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WGI Winds World Championships, 2019
Good morning, Horizon Winds
Fisherman’s Wharf to Alcatraz
Reflections on a photo from drum corps tour, 2013
It’s the life of a designer. You think you’ve got the perfect moment locked down— and then you notice the trash can in the view.
The virtues of a being a pageantry gypsy include seeing lots of things. This? Seen while standing on Fisherman’s Wharf in the mist of the Pacific while looking straight at the lights of Alcatraz.
I love my work.
Troopers in the lot. DCI, 2018.
With the Troopers, 2018
In the air is human but where you fly is divine. Or not.
The best and worst airports in the U.S.
6 May 2017
LaGuardia (Queens, New York): Terrible. Dank. There are no food choices. The people aren’t nice. LaGuardia is the most inhospitable place on the face of the planet as a whole. It smells. Everyone is rude. (2.3 out of 5 stars, Yelp)
Detroit (Michigan): Absolutely terrible. No matter where you get off a flight, you have to go to a different terminal to catch a connection. Horrible layout, no ambiance, and no edible food. None. Plus, trying to find a shuttle is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. (3.7 our of 5 stars, Yelp)
Kansas City (Missouri): It’s just awful— just nothing there. Absolutely nothing at this airport. You’ve got to walk for miles to find a bathroom. It isn’t clean. It’s a junior version of LaGuardia. (2.6 out of 5 stars, Yelp)
Los Angeles International/LAX (California): I hate LAX. This has to be the most inconvenient airport ever (always have to go back through security). And it’s the most expensive airport next to LaGuardia. A ten dollar teaspoon of chili is a damn bargain at LAX. (2.4 out of 5 stars, Yelp)
San Antonio (Texas): Terrible. There are always delays. There may be one (only one) restaurant in the entire freaking place. You can’t fly directly to this airport from any other, as far as I can tell. I have never, ever had a good experience at San Antonio International Airport. I love the city, hate the airport. (3.4 out of 5 stars, Yelp)
O’Hare (Chicago, Illinois): Enough said. (3 out of 5 stars, Yelp. Yelp is wrong. That should be zero. Zero stars for O’Hare.)
Atlanta (Gerogia): Atlanta and O’Hare are the two worst airports in the country, honestly. Nothing good has ever happened in either place: neither has good food and both are the definitive exemplars of inconvenience and nonsense. You can, at these places, get your 10,000 steps in: you’ll be running and unhappy but you will get your steps. (3.4 out of 5 stars, Yelp.)
McCarran (Las Vegas, Nevada): Everything is great here. Your bags arrive quickly. I’ve never been frustrated here: there are slot machines and smoking, if you care about that kind of thing. There is a total variety of food choices and there is easy transportation out and in. You never have to wait for anything. (3.3 stars out of 5, Yelp)
Denver (Colorado): Good food at a good value at this airport. I walked into a restaurant with a dusty old bottle of Pappy van Winkle. They didn’t know what they had. I drank Pappy van Winkle for three months for, basically, like, nothing. Also: there’s a Barbeque burrito at this airport, too, somewhere, that’s totally great eats. (3.5 out of 5 stars, Yelp)
Indianapolis International (Indiana): Bags come quickly and there are lots of food choices. It’s clean with solid wi-fi. There are multiple stations available to fill up your empty watere bottle. Easy in and easy out, parking-wise. (4.2 out of 5 stars
Phoenix Sky Harbor (Arizona): Free wi-fi. Lots of food choices. I’ve never, ever been delayed there. (3.2 stars of 5 on Yelp)
Honolulu (Hawaii): Everything is great about Honolulu. There’s tons of food. It’s in Hawaii. It smells great. Everyone is terribly friendly. Bags come quickly. Part of it’s outdoors with fountains and palm trees. (3 of 5 stars on Yelp)
Minneapolis (Minnesota): I like Minneapolis Airport. Best food choices of any airport I’ve ever been to. You can get to anywhere from there. Really friendly. Never had a terrible gate walk between flights. (3.8 out of 5 stars, Yelp)
Love Field (Dallas, Texas): This one has possibly the best food for any airport solely because of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. (4.1 out of 5 stars, Yelp)
San Francisco International (California): I don’t mind SFO except this airport always has weather delays. On the plus side, SFO always has sourdough bread bowls filled with French onion soup, so SFO is alright. (3.8 out of 5 stars, Yelp)
Dallas-Fort Worth (Texas): I hate DFW but I did find a surprisingly good Irish pub there called Tigin’s (get the Shepherd’s Pie and a side salad with bleu cheese. Tell them I sent you). So that helps. (3.3 out of 5 stars on Yelp. For DFW, not Tigin’s, which probably got a hundred.)
