Music Trip to Orlando, The Long Trip Home

A Dream…

With a start, I realized that the fire I had felt had suddenly died off. No longer did I feel the burning from within and outside. I was cool once more, and I was clear headed. Once again, I was on a beach. Exactly where, I couldn’t tell, but it was warm wherever I was. Looking around me, I could see huge expanses of beach to the left of me and to the right of me. Behind were dense thickets of palm trees. All I could hear was the roar of the sea, and a faint mandolin that played an all too familiar tune, yet unnameable.

The thickets moved for a moment, and I was joined by my friends. Chris, Hil, Kathryn, James, Linda, J, Ali, Stuart and Therese. They came and sat down next to me, and said not a word. We faced the west, for that was where the sun sets. Silently, we gazed into the horizon, to the disc of sinking gold. The orange glow illuminated in the front, casting long, dark shadows behind.

The music grew gradually louder, to the point where it played softly from all around. No-one made move to determine from where the music came from. We all knew the song now, no-one cared where it came from. Everything was peaceful, we were together. Then, off to our right, a male voice said:

Good night.

James’ alarm was almost immediately disconnected. It was 4:00, and none of us had enough sleep to keep us going for any length of time. We had to be on the bus for 5:15, instruments and all, so we could get to the airport for our flight at 10:05 that morning. Seem a little early to get up to catch a plane? It is if you’re leaving from Orlando, but not if you’ve got to travel to the west coast of Florida and leave from St. Petersburg / Clearwater.

The last of our packing was done, and then we proceeded to clean the room up. That took some time. We had taken great care to keep the room from looking like a pig-sty (though we had successfully trashed the room about ten minutes after getting into the room on the first day), but still managed to make a mess. Because we had taken some care, clean-up didn’t take too long. At about 5:00, Suzi appeared at our door (finally), ready to inspect our home away from home. Agreeing with its condition after making a final clean in a couple of places, we gave her the key, hauled our stuff down to Dick who was waiting below.

While we were packing and cleaning, Stuart was doodling. But he had a purpose. His doodle was a picture of “Bus From Hell” (Bus One). It was a gift to Dick for his thankless job, and all the help he had been during the past five days. It would later be supplemented with donations.

Once the bus had been loaded, luggage, instruments and equipment all, we hopped on. Then things began to go awry. Murphy’s Law (or at least one of them) states that the chances of a bus malfunction are directly proportional to the necessity of that bus, and where you have to be in a certain amount of time. English translation: the damn thing wouldn’t start.

I’m by no means a mechanical whiz, but I do know when an engine doesn’t turn over. Yes, we had a problem. So while Dick fiddled around with the battery, James began action, passing a sheet that everyone on the bus was to sign their name on, and an envelope to donate money to the “Fund for Dick’s Children’s Education”. After the second try to start the bus (which failed), people began to leave as it was getting a little warm in there. James blocked the way out, and wouldn’t let anyone leave until they had at least signed their names.

The populace of Bus One gathered together on the sidewalk that surrounded the first parking lot. Dick had to use Bus Two’s radio to contact help (Warren was gone by then), but we didn’t know how long we had to wait. James continued collecting cash. Chris and I quickly noticed that we stood a chance of being stranded in Florida. Oh bummer! I guess we have to go to Daytona after all! I returned to the bus for a moment for three things: my camera, Stothart’s camera and my journal. I took a photo, Stothart took two or three, and I wrote the following:

Observer’s Log: Traveldate 40791.06

Day 6

Right now we should be about a half hour to St. Petersburg. However, Bus #1 experienced technical difficulties and we’re still at the Days Inn. Crewe and Stothart were going to judge the success of the trip by the number of couples formed. Hil and Shawn formed one. I can safely say that I did not get any closer to a relationship than I was before I left. Oh yeah,

BUTTCHEESE!!

At around 6:05 that morning, a half hour after we were supposed to have left, the repair truck appeared on the scene. Two minutes later, Bus One roared to life. We immediately hauled aboard, not wasting any time. But we didn’t leave right away. First we had to make presentations. So James got to the front of the bus, was given the mike to the p.a. system and presented Dick with Stuart’s drawing, and over $100.

Dick was pleased, to use an understatement. He wasn’t exuberant, but he was delighted to have driven us around. Then he told us about his “I Love Me Wall”, which had all his pictures, trophies and whatnot, dating from his days in the navy. Dick added that Stuart’s picture was destined for that wall. I’ll tell ya, that’s an honour – and I mean it too! Then Dick swore to have us in St. Pete’s in time for our flight.

By 6:25, we were on the highway, heading west. It was still dark outside, but you could just see the patchy fog hugging the ground through the breaks in the trees. I listened to AC/DC for the umpteenth time, to keep myself from falling asleep. I like to experience life whenever possible. Besides, I hate sleeping in road vehicles – it’s annoying.

Over the course of a couple hours, the country side got brighter and brighter, the sun was slowly rising behind us as we streaked across the panhandle. I tried to take a picture of the rising sun, but I missed it both times I tried. The first time it disappeared behind a building; the second into the clouds. We wouldn’t see the sun again until we were in the air.

While I was looking towards the back of the bus, trying to take that picture, I caught sight of Therese and Stuart sleeping on each other. Normally, it would have bothered me. For some reason, I knew it to be the right thing. For a few moments, I stared for no reason. Then I smiled inwardly, and returned to my view forward.

After passing more hotels and fast food restaurants than an elephant could remember, we arrived in St. Petersburg, in more than enough time to catch our plane. Dick maneuvered the bus like an expert (waiting for some yahoo to get out of our way), stopped and wished us safe passage as we disembarked. Then we unloaded our stuff from Dick’s bus for the last time. I think I cried.

Dumping our bags on the curb as instructed, we took the remainder of our stuff and did our best to line up in alphabetical order. We were told that this was the way we were going to receive our tickets (oh joy!), but it turned out that it was so they could easily check off our names at “check-in”. We basically showed them our passports and moved on.

Instructed to meet at Gate 6 for 9:30, we moved on to do what we wanted until such time. Chris and I landed in a group of chairs and slacked off for a while. Chris was asked to take one of the seven trophies on as carry-on, and had to lug that around as well. Before long, we were watching most of the trophies and a motherlode of bags. The owners were upstairs eating breakfast. I was waiting for the in-flight, I didn’t want to break another traveler’s check.

Observer’s Log: Supplemental

We made it, loads o’ time to spare. Dick has told us that he’ll mount Stuart’s picture & the signature sheet on his “I Love Me” wall. Now we get to wait about an hour for our friggin’ flight.

When I’m tired, my brain has a nasty habit of not storing small details. That’s why it may seem that parts of this day may be moving faster than usual. Chris and I sat there for most of the time up to about 9:15, when people gave us our tickets. Chris and I wanted to sit together if it was possible, so Chris went back to Stothart to see if we could get our exchanged. While Chris was doing that, I collected our stuff (the only stuff left by that point) and brought it up to the gate, where Stothart was surrounded by a swarm of students.

Chris emerged from the swarm, wielding our tickets home. Then he started down the hall to where we sat. Chris was tired, he hadn’t noticed that I had his stuff. After whistling him back, we got into line for the x-ray machine. Over the p.a., we could hear the airline calling our rows to board. Soon, we knew that final boarding call would be sounded.

After dumping my crap on the conveyor, I passed through the metal detector (and for the first time in my life, didn’t set it off!) and await my stuff to come. Chris however, got nailed. He had to make a couple of passes through the contraption, each time having to take something else off. It was beginning to look more like a strip search. He finally passed through (I had picked up his stuff again) and were on our way out when Chris noticed that he didn’t have his jean jacket. I hadn’t realized that he had sent it through the x-ray machine too.

Then we left the building. St. Petersburg / Clearwater is the birthplace of modern air travel (at least, according to the plaque they had near one of the doors), and had no terminal boarding, we had to get on from the tarmac. It was probably for the better, we got a last breath of Florida air. It was also my last picture.

After climbing into our Canada 3000 757 aircraft, we found our seats, took the barf bags, and prepared for the flight out. I considered sleeping during the flight, but two and bit hours isn’t worth it. At about 10:00 (give or take ten minutes), the hatches were closed and the engines brought up to speed. This interrupted the safety speech (darn!) for a few moments, but then we were on a roll.

A few minutes later, we hit the airways for home. Jess was seated with Chris and I, on the window side, Chris between us. Jess was deeply engrossed in her homework, I was engrossed in the in-flight movie… until I found out what it was. “Three Men And A Little Lady” is something I can’t take before 18:00, it won’t settle with my stomach, though there are a few funny parts.

Within moments of the film starting, the trolley of drinks came around. Because it wasn’t a breakfast flight, we also got those teeny bags of nuts. I want to know who the moron is who designed those little packages. I can almost inhale the contents there’s so little. How ’bout a small ziplock bag eh? That would be a little more like it!

Anyway, the nuts and the beverage went quickly. Next to come was lunch. Jess, being a vegetarian, was asked to identify herself so that she wouldn’t get one of the normal lunches, and would receive and vegetarian-approved meal. After seeing hers, I was glad to be an omnivore.

We omnivores had a chicken-something dish with pasta salad, carrots, rice, a bun and a cheesecake dessert (which I donated to Chris as I rather dislike cheesecake). By the time I was done, there wasn’t a lot left on my tray. When I’m hungry, I’ll eat most airplane food given to me. I can’t understand why some people hate airplane food. I think it’s rather well made, and in general, Canadian airlines have good meals (though I’m told USAir also has good meals, my previous experience with them has told me otherwise).

Observer’s Log: Second Supplemental

We’re now on our friggin’ flight, headed for home. Unlike the in-flight movie on the way down (which was Home Alone), I’m not going to even bother with this one (aside from the commercial clip scenes).Lunch was tasty, I can’t understand why people say airplane food is tasteless. I rather like it myself. Mind you, it’s probably full of MSG.

Once my tray was removed, I leaned my chair back and drifted into the tunes from my walkman. I became so relaxed, time blitzed right by me. I might have even fallen asleep. Before I knew it, Chris was jarring me awake, taking my earphone plug and putting it into the airplane’s jack in the armrest. It was Paul Simon’s “Obvious Child” from “Rhythm Of The Saints”. I love that song, so I tried to sing it in my head. Then I remembered that Therese still had my CD of “Rhythm Of The Saints”, not to mention my alarm clock. I made a mental note to get them back,

Pressure in my ears led me to believe that we were descending, meaning we weren’t far off from Toronto, from home. In the back of my head, I began to play one of Phil Collins’ greatest hits, Take Me Home. Ever since the Soviet Union trip in the summer of 1989, I always think of the song when I return home.

The plane banked and passed over Toronto out towards Pickering. Then the plane banked again, turning back towards Toronto. We got lower and lower, the flaps extended fully on the wings. People soon became visible as individuals; the wheels lowered and the rushing air roared in the compartments below us. We shot over the 427 and Airport Road, over to the runway. The wheels finally hit, we were bounced a fair bit, but we were down.

Ten minutes later, we arrived at our Terminal One docking bay, and prepared to disembark. Because we were so far back in the plane, we knew that it was going to be some time before we got off. I didn’t realize just how slow. But soon, the line began to move, the three of us rose to take our positions in line, butting just in front of Bird and Crewe (not my fault if they take too long).

Then came the maze of stairs and hallways that eventually got us to Immigration and Customs Canada. There were only two lines open when we got there, but a third opened quickly. I immediately rushed over to the new line so I could get through and get our bags. Chris was not so expedient and was a bit further back. I told him that I would retrieve his.

Ahead of me, I heard the clerk as the person ahead of me what they had bought, and mentioned receipts. My heart stopped a moment. I had receipts for some of the stuff, but it would add up to over the limit I was allowed (yeah, I smuggled stuff in – name someone who didn’t). When my turn came, I had an excuse. When I was asked the question, I spilled my guts (excuse only), and got passed through.

Next was baggage claim. Stuart and Therese had already snagged Chris’ and my bags (how nice of them!), I plopped them both on the cart I had taken from the rack. We were now waiting for all the instruments to come out, so we could collect them and pass through to the outside.

In the meantime, I made a collect phone call (phoning out of Pearson is long distance, yet phoning in isn’t – go figure!) to home to let my parents know that we were alive and the plane hadn’t been blown up by terrorists. Oh yeah, and to get a lift home. At first I thought we would only be about two hours, but I was wrong.

After we had finally received all the pieces once more, we carted them outside, to Canada as we knew it. The swarm of us hovered there for a while until we were told to take all the stuff to the loading area outside of the building. Like willing slaves, we followed orders.

Before long, the line of luggage and instruments had taken up most of the island in the middle of the pick-up road. We were waiting for two buses and a truck to carry our luggage and instruments. A half hour passed without show, and I made another call to home, setting pick-up back about an hour.

Ten minutes or so after that, the truck and buses appeared from out of the blue. Loading began almost instantly. When the truck had been about three-quarters filled, those who weren’t loading were told to get on the buses for head count. By that time, it was a case of “the sooner we get home, the better!”

The buses revved up, and moved out. After stopping to replace the antennae on the buses (they smash the overhead lights when they’re on), we hit the highway. It didn’t take long to lose the truck, which couldn’t go very fast because of the delicate cargo. Forty-five minutes passed before we saw the familiar sights of home, and school. None of us could take off as of yet though, we had to unload the truck first.

Most of the parents were already there. Therese’s parents were happy to see her and Danica, as Stuart’s parents were glad to see Stuart. Then the two families began talking. I watched from a distance, and tried to think of what they’d be taking about. That’s when I learned that I shouldn’t think of those kinds of things when I’m tired… I got depressed again.

It only took ten minutes to get all the instruments off the bus and back to their positions in the music room. My parents had arrived by then, Chris and I wasted no time in leaving. Naturally, we were hit with several questions dealing with out activities in the past five days, and we answered as best we could.

My parents pulled into our driveway, where they got out. I took the keys, and drove Chris home. When we pulled into Chris’ driveway a few minutes later, his father was waiting on the front porch.

“I hate to disappoint you, but I brought him home!”

Chris and I talked for a few more minutes, and discussed what we would do for the remainder of the day. I was hoping to get some sleep, and I really needed a shower. But first I wanted to get home. So I bid Chris farewell until school the next day, and returned to my humble abode.

After relieving myself, I began to unpack. That only took fifteen minutes (almost as long as it took me to get it all in there!). I was happy to see that my parents hadn’t tried clean my room in my absence, it was exactly as I had left it… in a state of perfect disorganization. Yessir, I was home again.

But I didn’t go to sleep. I wish I had, I might have even beat Kathryn’s record of fourteen hours of sleep. Instead, I began to write this story, so I wouldn’t forget it easily. I did have that shower too, which made me feel a lot better. I watched a little tv, cleaned out the fridge (I was a bit peckish) and checked on my bike (I had sent it in to be fixed – too expensive for me so I found).

I went to bed early that night, the week’s events had completely worn me out. As I lay there in my own bed, staring at a dark ceiling, I thought of all that we had done in the past week. And I thought: “Was it worth the $714?” I could only come up with one answer…

Every damn cent of it!

Observer’s Log: Final Supplemental

I haven’t done any of my homework, I’ve either been too busy or I just haven’t been bothered to do it. As for physics however, I ain’t luggin’ a twenty pound text around Florida. The temp here is warm, comparable to that of Florida. It’s nice to be home, yet I still wish I was back in an area of Florida where the tourist population is low (i.e. Riviera Beach) for the next month. Tonight, we’re all going to sleep well, for tomorrow, we’re back in Hell!

Music Trip to Orlando, the Heritage Music Festival and Wet ‘n Wild

A Dream…

Carrots, the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the U.S.S. Rabbit.
It’s continuing mission:
To seek out new carrot patches,
And new mates to breed with…
To boldly go where no bunny has gone before!!
Captain’s Log: Haredate 52461.352

We are presently in orbit around Cottontail IV, in the Long Ear system. We’ve spent three days on the run from Earl. After abandoning him in the Blue Carrot system twenty years ago, he has sworn revenge. He has already taken out my WarpHop drive and my Rabbit Droppings Torpedoes. Long-range Whisker sensors are also out, repair time by Snotty puts it at four days.

“CAPTAIN JERK! CAPTAIN JERK! The U.S.S. Jackrabbit is on short range whisker sensors!” calls a cadet from one side of the bridge.

“Mr. Spot! What is her status?” I ask of my Science Officer. He peers into the sensor readout, looks up (twitches his nose) and replies: “They’ve locked Carrot Cannons on us.”

“EVASIVE ACTION! RAISE FUR-WARD SHIELDS!” I order.

“Captain, the shields are not responding!” says Woof, in his low voice.

“DAMN THE TORPEDOES!!” I shout in desperation. The bridge turns dead silent, all eyes turn to me.

“Captain, you are thinking of the wrong movie.” informs Spot.

“Oh shut up!” I mumble. The ship is suddenly rocked by a tremendous explosion.

“Captain! We’ve been hit!” calls a cadet.

“NO SHIT! Tell me something I don’t know!” I retort.

“Weapons systems are down, shields will fail in thirteen seconds.” reports Woof.

“There! That I didn’t know. Mind you, I wish I still didn’t know.” I reply, not particularly liking the news.

“Sir! Decks two through six are on fire!” shouts Snotty’s interpreter (that damn accent makes Snotty impossible to understand).

“Wait! Let me guess, the fire is going up right?” I ask sarcastically.

“Yes sir.” replies the interpreter.

“Great! Just what I needed to hear.”

“Self destruct will occur in ten seconds… ” says the computer monotonically.

“SELF DESTRUCT?! WHO THE HELL ENGAGED THAT?” I demand.

“Whenever the upper six decks catch on fire, the self destruct sequence automatically activates.” replies Spot.

“WHY DOESN’T ANYONE EVER TELL ME THESE THINGS?!”

“… five… four… three… two… one… have a nice day!”

“OH FUCK YOU!”

Then I woke up, again to James’ alarm clock. However, no one moved at first, someone just punched the snooze bar. A little later on, the alarm went off again. This time I happened to look up to the clock. At first I didn’t think much of it (my brain was still recovering from my multiple memory lapses from the day before), but I quickly realized that we had only twenty-five minutes to get to the bus.

What can I say? That was the quickest any of us had moved in five days. James took a shower (he really moves when he does – ten minutes, tops), I only wetted my hair down (major case of bed-head that morning). Soon, the five of us were blurs, getting clothes, drying off, brushing our teeth (you get the picture).

Twenty minutes later, we were in the process of vacating our room. Dick was there once more, awaiting our arrival with his usual cheery morning self. The bus was loaded as quickly as possible (we didn’t have much time to waste), everyone helping. Dick hit the road, and we were on our way to the University Of Central Florida, where the choirs would perform.

Observer’s Log: Traveldate 40691.083

Day 5

This morning was off to a rather interesting start to say the very least, we woke up about 25 minutes before we had to be on our bus. Why? Because James, Stuart and Chris wouldn’t shut their traps, talking about Earl. God that pissed me off! Now we’re waiting on the bus for our progression to the music festival.

The university was some distance from our hotel (where in Orlando I’m not sure, but we seemed to follow familiar routes), so it gave some of us time to snooze. I don’t sleep on buses, it drives me crazy. Linda had brought a bag of cinnamon rolls, and offered them to several people. I declined when asked, I can’t eat too many seasonings anymore (no thanks to my mom).

Next thing I knew, I saw a sign that read University Of Central Florida. We had arrived. Dick turned up the roadway and pulled into a parking lot near some buildings. Then Beber and Roser hopped out and disappeared down a wide walkway between some buildings. A few moments later they reappeared (just as the population of our bus was about to disembark), and had Dick drive less than fifty feet down the walkway. Why? Don’t ask me (though I think it was so that some of the electrical stuff could be easily unloaded and carted off without giving anyone a hernia).

Jazz Choir was immediately herded into a small performance building (we were almost bordering on late), the rest of us remained outside. It was now getting rather warm, the sun was rising, and the humidity wasn’t helping any. While we waited outside, Jessica Wallace happened to notice my journal (I brought it with me for some reason), and asked if she could read it. I seem to have no quandaries about sharing my thoughts (as personal as they sometimes are). I gotta remember to start coming up with a few.

Allen (who incidentally was our tour guide – yes, I did finally remember his name) appeared with another man who directed into the building across from the performance hall. We were led down a few hallways until we were in a music room. Suzi led us in warm-up.

For Stuart and I, singing is not easily done without Chris (all I need is another bass to sing by, preferably a loud one), There were four “men” in the room, out of thirty or so. One of the “men” was Jess, she was a female tenor during the trip. Stuart and I faired our best with the bass line (we were much too quiet – we needed another bass). Overall, the warm-up went rather well, covering the last few bars of Saints, the one section we still screwed up.

About twenty or thirty minutes later, our warm-up was declared over by Allen, and we were hustled out of the warm-up room, and back outside into the heat. We headed right for the performance hall. We did not enter though, just lined up in our rows for singing. Then we brought Suzi to the verge of killing us for being so loud.

There’s something to be said for expectations. I honestly thought that due to the size of the festival that we would be performing in a large auditorium, filled with screaming fans (yeah, right!). Well, I could see through the windows into the auditorium, I could see Chris from where I stood. That was no large auditorium, it was down-right puny.

About ten minutes after we had exited the warm-up room, another choir appeared. There were only four choirs performing in our division (whatever that was), we had two of them. This choir scared the living shit out of me. All the guys looked identical from the neck down. Black tuxedos, blue cummerbunds (which matched the girls’ dresses), black pants and shoes. In our little group, there wasn’t one matching shirt. The girls wore dresses that looked like left-over prom gowns. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought it was too tacky.

Next thing we knew, our behinds were being hustled into the auditorium. Not even a quarter of the seats were full (not terribly surprising). For a few moments we hung around the back of the room (we couldn’t go on stage just yet) and Chris, James and J changed into their white choir shirts. Then Stothart called us to stage, and we booted right down. In about thirty seconds, we were prepped and ready.

Our adjudicator sat on the other side of the room, at the back, alone. The thought that we had only one person judging our singing left me feeling both relieved and uneasy. I had to put those feelings aside however, for I knew that if I kept thinking about it, I’d screw up a note, maybe an entire bar (or a song). Then to make me feel all the better, a few people from the other school (the Smurfs, as they were dubbed by us) came in to watch.

The songs were the same three we had been singing during the entire time in Florida, and in the same order: Ezekiel, True Colours and Saints. Stothart called out the first song, and we began. Ezekiel went without a hitch, it was the only song we could do completely in our sleep. Mine ears didst not intake sour notes from True Colours (another relief), I think that had us wound up for the final song. Once again, we screwed the ending of Saints up. James told me to stuff it when I mumbled it, but it was my comment, I was allowed to make it, even if others didn’t agree. Besides, I was probably blaming myself for losing time (the ending always pissed me off).

