Love and Peace-of-Mind in the South

Carolina CARES Rhythm and Reading

Saturday, July 30, 2022 – Winston Salem, NC

I am very glad that I changed my plans to fly to Greensboro and rent a car for the weekend. Being in flux on my car repairs, and not really wanting to drive the extra miles, and additional days on the road to start my auto tour, I went for a low fare, cheap rental car, and a Air BB in downtown. While waiting for my group to be called at BTV, Senator Bernie Sanders joined in the back of the boarding line. We exchanged hellos as if we were two colleagues serendipitously meeting at the airport. This is often the case because we all know each other since Vermont is just a small town. As I boarded, I thanked Bernie as I passed him in coach with the rest of us economy-oriented citizens. He received an ovation upon disembarking in DC.

Well, alas, another drama with the car just before leaving for Winston-Salem on Friday. The Silver Bullet needs a completely new engine. I am beginning to worry that this will not end well. The dealer is talking to Volvo. Nevertheless, I am having a nice time here in Winston-Salem in between anxiety attacks. The shows that I drive to, Allentown, Akron, and Indy are in flux. However, I am here for a weekend of celebrating with drum corps family and friends culminating with NightBEAT arguably the best outdoor drum corps competition of the season, and I am finding peace. I spent Friday evening at a special community event – Love Week 2022 at the Evolution Church.

Love and kindness within a diverse, harmonious community.

Yes, love abounds in Carolina, and I was in the epicenter yesterday at the local YMCA facility and the Evolution Church here is WS, where Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps presented another fine program of Rhythm and Reading. This is where families from the community gathered for fun activities that included a fun presentation, drumming, and outdoor games. Every kid was treated to books, a new pair of sneakers, drumsticks, and backpacks. Kids’ faces beamed as they strode in their new shoes. Moms were glad to scratch those items off their back-to-school shopping lists. For me, this experience is a break from my usual cultural diversity, or lack of it. What a joy to see and be with so many beautiful people of all colors sharing a word of hope and preparing for the upcoming school year. 

Friday night light in Winston-Salem.

Today, I have been touring the Winston-Salem area. The downtown area is very clean and alive with several gathering places in the day time and night including the funky and unique. It is great to get away from the franchise auto-centric strips for some urban adventure walking and watching. Everyone is welcoming and friendly and seemingly very harmoniously integrated. There does not appear to be the tensions that I read about in other urban areas of the country. The south seems well-adjusted culturally. 

Pilot Knob.

For a fun outdoor adventure in the surrounding countryside and kill some time Saturday, I chose to drive 20 miles north to Pilot Mountain State Park. This is an iconic geologic rocky knob that juts above the Carolina Piedmont that has provided a beacon for travelers across the landscape for millennia. Due to time constraints, I chose to pay the five-dollar fee for the shuttle ride to the upper parking area. There, I hiked around the knob observing the flat countryside below in all directions. Sharp cliffs and buttes vault above the trail.  Ravens and turkey vultures soar around the cliffs, and up and down the hillsides, hardly flapping a wing due to the thermal updrafts where they look for prey below.

Pilot Mountain State Park welcome center.

Descending back to the base parking area on the 3.5-mile Grinderstone Trail was just what the doctor ordered to ease my troubled mind. I am beginning to be more at peace with my automobile predicament, knowing that providence will surely provide a fair, workable (and affordable) solution. 

Towering buttes above.

Sunday July 31, 2022 – Winston-Salem 9:00am

It is show day. The forecast is dim. Scattered thunderstorms, the bane of drum corps, remains the forecast. I’m sitting at breakfast with some drum corps fans, including some of the hard corps volunteers and organizers of Carolina Crown, the hosts of this evening’s show NightBEAT. Drum corps stories abound including my retelling of my brother and I attending the shows in Rochester, NY back in the 70s, and my rediscovery of the activity in 2012. I am overwhelmed by the stories and history by those at the table, far more interesting than mine. A discussion of the scores from the Southeast Championship last night ensued. The top three corps were within one point. The Boston Crusaders continue to push and gain on the Blue Devils who continued their undefeated streak. Carolina Crown remains in third, and you can bet that they will rise to the challenge in their home show tonight, weather permitting. 

3:35 pm. Courtyard Marriot

The radar shows waves of scattered thunderstorms in the forecast for just before show time and about midway through at intermission with clear gaps in between. This show may happen. Think about all the preparation by the thousands of members, staff, volunteers, and fans that are counting on memorable performances by all the competing corps. This is now in the hands of mother nature. The whirlwind of friends and family gathering here at the hotel from all directions throughout the day was chaotic but welcome. Hugs abounded, perhaps giving care to the wind from our distancing of late. A party of thirteen for lunch was represented by dozens of drum corps that these seasoned drum corps family members have participated in, marched, taught, and managed over the decades. Many are hall-of-famers and other distinguished recognitions, including their many championship shows. Inside stories are told only to be understood by the few at the table who were privy to the escapade of their younger days. Alas, perhaps these habits linger from the past here, but I am glad that drum and bugle corps has also evolved in a more civilized way. However, I am privileged to be among these true veterans and to learn and experience vicariously their early days. I left drum corps in 1974, only to return as a fan in 2012. I missed a lot. Thus, I have begun to gain a new appreciation for the DCA – the all age corps that provide for performers to continue beyond 21. And, their contributions to drum corps and introducing the activity and teaching younger members that will often go on to join DCI corps, sort of an unofficial farm team, is significant.

Band kids at the Rose Bowl June 2022

Drum corps has come a long way since 1972, the year that I graduated from HS and joined the Grey Ghosts, that summer. It is also the year that DCI was formed to focus on the creative advancement and education of the youth musical and visual performers. A combine of the top six corps at the time chose to break away from the strict, limiting rules of the VFW and American Legion, the sponsoring organizations that gave birth to the activity 100 years ago. Celebrating 50 years, DCI is the summertime milieu of the band kids. You can pick out the various HS bands in attendance in the stands by the splash of various colored t-shirts that paint the stands. Carolina Crown, the host corps for NightBEAT will ensure a colorful attendance. I’m crossing my fingers praying for no rain. I’ll keep you posted.

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