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.

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