Review: Knotty Pine on the Bayou
26 April 2017
Five stars. Double-thumbs-up. There is nothing wrong with Knotty Pine on the Bayou.
It’s located in Cold Spring, Kentucky and it’s off the beaten path. To be honest, it’s a little out of the way but the view is worth it. It’s sort of on the edge of a valley with a river at the bottom and there’s a beautiful view from the restaurant and from the car on the way there. This place is welcoming and homey. It has real live Cajun flavor. I heard about it from a local and regulars were there pulling on beers at the bar.
If locals like it…
I’m not local but I can tell you there is nothing I would have changed about Knotty Pine on the Bayou. You absolutely feel like you’re in New Orleans when you’re there and the service is five stars.
The food is fabulous. I enjoyed the alligator bites —taste like chicken — as an appetizer ($13.95, served with creole sauce). I then plowed through a side salad ($4.95) accompanied with a generous supply of bleu cheese. The coup de grace was probably the gumbo: the gumbo (cup $5.95, small bowl $8.95) was straight-from down-home and tasted like it came straight from the French Quarter. It was 100 percent down-home NOLA. I finished it off with a mouthwatering and perfectly-cooked steak, blackened just like Bourbon Street does it accompanied with country green beans. I did not have room for dessert.
I’m wanting to go there again; this place is worth being a destination restaurant if you’re within a couple hours drive. Besides the steak, they offer etouffee, red beans and rice, surf and turf, oysters bienville, frog legs, and crawfish boils. My wife has googled the menu (she does that) and swears she’s going there just for the appetizer of spinach and artichoke rangoons served with chili sauce ($9.95).
The whole place made me feel like I was in the French Quarter: the wire chairs, the cozy, small home feeling, the warped wooden floors. I love New Orleans and it was great to find a little bit of Cajun charm north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Every single detail at the Knotty Pine was taken care of. They even had Abita beer available (a New Orleans brewery!): I was drinking the Purple Haze, a raspberry beer, which was okay. When I switched to the Wrought Iron IPA I was much happier, though. The point, though, is that in Northern Kentucky, I was able to drink two New Orleans beers. (I could’ve done more, of course, but I’m a working man.)
Knotty Pine is great: it alone is a really good reason to visit the god-forsaken state of Kentucky. Even the chance of running into a UK fan couldn’t take the luster off this gem.
The Last Rehearsal of the Season. The Hardest Day of the Year.
19 April 2017
The rehearsals for this season are finished. The shows and the kids are headed to WGI World Championships tomorrow…
I have to be honest. This is always one of the hardest days of the year. The months of preparation are over and all I can do is sit back and watch what happens. I’m not a parent but I always imagine this is what sending your child off to school for the first time feels like. You spend so much time planning and teaching and nurturing and advising and living and dying on every moment and then all of a sudden you no longer have control and they are off on their own. All I can think of right now is: have I done the right things? Have I made the correct choices? Will they be ok? Will all of the blood, sweat, tears, frustration and hard work be enough to allow them to reach for their dreams and feel like it is all worth it?
I never know. I can’t get those thoughts out of my head. I just want them to show the world how incredibly special they are. Every time this happens I feel like a little part of me walks out into the big harsh world and I obsess about my role in its preparation. I love it and I hate it equally. I am always proud of the intense effort and love that is behind all of it but I have to admit that a small part of me dies on the last count of every last run-through. It goes from what could be to what IS. I can never really wrap my head and heart around that fact. At the end of the day, I understand that I love the process infinitely more than I love the product. It is what, who and why I am. I can only look forward to the the next beginning and the next opportunity to touch lives, inspire dreams and produce magic.
No matter the result, I always feel incredibly blessed.
Springfield Airport, Bait, and Tackle Shop
5 March 2017
Here’s what happens when you get off the plane at the Springfield, Missouri airport at 7:30 on a Friday night. First, you don’t get to eat or drink because nothing is open (at 7:30 on a Friday night, mind you). Second: the airport is apparently owned by /sponsored by/or the birthplace of Bass Pro Shops. There are metal fish hanging from the ceiling. The middle part of the carpeting is blue; the edges brown: so you’re swimming/walking upstream or down, whatever, but you’re very definitely supposed to be in the middle of Nature.
