: Don Warren and Sixty Years with the World Champion Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps.

Colt's book tells how a ragtag bunch of Boy Scouts from Chicago morphed into the Cavaliers, winners of 20 national and world championships. It's also the life story of Don Warren, who came up with the idea for Drum Corps International in 1970 while standing at a stadium urinal in Delevan, Wisconsin.


If that's the type of fun and in-depth insight into the marching activity you appreciate, you'll love Drum Corps Lunch!

Each week, Colt draws on his background as an award-winning journalist to interview a mix of drum corps movers and shakers -- corps directors, alumni, publishers and fans with something to say.

We'll talk tour, summer 2008 scores, history and a whole lot more.

Coming up this month (All times listed are Central):

3 p.m. Sunday, June 22: Tom Montgomery, a marching band alum and drum corps booster; and Jeremy Van Wert, Santa Clara Vanguard alum and author of drum corps memoir Not for the Faint of Heart

1 p.m. Wednesday, June 25: Don Warren, Cavaliers founder and DCI co-founder; and Steve Vickers, (tentative) publisher of Drum Corps World

1 p.m. Thursday, July 3: Gary Moore, percussionist in the Cavaliers 60th Anniversary Corps and author of Playing with the Enemy; and Mike Pease, chairmen of the 48th-annual Pageant of Drums July 6 in Michigan City, Ind.

It's a half-hour helping of smart talk you can sink your plastic corps-issued fork into. And you can participate!

Tune in each week during show time at, and dial the call-in number at (347) 539-5082 to chat LIVE.

You may go away hungry -- but it will be hungry for more Drum Corps Lunch.

Friday, June 6, 2008

"Booking" in Chicago


All Hail to Those Who Book, and Book Well

Cheers to certain Columbia College folks -- and friends of Building the Green Machine -- named in this week's edition of New City, which again reprised its "Lit 50" list of "Who Really Books in Chicago".

The annual guide is a great way to get the pulse of what's happening on the literary scene in the city without frisking a librarian or downing the marketing Kool-Aid.

In other words, your brain won't go hungry -- or thirsty; such a consumer, your brain -- with these authors.

Topping the list this year is veteran journalist and national treasure Studs Terkel. Wanna know how long Studs has been working the beat? The quote New City chooses to lead off his entry says it well: "As the Titanic went down, I came up," referring to his birth on May 16, 1912. His memoir of his 90-some years, Touch and Go came out last fall.

I always miss some of the folks my grad school alma mater is affiliated with, because baby, we rock the lit house, so an incomplete HUZZAH to:

#8 Joe Meno -- whom I haven't had yet for a workshop, but I'll see about changing that

#42 Sam Weller -- whom you may recognize from his gracious endorsement of BTGM, right after DCI executive director Dan Acheson on the back cover. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Sam in our Creative Nonfiction class in Spring 2007. Valuable insight and a lot of fun. If you haven't read his authorized bio of Ray Bradbury, DO SO! And look for more from in the very near future.

#50 Stephanie Kuehnert -- A Columbia alum, her debut novel "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" hits stores this summer. I had the pleasure of serving on a panel for young authors with Stephanie in May, and folks, if you can make it to any of her events, do. She's down-to-earth, funny, and pleasant, which shouldn't fool you into thinking she has anything less than the writerly chops of a panther. Great to see her make the list at a hot 50 -- and shooting up the charts.

For more from New City, visit their site. And for all the "booking" you can shake a trade hardcover edition at, visit the Printers Row Book Fair this weekend in the South Loop downtown. Look for Building the Green Machine at the Columbia College tent, at Dearborn & Harrison. I'll be reading at 12:10 p.m. Sunday, June 8. For more info visit BTGM on the web.

See you there!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

BTGM at Chicago Printers Row Book Fair


Hey drum corps fans and bookworms!

Come check out the Midwest's largest literary event -- and hear me read selections from Building the Green Machine.

The Chicago Printers Row Book Fair is next weekend, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 7-8 in the South Loop downtown. Find a complete schedule of events and other fun stuff HERE

I'll be reading some of the wacky tales -- the clean ones! -- from BTGM around about 12:10 p.m. Sunday, June 8 as part of the lineup of featured readers and performers at the Columbia College tent. We're at Dearborn and Harrison, and one of the cool spots to be during a red-hot weekend celebrating all things prose.