I thought that we would then leave. WRONG! We quickly found out why the sessions were in half-hour blocks, even though we sung for only a maximum of fifteen minutes. The adjudicator then came up to us, congratulated us on our efforts, then offered us some suggestions.

He basically stuck to Ezekiel, and not much else. He corrected our pronunciation and annunciation of the song (we weren’t that far off, but the changes were certainly apparent). I’ll say one thing for musical judges (and also teachers), they are a strange bunch. All of them are quite open and loose. I haven’t met a crabby one yet.

Once we had been grilled and sautéed, we exited in an orderly fashion to about the back of the room, where our usual mayhem resumed. Then, some people taking a piece of equipment (there were more people than pieces), returned to the buses. We had to travel (supposedly) to the other side of Orlando. Little did we know that Apopka High School was past the other side, in another county altogether.

When we got back to the bus, we had breakfast. It was either Dick, or our chaperones (though I understand it was our bitchin’ driver, Dick), but we ended up with a slew of donuts. Yes, this was our breakfast. While we chomped down on those, we headed out for our next stop. Neither of the choirs had to perform any more, they were done. Now it was the bands’ turn. It was a little past 10:00. Wind Ensemble was due up at 11:00 for their adjudication.

Traffic was not with us that day, it seemed that most of the drivers on the road wanted to own it that day. It wasn’t helping us any. At least Dick knew where he was going (we certainly did not, and I still have no idea where we went exactly).

Still curious why I named this chapter I See The Bad Mood Risin’ ? When we got on the bus that morning, I was seated near the rear of the bus, behind Stuart and Therese (by a couple rows). Yes, that was when it started. That was why I tried to stay at the front of the bus, so this wouldn’t happen. It’s not their fault, it’s mine. I should have known better. After all, what they did came naturally.

So while we were on the bus for roughly an hour, whipping through various unexplored sections of the Orlando area, my disposition had time to ferment. Unfortunately, my attitude doesn’t always improve with age. It only got worse.

After more turns than a River Oaks subdivision, we finally arrived at our destination… late. It was only by a few minutes, but we were now more pressed for time than ever. People were off like a shot. Everyone helped bringing in instruments and equipment. All the band players disappeared for warm-up, leaving the remainder of us to move the rest of the stuff to the auditorium stage for the performance.

Apopka High School was by far the largest high school I had ever seen. Their main hall was not only full of trophies, but doubled as their cafeteria. I wondered what it would be like attending that place, but I quickly remembered the homely feeling one gets from OT (most likely that feeling one gets after being knocked unconscious by falling pieces of roof).

Bird and I hauled a Harley Davidson bag full of stands (I believe they were for the cymbals, all I know is that they weighed a bloody tonne – my hands cramped up under the strain) into the auditorium, then I booted back for more stuff. There was none. So we packed up the instrument cases (which had been flung everywhere) and put them off to one side. Not really knowing what to do next, I went into the auditorium to await the performance, sitting one side to the left of Kara Coghill. This was intentional, I wanted to leave a seat for Geoff (her boyfriend). Right off, I knew that this was no ordinary high school, the auditorium was much too large for most Canadian schools.

Roughly twenty minutes later, the first signs of the band appeared on the stage. OT was the last concert band to play, all the others had gone earlier that morning. Fortunately, those in charge did not seem to care that we were late. From my position, I could see the adjudicators (as they had been pointed out by the MC), there were three this time. I couldn’t wait to see what happened.

Observer’s Log: Supplemental

Aside from a couple of foul-ups, the Choir did really well. The adjudicator gave us a few helpful hints to boot! Then we got a blast of donuts (thanks to our illustrious driver, Dick… I think). Call it a hunch, but I think I’m beginning to piss a few people off in our group. I’m still debating whether or not to go to the dance tonight. As the moment we’re listening to Wind Ensemble as they proceed to kick ass in their competition.

I’m almost certain that I was developing a couple enemies, namely Kathryn. Then again, I could be wrong. But I noticed a distinct change in the way she acted around me, and I couldn’t figure out why. It may have been that word leaked about my interest in her, but since the warning, the interest had been strongly suppressed.

Wind Ensemble played their lungs out, but only two of their three pieces. I had never timed their full performance before, but I have a funny feeling that the third piece would’ve taken them beyond the fifteen minute limit (either that or they were asked to cut it short). Despite the lack of one piece, their performance was excellent.

Then began the Jazz bands. There were only three to listen to, and two of them were from OT. The first band was American, from which State I don’t recall (not that I forgot, I just wasn’t that interested at the time), they virtually got a standing ovation (accompanied by very loud, screeching cheers) from the back of the auditorium.

The band was fairly small, about ten people at the most. Right off I noticed one of the saxophone players. He seemed to me kind of egotistical, though I can’t figure out why I derived such an impression from him. He was also the soloist, and played a mean horn. The only thing that I didn’t like about that group was the conductor, who seemed like he was stoned. The best, and most memorable piece that the group did was the Flintstones theme. That was cool!

Then it was OT’s turn to strut their stuff. First up was the Jazz Ensemble. Don’t ask me what pieces they played, I couldn’t tell you. In comparison to the previous band, OT’s jazz group seemed less energetic than their competitors, and that bothered me. However, it’s good that I wasn’t one of the adjudicators, or OT wouldn’t have done as well as we did.

The final group was OT’s Jazz Combo. They weren’t competing as such, they just wanted a rating (there was some full-length term for the rating name, but I only heard it once). As they were setting up, Stothart nearly tipped the piano over (I got it on film). But soon, they were off.

Once everyone had finished, a raft of trophies were brought out. One of them stood above all the others, and I was curious to know what it was for. At 13:10, the awards ceremony began. The first that they did was clear up the morning’s choir awards. At first I was surprised that this happened, but seeing as it was the same festival, it did make sense. Jazz Choir (not surprisingly), pulled off a Superior rating for their performance. Concert got an Excellent (which was more than I expected).

Quick run down of awards! With choirs, the rank went from Superior to Excellent, to Very Good to Good, and finally to Participation (Ugh!). Now I don’t know if there was more than one choir per level, but I really don’t care. Fact was, we did good!

Then we proceeded to the concert bands. Of course, Wind Ensemble won, they took first (they had actual placings for the bands). The other three school in there with us received their placings, and we were virtually deafened by the schools behind us. Kara and I commented on the brashness of those schools. OT made feeble attempts to try and out-scream them, but because it ain’t our style, it just can’t be done.

Jazz Bands came next. OT nearly swept this category. Aside from the placings (from which I believe OT got first again), we won all but one of the awards. I was surprised when they began to do awards for separate people within each band. I was even more surprised when we won best saxophonist (Allison Humphries). I was expecting the guy from the first band. Then came a let down. Best trumpet player when to another school. Had Chris Colohan been able to come, we’d-a-had that one too! Then came Best Rhythm Sectionist (it was beginning to sound like the Academy Awards if you ask me). Everyone from OT thought it would be Shawn Abedin. It was Paul Taylor who won, none were as surprised as he.

The last award was roughly four feet tall. By that time, OT had amassed seven (which was damn good by my books), I didn’t think that we really needed another. When the award was read out to be presented to a marching band, I heard an audible sigh of relief from several people around me, counting their blessings about having to lug that one around. The school at the back of the room won, and I nearly went deaf from the screaming. It is nice to have school spirit, but there is such a thing as taking it too far.

With the awards finished, it was time to move out. We were warned three or four times about sunburns (all the festival participants were going to Wet ‘n’ Wild that afternoon) before leaving. I wish I had brought my shorts and a t-shirt, my choir uniform began to get a little uncomfortable after a while.

By 13:40, the bus had been loaded. Chris, being the diplomat he was, congratulated another performer from another school (good for Chris, though I couldn’t remember the guy performing – I was probably writing something down). Someone spotted one of the lizards indigenous to Florida, they can climb most vertical surfaces. My aunt had hundreds of those little buggers at her house near West Palm Beach. Therese, of course, was enthralled by the discovery.

Soon, we were on our way. Now, I’m writing this part of the story in a fairly agreeable mood. That day, at about the time we were leaving, I wasn’t doing to well. I hadn’t yet reached my lowest point, but was on a downhill slide.

First, we were going to snag some lunch. At first we desperately tried to get to McDonald’s, but were all ruled out by one vegetarian. Even though McD’s sold salads, they (yes, I will not release the name) refused to eat them. Instead, we ended up at a Wendy’s. Next door was a Taco Bell, Dunkin Donuts and a Pizza Hut. We couldn’t go any further than the Taco Bell. It really didn’t matter to me, I wasn’t hungry.

When Dick pulled in, people immediately began to get off. Soon, the bus was empty, except for Dick and myself. Here’s the reason why I liked Dick so much:

“Ain’t you goin’ to lunch?” asked Dick from the front of the bus.

“Nah, not really feelin’ hungry.” I replied, trying to sound normal, “Besides, I ain’t got a lot of cash left.”

“Come on, my treat!” he prompted, not letting me get off with that much.

“Don’t bother, you’ll only waste your money. Thanks anyway.”

“Listen!” said Dick, a little more sternly, but still in a humourous sort of way, “I don’t do this for everyone!”

“I’m just not that hungry. But I do appreciate the offer.”

“Okay. But I’m locking the bus, you can’t get off and no-one can get on! I’m gettin’ somethin’ to eat!”

With that, Dick hopped off the bus and closed the door. I sat their for a few moments, listening to Dick fumbling with the key. About a minute later (and a ring of keys), he reopened the door and announced:

“Then again, maybe not!” The both of us burst out laughing.

So I remained on the bus, completely alone, my stomach growling. I wasn’t lying when I said I wasn’t hungry. My stomach was, but I wasn’t. I wouldn’t have eaten anything from either of those places. While I sat there, listening to either Sting or AC/DC, I thought I heard a knock at the bus door. I stopped the tape, listened for a moment, then hit play. Moments later, a knocking at my window lead me to concluding that I had heard a knock at the door, it was Chris wanting in.

Taco Bell had sufficed him (I do believe that was where he went – it doesn’t really matter, as he didn’t buy much), and he was back. I told him just to pull on the door, he opened it himself. While I was at the front though, I spotted the leftover donuts. I snitched two and munched on those for a while. Chris complained about that, I pointed out that no-one else was eating them, therefore putting them to waste.

Therese, James, Stuart and Linda returned a few minutes later with their Taco Bell orders. Linda was actually pleased to a point with the spices (Linda could probably drink a bottle of Tobasco sauce straight without blinking).

Within twenty minutes, the bus was full again, and we were on our way back to the hotel. From there, it was to Wet ‘n’ Wild, where we would be until about 22:00 that night. There was no way out of the dance for me, aside from not leaving the hotel once we got back. That was not much of an option as far as I was concerned.

When we hit the highway, my mood got worse, declining at the same speed as the bus went forward. Before I knew it, I was so deep into my rather morbid frame of mind, I didn’t give rat’s ass that we were going through downtown Orlando (the only time we would see it).

Then came Therese and Stuart. They decided to take upon themselves to either cheer me up or annoy me. The succeeded only in the later. They did so by pulling the earphones from my ears. The third time, which was Therese’s turn to pull one of them out, I snapped, yelling at Therese (though not too loudly).

It’s amazing what one’s mind can remember. The entire day before was full of holes to which I have no filler. Yet this single action, me snapping at Therese, I remember so vividly, I still feel terrible about doing it everytime I think about it. I hadn’t felt like that much of a jackass in a long, long time. I was immediately regretful of that action.

Well, I was immediately shot down to the pits of hell at that point. Had I been carrying a knife (which I was not, luckily), I would have cut myself in several interesting places. Yes, you know that you’re in really deep shit when you think of suicide. So far, I’ve managed to talk myself out of it both times. I think that I may need some professional help sooner or later.

Once we got back to the hotel, we immediately booted up to our rooms to get the stuff we were going to need for that night. Waiting for Chris to come up and unlock the door, I took a picture of James wielding two of our seven new trophies. When Chris arrived, he said that J had the key. J had been there as long as the rest of us. Don’t ask me, I’ve never been able to figure J out. Come to think of it, he’d be good as part of the Canadian Government – we can’t figure them out either!

We changed quickly to our evening attire – bathing suits, t- shirts, shoes (no socks), Ron Jon’s cap on backwards. Then I filled my carry-on luggage with a towel, camera, walkman speakers (and walkman), journal and pullover. Then I booted down to the bus, donning my shades in the process. I had a mission to fulfill before we left.

I hopped on the bus, dumped my stuff in my seat, searched the bus for Therese and not seeing her, got off and went up to the second floor. I guess I must have been in overdrive, I was only one of five people ready to leave. So after waiting a few minutes, I went back on the bus to await for my quarry.

As soon as Therese entered the bus, I asked her to hold a moment, and apologized for my actions earlier that afternoon. Fortunately, Therese understands people in rotten moods, and accepted my apology. Lucky me, I have friends, very good friends who are more than I could ever dream of.

Then, feeling better for having said I was sorry, lay back and played music while Dick got us to party central. We traveled certain routes so bloody often, I could almost follow them in my sleep. We went by the same route we had followed the day before, passed the Mercado and before long, were out in front of Wet ‘n’ Wild.

When we had boarded the bus, we were given tickets to the park and special white plastic wristbands (Chris and I still wear ours). These bands were necessary, we would have been kicked out without ’em. Mind you, I had been contemplating about removing mine. I really didn’t want to stay, mainly because of the dance. No, my mood hadn’t improved too much (at least I wasn’t thinking of suicide any more).

After we had entered, we weren’t sure where to go. It was roughly 16:00, we had two hours before the population died any. Most, if not all of the other high schools were already there. Straight ahead of us was the wave pool (which was heavily crowded). A large group of us headed up the left side of the pool towards the middle of the complex (which seemed both larger and smaller than I had expected) until we reached the other end of the pool.

J, Ali, Chris, Hil, Yvonne and myself commandeered a couple tables and a raft of chairs. Stuart, Therese, James, Linda and Kathryn kept on going, we wouldn’t see any of them for about a half hour or so. Chris immediately sat down in the sun and began to tan. The rest of us followed suit. The sun may have been setting, but it was still strong enough to shed to light on the subject.

Within twenty minutes, I had lost the effectiveness of the sun, I wasn’t getting warm. I really hadn’t planned on getting a tan while I was there (Chris was the only one who darkened any), so there was no great loss. James, Stuart and Linda emerged from the wave pool and went back down to the other end (which was where they were positioned). James hung around for a while. That was about the time I began to notice… things.

Chris had probably noticed them long before myself, but I had taken off my sunglasses (just in case, I didn’t want pale circles around my eyes where the sun couldn’t get through) and had to close my eyes – or be blinded. When I donned my shades once more, I took more than my fill o’ heavenly bodies. And it wasn’t even dark yet!

For the life of me, I have never been able to understand why women always seem to wear small, tight bathing suits (if they can even be called that anymore) and not feel like there are always hormone-hyper boys (they can’t be called “men” anymore, they’re too ga-ga by that time) staring at them, which they are. But please understand, I’M NOT COMPLAINING!

Then I noticed one other little interesting detail, this time about the staff. It seemed that Wet ‘n’ Wild hired only physically perfect people, and reject all the ugly ones. This was one of those very few times that I was truly happy to be single. I could stare until my mind had successfully unclothed all the female staff I saw, and not have to worry ’bout my girlfriend thrashing me.

Observer’s Log: Second Supplemental

Well, I was right – both times. First, the Wind Ensemble did kick ass, as did Jazz Ensemble. They would have swept the Jazz category had C. Colohan come. As for the second “right”, I’m pretty sure I got a couple pissed off at me. I did accidentally snap at Therese when she and Stuart were fooling around with my earphones (while I was wearing them – I was in a nasty mood).We are now at Wet ‘n’ Wild – and to a point Chris has made a valid observation… being single right now isn’t all bad, some of the employees are, shall we say, angels in very tight bathing suits. Still, I would like someone to share this time with. I would probably use one of those sayings that have been used since the beginning of time, only that I hate using them!

About that time, J appeared from the wave pool (there was a ladder about two metres from where we were seated) and extolled the warmth of the waters. J almost immediately wanted to right back in. He talked me into it (not that it wasn’t much of a challenge), and we shot down to the other end to get in (they wouldn’t let you jump in the deep end – why? I don’t know).

He wasn’t kidding, the waters were really warm, at least eighty degrees Fahrenheit. The waves were a bit of a pain to get through (I had left my shorts on over my Speedos, for saving face – I ended up with a load of resistance), but swimming underwater was fairly easy. A couple minutes later, I had found Ali, Jess and Cindy floating on an innertube in the deep end. Then the waves stopped. There’s not much fun being in a wave pool without the waves, so we got out.

I returned to my seat and promptly dried off. Though the air temperature was twenty-three degrees Celsius , the wind had the ability of making you feel much cooler. Within five minutes of drying off, the first of several announcements were made, dealing with park closure. This was the twenty minute mark. At 18:00, the only ones left would be the performers in the Orange Blossom Festival.

J and I were determined to get on as many of the slides as possible, but only after general admission was kicked out. Every five minutes, another announcement was made. Next thing we knew, it was six o’clock, and the four hour party was beginning. For the past hour or so, the astro-turf area beside the wave pool (and our table) was being cleared for the dance. A few minutes after six, the music began.

J, Ali and I weren’t interested in dancing though, we were trying to find the on-ramp to the first ride. After a couple twists and turns, we found it and booted to the top. It was a fairly simple waterslide, with three bumps and a splash down pool. It was getting cool in the breeze, but we didn’t care too much, we were having too much fun. From the top, while were waiting our turn at the top, we could see the next ride we were destined on. It was a speed slide, with a six and a half story, 70 degree from the horizontal drop.

J was first in line, and shot down at a rapid speed, making a rather large sploosh! at the other end. Then it was my turn. I couldn’t get a lot of speed to start with, but I gained a lot very quickly. My face was enveloped in a spray of water, I could hardly see (so I closed my eyes) and I couldn’t breathe. I second or two later, I plunged into the pool at the bottom. The floor and walls of the pool were padded (probably to keep large people from killing themselves). Stothart appeared at the side, hoping to get a picture of us while going down, but missed getting Ali when she came down.

J and I were intent on the Kamikaze run (which actually had some unusual German name, Der Splat or something like that). Ali wasn’t so keen, so she returned to the table. J and I hauled off to the killer slide. It took us only a few seconds to find the ramp up, and jogged the six and a half stories in about two minutes (the ramp spiraled to the top).

Just underneath the suicide slide was another ride, but one I had never seen before. The two runs wrapped around each other like a corkscrew (riders had to wear helmets or risk getting knocked out). We almost got off at that point by accident, but then realized that we had to keep going up. Soon, we were at the top, at the highest point in the whole park.

And it was damn cold up there too. We could see the waterskiers in the lake next to us, Hil and Kathryn leaving our table at the far side of the wave pool, and a group of our people at the bottom with a camera. Chris Stratten was in charge of photos, Stothart was at the side to view.

Again, J went first, and I did my best to make him feel uncomfortable by asking questions like: “Has anyone been killed on this before? How ’bout paralyzed? Severely maimed? Paper cut?” I don’t know how successful I was, for J was gone next time I looked. About five seconds later he slammed into the water-filled track, soaking passersby. Then it was my turn.

I sat down in the track, looking down the run. Yeah, it was high. There were people I knew I had no chance of getting on here (I could’ve gotten Chris, if he liked swimming). I had to wait a couple of minutes while the guy checked down the run. Finally, he gave me the okay, and I prepared for watery free-fall. As one plummets the drop, the must have their arms crossed on their chest, and their legs crossed. I couldn’t figure out why at first, but it made sense once I hit the bottom. It’s so that when someone gets killed, they’re already in a convenient position to bury them in.

I had to scream (actually, a very loud yell, I can’t scream anymore) while going down. I think I yelled “BANZAI!”, but I’m not certain, it might have been “COWABUNGA!”. According to Dick, one is traveling an average of seventy-two miles an hour (the metric equivalent is about 115 kilometres per hour). I thought it sounded a little far fetched when I first heard it, but when I landed in that pool, I realized that the number couldn’t have been that far off. IT HURT! But my God, did it rule!

When we had first run up the ramp for the slide, we had passed the tent area where dinner was to be served that night, and the lines were already moving. J and I have large appetites (though J’s is often much larger and more diverse), and we hadn’t eaten since lunch (which is usually long enough). Instead of whipping down another ride, we headed back to the table to retrieve some exterior clothing, and other people.

J, Ali and Hil disappeared first. Some more of us held back for a few moments, to give them a head start. Others waited even after Therese, Stuart, James, Linda, Chris, Cindy and I went for our food. After all, somebody had to watch our stuff. Dinner was basic: hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, baked beans (which Stuart and James had to get, despite Chris’ and my pleas not to) and drinks. You could eat as much as you wanted, come back as many times as you wanted. I only went once, I believe in the “Screw Seconds, Get It All The First Time” method.

When we returned, only a few had ventured out onto the dance floor, I have a feeling that most people were still eating dinner. The food went fast, as did the drinks. Next thing I knew, Geoff appeared asking for takers in more rides. Stuart, James, Linda and I were such takers. I have never believed in the “wait a half hour after you eat” saying, and it seemed that the other four didn’t either. We were off in a moment.

We sprinted over to another set of slides. Three were slide that used special foam sleds on which the rider would shoot down the wet journey. The foam sleds were similar to the ones I was familiar with from Ontario Place in Toronto, but had the from curled up with plastic handles. A nice touch!

Taking our sleds, we hauled to the top of the ride, lined up and prepared for a shot down one of three slides (A, B and C). According to Geoff, slide A wasn’t worth it, you never got enough speed. I took slide C the first time ’round. Again, the water was nice and warm, and in the twenty-three degree coolness, it was nice to have.

Most of that slide was full of turns, and not full of a lot of speed. When I did begin to pick some up, I was rapidly approaching the end of the journey. Suddenly, the ride straightened out and I accelerated towards the end. When I did hit the splash pool, I got a slight jump from the churning water where the slide hit the pool. I skidded a bit, then ran off to catch up with the others.

On my second turn around, I had to wait until the next slot after Geoff and Stuart had gone down, this time I was aiming for slide B. The B slide went right down the middle, and had a rather large straight section. I wanted some serious speed. So when my chance came, I gave myself a good boost and shot into the ride as quickly as possible. I rounded only a few turns before my speed began to increase dramatically. Again, the track straightened out, but the stretch was much longer than before. I whipped down to the end, hit the churning, and got a serious bounce. I was actually airborne for a moment or two, before sliding to the ladder.

Again, I raced out to catch up with the other four. This time, the sled went back, for we were heading for the innertube rides. Having to wait in line for a while (innertubes were scarce to say the least), we snagged five rings and rolled our way up to the top of the rise. We ended at a fork in the pathway. To the left was a set of two slides, to the right was a “white-water canyon” type ride. The first time, we went right.