And you’ll have to either hunt or fish your own dinner because nothing at the airport is open.
At 7:30 on a freaking Friday, not that I’m bitter.
At 7:30 on a Friday night, actually, when our plane pulled up at the gate, there were zero other planes. Which is weird, quite frankly. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised the restaurants were closed. In fairness, by “restaurants,” I am referring here to one MacAllister’s and a coffee stand. But they were both closed.
It’s not like Friday’s a school night, you know what I’m saying here?
In retrospect, I’m relieved that I didn’t disembark the plane via rolling metal staircase (although I did have to do that in Charlotte, North Carolina this morning. I felt so glamorous. I waved, like the president. I’m sure some onlookers were confused because we do weigh the same even though I’m nine inches taller.)
It’s kind of funny because I’ve been working on an airport article to publish. (Clevenger Design aims to please, after all.) And, this weekend, I got to visit the First Baptist Bar and Grill, Airport, Bait and Tackle Shop in Springfield, Missouri.
I didn’t get to eat or drink anything when I was there, but I was there. In the fake river. With the metal fish. And it’s actually a pretty convenient airport (minus the food thing) with polite people working (but they’re not working at MacAllister’s).
Also, there’s a full size Bass boat just sitting in the terminal. I’ll get to see it again in four weeks. I’m thinking of packing a lunch bag. I might even sit in that boat.
(And just for the record, I love everyone involved with MCCGA. They’re wonderful hosts and wonderful, warm people. I am so grateful they let me work for them. So please don’t misunderstand my mirth about the Springfield airport as any sort of negative commentary about the wonderful folks in Missouri.)
You’re a Grand Old Bag
23 February 2017
I’ve been hunting around lately for a new backpack. I don’t want to. I love the backpack I have. I’m kind of surprised I haven’t actually ever named it. Sure, I call it my field bag, but it’s my year-round companion. It’s My Bag. Rehearsals, meetings, contest days, wins and losses and teachable moments— this old Swiss Gear bag pretty much keeps the same batch of necessities in it always and, for twelve years, it’s been with me everywhere. Band and guard people can get pretty attached to their bags. After all, we live out of them most of the year. I’m no exception. And, to be honest here, if I could just magic this old trusty bag back to its original, not-falling-apart condition, well, I’d do it.
But things are what they are and this bag won’t make it through another summer, so I’ve been shopping for a replacement; It’s rough. I like my old faithful bag. It’s served as a footrest, yard marker, pillow, and as a gathering point for countless bands, drum corps, and winter guards. It’s traveled with me to 49 of the 50 states, including multiple trips across the Pacific to Hawaii. We’ve even been to Paris together (not to mention the UK, Belgium, non-Paris France, and Holland). That should be forever, right?
At any rate, the whole “need a new bag” thing got me thinking about how necessary these things are to the lives of band and guard geeks (I use the term lovingly, obviously) everywhere. I know this one feels to me more like an extension of my body than an accessory or tool. Like I said earlier, my so-called field bag is overstuffed year round with the same things. Like all pageantry peeps, I’ve got writing utensils, charging equipment, headphones, a notebook, and at least two kinds of tape (for me, that’s electrical and blue painter’s tape; I don’t know anyone in the activity who doesn’t carry electrical tape and a lot of them carry duct tape, too). Because I never switch out the contents of my bag (who’s got time for that????), all my outdoor stuff is there, too: sunscreen, DCT, bug spray. And to round things off, I’ve got the things that I just need even if I don’t technically “need” them all that often: the stray granola bar, my expired passport (hey, note to self, renew your passport), batteries, random medical things (aspirin, stomach stuff, prescriptions), the ever-present tin of Altoids (don’t leave home without it!), Jolly Ranchers. A roll of toilet paper (trust me on this. Hello, Paris). Change (Hello, vending machines). A flashlight, for reasons even I don’t quite understand. A gock block and carabiner clips. I suppose, since I’m disclosing my backpack contents, I’ll cop to it fully. I’ve usually got a super ball in there (toys are good! These bounce.); at least one hat; and, when flying, a book. Every one of these things has been man-handled, disheveled, poured out, and questioned by TSA agents all over the country. How do you really explain a gock block at the airport? At least I no longer carry drafting tools (a super-pointy compass and such) for writing drill. I don’t have to warn TSA they’ll get poked or that the contents of my most beloved field bag will draw blood. (Drill, sadly now, is all computers. I long for a simpler time when designers had to see it in their head and get it on the paper. But that’s another conversation.)