Advance copies of the hardcover edition also will be available from Columbia's bookstore, and I'll be happy to sign yours.

So come downtown! Check it out! And don't look for me in the same Norwegian sweater I wore back at this December bar reading. But if you're in the mood to tip back some cold beverages afterward, look for me at Hackney's Pub.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Coming Soon to a Stadium Near You!


It's hard to believe that in a few short weeks, school will be out and camps underway and the drum corps season even closer to stepping off.

As DCI revs up, so too does the summer season for Building the Green Machine. Check back here and on the NEWS page for announcements about the bookstore release July 1, bookstore signings in your town and special sales and events at drum corps shows.

I'll be hitting the road with the Cavalier Promotions Inc. souvenir trailer to bring the book directly to YOU. Check out the dates and show sites below, and plan on stopping by to say hi and chat about drum corps history -- the kinds of crazy stories you'll find in the book, and the kind that will be written on and off the field this season!

It's going to be a busy -- and fun -- summer!

See you soon,


Where to look for BTGM on the road this summer

June 21 -- Rockford, IL
June 23 -- Port Huron, MI
June 26 -- Oswego, IL
June 27 -- Bloomington, IL
June 28 -- Madison, WI
June 29 -- Naperville, IL
June 30 -- DeKalb, IL

July 1 -- Lexington, KY
July 2 -- Fairfield, OH
July 5 -- Kalamazoo, MI
July 6 -- Michigan City, IN
July 7 -- Louisville, KY
July 15 -- El Paso, TX
July 16 -- Midland, TX
July 17-18-19 -- San Antonio, TX.
July 20 -- Denton, TX
July 26 -- Atlanta, GA
July 27 -- Charlotte, N.C.

Aug. 3 -- Rosemont, IL -- Cavaliers' 60th Anniversary Banquet!
Aug. 4 -- Naperville, IL
Aug. 7-9 -- Indianapolis -- DCI quarters, semis and finals!


Friday, March 28, 2008

Good News about a Great Cavalier

You know the type of feeling you get when good things happen to an even better person?

Well, prepare yourself for a case of the happy shivers.

1972 Cavalier Gary Moore's book, about his father Gene's major league baseball dreams, dreams which were ultimately sidetracked by World War II, during which he served as a guard for captured German submarine prisoners (and taught them to play the game he loved) is one of those sparkling success stories in life and in publishing you never get tired of telling. The heart that he put into working on this book, delving into his family's past and our nation's pasttime, as well as the gruntwork he has done to spread the word, is a great example for anyone trying to achieve any goal, let alone penning a bestseller.

But then, that's the type of effort he always put in with the Cavaliers. And he had some great examples in the corps to learn from.

Well, cue up another case of the happy shivers for how hard work has paid off for Gary. On Monday, Gary will kick off his national book tour for the paperback edition of Playing with the Enemy, released by Penguin, and the audiobook version, released by Illinois company Oasis.

Oh yeah, and the major motion picture of the book begins shooting this spring.

Shivering yet?

The latest iterations of his book come on the heels of a sensational hardcover run with Savas Beatie, whom many of you will recognize as the publisher of Building the Green Machine. As I note in the book's Acknowledgments, Gary is responsible for "opening the door" to a powerhouse independent for my story of Don Warren's life and the corps loved by so many. Well, that's a bit of an understatement. Gary has bowled me over -- continuously -- with his enthusiasm for my little feat of drum corps history, and has always been there with a kind word, advice, a laugh, a cheer, what have you. In other words, the kind of guy the Cavaliers regularly turn out from their ranks, a man anyone would want in their corner.

Well, let's offer Gary an enthusiastic drum roll for his latest success. (I'd make it a fanfare, but then, we all know what an old stick-wielder would say to that.) Couldn't happen to a better guy.

And if you're all about sinking your eyes into a great story, pick up your copy of Playing with the Enemy. There are a few autographed editions of the hardcover left -- get them while you can! And a great paperback and audiobook to add to your collection.

And if you've got the time -- hopefully, I've given you the inclination -- stop by the Barnes & Noble on North State Route 50 in Bourbannais at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 31, and show your support for a great Cavalier. That's when the book tour kicks off -- fittingly, in his hometown. Visit for more info.

Above is a look at Gary in his Classic Cavaliers duds -- playing the snare, second from left.