The start of the slide was a ringed pool, which the five of us piled into. James, Stuart and Geoff went on one side, Linda and I on the other. There was an attendant at the end opposite to the end we entered at, ready to toss us down the first of several downhill plunges between pools. The five of us desperately tried to stay together, but only Linda and I were able to hold together until we landed in the next pool.

We glided through part of it, were pulled along by another attendant and tossed down the next embankment. The next pool had a small wave maker in it, James and I got caught in the backwash. We tried to paddle our way out, but the attendant there grabbed us and sent us down again. Stuart was unfortunate enough to be caught in the churning of water at the end of the slope, I came down feet first. I slammed into him, knocking the ring out from under him. The final slide got us going rather quickly, ending in the splash pool. At first I almost flipped over, by I was heavy enough and spread out enough to stay upright. Stuart couldn’t pull that off either, wiping out at the bottom.

We began our trek back up the rise, but turned to the left at the fork. This path took us slightly higher than the first one, and ended at slides like those with the sleds. Again was the circular pool, and two runs. I chose the one on the left, and a moment later, was tossed down. I found myself immediately in blackness. It was… uh, interesting (a little unnerving at first), but when I noticed the small lights at turns, became rather cool. When I whipped out of the run and hit the pool, I waited until I had glided over to the edge. Then I hopped out of the tube, tossed it to another person in line and waited for all of us to collect.

Our next target was a “ride” that was called Lazy River. First we wanted to see if we could get anyone else to come with us, and get innertubes. We had to cross the dance floor to get to our table, and the dance floor population had increased very dramatically in the twenty minutes or so that we were gone. No- one else was interested, so the five of us continued on. However, there were only three innertubes to begin with. As we left, Geoff and I spotted a could lying on the beach (there was a beach on our side of the lake). We ran up, snitch ’em and took off before someone noticed.

The Lazy River is no more than a circular trench dug into the ground. The driving force is a strong current (one that makes it next to impossible to stand up in without falling over). Almost instantly, the five of us began to play tag. James was “it” first. It’s easy to run in the current, so long as you go with it. Stuart was nailed fairly soon afterwards. We only made one complete circuit of the river before we stopped. It just didn’t seem to have the luster we thought it would. So we sat back and made another rotation as a group, and ran into Ali Etherington. Linda and Ali clung together and rapped for a while, the four guys hopped out at the same place we got in. James wanted to wait for Linda to come back, so we fooled around in the current. That’s when I lost my balance in the current, and skinned my knees (the bottom was like sandpaper).

Linda reported back that she didn’t want to go on anymore rides, so the four of us continued on without her. Our first stop was to get helmets for the corkscrew ride that ran under (and next to) the Der Splat. The helmets are very simple, made of foam that encompass the head, except for the face. Again we charged up the ramp, but got off at the first gate. I went last again, the others got ahead of me in line.

I don’t know how to explain it, but I didn’t find it that good of a ride. For some reason, I either got fibreglass forced into my back or all the water left me rubbing on plastic (it hurt something fierce). I stopped less than two feet after getting to the other end. Geoff, James and Stuart laughed at me (of course), then we booted down from the landing zone.

Then it was back across to the ramp again – for the Der Splat. Geoff and I had already been on it, but wanted to go on it again. Once at the top (heaving from the jog), we realized how much the wind had picked up… it was cold! But we got a chance to make three girls a little nervous about the drop. One of the girls even asked the same questions I had asked the first time, except I think she meant them.

Yeah, I was last to shoot the slide of death, but it was worth it. I still managed to make a rather large splash at the other end, but I didn’t get as far as I had when J and I went the first time ’round. Then came my final ride for the evening, the first slide I went on that day.

We raced down over to it, up it and down it. James and I went on the first go, Stuart and Geoff in the second. I got a bad start on mine, I could see James ahead of me. This time I went down on the other run of the ride, it wasn’t any different from the right side, ‘cept for the side you had to get out on. Geoff won his race against Stuart. Then the four of us hauled our butts back to the table to see if anyone else wanted to go on more rides. I didn’t, so I stopped there. James, Stuart and Geoff took of to parts unknown.

It was now dark out, and the dance floor was full. Most of the OT troupe was at our group of tables (those who weren’t were somewhere on the dance floor). Chris was not there anymore, he and his cowboy hat (bought at Ron Jon’s two days earlier) were out dancing, he wasn’t hard to spot. Chris Stratten, Dave Kaye and a few others were seated at one of our tables; Hil, Shawn, Cindy, Linda, and several others rotated from the dance floor to a ledge near the tables (the dance floor was recessed from the area our tables sat on).

Therese was seated at the table next to me, not looking all to happy. I’m one of those kinds of people who get concerned when one of their friends doesn’t look too pleased. I had noticed this earlier, but had left it alone for the time being. Therese didn’t look good at all. So naturally, I went over to see if there was anything I could do.

It turned out that the cinnamon rolls that Linda had brought earlier that morning had cocoa in them. Therese didn’t know this at first, and had eaten them. So? Therese has adverse reactions to cocoa, it doesn’t work too well in her (though Chris and I have our suspicions to whether or not it’s just psychological). Aside from the adverse reaction, she was fine, er, okay . So we talked a while, and I got some insight to her affliction. There are some simple rules to keep in mind when Therese has eaten cocoa:

  1. Don’t touch her. Her skin is extremely sensitized, and anyone touching her only makes her feel worse and worse. Stuart had to be told of this.
  2. Make sure that people don’t keep asking why she’s asking so strange, make sure that you tell them. Therese gets annoyed when people keep asking her (understandable, everyone’s like that in one way or another), and that only makes her feel worse.
  3. And the most important rule to remember:

  4. DON’T FEED HER AFTER MIDNIGHT!

Naturally, I followed these rules, and made sure that there wasn’t anything that she wanted. Stuart was still off (God only knew where), so someone had to make sure she was okay. Despite some shivering (part of the reaction), there was nothing that she needed. We talked for a while (something we do a lot of when we get the chance), during which I noticed two things that I found rather interesting.

First of all, Therese seems to lose a little rationality when under the influence of cocoa. Several times she joked about Stuart getting killed while waterskiing (why I don’t know, it caught me a little off guard). I found this a little disturbing, Therese found it quite humourous. It was also when I realized that Therese and I are inversely-psychically linked.

That probably doesn’t make a heap of sense eh? Let me explain. So I’ve noticed (which is easy when you’re The Observer!), whenever Therese is really happy and content, I’m depressed and morbid. This also works the other way too. It doesn’t always go that way, though it seems to most of the time. Now, as for why it happens, that I can’t tell you. I haven’t the slightest idea.

I whipped out my camera periodically to burst onto the dance floor, swoop in on a few group members, take a picture (laugh like a loony) and charge off the floor, leaving my prey wondering:

“What the hell was that? And who was that unmasked asshole anyway?”

I did that twice, one time I nailed Jan, Hil, Cindy and Chris in full bounce (a proud shot considering how fast I took it). The second time I was trying to get Roser and Davidson (who were tall enough to stand over most of the people on the floor). However, they left just as I arrived. But Stothart was left behind. When the picture was developed, I noticed that she was dancing with what looked like a nude black man, and it wasn’t anyone we knew.

I took a few other shots around the table area, trying to get a few people into my pictures. I even got (get this!) Therese, Kathryn and Linda to not only smile, but to look directly at me when I took the picture. I intend to have it blown up and framed as a piece of history.

The dj’s chose only fast paced, heavy beat dance music. I recognized only a few of the songs (most were Billboard Chart songs, and I haven’t listened to those in ages – I use Chris to keep me relatively up to date on descent songs). That night also proved to me that New Kids On The Block are not as popular as they’re made out to be… we didn’t hear one note of theirs.

Unlike many of the people in our area, I didn’t argue with the selection of music. I take pride in the fact that I can listen to almost anything, except NKOTB, which I abhor with every nerve within my body. I’d rather “dive into a swimming pool filled with double edged razor blades”, “get a million paper cuts on my face” or “eat shards of broken glass” than listen to that crap.

I sat there for the better part of about an hour, flowing as well to the music as possible without having to get up and dance. Periodically, Chris would come off the dance floor for a few minutes and talk with someone, before returning to his only form of physical exertion during the entire trip. Chris danced for roughly four hours straight. Chris dances hard.

Time ticked away oh so slowly. I’ll tell ya one thing, after dinner had passed, my mood had improved so much, I had hit a high point for the trip. Call it a hunch, but I think that a lot of people hit an emotional high at that dance (single people, definitely; dating, I’m not so sure).

There were few songs that really got our group to flood the floor (those who danced – Chris Stratten, Dave, Therese, Bird, myself and a few others abstained with all effort), and fewer still that got them all off. The most memorable was Ice, Ice Baby, which cleared them from the floor in a matter of seconds. Hil was in convulsions with the thought of dancing to it.

Without warning, J hit the ground. He didn’t fall or anything, he just wasn’t feeling well and lay down. Stothart thought that he had keeled over. Fortunately, he wasn’t that ill. We never really did find out what was up. When we got back to the hotel later that night, he spent an hour in the bathtub, but didn’t emerge feeling much better.

I had a rather embarrassing moment that night. While observing (something I’m rather good at), I accidentally looked directly at Shawn and Hil. Now this would normally not be so bad, except they were, uh, well, exchanging certain bodily fluids! When one catches sight of that, it can be slightly discomforting.

The evening went on like that for a while longer, until the big time hit, 22:30. The ball was over for our group of Cinderellas, our coach was going to become a pumpkin once more. Knowing that it was our last night for partying, we reluctantly worked our way out of the park. Dick was not waiting for us outside, but in a nearby parking lot (as he had told us earlier). Chris nearly screamed my ear out while we were leaving (I was listening to AC/DC and couldn’t hear anything), telling me to wait up.

Back on the bus, we took our positions in our padded seats in our respective locals. Chris and I stayed near the front, Stothart in front of me, Dave and Chris Stratten behind me. We waited for head count once again. Both Stothart and Dave were complaining about the lack of “real” music, not the synthesized and drum machined stuff that we’d been listening to for four hours. That’s when I produced my walkman, the Sting tape and the speakers. Three guesses what we listened to on the way back to the hotel!

The ride was one of the quietest we had during the time spent in Florida. People were worn out, sleeping (Stothart and I had a race to see who could take a picture of Chris sleeping first – I won), or just sitting. It was quiet enough for Stothart, Dave, Chris and I to listen to Sting.

When we arrived, it was almost midnight. No, it hadn’t taken that long to get back, but that night happened to be the one when we switched to daylight savings time. That meant we were going to lose an hour’s sleep that night, making the following day rather interesting. We had fifteen minutes before room check.

When we got back to the room, we began to pack. All my crap was forced into my suitcase, all my carry-on stuff was in my camera bag. By the time I was finished, I had a hernia sack instead of a suitcase. But I didn’t have any stray things, aside from my toiletries, and a change of clothes for the next day. At about 1:00, the lights went off, I was asleep by 1:30.

Observer’s Log: Third Supplemental

Tonight was one of the best nights to date. Although I had serious been considering suicide (again – also another story) earlier today, as soon as I made a splash down in the wave pool, my spirits immediately picked up, and continued to do so for the rest of the evening. Therese and I must have an inverse psychic link. When the dance started, so did Chris. He spent most of the night on the dance floor.

Music Trip to Orlando, Singing and Shopping in Malls

A Dream…

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations; To boldly go where no-one has gone before.

I sat comfortably in my pressure suit, looking forward, towards the cockpit. Actually, it would be upwards, considering that was the way we were pointed. The five of us, the crew of the Space Shuttle Enterprise, were about thirty seconds away from lift-off, and anxiety was filling my bladder at an uncontrolled pace .

I could hear the countdown through the phones in my helmet, I couldn’t wait to get moving. I was finally going to be in the realm I had always wanted to visit. I was going to be completely weightless in no time at all. Ten minutes to the black vastness of space. A beep echoed in the cockpit, and a rumbling shook the entire craft.

I could feel myself forced into the seat, rather harshly at that. I thought for a split second that my chair might give out and I might fall backwards. Three gees of force can do a lot to a human, the least of which is mild discomfort.

I could feel the ship roll to its proper lifting position, and the acceleration to the stars continued. Another beeping echoed in the cockpit, but this one was not routine. The pilot tapped a gauge on the dash, then motioned something to our commander. The last thing I clearly remembered hearing was:

Uh oh!

Everything happened in slow motion. The craft shook more violently than before, I could feel metal ripping into metal. The pressure in the cabin rose at a rate that could only be described as fatal. The glass plate of my helmet shattered with the rise, ripping my face to shreds in less than a millisecond. I could hear the destruction following me in, I could feel intense heat with my exposed face. Then I saw the flames (. . . beep beep beep…)

My eyes opened to hear the quiet beeping of James’ alarm clock. We had unplugged J’s, the last thing we wanted was that infernal contraption going off first thing in the morning. Chris woke up beside me (which was a considerable change from the night before – he had missed Predator 2, falling asleep once in a chair, then moving to James and Stuart’s bed and doing the same thing again), but neither of us moved with any great speed.

First thing that morning was to wear something relaxed for breakfast. The ladies downstairs were much more energetic in the morning, they were ready before us (as they were usually). Once we “men” were finished (not long after our female counterparts), we progressed to the Sizzler (all except Chris and Stuart, who were taking their time).

We followed the general route, pay for your breakfast and then hog out. I don’t think there was anyone who did not go back for seconds. I stuck with eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes and hash browns myself (two or three helpings), a few others were slightly more inventive with their selections.

For example, Hil had chocolate mousse and jello… mixed together. It may sound a little rude, but she ate it. Then J topped Hil with his “unusual selection of the day”… a soft taco. J is the only person I know of (aside from myself) who could eat something like that first thing in the morning. I was disgusted at the time, but afterwards I remembered some of the things I had eaten for breakfast in the past.

Breakfast was fairly uneventful, aside from those two interesting choices of nourishment. Once I was finished, I vacated back to the room to prepare to be on the bus for 10:15. That was the day we were to perform at the Mercado Shopping Mall, which we had passed on the first day. This was not something I was looking forward to. I mean, this was the way Tiffany got her start!

Given, performing in malls can be slightly degrading (I still remember an Elvis impersonator who played Trafalgar Village when I used to work at the Black’s Camera store – we were right next to the stage – I never saw something so lame, but the music was good), but we needed the practice as a group still.

The rest of the guys didn’t take too long to finish, they arrived a few minutes after I did, and we began the quick task of changing. I was thinking well ahead. Unlike Chris, James and J, I had to perform only with the choir. This meant that for at least forty-five minutes, I would be doing nothing. I whipped on a pair of short under my dress pants.

I then tossed a t-shirt into my carry-on bag, along with my walkman, earphones, running shoes, and most importantly, money for shopping. Then I grabbed my sister’s compact camera (which I had brought down so I didn’t have to bring my large 35mm Minolta everywhere), my shades and music, and headed on down to the bus.

Along the way, I ran into Dick, and asked him if he had found Mr. Davidson’s camera (Davidson had a Minolta X-700, same series as my X-370, but either misplaced it or had it stolen) on his bus. He had not, and Davidson had asked the like of Dick as well. So far, Davidson was not doing well in the recovery of that camera (he never did find it).

The instruments and electrical equipment (speakers, mikes, etc) had to be loaded onto the buses as well, but that didn’t take too long. Still, even if you only lug one monitor (as in speaker, not video output for computers), you’ll still manage to work up a sweat.

The air conditioned bus was a relief from the heat, and it was only a little after 10:00. Our performance was scheduled for noon, and by then it was going to be a lot warmer. It was times like that I wished we could wear uniforms made of t-shirts and shorts.

Observer’s Log: Traveldate 40591.105

Day 4

Well, I fell asleep about a third of the way into Predator 2, Chris never woke up (at least not that I saw, anyway). Breakfast was a little unusual this morning, J ate a taco. Strange, very strange. We’re presently on the bus awaiting our departure for the Mercado Shopping Centre where we shall perform for their patrons (oh joy).

About twenty minutes later (following the same route we had traversed several times in the previous few days), we arrived in the rear lot of the Mercado. Dick pulled up next to the walkway, and we got a quick notice to stay on the bus. All except a select few (Sonny, Chris, Paul, Chris Stratten, Dave and myself), who were asked to move the instruments and equipment to the stage. When you are “asked” for such a task, it’s more like an indirect order… you can’t refuse.

Before anyone moved though, Dick burst on to the p.a. system. This was one reason why I was so glad to have this guy as our driver. He told us to look around, if we had the time, and see what the place offered. But he also warned us not to buy anything, as the Mercado was overpriced. Dick then added that we could most likely find that same stuff at the Florida Mall for much less. That was one handy dude to have around.

The six of us moved back out into the rising temperatures to haul stuff to the stage. This was not particularly nice, the heat was getting more intense by the minute, and being in your uniform only made the heat feel that much worse. It took us approximately another twenty minutes (maybe a half hour) to move everything to the centre court of the Mercado and get everything set up.

At the centre, there was a tent erected, for the regular band that played there (I believe it was every Wednesday or something). In the tent rested the equipment that band used. We had to set up around it as we could neither move it or use any of it (the piano would have been welcome). At least the Wind Ensemble and the Jazz Bands wouldn’t need worry about the direct light on them. The choirs however, weren’t so lucky.

The mall was set up in an unusual manner, when compared to other malls that is. There was the open centre court, where we were, and on two sides were sections of the mall. The mall itself resembled more of a labyrinth than a jewel of a capitalist regime. Some stores were located in non-contiguous, indoor, air conditioned areas; others were outside. Go figure, the guy who designed the place must’ve been stoned at the time.

I had to cool off before choir warmed up their vocals, so I disappeared into one of the air conditioned sections immediately next to the court. There was a year-round Christmas store, an electronics store, an automobile oriented shop, gift store, arcade (Chris liked that), a couple other stores (can’t remember what) and a refreshment business. That was where I found a “medium” sized lemonade (after seeing American medium sizes, I know we’re getting ripped off up here). That definitely hit the spot.

By the time I was finished, it was time to warm up (the temperature outside certainly helped). Now Chris was thirsty, but he had no money on him (it was on the bus), so I spotted him a buck for a lemonade. It got him in gear. As we grouped and waited for Stothart to lead us, I noticed some rather nasty skies in the distance, ones that foreboded rain. Naturally, I informed Stothart of my little observation. She didn’t worry about it, but it bothered me, I had no intention of getting wet.

We continued on, our voices were stretched and prepped to their performance best (yeah, right!). In about five minutes, we were just about ready. Then Crewe stole the Wind Ensemble people to get their instruments warmed up for their section of the performance (even though Concert Choir, Jazz Choir, Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo were on before them).

At noon exactly, we moved into our positions on the steps of the stage for our time in the spotlight, that being the sun, which was right over us. I opted not to wear my sunglasses (a really bad move – my eyes are very sensitive to bright light), so I spent the better part of fifteen minutes squinting my eyes. By the time the concert was over (at least for us), my eyes were killing me. Before we began though, I ran my compact up to Mrs. Norcross (who was watching), and asked if she could possibly take pictures.

We started of with that all-time favorite, Ezekiel Saw The Wheel (one of my favorite songs, it was easy to learn, and the guys have thirty-five bars of “Wheel-in-a-wheel”), which was supposed to get us up and runnin’. Then a spirited rendition of True Colours, to which Chris and Ali Etherington had solos. Ali sounded a little nervous (understandable), Chris barely flinched at all. The rest of us sounded okay to me, but singing outdoors does have its disadvantages. The acoustics sucked.

We finished with When The Saints Go Marching In. This was a song that the men did well (and liked) usually, but recently we were getting a tad annoyed at Stothart who kept telling us to sound “black”. For Chris, this was no difficult task. For the rest of us though, we hadn’t the slightest idea what we were supposed to sound like. We also had one other problem…

Mrs. Lamoureux, our usual accompanist (piano), did not come with us. That’s where Jen Rumsey came into play (bad joke, not intentional). Jen did Ezekiel and True Colours, but couldn’t play Saints. So Mrs. Stothart did. So who conducted us? Right, Jen did. Now I’m not saying that Jen can’t conduct (she can do it a lot better than I could), but she did need some practice with the choir as a whole.

Somehow, we managed to hold our own right up until the end. In practice, we usually got this part right. Up to that point in Florida, we had screwed it up. We did it again, the ending was fubared something fierce. Either the audience didn’t notice (which I doubt), or they were overly courteous (which I hope), for they still applauded. I immediately put my shades on once we had finished, and retreated to the shade. Stuart followed suit.

Unfortunately for Chris, Hil, Therese, James, Kathryn, Cindy, Angie and J, they had to stay out in the sun to do their performance as Jazz Choir. I wanted to change, and then come back and watch, but the bus was not there (Dick had to go back to dispatch to pick something up).

Now, the heat must’ve gotten to me at this point, for there is a hazy area in which I do not remember exactly what I did (man, I hate it when this happens – it only reaffirms my belief the God gave me a defective brain, and its warranty has to have expired by now). But I do remember running into Dick in the indoor section right next to the stage. I managed to convince him to open the bus for Stuart and I.

Dick showed me how to open it, with a lever in the dash. Then he warned me not to touch any of the other buttons and whatnot, for I could unpark the bus and send it rolling into something. That would not have been good, so I made sure I knew exactly which switch.

I changed to sneakers, t-shirt, shades, and Ron Jon cap (on backwards). Stuart was done almost as soon and the two of us warped back to the stage area to catch the end of Birdland, one of the Jazz Choir’s songs (Concert Choir could never do anything that complex and make it sound as good!). Once they were done, we all disappeared into the shade once again, where we found Linda (still in uniform).

That’s when many of the choir realized that the bus had returned, and a large troupe of them headed for the bus (I had to follow, or they’d never get in), Chris and Linda being two of them. About half stopped at Bus Two, the rest for Bus One. Once inside, everyone (except me) changed into more comfortable clothes. Dick had wondered about us, why we couldn’t stand being in our uniforms (this was when I had talked him into letting me on the first time). Then I told him a Canadian joke, that it’s always cold in Canada and we’re not used to the heat (an out -and – out lie, but effective nonetheless).

Now this was an interesting situation. Chris changed at the front of the bus, Linda and other females at the back – all at the same time. Mind you, Chris and I acted like the gentlemen we were (right!) and looked in the opposite direction. Something in the back of my mind (probably my partial schizophrenia) told me to look in a mirror, but willpower managed to overcome the urge.

Chris really didn’t seem to care (after all, he did parade around in leopard-skin… uh, that’s another story I don’t think I’ll go into detail), he changed anyway. I wanted to get back to the stage before the Jazz Ensemble finished, I wanted a picture of that too. So I showed Chris which switch to pull (explaining that if he tagged any of the other switches, he might unpark the bus), then sprinted back to the stage.