No wonder this excellent backpack is finally wearing out. It’s gone above and beyond, over and under, and there and back again. It’s been asked to hold a lot of things. It’s also been the solution to a lot of every issue: it’s in my bag, put it in my bag, I think it’s in my bag, it should be in my bag, damn it- it’s not in my bag. I originally got it for twenty bucks at Marshall’s. I’m guessing the twelve years of faithful service have been worth has been well worth the original investment twenty times over. To be honest, that original twenty dollar price tag has made it that much harder to replace: why pay $39 or $59 or $84 when a fat Andy Jackson at the strip mall Marshall’s has served me so well? I’m not cheap, mind you, but there just has to be a synergy to these things. I can barely fathom ordering something so personal over the interwebs. You have to be able to see it, feel it, and touch it. After all, it’s going to become another part of my (or your, if you also need a backpack) body. It’s kind of like having that perfect pet that, out of the entire litter, chooses you. (Like my beloved Waldo kitty. But, again, that’s yet another conversation.)
I talked to some of my fellow instructors and designers and a lot of them actually switch out the contents based on whether it’s for rehearsals mainly, or winter or marching seasons, or contest days. The earphones, charging equipment, medications, and notebook seem to be universally carried. Some of them insist on bringing toothbrush/paste and floss everywhere. Other experts insist on tools: a Swiss Army knife, a Gerber utility knife, wrenches and pliers. If it’s a contest day, we’re all pretty keyed up to make sure we have our show packet with us. And no matter what, we’ve all got our things unique to our sections: extra reeds, drum keys, spare show flags, hairpins, gloves, bolts. I asked one guy, who shall remain nameless, what he insisted on putting in his bag for contest days. He answered “tequila, heh heh.” He was kidding but I’m debating blackmailing him to his band booster organization or trolling him on Indiana Marching. (Okay, totally not, I’m kidding, too. But here’s the truth: instructors do NOT carry alcohol in their backpacks. I promise.)
Just for fun, I googled what kids carry in their contest and rehearsal bags. (It got me out of shopping for my replacement backpack, after all.) The kids carry a lot of the same things the adults do; the girls tend to have WAY more makeup; the boys could remember extra socks, if you ask me. And it’s kind of weird (and creative and wonderful) that these kids are taking the time to make YouTube videos regarding what they should and should not put in their backpacks for show and rehearsal days. You gotta love the kids.
So, I told you what’s in my bag. And once I make the impossible decision on the next bag, I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, what are your pageantry essentials?
The Kids are Okay
The Night Red Went to Jail
Christmas, 2004. As told to the editors of Amosmag.com
Christmas, 2004. The Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons meet up at Conseco Fieldhouse  in Indianapolis for a rematch following the so-called “Malice in the Palace,” the night of super-classy sportsmanship with riots and arrests with a soupçon of basketball as a pretext. 
Greenwood Red was at the Christmas Day, post-riot rematch between the Pacers and Pistons in Indianapolis. Here, mostly in his own words, is what happened:
“It was the first time that the two teams had played since the riot and I wanted to be there and be supportive [to the Pacers], so I got seats that were only thirteen rows away from the floor, underneath the basket. The place was full, even for a Christmas game, and Detroit was kicking our ass pretty early. Sometime in the second quarter, the game had hit a little bit of a lull. Player Ben Wallace went to the line. Wallace had been one of the major instigators of the brawl. So in my shy, demure voice [Editor’s note: Red has a voice that could fill ten cathedrals without amplification. Red has a rich voice, a voice made to be heard. It is also a voice that can’t not be heard. “Shy” and “demure” are two adjectives that run screaming when they see Red coming.], I shouted out ‘Ben Wallace is a thug.’ It was quiet and quite a bit of the lower part of the Fieldhouse heard me and there were laughs and giggles all around, probably because Ben Wallace was, in fact, a thug. Wallace hit the free throw and the game went on.
So about five minutes later, two green-coated Conseco ushers/members of the Fieldhouse nazi squad showed up by my seat and said ‘Sir, can you please come with us?’ I had no idea why; I thought maybe I’d won a contest or was getting an upgrade to the front row.
‘What’s this about?’ I kept asking. ‘What’s this about?’
‘Please follow us’ was the only response I could get.
I was taken deep in the bowels of the fieldhouse, more confused as to what was happening and where I was being taken. The usher-nazis open up a door and I see 15 or 20 IMPD officers and a few Marion County sheriff’s deputies huddled around a couple boxes of Long’s doughnuts and as soon as the door opens, everybody looks. There’s a lock-up cell in the corner with bars and a chair in it. The cop in charge looks over at all of us, me and the nazis, and asks ‘what’d this guy do?’