I made it back in time, and snapped off a shot. Then I went hunting for the people in the indoors. I found James and Stuart quickly enough, in the automobile store. They had found out that the store sells “license plates”, which are made from plastic, and you can have messages put on them. Stuart had one made that read “Zombie” (which for those of you who don’t know, is one of the license plate from the story Graveyard Shift ).

James was going to have a plate that read “Station Wagon From Hell”, but couldn’t fit it into the one line and still have it make some sense. The attendant informed him that the message could be stretched to two lines. To prove it, she brought out a completed plate that read: Telahasteezy Hussein, which is Arabic for: Kiss My Ass Hussein. I liked that plate!

James then disappeared to find Chris, to ask him about the idea. I left the store to see what else there was. The gift shop had all sorts of neat stuff, but I purchased nothing (though the Space Shuttle coin set would have been nice – I collect things like that). I quickly developed another nasty thirst and went over to the refreshment store to snatch another lemonade. That’s where I found Chris. I asked if I could bum a lemonade off him, but then he reminded me that he owed me for one, so we were squared off for that (though he still owes me sixty bucks!).

We didn’t stray much further than a table in the shade. There wasn’t much at the mall, so we decided to take it easy. Soon, Jazz Combo had finished and Wind Ensemble began. I believe they played all three of their pieces, but I can’t remember (mind you, most of this section on the Mercado may be historically incorrect, as I said, my brain was being defective at the time). About halfway through the first piece, we went back into the mall and into the video arcade. Chris was soon engrossed in a game of video boxing.

About twenty minutes or so later, I happened to take a look outside. Everything was gone, all the instruments and the equipment had been packed up and taken to the bus (oops!). Not long after, I was back outside, sitting at the table with Chris. The rest had taken off to other remote parts of the mall to see what other neat things there were. Chris and I talked about something (don’t ask me what it was), changing the subject every so often. When Davidson came by and sat down with us, the subject changed to video games. So we talked about all that fun stuff until the time we had to return to the bus.

Most of the bus had returned by the time we arrived, but not everyone was there. Therese and Stuart were a little late, but the chaperones didn’t seem to care. James was showing off his newest piece in his Coca-Cola collection, namely a Coke watch he had gotten dirt cheap (some twit had marked the wrong price on it). I thought he did rather well considering most of the prices.

Observer’s Log: Supplemental

Well, the Mercado scenario wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, though the choir still managed to screw up “When The Saints Go Marching In”. Other than that, it went real well.

Dick hit the road soon after, and we were booting for the Florida Mall. We had seen it before from the side as we were coming from the airport, so we really had no idea of just how large it was. I had heard through the grapevine that it was one of the largest malls in Florida. We had two and half hours to go through some two hundred stores. No problem, providing you knew what you were looking for. If you didn’t, well that would be problem.

For some of us, it wasn’t too bad. Warren’s bus was going to leave early, so whoever was finished in two and a half hours could go with them. Those who needed more time could catch Dick about an hour later. I immediately opted for the first bus, I wanted to get back to the hotel. We were supposed to be doing something weird that night (go carting, mini-golfing or watching movies), but I wanted a little time to myself first.

So when we arrived, I checked with Chris as to whether or not he was leaving on the early bus or not. He wasn’t, or so he told me. I was immediately by myself. Before leaving the Mercado, we were all given a map of the mall, but I hardly even looked at it. Instead, I hit the mall, and went full circuit, keeping all the stores on my left.

Fortunately, the Florida Mall was all on one level, with no islands. It was basically one long hallway, which can be nice, but also a little boring. Being under the impression that the place was huge, I moved as quickly as possible. I really didn’t need to, that place wasn’t nearly as large as we were led to believe.

I can’t remember every store I went in to, but I do remember the ones where I bought something. The first place of purchase for me was a music store. Before I left, I had two Iron Maiden CD’s, a Tesla CD and an Aerosmith CD. Think this is bad? This is nothing compared to J. He returned to the hotel later that afternoon with, get this, fourteen CD’s. J’s family doesn’t even have a CD player!

I then started looking for Star Trek V, which I had been looking for ever since I got down there. Just a few stores down from the music store was, a video store (WHAT LUCK!). So I shot in there and scanned the whole place for it. I found the rack with Star Trek movies (WHAT A BONANZA!). But I didn’t see number five. So I checked with the clerk. He replied that they had been unable to get it for months (WHAT A BITCH!). So I left the store fuming over my failure. None of the other stores I checked in Florida had the movie in VHS, though two had it in Video 8 format.

Then I started hunting for walkman speakers. I had some from a few years ago, but they had since been sacrificed to the electronics god, and turned into other useful (and useless) things. The next music store (which I was not pleased about finding, I found out I could have saved a couple bucks buying my CD’s there), revealed my speakers, a connecting pair manufactured by Sony, for $11.95. Not bad.

The computer software is really cheap down there too, but I didn’t buy any (I can still get it cheaper up here ’cause I work at a computer store – or I get copies of it). I took note of the packages I was going to have to get my hands on at one point or another.

I must’ve gone from one end of the mall to the other about four or five times in the span of two and a half hours, buying things, looking around (showing strange things to the people I happened to run into from our group) and creating some general mayhem. My last purchase was the newest Calvin and Hobbes book, and an X-Men “novel”, which was a compilation of several comic books.

As I was looking at it James, Therese, Linda and Stuart appeared from out of the blue. I showed the book to James (which was right over TMNT books, which I showed to Therese), thinking that he might buy it, seeing as he loved Wolverine (who is Canadian too, might I add). But James pointed out that Chris would want it more than he did. I agreed with that one, so I bought it for Chris (who was low on cash) as a gift. No real reason, just something I had to do. I had been feeling really generous for most of the trip, and had I given into the feeling, I would not only have been broke by that point, but probably in a heap of trouble for giving gifts to the wrong people for no reason.

After the purchase, I booted up the mall to find Chris. I thought that it might be a little difficult considering the odds of Chris being in the main hall. I guess the odds were in my favour, I found him at the other end, about to disappear into a Kay-Bee toy store. I nailed him inside, I guess he liked the book. Now, knowing that Chris was not going to take the first bus, I should have taken the key from him. Did I? NOOOO. Why not? You’ve got a better chance of finding out why I didn’t ask him.

Anyhoo, I walked (rather slowly) back to the entrance I had come in, I wanted to head back to the bus. Along the way, I bumped into Karl, who was also taking the first bus. The two of us compared our new purchases as we exited the mall and headed for the far end of the parking lot. We quickly realized that we were following Dick and Warren, ‘cept they were more interested in a very odd looking van, I thought it looked like a large hearse.

It wasn’t a hearse after all, at least that’s what Dick and Warren said. It turned out to be a rather strange form of motor home, complete with kitchen, bed and bathroom. And we could see that from the outside. I have to admit, that was one slick piece of machinery.

Karl and I followed Dick and Warren back to the buses, I got onto Dick’s to retrieve my stuff, then hopped over to Warren’s and found a seat near the back with Karl. This gave me a chance to check out my new speakers. Aside from the fact they sounded a little weak (which was understandable considering their size), they were pretty neat.

Karl and I talked about this, that and the udder thing until Geoff Barrett and company came up the way. In a parking lot as big as that one, I could still see Geoff from a long distance, he has one of those rather distinct walking gaits. Geoff, Neil and Jen (I believe that was the complement) got on and took seats back with us.

By that time, our two and a half hours had run out, as had our luck… it began teeming rain. Over the bus’ CB radio a couple minutes later, we could hear that there was a major tie-up on the I-4 (the highway we would eventually have to go on), which was probably due to the weather. Warren shifted the bus into gear and booted around to the main entrance, where the rest of the early group was waiting, plus some.

Chris came on the early bus after all. I had been carrying his X-Men book, Chris didn’t have a bag, and didn’t want to lose it. Emily also came, though she might have been with the early group to begin with. Davidson, Bird and maybe another chaperone or two got on as well, then we were on our way home.

Before we even left the parking lot, Emily challenged Chris to a game of cards (I don’t know what game, though I suspect it was Flash). Chris has not yet turned a challenge down that has been presented to him, at least not that I know of. I didn’t pay any attention to the game, I was more interested in listening to AC/DC.

By the time we had returned to the hotel, about a half hour later, the rain had stopped and the sun come out. Now it was not only hot, but humid. This is not a nice way to move around. Before leaving the bus for our room, the representatives of Bus Two made a presentation of some cash to Warren for his trouble. Everyone applauded, even those on Bus One.

Once I was back to the room, I began to view with close scrutiny what I had purchased. I finally got a good look at my new CD’s, and then began to read Revenge Of The Baby Sat (The new Calvin and Hobbes book). It was then that I learned the true meaning of the word “FINE”. To most people, it means “agreeable, being in an okay condition.” To Aerosmith it means: “Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional”. I like Aerosmith’s definition better, I not only related to it, but it made more sense.

I was not feeling well at that time, I was contemplating my activities for the next day or so. I knew that the following day was the day of the Orange Blossom Festival. That afternoon, we were supposed to go to Wet ‘n’ Wild and have some totally awesome fun. That night, a barbeque and dance.

When I first heard about the dance, I thought it was somewhere near our hotel. That meant I could stay back, and not go. I HATE dances, I avoid them whenever possible. When I found out it was at Wet ‘n’ Wild, I was not at all pleased. I wanted to go to Wet ‘n’ Wild, but I wanted to avoid the dance. This left me in an awkward position.

This also left me feeling down right miserable. It would most likely mean that while everyone was partying, I was going to have to go off to some corner and sulk (or something to that effect) for about three or four hours. I really didn’t know what to expect.

About a half hour later (while I was in the room hunting for something), Geoff came up wondering if he could borrow my frisbee. I tossed it to him, he marveled at the construction (I got it at Canada’s Wonderland for winning some game) and then tossed it back, inviting me (he had no-one else to play with).

So we went down to the grassy area and tossed it around. Soon Neil appeared on the scene. Then Karl, another guy whose name I really didn’t know, and finally Jen. The six of us tossed it around as best we could for about ten minutes (almost tackling each other trying to get a hold of it) until someone mentioned playing frisbee football. This was a good idea.

I booted up to our room (getting the key from Chris), grabbed my shoes and booted back down. Then began what has got to be one of the shortest games on record. Neil, Karl and myself were on one team; Geoff, Jen and this other guy on the other side. One goal was this post at one end, the other goal a tree at our end. Geoff’s side got the frisbee first (the other side, not mine).

Then it was passed from side to side for about five minutes, with everyone dropping it, tossing, flipping it, knocking, falling over it, falling on it, and catching it. Then, at their end, Neil managed to toss the frisbee to me (who just happened to be standing right next to the goal post) and scored a goal, the only goal.

We were just getting started into the next round when my frisbee shot to Karl was intercepted by Jen. I tried to rush her and get it back, but she tossed it to the dude-who-I-don’t-know. So I tried to knock it from his hand. I did, and both of us scrambled for it. I forgot to inform the others about a small crack in the frisbee, so when the two of us got a decent grip, it split in half, ending the game. I burst out laughing, don’t ask me why.

By that time, most of us were really hot. I whipped up to the room (getting the key from Chris), changed into my bathing suit, and whipped down to the pool and plunged right in. The temptation to make a cannonball was enormous, but I make a big splash, and I didn’t want to get everyone wet. The water was a bit chilly, but most refreshing.

I hopped to the side (noticing that some strange girl was watching me, for what reason I don’t know – HONEST!), tightened the string in my suit and tried to do some lengths. I didn’t get too far though, my bangs were so long I couldn’t see where I was going. So I gave up, dried off and went back to the room.

By this time, the other bus had returned, and we would soon be heading out for dinner to be back in time for activities. Then disaster struck. I found out that curfew had been lowered to 21:00, instead of 23:00 or 23:30, because Dick had informed the others just how long it was going to take us to get there. This meant we were going to have to get up earlier. The night’s activities were prematurely canceled.

So we slowed down to a crawl. There was no reason to hurry for dinner, we had a lot more time to get our food and get back. Half an hour later, we found out that curfew had been raised again, and we didn’t have to be back on the bus as early as we had been told. This also meant that the night’s activities had been reinstated to 22:00. It also meant we had about forty minutes to find dinner.

Our group opted to skip minigolf and the go carts, and watch Dances With Wolves in the ladies’ room (not as in washroom, but the room in which Therese, Linda, Kathryn, Hil and Ali were living for the five day stay) at 20:00. So we set out to find food. The first place on our mind was Morrison’s Cafeteria, in the Osceola Mall (the mall diagonal to our hotel).

Along the way, James and Stuart took off to Walmart to return their defective waterguns. Therese, Linda, Kathryn and I quickly realized that the lineup was too long, we wouldn’t get out fast enough. The decision was made to find another place to eat. While Kathryn and Therese went to see if they could get us seating at either the Sizzler or Red Lobster, Linda and I went to find James and Stuart at Walmart.

Sure enough, they were annoying the customer service clerk, demanding their $1.23 (whatever!) for their guns. Five minutes after Linda and I appeared, they had their money, and we were on our way. Linda suggested picking up some more Coke and Pepsi for the movie that night, but I mentioned that the chances of getting through all of it were slim.

So we headed for the crosswalk to get to the other side (just like the chicken, HA! I KILL ME!) and find Therese, Kathryn and hopefully Chris (who should’ve joined them by now). As we walked up the parking lot, James and Stuart joked constantly (“That’s a fargin’ trick question!”). Then Linda stopped without warning. Turning around, we saw Ali Etherington following up. I didn’t hear her, but Linda did. That gave me the creeps.

Naturally, we invited Ali to join us for dinner, and she did. When we got to the other side, we immediately checked Red Lobster. The line was long, and we couldn’t see them. I hopped out to check at the Sizzler when I noticed Kathryn, Therese and Chris talking further down the sidewalk. I hopped back into the restaurant, pulled the others out and went down to Chris, Kathryn and Therese.

They had zilch for luck, every place they had tried had long waiting list. Then, from across the road, a single sign stuck out like a lighthouse beam on a dark, foggy night. We had forgotten about Friendly’s. Stuart, Chris and James took off, across four lanes of traffic, to find out what the situation was. They had seats.

Next, it was our turn. I for one was not up to running across the road, I didn’t feel like changing my profession to “road pancake” that night. Not only that, my hip was bothering me, making it difficult to walk (why it was doing that I have no idea). At first, we all walked down a ways (heading for the cross-walk), but when the road cleared, I was abandoned. So I made a quick hobble after my friends.

Soon, we had two tables of four, side by side. Linda, James, Chris and I sat on one side; Therese, Kathryn, Stuart and Ali sat on the other. We immediately began to view our menus, trying to decide on what things we were going to munch on. I felt like a steak that night, but Friendly’s doesn’t have that sort of thing on their menu.

While we waited for our orders to be taken, James and Chris tried to see who could get the Triangle Solitaire down to one peg. James was the only one who succeeded on our side (I think Kathryn pulled it off on the other, though I’m not 100% sure – call the day a write-off for my brain, it wasn’t working too well).

Just about everyone at our table o’ eight ended up with a SuperMelt (which is a special kind of sandwich). Call it a hunch, but this may have most likely been because there was a special on with the SuperMelts, you got a free sundae with the order. So when our waitress came, she got a rather heavy order.

At first, she was going to put all our separate orders on one bill. From past experience however, we knew better. So Linda asked for separate bills. When this happened, the waitress muttered: “Just great!” under her breath as she retrieved seven more bills. Incidentally, this was how Friendly’s kept track of what you ordered, it was immediately scribbled down on one of these bills.

I thought that our servant was going to be one of these people who were basically crabby most of the time, from what we had seen to that point, she fit the bill. Luckily for us, it was an act of sort, she turned out to be a lot like Dick, cracking jokes here and there.

A few minutes after ordering, we had the drinks we had ordered, and I had my chicken soup (I had a craving for a lot to eat – I actually missed lunch!). Then Chris noticed that Emily was sitting not far from us. He tried to order a slice of lemon to Emily’s table, but without success. So he “borrowed” the slice that was in Linda’s iced tea.

Chris sauntered over to Em’s table, and donate the citrus portion to Emily. Emily promptly picked it up, wound up, and let it fly at Chris. However, she should have used a toothpick, for she missed most horribly. Chris didn’t move a muscle. He burst out laughing, then returned to his seat.

The comedy was not yet over. This was now James’ turn in the spotlight of humility (not to be derogatory or anything – I’m not that cruel). James had picked up the Heinz’s ketchup bottle, and having noticed that there was water in the mixture, promptly shook it up to restore the condiment to its normal state. One other thing I should note – he had tightened the lid before (gee, could this be a hint?)

Having finished that task, James promptly began to wing the bottle back and forth by the base. I think he may have pitched it a little too hard, for the lid came off. By this time, there was also a lot of ketchup near the top of the bottle, and the centrifugal force more or less emptied nearly a third of it (fortunately, Heinz makes thick ketchup).

At first, all I saw was a large blob of red stuff on the table. Then I saw it on some of the special ads, the side of James’ head and on the dessert list. Then it was reported to be on Chris’ shirt and on his shorts (on his right side, I couldn’t see it at first). Chris had picked a bad day to wear all white. Not finished! James’ nice fling had also landed a large blob of reconditioned tomato paste in the next booth up from us, not only on the seat but a large splat on the floor, looking much like the one under James and Linda.

Now I’m finished, at least with the targets. Most of the ketchup was cleaned in short order. Even the seat in the next booth. However, before anything could be done about the floor, a family moved in to eat. James is one lucky person, the patron who sat above the ketchup blob was a three-foot tall kid whose feet never hit the ground. Slid in, slid out. It took Kathryn approximately, oh say, ten minutes or so to calm down and stop laughing. Kathryn, so I’ve noticed, laughs at strange things. When she sees something that is really funny, it’s almost impossible to get her to calm down (Kathryn giggles profusely when trying to suppress laughing).

The waitress never saw this (thank God), but seemed to be puzzled when Kathryn kept giggling at James. Our meals arrived about ten minutes after 20:00, which meant it was too late to watch “Dances With Wolves”. So we took our time, there was no great rush for us. Although our SuperMelt sandwiches looked small, they were rather filling (must’ve been the bread).

Linda had ordered a shot of onion rings (most of us had French fries with the SuperMelts), but few of us were crazy enough to have one when the were offered to us. Linda has a nasty habit of drowning these kinds of things in vinegar. When she was finished, there was a small pool of sludge from the vinegar. I was kind of surprised that she didn’t drink it.

After our main course was finished, our foxy waitress returned again, to take orders for the sundaes. Remembering what chocolate does to me, and the fact that no amount of sugar could ever reverse my depression (yes, I was feeling a little blah that night), I had vanilla ice cream… with hot fudge and nuts (okay, so I can’t completely avoid the things I love).

My sundae lasted all of about three minutes. I have freaked a few people out with my speed of eating ice cream (point in case: one night at the local Kelsey’s, eating a fudge fantasy with about half the table of over ten watching me). It didn’t take long for us to finished off our ice cream treats. We hopped up to the register to pay for our meals and proceeded out into the cool night air.

Upon returning to the hotel, everyone split off in separate directions. We had about an hour and a half until curfew hit, so I did the only thing that came to mind… (assuming you haven’t already guessed) I sat out on the walkway listening to music. Yet I didn’t get into the music, as I usually did. Normally, I would let the sounds envelop me completely. I had to actually concentrate on them this time.

I knew what it was, and I had but one option in order to keep myself from slipping any further into the pits of grief and despair. I had to renounce any and all hopes for relationships. I said “FUCK IT!” to the part of my psyche that always nags me about being single (“How many girls called you today?… “). It didn’t make me feel all that much better, but at least I could get into the music again.

A little while after, Chris came up to the room (I was momentarily inside) with a look of shock. He looked at me, then dared me to guess what had happened. It seemed that Angie had just kissed him. At first I didn’t know what to make of it, then Chris added that the room he had just been in was playing Truth, Dare, Double Dare. Then I understood. Only I thought it seemed a weak dare. Heck, all the other times I’ve played (which incidentally can never be printed), we’ve gone well beyond that.

Observer’s Log: Second Supplemental

The Florida Mall was large, but not as large as Square One. Nevertheless, I picked up a few good deals, not to mention a pair of walkman speakers. But even though I was in the States, I could not find Star Trek V movie, Vinx or the Was (Not Was) albums. What a bitch! I finally ventured out to dinner tonight (shortly after learning curfew had been bumped down to 21:00, then 22:00), it took us almost 45 minutes to find our meals – at Friendly’s. James made a ketchup bottle blow up, and Chris narrowly missed getting hit by a piece of lemon. I’ve finally said “fuck it” to relationships, I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer want one – period! As for the dance tomorrow night, I ain’t goin’ if I can help it!

I stayed like that up to roughly curfew (if what little memory I seem to have is correct), when I had to move back into the room. At 22:00, as James had mentioned earlier that day, HBO began their presentation of “I’m Gonna Get You Sucka!”, a black comedy – and I stress black. I think there’s only two or three whites in the whole film (one being Jan from the Brady Bunch).

I had seen this movie before, and it was funny then. James found it whimsical (UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE MILLENNIA!), laughed his ass off for most of the movie. I can’t say that James was the only one laughing, the five of us were almost uncontrollable in a couple parts of the movie. But none so bad as when one of the main characters is in an argument with another lead character. One of them blurts:

“Pardon fuckin’ me!”

We lost James for a couple of minutes, he couldn’t stop laughing. The rest of us tried to figure out what was so funny. It was said with such nonchalance, it completely caught us off guard.

When the movie finally ended, we killed the lights and settled down for our last decent sleep in Florida. The next day was the reason we were there, to sing (and be merry) and hopefully win a few awards (another understatement – to be explained later on). Little did we know how much of a long day we had before us…

Let me rephrase that. J and I tried to settle down for the night (J was the only successful one). Chris, Stuart and James were more interested in resurrecting Earl . At first, it was humourous, but the hilarity quickly changed to an annoyance. None of them would shut up, they just came up with more and more suggestions which seemed to get funnier and funnier (at least to them) as they went along. I made two suggestions to them.

The first was early on, one that followed the same route that they were taking. It was a title for a movie, Bunny Trek II – The Wrath Of Earl. The next suggestion put an end to their discussion, right after James said that they should right some of their ideas down. I replied: “Good! Do it tomorrow morning!!” Then I got to sleep.

Music Trip to Orlando, Visit to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center

A Dream…

I sat alone, on an endless beach, the sun setting far away in the horizon. The sky was painted a myriad of hues of orange, red and yellow. The waves washed in slowly, creating the soothing swish that had lulled me to sleep as a child. From down the beach, I could see a lone figure, walking in my direction.

The figure was female, though I couldn’t see her at all in the setting sun. As she drew closer, her features came into view. Her hair long and brown; body full figured; wearing a one-piece, solid black bathing suit. She looked familiar, yet totally strange. At once I knew her, and forgot her.

She sat down next to me, and did not say a word. She just stared at me. I stared at her. Somehow, we were locked completely. She leaned closer, and whispered something in my ear. Then she rose from her seat, winked at me, and then walked into the distance.

I felt unusually warm, actually, quite hot. That simple encounter had let loose every hormone in my body. My chest felt aflame. I looked down, and it was glowing red. I could feel fire licking up my throat, the intense heat cooking me from the inside out (… thou shalt not kill… ), smoke emanated from my mouth and nose (… thou shalt not lie… ), and then I was swooped up by a… VAMPIRE!?

I opened my eyes and glanced towards the door. Yes, I was awake, and hearing The Lost Boys. I shifted my head to glance towards the television. Some idiot had left it on, and I was watching The Lost Boys. Before I made any action though, I checked to see if the others were awake. James, Stuart and J were all out like lights. I checked the clock, 5:03.

Then I turned towards Chris. He was wide awake, watching the movie. This caught me slightly off guard, but then I remembered that he is prone to these things, pulling all-nighters for no apparent reason. He told me of two other movies he had seen earlier (which really sucked), and I went back to bed.

When I re-awoke later that morning (somewhere between 6:00 and 7:00), Chris had shifted his position to the outside, where he had taken one of our chairs. Then we all got our butts in gear, getting ready to move out for breakfast (which I really needed again). Once the bulk of us were ready, we headed down to the Sizzler for breakfast.

I hadn’t had a buffet breakfast for a long time, and this was a welcome change. This place had just about anything you could think of in the way of breakfast food, even some stuff that you couldn’t. After paying for the meal (all we could eat – J was the only one who ever really got his money’s worth), we raided the food area. I believe in the “don’t bother with the return trip – get it all the first time” method. So I basically heaped eggs, bacon, hash browns and a few other things onto my plate.

Once I was finished, I waited a few minutes, then hauled my stuff up (it was getting close to 8:15, the time we had to be at the bus so we could leave) and headed out. The others weren’t far behind though, no-one wanted to eat too much that morning. The buses were there when I returned to the hotel, and so was Dick. Yes folks, the dude had returned!

We boarded the buses and by about 8:30 or so, were ready to roll out. I sat alone that day, near the front of the bus. So long as we traveled on those Grey Line buses from the time we left Disney World until I arrived at home, I sat alone. It’s really hard to say whether or not it’s good being alone. It’s nice in the evening for me, but during the day, it ain’t so good.

Observer’s Log: Traveldate 40491.085

Day 3

Soon we will be on our way to Cape Kennedy, brings back memories of “Space, the final frontier… “, not that I’d forgotten them. Following that, we are supposed to head off to Cocoa Beach, I hope it warms up a lot!

Chris was up all night watching movies on tv (HBO). At about 5 a.m. I entered the world of the awakened for a few moments when I heard parts of “The Lost Boys”.

Then we began our long trek to the East coast of Florida. Being in Orlando can be neat (depending on where your hotel happens to be located – ours was no exactly in an “ideal” location), but it is a real pain the ass when you have to travel to either of the coasts. It’s a long trip, and just about nothing in between. And if you think I’m just guessing about Orlando to West coast to justify my point, we traveled it too!

Anyway, I had purposely brought a few tapes with me to listen to, so I wouldn’t get bored. I remembered the trip vaguely from my first trip to Florida (eleven years ago), the Bee Line Express stood out in my mind, but the trip hadn’t seemed so long. Then again, I was sitting alone on the bus listening to music, not engaged in any conversation with anyone (aside from myself, being partially schizoid does have its advantages).

I won’t bother recreating any of the events on the way to KSC (mainly because I don’t remember any – and if I did, there would be too many to tell and this would be real tedious), but somewhere around 10 to 10:15, we approached a rather long bridge across the Indian River. From the top, way off in the distance, I could see the immense structure known as the Vertical Assembly Building. I reached for a cassette sitting in my camera bag.

Ground Control to Major Tom…
Ground Control to Major Tom…
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on.

If you haven’t already recognized it, these are the first three lines to Space Oddity, by David Bowie. This is one of my favorite songs, for several reasons. Had I a copy of the Star Trek theme, I probably would have played that too. We soon found ourselves passing by unused (or replica) rockets from the early years of spaceflight. Canals on either side of the road quickly appeared, one with an alligator (Emily was almost instantly on that side to take a picture).

Seconds later, we were turning into Spaceport USA’s parking lot. Dick pulled into a spot and we came to a halt. Then Beber got off the bus to smoke up (that long without nicotine must have been torture – poor soul!), Kathryn followed her. No, Kathryn does not smoke, no-one in our group did. We didn’t drink either for that matter. But please, do not call us “goodie-goodies”, it just does not fit our attitudes. The only reason Kathryn left the bus was that she gets motion sickness, and she needed some fresh air.

Finally, after another long wait, our tour guide returned with instructions. We had to be at Loading Area ‘A’ at 11:00 (which was in about 15-20 minutes), but we could go gift shopping or looking around until that time. Remembering that my sister wanted some dehydrated ice cream, I booted over to the gift shop following James and Stuart.

I couldn’t remember the gift shop from the last time I was there, but it wouldn’t have helped anyway. After all, things usually change after eleven years. The place was crowded, yet the only thing in stock they seemed to be running out of was film. James and Stuart kept finding strange and unusual things, I found the ice cream (and strawberries and stew and…) but for the moment, didn’t buy anything.

Instead, I donned my shades once more, and headed for the shuttle we had seen on the way in. At first, I thought it was the U.S.S. Enterprise (not the one from Star Trek, but the original prototype space shuttle they used for flight tests!), I found out it was the Ambassador, a replica. That was depressing. It wasn’t even real. But I took a picture of it anyway, I had to.

Then I turned my attention to the forest of rockets that were all around me at that point. Some of them I knew from memory, a couple had their names printed right on them. I only took pictures of three rockets (not including the multiple shots of the segmented Saturn V we saw later on): an Atlas-Agena, the Ambassador, and a Saturn 1B rocket. That’s where I found Stothart. I went over to ask her a question about something (a men’s sectional if I remember correctly), and the two of us headed over to the Apollo Gantry.

The Gantry looks much like the real one (for obvious reasons), and has an exact replica of the Apollo capsule at the other end. Stothart was almost shocked when she found out how little room the astronauts had to move around in. I wasn’t even fazed, mainly because I knew most of this stuff from my early years of grade school.

By that point, our time was running out, and I proceeded to the loading area for our tour bus. The tour buses at KSC are really cool double deckers (I wish Oakville would adopt a couple for bus routes!), and a run by a company contracted by NASA to run tours, they’re not even government affiliated. Now that is most reassuring!

Eventually, the group all arrived for the tour. At first, I thought we would have a bus to ourselves. I quickly noticed that even our two buses couldn’t fill this one. We had other people on our bus too, who weren’t with us. I honestly thought this would lead to confusion… it did.

Our bus was soon loaded (Chris and I sat in the back seats of the upper level), and we headed out on the road. A semi- automated, pre-recorded speech soon came over the p.a. system (with periodic breaks by the driver) giving us the low-down on what we were seeing. I really didn’t know what to make of it myself, I had seen it before (at least, I think I did).

Our first stop was at the Astronaut Training Center, now a tour stop. The first room of the building contained an actual Apollo capsule (with both Command Module and Service Module – mated) and the Lunar Module (also with both Descent and Ascent stages). This was somewhat interesting, but to me, was a rerun of facts I already knew. For others, it may have been interesting, but I didn’t bother to ask.

Then we moved into the next room, which was a perfect mock- up of launch control. We were to witness the launch of Apollo 11 (one of those missions at any rate) from our balconies. It would have made more of an impact had there been people working the consoles though. Instead, we watched the progress on two large video screens.

Here’s a funny thing I noticed that day. Ever since I first listened to Space Oddity that morning, I had felt unexplainably saddened. During the presentation, I nearly broke down in tears. As much as I dislike Americans (though there are some rather strong oppositions, such as Dick), the flights and plights of the astronauts seemed to get me rather upset. To this day, they still do.

Following the presentation, it was back outside into the sweltering heat (which we hoped would hold out until we were at the beach) and onto a new bus. There was a weird rotation at the Center, our first bus was shifted to the end of the line, and we had to take the first bus in line, as we were all in group ‘A’. This time, Chris and I did not get in the top. We had to settle for the bottom, I was stuck with the aisle chair. This made taking pictures a little difficult (shooting through window glare isn’t easy).

We turned a corner and for a little while, double backed on the route we had just taken. Then we turned up another road, and headed north, towards the VAB. About halfway up the road (which was about six miles long), the driver interrupted the pre-recorded speech and told us to look at the VAB, which we could now see. Then he told us we were still three miles away. It still looked huge.

We shot right by it, and continued up the road. Some distance up, we turned down off the main route and down another, smaller, road. This took us to the runway at KSC. That’s no short runway, let me tell you. ‘Course, the shuttle has no reverse thrust when it lands, and the 747 that piggybacks the shuttle from California needs a longer runway as it’s much heavier with that thing on its back.

We buzzed through that place (didn’t get off), and headed back out to the main road. Then we double backed on our route again. This time, we turned at the VAB (about where the Crawler was supposed to be, but our driver informed us that the recording was wrong that day, the Crawler was parked elsewhere). Again, we passed the VAB, again on our right side (the only side we passed it on). On the left, just for humour’s sake, were a line of liquid hydrogen railway cars, on which was printed:

DO NOT HUMP

I can’t help it, this has to be said! Any male stupid enough to hump one of them (and believe me there are those who are not only stupid enough, but desperate enough – fortunately I don’t know any) would get their dick frozen off. It’s crude, I know, but it’s also built into my genes, I can’t help it!


[Ed. Note: It wasn’t until years later that I realised what this meant. It’s a railroading term. Basically, it means the car should never be sent through a hump yard (where trains are broken-up and reformed), as the impact of the car when it connects with another could cause an explosion.]

ANYWAY, we followed the Crawlerway until we were a mile from Pad 39B, where Discovery was prepped for launch the following day (that cheesed me off, why couldn’t we go the day after and catch the launch?). That was where the other crawler was. PIT STOP! Most of the people on our bus piled off to take pictures. I took on of the crawler, one of the shuttle way off in the distance, another with Mr. Davidson’s telephoto lens (one of James with the telephoto lens), and one of Roser, Crewe, Bird and Davidson. Then I got back on the bus and sat down next to Chris.

Chris is one of a small group of people who can fall asleep on buses. I hate sleeping on anything that moves on the road, but I too get very drowsy. But if you also remember, Chris was up all the night before, so this probably compounded the problem.

After all had returned, we moved out once again, doubling back on the route. This time, we stopped just next to the VAB, and a segmented Saturn V rocket. I took a picture of the VAB, but it still looks unproportional. What I mean is, I need a person standing on some section of it to put it in perspective. I did that with the Saturn V though. I had Therese stand at the engine end. Why Therese? Be damned if I know, that’s how strangely my mind works. To use a euphemism, my right side of the brain didn’t know what my left was doing (or vice versa). Anyway, Therese only stood about one tenth to one eighth of the width of the base. I didn’t bother with height.

I whipped around the rocket, taking pictures here and there, and was about to head back to the bus before I was blinded (I left my glasses in the bus) when I caught hold of a sign that gave all the specs for the rocket. The last line read:

Explosive Potential: 453,600 kgs. (1,000,000 lbs.) of TNT.

How’s that for a firecracker?

Chris was still on the bus, seconds away from dropping off. People began to return, one by one until the bus’ complement was full once more. Just before we left that area, the driver let us in on a couple facts on the VAB. Each of those stars on the American flag? Six feet tall. Each of the stripes could run one of the tour buses down the middle and still have nine inches on either side. Then he told us of an American Bald Eagle nest near the south entrance to KSC. According to the driver, it weighed some 43 pounds. We did see it, when Dick hauled us out to Cocoa Beach. That thing was huge.

We returned to Spaceport not long after that, we had about fifteen minutes to do whatever before we had to go back to the bus. I was in need of film, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get any before we got to the beach. I made a beeline for the gift shop. I bought a shirt while I was there too, I liked the way it looked. It turned out that I didn’t need the film, I only used two rolls the entire time I was there.

Upon returning to the bus, no-one had arrived. Roser showed up about a minute after myself, and opened the bus (I kept watch as to how he did it, for future reference). Dick was in Warren’s bus, and when he saw us get on ours, returned to get it started. Dick was never bothered with other people opening his bus, if he was her certainly never showed it.

Observer’s Log: Supplemental

We just finished a somewhat interesting tour of KSC, I finally got a hold of a roll o’ film (which I really needed). We’re due to boot out to Cocoa Beach soon – lunch, sun & Ron Jon’s Surf Shop.

After a few stragglers finally made it back, Dick shifted the bus in gear, and headed back out to the main road. Dick had mentioned that he had made this trip several times, we had nothing to worry about. Warren managed to out drive Dick a little, but getting in front of us. I didn’t care, somewhere in the back of my mind I kept thinking that Warren was going to get them lost. He didn’t as it turned out.

I couldn’t remember how far it was to Cocoa Beach from KSC, but we had to traverse most of Cape Kennedy before arriving in the town of Cocoa Beach. As soon as we saw the sign that announced our arrival, about half the bus immediately started scanning for the Ron Jon Surf Shop. We had made plans to go there long before the trip to Florida was even paid for. Mind you, plans were also made to go to Daytona Beach and the Hard Rock Cafe, but we didn’t get there.

Turning corner after corner, Warren’s bus finally came into view pulling into a parking lot. From there, we could see the mondo huge waves makin’ totally awesome surfing conditions. Bummer dude, I can’t use a board! Dick followed Warren in, and then beat him to a parking spot.

Before we went anywhere, we checked out the location of Ron Jon’s. About a block away rose the sign, like a beacon to the temple of surfing worship, a light shining through the dimness that surrounds we Canadians, as it is so hard to surf on Lake Ontario.

However, food took precedence. We were starving. Food will take precedence over just about anything, there is only one thing I can think of that would make me forget food. Just what is this one thing? Use your imagination, it ain’t too difficult to figure out!

We zipped by the front of Ron Jon’s, but did not go in yet. First, we snagged lunch at the local Raunchy Ron’s. I’ll say one thing for America, their food is generally cheaper than in Canada. One good reason for moving! Although it took a while, we finally got our lunch. Then anticipation set in.

It took us some time to get over to Ron Jon’s, we had to wait for a few people to get themselves all cleaned up (I shall neither mention name or sex). Chris and I stood out front with Janet Bachelor, just staring at the shrine that lay across the road diagonally from us. Jan kept Chris and I from kneeling down and praying to the place, she couldn’t understand all the fuss we were making (as young minds seldom do).

About ten minutes later, our chance with destiny had arrived, we were standing in the doorway of heaven on Earth. We reveled in the glory, then made a break for the clothes. I’m not sure how long we actually spent in there, the opulence made time completely meaningless to us.

James had his heart set on one particular shirt, but could not find it anywhere. His hopes and dreams were dashed on the rocks of suffering, thwarted by some stupid manager who thought the shirt was out of style. Somewhere, someone was having a cruel laugh.

Everyone was everywhere in that place. Somewhere in the span of two hours (give or take fifteen minutes), I ended up with two shirts (one for my sister), a pull over, keychain and hat. This stuff alone came out to $64. But it was $64 of pleasure, and I loved every penny of it!

Finally Linda, Jan and I had enough (for now), and wanted to get to the beach before the sun set (or we had to leave, whichever came first). I needed to make a quick stop at the bus to drop my newly bought booty off, and head off only with the bare necessities (towel, camera, shoes, shorts and t-shirt).

This is where my abilities as The Observer came in. Remembering what Mr. Roser had done earlier (Dick was not around, nor was Warren), I went to the fuel hatch near the door. Opening it, I peered inside to see what Roser had pushed. Sure enough, a small silver button lay just to the side of the fuel cap. To myself I thought: “This is either a self destruct button, or it opens the door!”

I pressed it anyway, and a swishing opening of the door let me know that it was not a self destruct button. The three of us climbed in, only to realize that it was Bus Two, not Bus One. We got back out, I closed the door and went to the bus immediately next to it. I opened the door to that one, and this time got it right. Two minutes later, we were on the beach.

Five minutes following that, I was working my way into the Atlantic Ocean. My Speedo must have adjusted to me once again (I had been wearing them all day), for I received no shock from them. The water took a bit to get used to, but then it was COWABUNGA DUDES!

Several people from our group were out there (Jen, Neil, Geoff, Kara, etc.), most of us were trying to body surf, only most of them were too far out and catching the wave wrong. I hadn’t body surfed in about five years, but it’s like riding a bicycle (not only don’t you forget, but you wipe out a lot too).

Half an hour and ten kilos of salt later, I emerged from the ocean to find only a couple people in the group I had sat down with left. Chris and James had still not appeared, they were taking their sweet time. So for a little while, I took time out to dry off.

Chris and James appeared not long after I was mostly dry (not mostly dead Hil, mostly dry!), having come from one end of the beach, making sure they took long, hard looks at people sunning on the beach, just to make sure they weren’t in our group. I wished I had hung behind and gone with them.

I decided almost immediately after that it was time to take a few pictures. I whipped out my camera and began my hunt. I got one of Chris; one of Chris Stratten, Paul and Andy; one of Hil and Shawn (boyfriend and girlfriend by this point incidentally); one of Roser flat out on his back with his shirt still on (the guy must not be able to relax!); Davidson fell victim to my shutter too. Once I returned to my towel (and friends), I took a picture of Linda, about two feet from her head. When she saw the photo later on, she hated it, but I knew that if I had asked, I never would have been able to take the picture.

Then came the two hardest photos I have ever taken. Kathryn is the hardest person I know to take a picture of. Every time she sees a camera, she hides her face. I don’t know why, she looks rather pretty to me. This took careful planning. I focused on her body with the camera up, the dropped it and waited for her to look up. Then I took the picture. I’m surprised that she didn’t want to kill me.

Finally, was Therese. Stuart was out cold, so I didn’t want to bother him. Therese was almost as bad. But once again, bullshit paid off. The angle I was taking the picture at almost had the sun right behind Therese, looking not quite down the lens. So I explained to Therese that she would simply turn out as a silhouette. This wasn’t entirely true, there was too much light for that, and the angle didn’t have the sun coming straight on. The image I ended up with made me feel like a good photographer, even though it was the wind that made Therese look so “modelish” in the picture.

Immediately, I took the camera back to the bus, before it was irreparably damaged by sand (even though, I still managed to get something in the camera, a couple parts got gummed up with something). When I returned, most of the female population had disappeared. They had gone for a walk down the beach. It was then I noticed for myself that it was getting a little cool. Not only a little, but increasingly cooler. This made the humidity stick to us like glue, making us feel rather sticky.

I only spent about another fifteen minutes on the beach before I went back to the bus to get out of the coolness and stickiness, it was too much for me. Several other people had already concocted the same idea, and were already on the bus. Warren’s nap was unfortunately interrupted, he retreated back to his own bus.

I looked out my window, back towards the beach, waiting for the women to return. I needed to talk to Therese about a particular someone, and preferably before the bus left (and Stuart came back, and I say this only because I don’t want to make him mad at me for talking to Therese about things like that). When I did finally catch sight of the missing females, I booted out to the beach before Therese disappeared again.

Before I got much out, she had me viewing her seashell collection. Only three of the bunch were in perfect condition. Therese liked shells with deformities (she’s weird like that), and most of them did have something odd about them.

I got my request in, and she agreed to hear me out. This was nothing to do with Therese herself, but I had to ask her. Why? Several reasons. I was asking about one particular female on the trip, and I knew that Therese was a good person to ask for information (I knew this from long talks long before the trip ever began). I was informed that asking out this particular person was not a wise idea at that point in time. I could feel my heart slip a notch, I needed someone to care for then.

So I returned to the bus in defeat, taking my seat, brushing the sand from my feet (HEY! I’m a poet, and don’t know it!). About five minutes later, the population of the bus had returned to its normal number, the head count made, and we rolled out. It was now somewhere around 18:00, and the sun was setting quickly. It would be dark before we got back to the hotel.

Observer’s Log: Second Supplemental

It’s not easy to be an unbiased observer, as I was in the Soviet Union, when you’re emotionally hung up. The Ron Jon Surf Shop was unofficially declared a shrine of worship by Chris and I. The beach was dotted with groups of our people, most of the women wearing rather skimpy outfits (one reason I’m glad I’m single – actually, it’s the only reason).

It wasn’t long before Dick hit the highway and put the accelerator to the floor. The signs on the highway read a maximum of sixty-five miles an hour, but I’ll be a march hare in a den of hungry wolves if we actually did sixty-five, probably more like seventy.

HELLS BELLS!

YOU GOT ME RINGING…

HELLS BELLS!

I listened almost solely to one tape while in Florida. One side was a compilation of the AC/DC albums “Who Made Who” and “The Razor’s Edge”. The other side was Sting’s newest album, “The Soul Cages”. I really love that album, Sting did a wicked job on it. Anyway, I was listening to AC/DC on the way back to the hotel, so I could stay awake (which doesn’t always work, even that seems to make me drowsy – go figure!).

About forty-five minutes or so later (and a substantial distance from Bus Two), we pulled into the parking lot of our Days Inn. We booted up to our room o’ five, returned the stuff we had brought with us that day, and picked up stuff we needed for dinner (like money!). Then we headed out for some grub.

I picked either a bad night or a bad time, for I only made it as far as the Red Lobster just down the road. When we arrived, the place was packed, and there was a forty minute wait for a table. I lost my appetite at that point, I didn’t feel like eating. The others tried to get me to come, but I had to turn them down, I really didn’t feel sociable at that point.

I returned to the hotel room, passing Chris and James along the way (they had been taking their time) and got the key. Once I was there, I checked the time (we had a men’s sectional at 21:00, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t go too long listening to music), grabbed a chair and my walkman. Then I took my place out on the balcony and listened to music. It was then I noticed that the room beside us had suddenly lost its vacant status.

We had neighbours, and they weren’t from our group. This meant that we had to keep our activities down to a dull roar, so we wouldn’t have any complaints (not that we hadn’t received any already – we could be really noisy). The rooms were soundproof enough, but the walkways weren’t.

I paid no attention to them, I was more interested in relaxing. Sitting there, listening to the dulcet tones of The Soul Cages in a cool Florida breeze is a very peaceful way of relaxing. I had first discovered this technique when I was in the Soviet Union, but had not the chance to use it since. I hadn’t felt that relaxed in a long time.

I sat there for about an hour, until 20:55 rolled around. Stupid me, I thought Stothart would be back from dinner by now for the sectional. I think I trust her too much. She had not yet returned. I waited there a moment or two, then went up to the second floor, walked to the building break (a small passageway between the two hotel room blocks) to see if anyone was returning from dinner. A few from my room were appearing, and I could hear Stothart just off in the distance (across the road).