At which point I realized I was in Conseco Jail. The other stormtrooper told the doughnut squad ‘He said Ben Wallace is a fag.’
And that’s when all of the Indianapolis cops proceed to die laughing. There are sprinkles, and jelly, and cream filling everywhere. In the jail.
When the laughing stopped and the doughnuts were cleaned up, the same guy asks again ‘Is that what you said?’
‘No. I said Ben Wallace is a thug.’ More doughnuts and sprinkles and laughing.
‘Is that really what you said?’
The head cop said ‘Just go back to your seat.’
I got back to my seat right before half-time, where I had to explain to everyone what had happened and that I wasn’t intoxicated or belligerent. ‘I was in Pacers Jail. Oh, and by the way, there’s such a thing as Pacers Jail.’ As soon as I told the story, a nice lady a couple rows in front of me pointed out that four rows to the left and slightly in front of me sat Larry Bird and Donnie Walsh. The only conclusion I can draw at this point is that Larry Legend’s hearing is slightly flawed and I was ratted out to the Pacers Brain Trust. I guess the moral of the story is: Detroit fans can throw cars and babies and brawl without any retribution but yelling ‘Ben Wallace is a thug’ in Indianapolis will get you thrown straight into Pacers Jail. [It’s a morality play, Red. A Tale of Two Cities. It’s a Comedy of Manners.]”
And that’s the night Greenwood Red went to jail. On Christmas. Adds Red, “You haven’t really lived until you’ve been thrown in Pacers Jail.”
I asked if he was making it up, especially about the doughnuts. But Red swears it’s all true, inclusive of the doughnuts.
You can follow him on Twitter @GreenwoodRed. He chirps a lot but he does it well.
 Now known as Bankers Life Fieldhouse
 Wikipedia refers to it as the “Pacers-Piston Brawl.” I think most Hoosiers prefer “Malice in the Palace”. It rhymes, you see.
Minnie and the Terrapins
Written by Michelle Railey, recording Todd Clevenger’s history
The man known as Greenwood Red (a.k.a. Todd Clevenger) has tales to tell. Many of them involve his family. He says his family tree’s a single branch. He swears that one more bad Kentucky marriage and his skin would be positively transparent, which may or may not be true.
Nevertheless, Greenwood Red has family tales that sound like movies or folk tales or American legends– sometimes all of the above. There are moonshine and kinfolk and Cherokee. There are gangsters and hillfolk and hootenannies. In short, Red’s stories are enthralling. There are times I find myself saying things to him, like a child: Tell me the one about…
And here, only slightly beating out the Ballad of Al Capone’s Pipe , is my favorite:
Greenwood Red’s great-grandma was full-blood Cherokee and lived in Kentucky. She was probably dragged there by her hair by some obscenely tall redhead (knowing Greenwood Red and all). There are tales of her barn; large, with a hundred beds, referred to as the “Ho-tel” (emphasis on the first syllable, please; it’s the south). There, to the “ho-tel” in the hills and the hollows came the kinfolk every blue moon or so for a hootenanny, sleeping in the bunk beds in the barn by day and dancing to bluegrass and moonshine by night.
Listen to Red tell the tale, and you smell hickory smoke; you can hear the hiss of bacon in a cast-iron pan; better still, there’s the fragrance of summer nights and cricket-song, the whirr-chirrup of cicadas in endless trees under countless stars and not a power-line in sight.
And for all that, the part that lingers, the piece of the tale that gets me every single time, the bit that keeps me asking him to tell me about Minnie is this: She kept a journal (I envision old, battered leather with very thick paper. The binding is a little frayed). And in this old journal she tracked every single terrapin that crossed her neck of the woods for her entire lifetime. She knew them by their marks and she noted in that journal when the terrapins arrived and when they left. Seasons, days, and hours. A lifetime of little terrapin turtles, each individual and important enough that their tracks across her land merited not only attention but accounting for, jotted down in between hanging the wash, making the dinner, and keeping her wits as the “ho-tel” filled up and the fiddle and the moonshine got going.
If God’s eyes are on the sparrow, well, that’s probably because He knew that Minnie had the terrapins covered. When Red tells the story, it’s like she still does.
 One of these days, the boy will let this tale be written down. It’s quite good. Really.
Just a skinny kid teaching band in the ’80s