At 21:10, the DX-7 and an amp had been moved into Stothart’s room (#135 if my memory serves me correctly), and the “men” began to appear. Mind you, not all were men. Because some of the tenors (and three basses – not that it mattered anyway) were unable to come to Florida, Stothart created the female tenor section. This was made of Jessica Wallace, Cindy Merson (and sometimes Hil). The only other tenor present at that sectional was James. Ryan had disappeared somewhere.

As for basses, J was at dinner with his grandparents (a legitimate excuse, for once), which left Chris, Stuart and myself as the usual basses who were on the trip. So once again, Stothart recruited more singers. However, there were no females that could sing as low as we had to, so she nailed Paul and Dave. Stuart and I were almost on our own for True Colours, Chris had a solo to do (which he did really well – I envy his voice!). Dave and Paul could read music, Stuart and I could not.

We spent about an hour and a half going over trouble spots (yes, the men caused a lot of havoc in our three songs – we managed to screw up a lot, as most of us couldn’t read music) before we were satisfied with the results. I personally thought that the entire choir should practice, we did need the work, but there was no way to cram us all into one room, and something told me that the hotel management wouldn’t take kindly to us practicing that late at night outside.

So we broke from practice, I and whipped back up to the room for my walkman. Then I was confronted with the question of my life – did I want to watch Predator 2 at midnight? It came on the pay-tv channel. Seeing as we didn’t have to be at the bus until 10:30 the next morning, I thought: “What the hell, why not?”

James and Stuart booted down to the front desk to put in a deposit of $25 (for what, I have no idea!) to make sure we could watch the movie. I grabbed my walkman, rewound the tape a few songs, and retreated to the grassy area between parking lots. The walkways had become too noisy by this time, and I could sink into the music.

I didn’t listen too long before it came too difficult to listen to. I have found that listening to certain songs under particular conditions really make you feel rather nasty, and I just wasn’t up to feeling nasty at that point. So I headed back to the room. I ran into Linda on the way up (not literally, she just didn’t want to go in the room), so we sat down and talked a while.

I’ll say one thing for Linda, she loves to know how your love life is going. It started when I asked Linda why she wasn’t in her room. That was ’cause Shawn and Hil were in there (common courtesy to not enter like that). I knew where J and Ali were (our room), and I knew where Stuart and Therese were (though I can’t remember now). This left me with Kathryn, and I was genuinely interested (but keeping in mind a recently learned fact), so I asked where she was.

This piqued Linda’s curiosity something fierce. So I answered just as genuinely as my curiosity. This lead Linda to another question: “I thought you were interested in Danica!”

What would you do if you were asked a question like this, knowing who you were about to answer to, also knowing that your best friend has the hots for the same person? Right, you lie your ass off! This is something I can do rather well on the spur of the moment, it’s kept me out of several uncomfortable situations.

So I answered with about the best fib I had ever concocted. I told Linda that the only reason I was ever interested in Danica was because I had found someone who was more of an enigma to me than myself, and believe me, Danica is strange (no offense Dan!).

Now, you must be wondering why I did that. I had good reason. The last time I was interested in “that way” with someone (who also happened to be in the same family), I was defeated in my attempt. This defeat almost turned me against one of my best friends, who I had known for some time (fortunately, the situation has since subsided and we are back to normal, almost). This was not something I wanted to go through with Chris, he’s one of the last people I ever want to lose as a friend.

During our talk (which lasted quite a while, I don’t know how long), I offered Linda one of our Pepsis (I was feeling rather thirsty), she perked up somewhat at the offer. She loves Pepsi. As I was about to enter our room, I saw J and Ali (on Chris’ and my bed too!) doing whatever (sorry, no detail here!). So, I closed my eyes (hand clamped over top), and walked through the room blindfolded. This was not easy, I was surprised I didn’t trip over anything, but I did bump into the counter at the back of the room.

The cans were ice cold, but Linda didn’t drink too much. We continued chatting until about lights-out (somewhere in that vicinity), and we had to return to our respective rooms. This gave me my first chance to boot someone from our room. Ali had gotten the picture via one of the chaperones, and passed me on my way up (not that I disliked her or anything, I was just feeling a little vicious – nothing serious).

Observer’s Log: Third Supplemental

We creamed the other bus getting back, Dick (our totally bitchin’ driver) drove like the blue tails of hell. I had a shower, removed the crap from my hair. At first I headed for dinner, then backed out when we couldn’t get a table at the Red Lobster. Instead, I went back to the hotel & listened to Sting until men’s sectional at 21:10. That went fairly well. Chances with K? Up in the air at this point. At midnite, we see Predator 2, we don’t have to be at the bus until 10:30.

At midnight, on came Predator 2. This was the third time for me, I had seen it twice back in Oakville. The picture was a little fuzzy, but was good enough for our purposes. A strange thing beset itself upon me, about a third of the way into the movie. I fell asleep.

Music Trip to Orlando, Visiting Walt Disney World and the Magic Kingdom

A Dream…

The choir was set, standing on a stage in a rather large auditorium. Four bright lights shone on us, one on Paul and Dave Kaye on one side, a sixth light on Shawn and Andy on the other. The audience was immense, and deathly quiet. Stothart walked to the front of the stage, stood on her podium and faced the audience, saying something we couldn’t hear. Then she turned to us, raised her arms, and the music began.

Paul and Dave strummed off a few chords on their guitars, echoing into the black depths of the room. They held the last note for a few seconds, before Shawn let off a blast on the drums. Paul was a solo from that point for a while, blaring away at a tune I knew, but did not remember practicing for the choir. Then James, Chris and myself began to sing, or rather, shout:

She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean!
She was the best damn woman that I’ve ever seen!
She had a-thankless eyes, tellin’ me no lies!
Knockin’ me out with those American thighs!

(Then Dave kicked in with his guitar, playing the same notes as Paul. The rest of the basses and tenors also picked up at this point to assist us. Stothart was going wild, as was the audience.)

Take a moment to share, had me fightin’ for air!
She told me to come, but I was already there!
‘Cause the wall start shakin’, the Earth was quakin’,
My mind was achin’, and we were makin’ with you!

(Now the sopranos and the altos came in for the chorus.)

SHOOK ME ALL NIGHT LONG!

Yeah you!

SHOOK ME ALL NIGHT LONG!

(Beep, beep, beep, beep…)
I realized with a start that the audience was exiting the building quickly, the fire alarm had gone off. The choir took that moment to also vacant the premises. But I couldn’t move, my feet were stuck to the bench, I was immobile. The doors on either side of me suddenly burst in, fire leaping across the stage. It came closer and closer, I could feel the intense heat; I could still hear the fire alarm. But it didn’t sound like a fire alarm.

It wasn’t a fire alarm, it was a dream. What I was hearing was J’s stupid alarm clock at 6:30 in the morning. J wanted to go jogging with a couple of the chaperones. To put it bluntly, we wanted to kill him for that stupid clock, it was too loud. If you want an approximate level of noise, think of a foghorn built into an alarm clock, and you’re getting close.

J was the only one who really moved at all, the other four of us were too worn out to move at any speed at all. Even though I had gone to bed long before the others, I was still tired. So we waited for James’ alarm to go off. We had two clocks in our room, the women had my clock (though I don’t know if they ever used it – I assume they did, as they did ask for it).

When James’ clock went off, we began to move, though not very quickly. It was now only 7:30, we had to be back for the buses at 9:00. One by one, we hauled ourselves from the beds. J’s mattress was in between the double beds. James and Stuart were the first to rise after J, they still had to have showers. Chris had one the night before, I wasn’t going to have one until later (I like to conserve water).

J never returned, and if he did, he made his entry very brief. James, Chris and I were the first ones ready to head out for breakfast (which I really, really needed), Stuart was taking his time. So we told Stuart that we were heading out ahead of him. When we checked in with the ladies, only Linda and Therese were left, and they weren’t ready yet either. So we headed out without them, but we told them where we were going.

We soon arrived at the Friendly’s Restaurant across the street, noticing their $2.22 special: two eggs (any style), two pancakes, two sausages (or bacon). The three of us decided that this was a good deal. We had a seat in almost no time at all. And we found out where the rest of our missing females and J were, eating at the table behind us.

James, Chris and I all ordered the special, but with slightly different variations. James wanted his eggs fried sunny side up, Chris and I wanted them scrambled. James had apple juice, Chris grapefruit juice, and I orange. And let me tell you, the waitress that we had serving us was by far the most pleasurable person I had ever met first thing in the morning. She had to have been a morning person.

Stuart, Therese and Linda showed up not long after that, but they didn’t stay. Instead, they booted off to another restaurant (Sizzlers, I think). James and Chris entertained themselves with Triangle Solitaire. To put it simply, it’s a wooden board with a triangle superimposed on the surface, with three small triangles at each of the three corners. The area enclosed by the triangles have a bunch of holes drilled in them (can’t remember how many, somewhere around twenty or so) where white pegs go. There is one more hole than there are pegs. The whole idea is to be able to jump all the pegs until there is just one left. Neither Chris or James could do better than three. I couldn’t even do that well, I could only end up with five.

After we were finished, we booted back to the hotel to get our load of stuff that we were going to need to survive the day. This included money, shades (a necessity due to the light – Chris had left his in his locker at school), cameras (those of us who had them) and for me, tunes (gotta have those!). By that time, it was quarter to nine, the time we had been asked to arrive at the buses so we wouldn’t waste any time. No-one in our room moved with any great expediency.

From our room on the third floor, overlooking the parking lot where the buses were parked, I could see that only Warren had returned. Much to our misfortune, Dick had not arrived that day to drive us around. I was dismayed, but reminded that this was life, and the expected never happens (at least not always). Soon, we booted down, and checked in with Stothart. Next, it was onto our bus.

At first, I aimed for the back of the bus (I always loved riding back there, it was almost my home when I traveled through the Soviet Union ). But before I had barely even taken my seat, I was beckoned by Chris to come forward. However, he had neglected to tell me that there were any seats available. Kathryn (bless her soul) was kind enough to let me sit with her. Before the bus even moved anywhere though, she asked to shift to the aisle seat, as she was prone to motion sickness. No arguments from me!

Then our new driver got the ol’ bus in motion, heading for the same road that we had come up the day before. After we cut off a couple lanes of traffic, we headed on down, following much the same route that we had followed the day before, except when we arrived at the intersection where I had received that wicked case of deja vu, we did turn left (into the direction had we gone straight through) and headed for Disney World.

It didn’t take too long to spot some of the larger exhibits, the first ones came from what we thought to be MGM Studios, but we couldn’t tell (I don’t think it was, we passed it later on that day on the way out). Soon, we passed by Epcot Center (one of our two destinations) and continued along the Disney Highway System.

Before long, we arrived at a large parking lot, solely for buses. This was one of several Disney Bus stops (where people could take buses to the separate divisions of Disney World), but also where the buses from coach lines stopped for unloading into Disney World. This is where our group pulled in. Then we had to wait for about forty-five minutes for our tour guide to finally get all the flippin’ tickets. At least the Epcot people would get in quickly (the bastards!).

Somewhere around 11:30 or so, we entered the world that Walt built (though he never saw it completed before his death), and headed right for the monorail. The ride was one that brought back memories for me, especially when the train traveled right through the middle of the Contemporary Resort Hotel. It was where my family had stayed eleven years ago, the feeling was somewhat overwhelming.

Soon, we arrived at the station for the Magic Kingdom, and we couldn’t wait to get inside. However, a little voice which had been nagging me since before we left kept repeating: “The place is jammed, we should have come earlier!” Of course, that damn voice was right, the place was jammed. We didn’t care, we were in the land where the dreams of millions of little children come true every year, where people of all ages can live out their childhood stories by traveling through the many rides and displays that encompassed the realm of Disney. And if you weren’t into that, you could always go around mauling the people in the character suits.

Halfway up Main Street USA, our group split in two, there were too many people to do anything productive. James, Linda, Therese, Stuart and Kathryn took off in one direction; Chris, Ali Etherington, Emily Patrick and myself in the other. I wanted to be with Kathryn, but that was the way things were going to be until at least 14:00, when Roser wanted us to be at Cinderella’s Castle for check-in with the chaperones.

(Anyone wondering why I haven’t yet mentioned J, Ali or Hil? They didn’t go with us. We had three choices for spending the day. One was, obviously, Disney World (Magic Kingdom), the second was Epcot Center, and finally Universal Studios. Hil, Ali and J went to Universal. When I found out about the Star Trek adventure, I wished I had gone there instead. Oh well, maybe next time!)

At first we weren’t sure where to go. Finally, we decided to head to World Of Tomorrow. Why? Don’t ask me, I ain’t got a clue. Anyway, fewer that ten feet into the subdivision of Disney World, we headed into the line for the first of our rides. This one was called Mission To Mars. It looked interesting, and not touched since it was built in the fifties or sixties.

When you do finally enter the building, you have to wait in a lounge with three doors at one end, watching a clock count down to zero before you enter. This gave Ali, Emily and Chris time to chat. Sitting at the far end of a line of four people makes talking rather difficult. Finally, the doors swung open and we progressed into the hallway beyond.

In there was a mock-up of Mission Control, kept behind a glass wall. At the far end was one of the employees, someone who sounded like he had practiced his lines too much. Inside the Mission Control area were eight or nine Animatronics robots, who acted out the tasks their human counterparts actually did.

One of them was the narrator, who gave us a general idea of what we were in for. I’ll give it to Disney, they certainly know how to make a dummy look awful real. The motions were a bit mechanical, but I had seen worse. Once, the narrator stopped when an alarm went off, and all the screens changed to show an Albatross landing (I think it was an Albatross, whichever bird it is that can never land smoothly, and usually crashes), which set off all the alarms.

Once that little skit was over, we were hustled into another room around the corner at the end of the hall. There were two of these rooms, we were hustled into the room on the left of the hallway. At first I thought it was going to be like the Tour Of The Universe at the CN Tower back in Toronto. Unfortunately, this one was the forerunner of the CN Tower’s by at least fifteen years.

There were four screens in the room (which looked a bit like the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise), two circular ones at the top and bottom of the room, and two rectangular ones on the walls. One we could not see, we were sitting right under it. Through the bottom one, we could “see” ourselves leaving the ground. To accompany this, all the seats sank a bit (you could hear the hydraulic systems kicking in). It felt weird to have your ass sink into the seat like that.

Once we were in orbit, we were given a quick low down of the flight, then sent through hyperspace (ooh!). I’m sorry, but Disney makes enough every year to upgrade that ride into a state of the art exhibit. The hyperspace effect is the cheesiest one I have ever seen. As an avid fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, that was too much to take without comment.

When we arrived at Mars, probes were launched and we got glimpses of Mars from those cameras. I think Tour Of The Universe should try something like that, that was well done. Then we ran into danger (not unexpected), a meteor shower. So we hyperspaced back to Earth and landed back in Florida. Then the ride was over, and we left.

Once we were back outside, we progressed our way towards Space Mountain. Chris and I wanted to go in right then, but Ali absolutely refused to go. Chris and I were determined to get her on it, but decided to wait until later that afternoon for the others, especially when we saw the lineup to get on. So we turned to our left and continued up the walkway, right into a gift shop.

There was some neat stuff in there (an $80 embroidered jean jacket with Mickey Mouse and stuff on the back) and a rather large rack o’ sunglasses. Chris spent about ten minutes going through them all before finally choosing a pair with purple frames and clear arms (mostly on the approval of Ali and Emily). Once we had purchased them, we headed back out into the outside world, where it promptly got cloudy.

“Wouldn’t ya know it! As soon as I get sunglasses, it gets dark out!” cried Chris, rather annoyed at the lack of light.

We headed right up to 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, and were about to get into line when I happened to notice a sign that read:

Approximately 40 Minutes Wait From This Point

So we avoided that one, even though I really wanted to go on it (it was closed the last time I was there), but we didn’t want to wait 40 minutes (it turned out to be one of the shorter lines we would wait in that day). I then argued the fact that the chances of us hitting a ride without lines were nil, and we agreed to go on the Mad Hatters Tea Party, which was right next to 20,000 Leagues.

So we hopped in line and waited for about twenty minutes before our turn came up. All the while Chris and I were trying to convince Ali to come on Space Mountain. Then Ali (maybe it was Emily) asked us:

“If you knew that you only had one day left to live, what would you do?”

I hate those questions, I absolutely can’t stand them. Chris tried to answer it, but then protested that he hated the question too, that there was no real way to answer it. We kept whipping through the line, it went very quickly compared to the others that we would stand in. Then, our turn finally came.

The four of us whipped onto the platform and jumped into one of the cups. We barely fit into it. In the centre was “the wheel”, that devilish contraption that allows one to make themselves so fast that they hurl in a beautiful arc onto other patrons of the ride.

When the ride started, we tried to see how fast we could get that thing to turn, letting out heads dangle out when we hit the low parts. About five minutes later (and four chances to puke our guts out), the ride came to a halt and we disembarked, nearly tripping over our own feet we were so dizzy. It only took my body a couple moments to get its bearings, I don’t know about the other three.

Chris and I really wanted to go to the Haunted House, but first we had to find it. So out came the trusty map that we were given. We followed the route over to the Merry-Go-Round from hell (the thing is huge!) and had to look at the map again, just to make sure. Then we headed for fun.

The transition between one land to another within the Magic Kingdom is subtle in some cases, in others they do an awesome job of hiding it through tunnels or underpasses. But we were quickly in Frontier Land, and just up from us was the Haunted House, and a long lineup. We jumped in before it was too late.

By then, the sun had come out again, and in full force. It was not only very bright out, but also quite warm. Before we went any further, I wanted to take a picture of Emily and Ali. However, they wouldn’t let me. So I took a photo of the back of their heads (I like strange and unusual shots). The line didn’t take too long to get under the awning that runs for a fairly long distance up to the front door.

When we arrived at the front door, we were greeted by a rather strange woman who talked in a nice and creepy voice (I think Chris fell in love), telling us to get inside. I couldn’t help but get into the act by acting rather morbid. For example, when she told us to get inside one particular room before the door closed and crushed our bodies into a pulp, I responded:

“COOL! That sounds like fun!”

That particular room was really strange. At first, it looked like any normal room, six walls (the only strange thing, at first), a couple paintings and a ceiling. Then things got stranger. Another strange voice (this one male) came over speakers, reminding us that there were no doors (of course we all checked, and there weren’t). Then it asked us whether we were sinking, or the room was getting bigger. That was a neat effect. We could tell the room was rising, but you felt like you were sinking.

Then the voice asked us how we were going to get out, as there were no doors. Then it suggested his way, at which point, all the lights went off, and we could see through the ceiling (a simple effect, the ceiling was made from fine mesh, painted to look like the ceiling). The ceiling above was much higher, with a single window, through which came flashes of lightning. Hanging from the very top was a dead body. Couple people screamed, several gasped, Chris and I went:

“Wicked! This is gonna be cool!”

At this point, part of the wall slid away, revealing a hallway full of people. Ali and Emily made sure that Chris and I stayed near the wall. Understandable, I was getting the jitters, wondering what lay ahead for us. I love that feeling, fear. It’s neat sometimes, others it’s a pain in the ass.

I had thought that the house was a walk through type, but what we found was a continuous train of cars which sat two people each. Em and Ali went in the first one, Chris and I in the second. Then we began our trek into fear! (Yeah, right!)

Chris and I had a blast in there, we spent a lot of time trying to figure out how they did some of the effects (most were fairly simple), and constantly babbling about how we wanted to move into the place. The train stopped a couple of times, probably due to people falling out of the cars at the other end.

My biggest surprise was when we arrived at this one room, which was full of ghosts. At first, all you saw were thousands of ghosts flying up to the ceiling. The effect is fairly easy to do, but it looked sooooooooo cool! That was my favorite part. There were ghosts everywhere, it’s the place I want to be buried!

When we finally got to the end, I wanted to go back. But first we wanted to see what else there was. So it was back into Frontier Land. We came up on the Hall Of Presidents, and we almost went in, until I informed them that you had to sit down in this, there was no ride as such. Chris informed me that “we have to move!” I had to agree with this, I hate just sitting myself.

Down a little further, and we came upon the Sleepy Hollow Inn (I believe that was the name), and were about to get lunch, until we saw the prices and the limited choices. So we exited the establishment and aimed towards Main Street. Before we got too far, I nailed the others for a photo, with Cinderella’s Castle in the background. This time, Ali and Em didn’t turn away.

We strolled down Main Street, checking out the available munchies, until we decided on a cafeteria that was right next door to World Of Tomorrow. The prices were high here too, but we were more interested in the selection. Chris indulged in an iced tea (which was real, not Nestea), and Ali, Em and myself all had an order of fries (each).

We then snagged a table down by the balcony that over looked the “river” that ran from the castle, and tried to eat (and drink) without the wind blowing everything away. We weren’t always successful, but we didn’t lose any food. Almost. Emily was a little surprised when Chris ate the lemon that had come with his tea. This was the birth of “Lemon Woman”.

Let me explain! A few minutes afterwards, Emily had Chris’ lemon on the end of a toothpick, and was lightly flinging it from side to side. The three of us watched her carefully, to see what she would do. Unfortunately, Chris sat across from Em, and she was winging the lemon slice in his direction.

“Go ahead, I know you want to do it!” said Chris, challenging Emily to toss the lemon slice.

Whip! SPLAT!

Yeah, she did it. Em nailed Chris square in the face with that lemon slice. All of us burst out laughing, and Emily became very apologetic. Chris countered her however, stating that he had told her to do it, and she did. Em kept saying that she was sorry several times through the day, and Chris kept trying to get her to not say it.

After our lunch, Em and Ali made a quick pit stop in the washroom, Chris and I waited down by the table we had eaten at. We didn’t sit down, just stood at waited. I took a picture of Cinderella’s Castle (which from that distance looked really cool) and of a bush Dragon. If you’re wondering what a bush Dragon is, the Disney gardeners take bushes and turn them into sculptures.

When Ali and Em returned, we head back towards Main Street. We stopped at the Ice Cream parlour though, so Chris, Emily and Ali could get something cool ï ¿ ½n’ creamy. I abstained, the last thing I needed was a blast of sugar and be bouncing off the walls for the next hour or two.

When they emerged a few minutes later, it was almost 14:00, the time we had to meet at the Castle. So we began the short jaunt up to the gates. We didn’t get too far though, before Emily’s ice cream cone began to melt. Chris doubled back for some napkins, returning a couple minutes later.

When we first arrived at the walkway up to the castle, we couldn’t see anyone. I was about to check the other side when I noticed almost the entire group just off to one side of the walkway. So we joined them, taking pictures of the group while we were at it, waiting for Roser to show up. Chris and I whipped around the corner for a moment, to get a picture of ourselves. No, we aren’t secret lovers, it’s ritual. We did the same thing at Canada’s Wonderland, after we had successfully made our first ride on a roller coaster.

Shortly after we returned to the group, Roser appeared at the top of the walkway that ran through the castle. He caught a hold of us, came down and took roll call. Then he reminded us of our return time, 18:30. We had to be back at the bus by 19:00, but it would take us about a half hour to get back with all the people.

So again we divided back into our original groups (again, Kathryn went with Therese, Stuart, Linda and James) and went our separate ways. We headed back into Frontier Land (after taking directions from James to a store to find belts and wristbands – subsequently screwing the directions up a bit) to scout more fun. We continued along the main road in Frontier Land that bordered the river until we got to the end, which was in an elbow. At this corner, Disney was erecting a new ride, a Flume ride (can’t remember what they called it though).

When we looked down the road from the corner, we saw our destination. Once we got there, we found the wristbands that Therese, Stuart, Linda, James and Kathryn and purchased earlier. Emily was the only one who bought one though. The store had some interesting things that I wouldn’t have minded owning, but it wasn’t the time, nor the place.

We were on our way over to the other side, when Emily was called back by the salesperson. She forgot her change. To Chris and I, Ali mumbled a rather nasty blond joke. Ali is a strange girl. She loves to tell blond jokes, even though she’s blond too.

Emily then got sidetracked at a small cart, where one could find small articles made from glass. Emily was caught there for at least five minutes before she finally bought a little glass alligator. That’s when we learnt about Emily’s passion for alligators. The three of us then crossed the courtyard to the shops in the other side to find Ali, who had disappeared into it. Those stores did rather well, both Ali and Emily forked over a lot of cash (about $20) in gifts and whatnot.

Right next to us was Pirates Of The Caribbean, we immediately hit the line, we wanted to go on it. It was ironic for me, as eleven years earlier, I had run out of the line petrified to go on the ride. I know feel sorry for my father, as he really did want to go on that ride. Anyway, it was a good forty-five minutes before we got anywhere. After the allotted time had passed, we found ourselves at the loading dock, from which we would hop into boats for the trip. The loading area was made to look like a fort bordering on a river, or ocean. It looked real enough.

We took our turn and loaded in, waiting for the controllers to let us go. The locks released and our boat was set free. For about a minute we drifted along, seeing nothing aside from cavern. Then, ahead in the distance, our first view of pirates. Then we rounded a corner and went down a very small hill, we didn’t even get splashed. BORING!

What we ended up in was a huge room with a pirate ship on one side, and a Spanish fort on the other, both firing cannons (and missing most terribly). The effects were cool. We drifted along, under bridges, by more pirates plundering and lighting afire, basically creating pure havoc. The ride could have been slightly longer, but I liked it (considering I chickened out of it eleven years earlier, now I feel really stupid for doing that too!).

After that, we had about fifteen minutes before we had to go to Space Mountain (where we had agreed to meet the others at the rendezvous point), so we checked out a few of the stores in the area. There were a few really cool articles of clothing in some of the stores (not to mention one very expensive leather jacket), handbags, jewelry, etc.

We hopped down a store to one that sold things made exclusively from sea shells. Three guesses who the only one was who bought something. Yeah, it was Emily again. I can’t remember what she bought, but I think it was either a necklace or a bracelet. We hit one last store, which was dedicated to surf apparel and accessories. Chris purchased a new shirt there, a Bubble Gum Surf Board Wax brand t-shirt.

By that time, we were late by about two minutes. So we hauled our asses over to Space Mountain where we found the rest. They had to have been there a while, they were quite some distance into the line. They let us in (no-one behind us made any verbal objection, fortunately) and we proceeded with the longest wait we would have that day. By the time we reached the main entrance, the sign said that we had at least forty-five minutes to wait before we would get to ride the scariest roller coaster I had ever been on. By this time, both Ali and Yvonne Harrop (who had been with Therese, Stuart, Kathryn, Linda and James) went over to one side to wait.

This was a nasty wait for me in particular, I had to wait behind two couples who were deeply in love. This entire trip was a great benefit to those couples, and others on the trip, bringing both sides very close together. But for those of us who wished they were in one, it wasn’t so good. I tried to keep myself preoccupied, and not look in Stuart and Therese’s direction, else I would have wanted to leave (nothing against them personally, they had every right to do what they did).

Unfortunately for me, this left me in a less than agreeable state. So I did my best to hide it. If there’s one thing I hate doing, it’s showing my moody states to my friends (though I have done too many times in the past). When we finally entered the loading area for the ride, I realized that in order to keep from feeling shitty, I was going to have to look up a lot.

This gave me time to try and figure out the ride. That coaster was immense, though I couldn’t see most of it. The lights were virtually all off, and seeing anything in that light is next to impossible. The waiting area was well lit, it had to be or people would be tripping over everyone.

Then Chris began his services as a tattooist, drawing pictures on Therese’s arm and Linda’s shoulder. I believe Stuart got one too, but I can’t remember if it was in Space Mountain or later, when we got back outside.

Anyway, about a half hour after entering the loading zone (and having Emily point out that the meteors that were projected on the ceiling looked like chocolate chip cookies), we reached the cars. The train was made up of two three-seat cars linked together. Emily, Chris and I got in the first car; Kathryn, Linda and James in the second. Therese and Stuart had to wait for the next train. I was forced to sit at the very front.

Then ride-from-hell began. The car was released down a long tunnel with flashing lights (that was cool, it was indescribably wild), then rounding a corner and latching onto the chain that would drag us to the top of the coaster, letting us loose. I could hear Chris from behind me, wondering why we had even got on the ride in the first place. I was hyped up beyond belief. That was a wrong move.

The cars then took a downward plunge and for the next two to five minutes (it felt like an eternity), we hit slopes, curves, turns, hills and every conceivable thing that one can put on a roller coaster. I’m surprised that we didn’t hit any jumps. For some of the turns, there was enough light to see when the turn was coming. But for others, just darkness. I saw them coming, and I didn’t like it one bit.

When I got off that hellish contraption, I was almost frozen in my seat. I was surprised that I hadn’t pissed in my pants. We got out and waited for Stuart and Therese to get in, then we hopped on the moving walkway to the outside world. Once we got out, we rejoined Yvonne and Ali off to one side. Then Chris resumed his tattooing, promptly drawing Wolverine slashes on James’ arm. He drew on a couple people too, but I don’t remember who. A passerby watched with intrigue, for a moment I thought he was going to ask Chris to draw one on him!

I did not get a tattoo, I didn’t want pen on my arm. Instead, I listened to The Rolling Stones on my walkman, until the others finally decided to leave (which happened to coincide with the return of Stuart and Therese from a very short shopping spree). With that, we headed for Main Street. Along our way out, just across the bridge that led from World Of Tomorrow to the Main Street area, we paused to view a rabbit as it bounced around, munching on the flowers. By this time I was too damn depressed to care.

We hit the ice cream parlour again, the rest of the group who hadn’t been there earlier wanted to indulge themselves. Once again, I abstained. But this time, it was because I just didn’t feel like it. Instead, Chris and I went over to check out the Magic Store. Eleven years ago, they had some of the neatest things. But I didn’t find the trick light bulb that had intrigued me as a child.

I let Chris know that I was going off on my own, I didn’t want to really hang around the group right then, and I wanted to check out the stores for myself without have to be waited on or wait for anyone else. So I hopped from boutique to crowded boutique. Hundreds of visitors all cramming for those little souvenirs. Memories and photos are all I need, material things just don’t seem to cut it anymore.

By the time I had finished, it was rapidly approaching 18:00. I could have gone up after the rest of my group, but the chances of me finding them were slim. So I remained at the bottom of Main Street, near the entrance / exit, awaiting their arrival. By 18:20, I thought that they had gone through, somehow gotten by me. So I booted through to the other side, under the railway station, to see if they were by the monorail station. They weren’t.

I waited on that side for a while, hoping that I could still catch them. Then it began to rain. At first it wasn’t too bad, but it did get a lot harder. Standing under a tree keeps one drier than if one were to stand out in the open, but I wasn’t about to go stand in the railway underpass, there were too many people crammed in there.

At 18:30, I made a quick check of Main Street, from the lower end. Still nothing. Remembering our tour guide’s warning, I waited no longer than twenty minutes to 19:00 before heading for the monorail. I had to wait for two trains to come before I got my chance on, but the ride was short and quick. When the monorail arrived at the Transportation Center, I still had five minutes to get back to our bus, in slip 41.

Sure enough, our bus driver was there, waiting for everyone’s arrival. I was the first to return, at exactly one minute to 19:00. I thought I had timed myself rather well, yet I felt uneasy about leaving the others behind. I hoped that they didn’t decide to wait for me, else they would miss the bus (though there was a slim chance of that).

Eventually, my abandoned group came into view. None of them said anything to me when they came on the bus, I wasn’t surprised. I was expecting them to be furious with me, their reactions were not unjustly founded. When the entire group had finally returned from the Magic Kingdom, we left the parking lot and headed for Epcot Center, to retrieve the rest of our bus.

The drive took about five to ten minutes, but we found them virtually waiting for us. Two minutes later, we were back on the road on our way out of Disney World. I don’t know when I’ll get another chance to return.

Somewhere around 20:00, we made a triumphant return to our hotel. The Universal people had not yet returned from their excursion, so we waited. Let me rephrase that. They waited. I did not care. I didn’t care about a lot of things right then. The Universal bus appeared about fifteen minutes after we returned, which meant that most people were heading out to dinner very shortly, all except me.

Yes, for the second night in a row, I was forgoing with dinner. Why? I was not feeling sociable right then, I really wanted to be alone. Once the population of my room (and most of our section of the hotel) had dispersed for at least a half hour, I dragged one of the chairs into the walkway just out our door, put in my Sting Soul Cages tape (taken from my CD) and relaxed for the duration of the side (which was about fifty minutes).

When the others returned about an hour later, we were left with about an hour to lights out. This gave us time to do what we pleased. The tape hadn’t quite finished the one side when I noticed Hil all by herself in the grassy area about ten metres from the hotel, between parking lots.

So I went down to see what Hil was up to. She was trying to read The Bonfire Of The Vanities, for her English class. She could hardly get past the first page. We talked for a while, mainly on the subject about how miserable our lives were because we had no-one to share them with. This was one of the few times that I could agree with my partner in conversation, I actually knew what they felt like. Then Hil told me not to expect anything in the way of a relationship, as the unexpected always happens. I hate phrases like that!

I returned to the comfort of our room after that, and took a shower (you could say that I was beginning to emanate an odour that was less than pleasurable). Then, after my hair had managed to dry to the point where I could get into bed without soaking my pillow, I settled down for a long spring’s nap.

Observer’s Log: Traveldate 40391.23

Day 2

This has been a rather hellish day! For starters, J’s f’in alarm clock went of at 6:30 for his jogging – he had to pick the loudest one too! James, Chris and I ventured to Friendly’s for some breakfast – damn good too!

By 9:00, it was on the bus to DW. If our hotel had about fifteen floors, we could probably see the place we were so close. Despite a rather long wait, we finally got our day passes and were on our way. Chris, Emily, Ali Etherington and I took off from the rest to scout things out. At 2, we regrouped with the others momentarily, then we took off again.

At 4, it was Space Mountain. This is the true definition of fear – I had to be at the front! By the time we got out, my brains were scrambled. It only got worse. Problems within me arose their ugly heads once more. I ended up taking off from the others. I think I pissed them off. That wouldn’t be too surprising. I must be the only person who could have gotten depressed at DW.

Once again, I abstained from dinner (bad move), and sat on a chair outside our door listnin’ to Sting. Hil and I seem to have landed in similar situations – both of us are sick of this trip – too much caring. But even though I want to slash my wrists, I admit it is necessary for couples that exist. Do I have a chance with anyone in particular? I’m not expecting anything – but I am going to give it a shot anyway.

After note: I wasn’t the only person to get depressed. So did Jessica Wallace. She can’t stand all the capitalism. Neither can I for that matter.

Music Trip to Orlando, All-nighter in Oakville and Arrival in Florida

A Dream…

“Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.” came a husky voice over the p.a. I shut off my walkman to listen to the message. “We have encountered some technical difficulties, which will be remedied shortly. However, I am turning on the seatbelt lights and ask that all passengers remain seated. Thank you for your co-operation.”

I didn’t like it, something wasn’t right. Being seated in the aisle had it’s advantages, like getting to the bathroom easily, but you couldn’t see out the window. I was seated in a group of people that I didn’t recognize at all, I was totally naked, yet did not feel in any way uncomfortable. Then I managed to get a glance out of the window.

The wing was bending severely, to the point where it broke open, spilling it’s cargo of fuel into the hot streams of exhaust from the engines, igniting. The entire wing blew apart, ripping part of the wall out, sucking out passengers left and right. No-one panicked, aside from myself. But my seatbelt wouldn’t undo. Fire swept into the cabin and began to engulf seats, carpets and passengers alike. It came closer and closer, I could feel the intense heat; I could hear voices, calling my name.

I sat upright in my bed, realizing that my mother was literally shouting at me. A dream, a rather nasty one at that. The clock beside my bed read 8:45 in the morning, and it looked nice outside. Deciding that I wasn’t about to get back to sleep, I proceeded to prepare myself for a very long day.

That was Easter Monday and April Fool’s day too, April 1st, 1991. My mind was already working on ways of making my day a living hell. After relieving myself of a large pressure that was exerting itself from my bladder, I snagged a bit of breakfast, which I knew I was going to need.

Then came the fun part. I had until that night to do the rest of my homework that was due during the week we would be in Florida. I sometimes felt that teachers should give us a break because we were on a school related trip, but I knew that the chances of them liking that excuse were limited to say the very least.

I had finished my book review the day before, it sat on top of my luggage (also done the day before) so I wouldn’t forget about it. My task was to complete part of my Scican project, and make sure it was handed in on Tuesday, by which time I would be in Florida. That’s where my sister came in.

I worked on it until about three o’clock, finishing three out of the four parts I had to complete. The only one I couldn’t do was a time line, the book I needed for reference was sitting in Therese Hollingsworth’s locker, I had neglected to get it before we left on Friday. I had thought that she might have it at home, but I was wrong, I found that out when I phoned her.

At about three, Chris phoned (I might have phoned him, I don’t remember who phoned who). We discussed the plans for that night, he asked if it was possible for an automobile to get around, as he needed cash for his car insurance. I eventually worked my way into getting invited up, I could drive him over to James Hieminga’s house for the pseudo-party to be held that night.

About a half hour later, I hopped in the family Caravan and booted on up to Chris’ abode up in Sherwood Heights. Chris was literally on the verge on taking a shower, having finished packing five days of clothes into a large duffel bag, which was not light. So while he removed the layer of filth from his body, I fooled around on his computer.

Amidst our activities, we were phoning Therese’s house to she if she had returned from shopping. Chris was borrowing cash from Therese so he could pay off his insurance, which was due while we were in Florida. Chris had recently lost his cash flow due to the recession.

About a quarter to five, Therese arrived home, I caught her as she literally walked in the door. We arranged the afternoon between Chris and Therese as best as we could, getting money and all. Then I phoned the bank to find out when they closed. Five. Chris and I took off for the car, and booted down to Therese’s, calling her from the car phone (don’t ask about the phone – it’s a long story!). When we arrived at her house, she was ready to roll. We arrived at the bank at 16:58 (4:58 in the afternoon to you non-military types). Unfortunately, the bank had closed.

We returned Therese to her home to pack her clothes (most of which were new, she didn’t like any of the clothes that she had) and get ready to leave. Chris got the permission to use Therese’s bank card, and we booted back to the bank, where Chris took out sixty dollars. He needed quite a bit more, but the machine would only let him take out sixty in one day. So I came into picture, and he snitched sixty bucks from me too!

We headed from there to Major Video, where we were to rent a movie or two for that night. After about twenty minutes (which is a relatively short time for us to pick a movie), we had settled for Eddie Murphy – The Best Of Saturday Night Live.

Then we drove back to Chris’. He had to have some dinner, his parents wouldn’t let him leave without it. We had to let James know that we were going to be a bit late. We still had to get some drinks and popcorn. At about 18:30, we headed out the door, Chris’ luggage in hand. Next stop was my home, to get my luggage and my sister (she had to drive the car back home). As we exited Chris’ subdivision, we had our first omen of a strange voyage, I nearly hit a Canadian Goose as it waddled across the street ahead of us. When we arrived at my home, I grabbed everything I could remember, and got all my homework assignments for my sister to hand in for me.

Ever have that nagging feeling when you think you’ve forgotten something rather important? Chris and I both had it, and we had good reason. Now, we didn’t notice all this until much later that night, but Chris had forgotten a bank card (to deposit his money), I had not only forgotten my headphones (a total disaster), but also my alarm clock, which we were going to need.

Anyway, my sister drove us out. Before we were barely out of our neighbourhood, the car phone rang. It was a mutual friend of my sister’s and mine, Alistair. He wanted to know what my sister was up to that night. He was told to phone back in about a half hour or so.

We ended up at Tim Hortons where Chris snagged some Timbits for us to munch on that night. We were now an hour late, we knew people were going to chew our heads off. We didn’t care at all though, we were going to be at James’ for a long time to come. We stopped at Barney’s Convenience for five minutes to get drinks, then we were off to James. No-one was pissed off at us, no-one else was there yet. So Chris and I got ticked off ’cause we were the first ones there! We removed the stuff from the van, and my sister disappeared into the cool night air.

So we began to have fun at James’. Tunes were the first priority. We listened to music for a while, inside a few games of table top pool (which is very hard to play compared to normal pool). Finally, at about eight or so, people began to show up. Stuart was the next to arrive on the scene. Not long after that, James brought out his watergun, which looked like a shotgun, and had a large range. Unfortunately, he did not bring it with him, it would probably have added a little excitement to our lives.

Then Linda appeared from out of the inky blackness. She seemed a little preoccupied with something (she may have been tired, I can’t remember if I asked or not), but she still laughed when Stuart nailed James in the crotch with the watergun. James was not terribly pleased about that little incident. Mind you, no guy would be terribly pleased, it looked like James had pissed in his pants.

Observer’s Log: Traveldate 40291.00

Day 1

And so begins the wait. Six hours from now, assuming nothing goes wrong (not that it already hasn’t, might I add – I’ve already forgotten my alarm clock and my earphones), we ought to be well on our way to the warm sun o’ Florida. More entries to follow over the next twenty-two and a half (or so) hours.

Soon Therese, Kathryn and Hil arrived, all that were left to come were J and Ali. But first, an errand had to be run. Chris had to get to the bank at about midnight (I suspected that was when the bank machine would turn to the next day, so Chris could remove more money from Therese’s account), so I asked if it were possible to drop by my home to pick up the things I had left behind in my haste (I had also forgotten the popcorn, but we probably wouldn’t have eaten it anyway).

At first James was reluctant to do such a trip, but gave in once he found out that Chris had to go home anyway to pick up his bank card. So the three of us piled into James’ station wagon and sped off into the night. The car already had all our luggage in there, and room in the back was extremely limited, almost none for me.

We soon arrived at Chris’ house, he had to knock to be let in. His mother was expecting him, according to Chris anyway. He picked up his card from his other wallet, and bade his mother goodbye for the second time. Then it was back out of Sherwood Heights to my house. This was slightly more interesting for myself.

After noticing that our new car had arrived (a small red Dodge Omni, basically for my sister and I to drive around), I checked the front door. Locked. I booted around the side of the house and hopped the fence. This must’ve looked rather odd to our neighbours, especially when James did the same to remind me to get a pair of sunglasses for Kathryn.

I groped around in the partial light for the back door key (carefully hidden in clear view of anyone who might stumble into the backyard), and got into the house. My heartbeat jumped a lot, I was expecting to get caught. Carefully, I worked my way through the kitchen, into the hallway to my room, avoid as many creaky points as possible.

Getting into my room, I closed the door before turning the lights on. I collected my misplaced articles, turned off the lights then quickly left the house, making sure I didn’t wake anyone up. Closing the rear door was a real problem. It has to be slammed to lock, and that would have waken up the entire neighbourhood. In view of this, I settled for nearly tearing the knob of for pulling so hard.

I returned to the car, and we charged downtown. Along the way, we noticed Ali’s father returning home. That meant that Ali and J were now at James’ house. We continued downtown anyway. We arrived at the first bank in a few minutes, and Chris withdrew the cash he needed. Then it was to the second bank where he deposited the $180 he had been collecting all day.

About a half hour after leaving, we returned to James’ house. Sure enough, Ali and J were there. But there was something important missing, that probably had caught everyone off guard. J had cut his hair. He had once had a lot of it too, more than most females. But now it was only shoulder length. Mind you, I think he looked better with it that short.

Finally, after all the anticipation and anxiety, two o’clock in the morning rolled around, and we prepared to move out. James awoke his mother so she could drive the car (full of our luggage) over to the school. We picked up our jackets and shoes, and headed out. James and Chris broke into a rap of Ice, Ice Baby, I tried to partake, but I can’t do human boomboxing as well as they.

When we arrived at OT, there weren’t many people there. Nor were there any buses. There was a cold wind blowing, and most of us were dressed in clothes that would be more suitable for warmer weather. In other words, we froze out asses off. Neil Murray, Jen Rumsey and Karl McNelly were already there, waiting in a minivan (having come from a pool hall and waited for about forty-five minutes or so).

The empty parking lot of OTHS began to fill with students and parents alike, not to mention a pair of police cars. It seemed that Mrs. Stothart or Mrs. Crewe (I don’t know who got there first) had set off the school’s alarm. Fortunately, they came out and talked to them before we were all arrested and booked (like it would have happened – I’m just paranoid of cops).

It wasn’t long before everyone who was heading to Florida had arrived. Now we had to wait for the buses and a truck to arrive. The truck was already loaded with all the instruments and equipment, our cargo luggage was supposed to be loaded in there as well. Soon, the cheesewagons appeared from up Reynolds Street and pulled into the driveway. All our large luggage had been grouped in one place, all that was left was for the truck to show.

It didn’t. After a while we found out that the truck was heading for the airport without us. So we ended up loading all the large stuff into the back of the bus (which took up a substantial amount of room – school buses aren’t that large y’know). That took about fifteen minutes. Then it was our turn to load in. Some of us had already taken seats, so it was just a matter of getting to them.

Roll call was done, just to make certain that we weren’t leaving anyone behind, then the bus cabin lights when out, and we began our trek to Florida. As the bus turned onto the highway, I began to play AC/DC on my walkman, namely You Shook Me All Night Long, which I thought was kind of fitting, considering the situation.

Roughly half an hour to forty-five minutes, we arrived at Terminal One at Pearson International Airport, Departure Level. At that point, we completely unloaded from both the buses, lugging luggage into the check-in area (not caring whose it was). The truck was already there (if I remember correctly) and it was also unloaded in a similar fashion. All forty-some-odd pieces were carefully dumped in the check-in area. By the time we were done, we had created a large mess of instruments, luggage and people.

Somewhere around 3:30 or 3:45, we began to check-in our luggage and received our boarding passes. At first, the general idea was to just check our luggage, and we would receive our passes later, in alphabetical order. Because of security restrictions, we received our passes at the check-in. We were then told that we could wander off, so long as we returned at 4:45, so we could proceed through security as a group.

James, Linda, Geoff (Barrett, not me), Stuart and Therese headed around the corner, with me in tow, to check out what was available. They found Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Four of them instantly jumped on it, Therese virtually in lead (she’s a TMNT addict). I decided to return to the area where the rest of out troupe was and crashed out there for a while. I didn’t sleep though, I was too hyper to doze off. This made Paul Taylor rather uneasy, he wanted to make sure I hadn’t eaten any sugar to that point. I replied that when I travel, sugar is one of the few things that doesn’t make my hyper (air travel does that by itself).

Five o’clock in the morning arrived, and our group was beckoned by the guards to proceed through security. This partially annoyed the chaperones, they held some of us back to load instruments to the baggage carts that would take them to the plane. Surprisingly enough, it didn’t take too long. By the time we were finished, only about half of OT had managed to get through the security check. Those of us who had been loading jumped into the back of the line and awaited out turn.

Once again, I managed to set off that infernal metal detector (no thanks to my belt buckle), but my carry-on luggage wasn’t even glanced at, aside from the X-Ray machine. From there, it was off to Gate K (virtually at the other end of the friggin’ terminal). Just about the entire waiting lounge was full, there were only two or three vacant seats. I took a place on the floor next to Chris (who had gone through earlier), and shifted my position when I found out how wet the floor was (it had to have been cleaned no more than a half hour before we arrived).

When 5:30 was reading on the clock, boarding began. It looked like a free-for-all, just about everyone on the flight got up, even though most of us wouldn’t be getting on for about another ten to twenty minutes. So we went over to the window and watched the baggage twits load the instruments onto the plane. Stothart cringed every time one of the small black boxes was tossed onto the conveyor belt. We were waiting for the double bass to be loaded. It stood about eight or nine feet tall, and was really bulky.

Just as the baggage cart that contained the double bass lined up for unloading, the line began to move. I was to damn excited to wait for it, so I just headed forward. Ahead, I could hear problems arising as matching ticket numbers came up, something that wasn’t supposed to happen. It didn’t matter really, even though those people were with us, they got on anyway.

I found that my seat was a row behind the door to the plane (incidentally, 757s have their doors part of the way down the fuselage, around row 12 or so), which looked interesting for getting off. I was seated a row ahead and across from Stuart and Therese, seated next to Andy Torr. Andy was on me in a second, barely getting time to sit down. I knew what the question was even before he asked it.

His girlfriend, April Norcross (whose mother was one of the chaperones, something that Andy commented was going to be “interesting”) was seated with Stuart and Therese. I knew that he was going to ask to switch spots, I agreed almost as soon as the question was asked. April and I swapped places, I hoped I would get the window seat (that’s where April was). But Therese shifted over the seat to the window, I ended up with the aisle, Stuart between us. I didn’t bother to argue, just so long as we got south.

At around six, the in-flight safety speech was delivered with non-existent enthusiasm by the flight crew. Much earlier (by about two months or so), several of the people in my little group had suggested that the entire OT group mimic the crew, following the patterns that some of us knew by heart. However, we did not, though I was tempted real bad.

The plane shifted suddenly, then began to roll backwards for what seemed an eternity. Another vibration shifted through the fuselage, and the engines picked up their whine, the plane rolled forward. The p.a. crackled, and the co-pilot began his yak about the flight. All the while, the plane rolled and bounced its way to first flight of the day.

Then the familiar roar that I knew so well erupted from our Rolls-Royce turbines, and we were thrust into our seats. Not to be boastful, but I’ve flown so much that I almost found this boring. I stress almost, I love flying so much I’m still excited by takeoffs. Next thing we knew, the bumps stopped and the plane leapt into the dull morning glow of Southern Ontario. She banked and aimed for Florida.

Less than ten minutes later, the attendants began their rounds with orange juice and headphones for the in-flight movie, Home Alone. I had seen the movie before, but it wasn’t one that I really wanted to see first thing in the morning. Besides, we had already seen Heathers and Eddie Murphy – The Best Of Saturday Night Live earlier that morning.

Observer’s Log: Supplemental

It is now just a little past 06:30, we are now being enthralled with the antics of Home Alone (oh joy), and awaiting for our diminutive breakfast. Presently seated in 13C, my immediate neighbours are Stuart and Therese, with Therese in the window seat. I can’t think of a better way to spend 2 hours and 9 minutes. This trip isn’t off to the start I had hoped for, oh so long ago. But at least I got my alarm clock and earphones (thanks to the efforts of James who was so nice as to drop by my home at almost 1 am).

Explanation needed! First of all, I was being sarcastic when I said: “I can’t think of a better way to spend 2 hours and 9 minutes”. This is because I was once deeply beguiled by Therese, but it was Stuart who swept her off her feet. This is a long story that I will not go into detail here. When I’m with one or the other, I was fine. When they were together, I got those nasty pains in my body that make me want to, well, cry. I can now look back on those times and laugh at myself, knowing what eventually happened.

That’s why I was so glad to have retrieved my earphones. I knew that keeping myself occupied with music for the next two or so hours would be no problem. Fortunately, ’twas no problem. And as for breakfast, it was actually filling enough to keep me going until we got to our hotel later that morning (which is for me, really good).

It was about around 8:20 when our plane arrived in Orlando. I had since prepared myself for the temperatures I was expecting. I had worn a t-shirt, with a thin sweatshirt over top to keep me warm in Canada, and a pair of track pants. The track pants were now rolled up to my knees. When we disembarked, I was glad I had worn them, it was nice and warm (not hot, just warm).

We trudged down the corridor, heading for baggage claim and immigration. Mr. Davidson almost instantly began to complain about something (his hearing wasn’t back to normal yet – there was something else, but I don’t recall if he mentioned what it was), and asked if anyone had a tissue. Mrs. Crewe was amazed at this, I was amazed that she was amazed (of course, I was used to this kind of reaction to flying as my mother had the same problem).

The baggage took sometime to come through, the instruments kept plugging up the baggage conveyor. The larger instruments (like the double bass) were brought around by hand. After about a half hour, all the luggage had been collected and loaded onto luggage carts. Then we hauled the lot across the room (Karl and I shared a cart to save room) to the opposite side where all the instruments and baggage (aside from out carry-ons) were loaded onto another conveyor belt. Then we went through another security check (X-Ray machine and all) and hopped on a monorail car which took us over to the main building of Orlando airport.

It was not the same airport I remembered from the last time I had been in Orlando. Of course, that may be due to the fact that the last time was about eleven years previous. Back then, you got off onto the tarmac, not into a three building, monorail connected terminal system with automated baggage control.

It didn’t take us long to find the second baggage claim at the main building. But it did take a long time for our stuff to come through, almost forty-five minutes for all of it to appear. By this time, most of us had been awake for about twenty-four hours or more. Time had almost no concept to the majority of the group.

After a while, Beber called for all residents of Bus One to move out to the sidewalk outside, as our bus was due to arrive soon (I use “resident” because we spent a lot of time on those buses). All the luggage and instruments were carted outside. The sidewalk platform was tiled, and utterly spotless.

“Holy shit!” exclaimed Chris, “This is so clean you could eat off it!”

There was another twenty minute or so wait there too, before our two buses arrived. Bus One came about ten minutes before Bus Two, which gave us some time to load all the stuff on it. That was when we first met Dick, our driver. Even though it wasn’t in his job description, he helped us load the bus. It took James, Chris, Sonny, Paul, Chris Stratten and I about fifteen minutes and a lot of careful planning to get all the stuff on.

The reason for the length of time was that the decision was made to put all the instruments and equipment on one bus, ours. Somehow, we not only managed to get all that on, but all the our luggage as well. By the time we were done, the bus sat about four inches lower, and you couldn’t stuff an orange into the lower compartments.

Then we headed out, to a parking space just away from the platform. We had to wait for Bus Two to come. While we waited, Dick told us, “Welcome to Orlando, my name is Dick and I’ll be your driver for the majority of your stay. I’ve lived here for eighteen years, and I’ll try to answer any questions you have about the area. And if I don’t know the answer, I’ll lie.”

Then James tried to pop the rear hatch to let some air into the bus. That’s when we were told about the air conditioning ports. I don’t call myself the Observer for nothing. Most of the bus didn’t hear Dick the first time ’round. I saw him show it to one of the upper rows, and followed suit.

Dick promptly went down the aisle, showing everyone else. When he got to me, I told him that I figured it out, and I was cooling off with the machine driven breeze. Dick tipped his hat back on his head and…

“Figured it out huh? Where’re ya from?” he asked, I thought for a moment I had pissed him off. But, having experience in annoying people, I had a hunch he was a bit like me. So I paused a moment before replying.

“Canada. Southern Ontario.”

“I thought so!” he said, with a straight face. Then he laughed and walked to his seat. It was then I knew for certain that we had a cool driver, and hoped that we had him the entire time.

Bus Two emerged from the Terminal about ten minutes after us, and we headed off to the hotel. Bus Two’s driver was a bit of a twit, or at least that was the impression that I got. He seemed to get lost a bit too often. Anyway, we hit the highway and headed off in what I thought was the direction of our hotel.

We passed about half a dozen Days Inns (the hotel chain we were to be staying at), and about twenty other hotels. We went through two or three toll booths (a lovely little detail that I had totally forgotten about, something I’m glad Canada has not adopted) and an hour of traffic before we turned off the highway. Dick did some fancy maneuvering (which is not easy with a four ton bus) and avoided more traffic.

Then we were on our way. Soon, we passed the Mercado Shopping Center, the location of one of our performances later on that week. Less than five minutes later, we realized that we had literally double-backed on ourselves, going through an underpass of the highway we had just come off of. Had we gotten off at that turn off, we would have saved about a good half hour or so. I assumed that Dick didn’t know exactly the best way to get us there, or he wanted to show us a couple things along the way.

We passed by Sea World almost immediately after that, not to mention more tourist stores than I could count in the five days we were there. After a long while, we arrived at a large intersection, where I was bombarded with a wicked feeling of deja vu. Had we kept going straight, we would have landed in Disney World. It was the same intersection I had gone through eleven years previous.

We turned to the left and continued along that road. Another left and a longer drive, and we arrived at our hotel. It took long enough, but we were glad to have arrived. But the wait wasn’t over yet. First we had to wait for our guide (who had met us at Toronto and was with us the entire time – never did find out what his name was) to get our rooms organized.

What we did end up with were common rooms to put our stuff until the rest of the rooms were ready. Dick then booted us around back, where the rooms were. We unloaded into the common rooms and proceeded to the lobby of the hotel to get our separate room keys. James found out that our room was one of the common ones, and we had to find out who had the key. J had gotten it off of someone (never did find out who) and moved in. We followed suit very quickly. If you’re wondering what had happened to the instruments, they were all left on the bus. We were going to a performance that night, and it was easier to leave them where they were.

The rooms were virtually all the same, aside from the positioning of the furniture and the door. In our room, the air conditioner sat to the immediate right of the door (and was usually on… high); a table just in front of the air conditioner; then James and Stuart’s bed; a night table and a gap between James and Stuart’s bed and Chris’ and my bed where J’s mattress sat; then Chris’ and my bed. Across from the beds on the other wall sat a two drawer bureau with a television and radio combination. At the back of the room was the mirror, sink, counter and clothes rack. Then, to the side of the room with the beds (to the right from the door) sat the bathroom, with shower / bathtub and toilet. Basic, but comfortable.

We changed quickly into a fresh change of clothes (even my rolled up track pants were too warm now) and we headed out. We were starving, we needed some kind of nourishment. The guys were ready fast enough, the women took slightly longer, which is understandable. Let’s face it, men are slobs! I should know, I’m one of them.

Then we were off to the mall diagonal to our hotel. We had already shifted into shopping mode, and we knew there were restaurants in there (I haven’t found a mall without a restaurant yet). Sure enough, we found food really quickly. I indulged in Chinese something, I only recognized the beef and green peppers, and the rice. Come to think of it, that was all I had anyway! But that’s beside the point…

After filling that empty void within me, we headed off one at a time to check out the rest of the mall. There was a music store there, but I opted not to buy anything for a while, I wanted to shop around first. There was also an interesting video arcade (where I found Chris deeply involved in Aliens, I joined in), an Eckerd’s Drugstore, a Walmart and a few other dinky little shops.

We eventually gave the mall up when Chris and I lost track of everyone. So we headed back to the room, hitting the 7-11 along the way. It was nice to have that place really close to us. There we snagged a twelve pack of Pepsi (or as Hil might put it, half of a two by four) and a pack of donuts. Yes, we were off to a nutritious start!

Passing by the pool, I found Linda in the fenced in area, catching some rays. I thought it would be nice to get a swim in. So, after returning to the room, I changed into my bathing suit, and along with James, headed to the pool. Both James and I wore Speedo style bathing suits, though I must say that James had to look better in his than myself, his body is more defined than mine.

We entered the pool zone and spread out for a moment. I went in for a quick dip, and I mean quick. That was the first time in almost two years that I had worn that bathing suit, and the water was cold. Men, every have a testicle caught in a pair a vice grips? Same feeling. I got totally wet, then got out. I got a little sun, not much, then headed back to the room.

While I was at the pool, I found out that Florida had already taken a victim. Therese’s skin is fair, almost pure white. She had sunburn in less than twenty minutes. I can assure you, though I never asked her, that it wasn’t the way she wanted this trip to get off to start.

Observer’s Log: Second Supplemental

A little over twelve hours ago, we were freezing our asses back up in Canada. Therese has already received acute sunburn. We have our room, we scouted out the local mall, raided the 7-11, went to the pool, swam a little, and silently gawked at the babes to in swimsuits (or sometimes the lack thereof).

At four o’clock that afternoon, the five of us (J, James, Stuart, Chris and myself) changed into our choir uniforms that we were to need for the performance that was to be held at a Seniors Resort somewhere in Orlando. By 16:15, we were at the buses, taking our seats. The instruments were still inside, so we didn’t have to waste our time loading it.

We spent the next three quarters of an hour turning corners, speeding down straight-aways and getting nailed by red lights before we finally arrived at our destination. It looked peaceful enough, the primary vehicles were golf carts. After hunting around, we finally found the common hall, and pulled in. Then we unloaded the bus.

Bus Two on the other hand, got lost. Their driver was forced into the wrong lane and made a bad turn. Bus Two showed up roughly ten minutes after us. Once they were off, we headed in to begin the single worst performance that any of us would ever do. Of course, you must remember that almost none of us had slept in over thirty hours by that time.

The concert began somewhere around 17:30, maybe 18:00. As I said, time really had no meaning to us. Concert Choir was the first one to perform, and we were the worst. Most of the basses were off key, almost everyone was off tempo, basically we sucked something fierce. We also managed to totally bugger up the ending to When The Saints Go Marching In. Then it was Jazz Choir’s turn.

Jazz Choir is made up mostly of the people in my group (Hil, Chris, James, Therese, Kathryn, J, Cindy Merson, Angie), and they are perfect. Never before, in all their performances, even their practices, had I heard something as small as a foul note. Even Jazz Choir was off that night. We were not in good shape.

Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo were next, and I lost attention. I was simply too tired to care anymore. But even though I was in La-la Land, I could hear the small discrepancies that let everyone know that we were not ready to perform. Wind Ensemble, who had performed so well they were invited to Vancouver for the Canadian Championships, played not up to snuff.

All I can say is that seniors have got to be the most polite people in the world, either that or most of them were stone deaf. They applauded after every number that the choirs and bands did, and even after all that terrible music, still gave us $98 for our troubles. Stothart desperately tried to refuse it, but she had to give in. In addition to politeness, seniors are stubborn as hell.

Afterwards, many of the audience thanked us for “a concert well done”. Following proper courtesy, we smiled as strongly as our bodies would allow and thanked them gratuitously. Then we moved all the instruments out to the buses. Let me rephrase that. A few people (including Dick and the other driver, Warren) moved the instruments out. I retreated to the bus to fall asleep, which I didn’t.

Soon, the buses were loaded with passengers and chaperones, and we returned to the hotel. Conversations echoed inside our bus, everyone knew that our performance had been well below acceptable. There is no worse critic of an artist than himself / herself. Stothart didn’t need to tell us that we had sounded horrible.

When we arrived at the hotel, the same people who loaded it, unloaded it into Mr. Roser’s room, where all the electrical stuff and the large instruments were to be kept. I think I helped with a couple things, but I was on the verge of passing out, so I don’t remember. Getting back to the room, we changed into our street clothes and prepared to head out for dinner for 20:00 (less than twenty minutes after we returned), all except me.

I was feeling like, to use a colourful metaphor, shit. I was not only exhausted, but emotionally drained. Too much of watching couples and wanting to be half of one. My mind loves pissing me off, and it does a good job of it too. Instead, I stayed behind. At first I thought I would go out on the walkway (all the room doors were outside, no inside hallways) and take in some night air. Only I was too tired to do so.

James, Stuart and Chris tried to drag me out of the room for some food, but I didn’t want to go. I think they know of my stubbornness, for they gave up trying to convince me. About fifteen minutes after they left, Linda phoned. That scared the hell out of me, the ringer was on full, and I was dozing off. She hadn’t gone to dinner either, she was too tired as well. Couldn’t blame her.

Observer’s Log: Third Supplemental

This evening’s performance sucked shitwings! It couldn’t have possibly gone any more wrong. Concert Choir was the worst, but even Jazz Choir made a couple of mistakes (major rarity). To top it all off, I can’t get you-know-who out of my mind.

Music Trip to Orlando, Introduction

Despite what Mrs. Stothart thinks, I didn’t join the choir just to sing. As I have told my friends repeatedly, the major reason for joining and suffering through untold practices was so I could get down to Florida and have some serious fun. Mind you, I did try to find another way, but peer pressure soon got too much and I gave in. It was fun (sometimes), and we had a few laughs. But I had ulterior motives.

Before I continue, I should quickly describe the people I spent most of time with while I was in Florida. First of all, there was the group to which I was a grateful member, ours was a group with no name, it was “there”. In this group were the following people (in alphabetical order):

Linda is an interesting person to try and describe. She stood about five foot five, blond hair, figure from hell. Besides that, she was plain weird. Oh, she also had this thing about James Dean, and motorcycles. I could say a few other things (believe me, I would too) except that they would not only be unfitting for this story, but may result in the loss of certain vital organs from my body.

(Hilary) Hil was another strange person, mind you I think she had always been that way. Hil stood into the six foot range (barely), and had the figure of (sorry, but this is the only thing that comes close) a pencil, but with womanly curves in the proper places (hopefully this won’t get me killed!).

James was the boyfriend of Linda, and was also blond (hmm, forming a master race?) and only a little weird. Having spent a couple years on the swim team and continuing on into lifeguarding (as did Linda), James had by far the best defined body of any of the “men” on the trip.

Therese was the most diminutive person in our little group, about an inch or two shorter than Linda. Periodically someone might make fun of her about that, but not often. First of all its not nice; secondly, it really doesn’t matter how big a person you are. It’s the size inside that counts (GOD! Gag me with an atom bomb, that sounds corny!) If you could measure her inside, Therese would be pushing ten feet, at least!

Chris was almost a spiritual brother with me. For starters, we shared the same birthday (July 16th, 1972); and the same ideas on some subjects (it always freaked me out when that happened). The only black person on the trip (I’m pretty sure of that), he stood out fairly easily (except in the dark, when he was a pain in the ass to find). Chris had a couple screws loose, his mind was really off the air. Incidentally, by the end of the trip, Chris and I were the only single men left in our group.

(Alison) Ali was virtually the same size as Linda, and was an accomplished flautist (she’s damn good too!). And like the rest of the women who’ve been explained, she also was a little out of normal. Unlike the rest of the women though, Ali was much quieter, she usually kept to herself (unless she was with J, her boyfriend).

Stuart was Therese’s boyfriend, and a good friend of mine. He was the only person who needed glasses that wore contacts whenever possible (J had contacts, but didn’t use them anymore). This guy was definitely loopy, and a good artist.

(Jason) J was the quietest guy, usually. As I mentioned, he was also Ali’s boyfriend. J is hard to explain, I don’t even think God knows exactly what he was. Tell ya what, read on, you figure him out for yourself!

Kathryn was the only single woman by the end of our trip (in our group), but I think there were underlying reasons for that. When Kathryn wore sunglasses, you’d swear you were looking at Meryl Streep as a teenager, it was kinda creepy when you first met her, but you do get used to it.

Lastly (and leastly) was me, The Observer. Actually, I’m known as Geoff Sowrey, but I’d answer to several names. I’ll try to explain myself (I’m partially schizoid, so at least one of me knows what I’m like). There were two distinct Geoffs: one crazy, one solemn. The crazy one I dubbed the Loonatic (yes, LOON is correct – I’m into waterfowl). I liked this particular self because of the strangeness that he exhibited. The other self was usually in a state of semi-depression. I have no name for this self, ’cause I didn’t like him that much. But all of me, to the core, was a Trekkie, and lovin’ it!

Then there were the people that I hung around with periodically during the trip. There was Karl , Geoff B, Neil (I knew him even before coming to Oakville Trafalgar High School), Kara (Geoff’s girlfriend), Ali , Emily , and well, almost half of the rest of the group in Florida. Being cooped up in one area can be suffocating after a while, it helps to spread out once in a while.

Our trip was almost thrown into jeopardy at one point in the early days of 1991, when the Allied Coalition made their attack on Iraq. The school board panicked (big surprise there!), and debated whether or not to cancel out of country trips. Outside of North America trips were cut, but those within were not. Hussein or no Hussein, we were still goin’ south!

Practices continued right through to March Break on a normal schedule. Then they began to get screwy. We didn’t have any practices during the break, resuming when we returned. The first week the practices for choir were normal, Tuesday and Friday mornings at 8:00. The week before we left saw Tuesday and Thursday, Friday was Good Friday (in more ways than one). We would not be returning to OTHS until ten days later.

The general idea behind this trip was the Heritage Music Festival, at least that’s what were told it was called. It’s actual name was the Orange Blossom Festival (I liked the first one better). If it weren’t for that festival, under either name, we would not have gone.

But, what’s done is done, I don’t think the management of the Days Inn that we stayed at will forget us any time soon (there were enough complaints about the noise), nor will Dick, the totally righteous bus driver. On with the story…