Romance, YA, Fiction and Fantasy Novel Reviews, Nonsensical Rants, and My Own Writing Adventures
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Dempsey + Disney + Music + HOT PRINCE = MAGIC!
The trailer for the new Disney (partially) animated movie, Enchanted! Yes, it looks cheesy, but cheesy in the good, way, i.e. the kind with elaborate musical numbers, beautiful special affects, lavish costumes, and hand-drawn animation that looks pretty darn good!
And did I mention Patrick Dempsey is in it? And James Marsden, who has never looked prettier? (Seriously, he is freakin hot in this trailer....) SO excited!
Plus, this means Susan Sarandon is doing musicals again! Hurrah!
Now I REALLY cannot wait until November!
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Ha ha! I am BRILLIANT!
Now, months and months later, the story is completely different (this time, it's no longer about a boy, abandoned by his village, who tames an abused creature), and it's also more than 6500 words long, which is actually pretty long for me now (most of my recent stories, due to the word limit of my writing class, have been between 2000-5000 words), but I personally think it's brilliant.
Of course, this means little to nothing right now, because I've learned an author's regard for her work changes from day to day - what I might think is brilliant now I might think terribly maudlin later, but for now, I think it's a pretty decent story, so I'm going to turn it into my writer's group and see what they think.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
And during these last few weeks I've made a big effort to focus on my writing. My procrastination skills are still a little more advanced, but I'm getting better and I'm writing more. So yay for me!
Friday, May 18, 2007
Writing Updates - and I now work for the Mouse
I also started a new story - "Joyful Noise" - which will use some of my experiences touring with my choir to (I hope) hilarious effect.
I finished the critical rewrite of "House Hunting" and finally ended up with some passages I might actually keep, so I'm going to keep polishing it and hope I can send it out by the end of the month.
And I'm still looking for a home for "Golden Opportunity."
And did I tell you? I got a second job - and rather quickly too. I already have a part-time job, but there simply isn't enough of that job to perform it full-time, so I went out to get another part-time job. I missed the cut-off date for Chapters, again, but I went instead to Old Navy and the Disney Store. The employee shortage is still going strong, it seems, even with summer approaching and hordes of money-starved young people suddenly being freed from educational duties. I went to the Disney Store, a fairly big place (right across from the Coles where I was let go from, HA!) that sells pretty much anything with a Disney character on it, and plays Disney trailers and music on the stereos.
There, the head person pretty much fell over himself to give me a resume (it seems everyone prefers that people fill out applications rather than hand it resumes, because the applications are legal contracts), perhaps because it must be hard finding people willing to work eight hours while "Kiss the Girl" from The Little Mermaid plays nonstop on the soundtrack. I then went to Old Navy, and by the time I'd gone downstairs, stared at the movie sets for Christmas in Wonderland, and gotten a bite to eat at the food court, the manager at Old Navy'd already called my house to arrange an interview.
That night, however, the people at the Disney Store beat out Old Navy and offered me a job point-blank. I asked both about the pay, and both said they "were going to be negociated later" because I apparently had experience, so I chose the Disney Store because they'd offered first. So I'm going in on Sunday for training, and it looks like I'm going to get lots and lots of hours, so hooray for me! New job! In retail! For Disney, a company whose movies and music I adore.
Child of a Rainless Year, by Jane Lindskold
This novel started out well - nine-year-old Mira's spent her life under the care of her selfish, eccentric mother, her silent servants, and her intriguing house full of mirrors. When her mother mysteriously vanishes, her mother's "trustees" place her in the care of loving foster parents, under the condition that these same parents change their names, move away from New Mexico, and vow never to return. Years pass, and Mira develops into an artist who stifles her talent by teaching, because she still harbours the fear the the people who made her mother disappear might do the same to her if she calls too much attention to herself. When her now-elderly stepparents are killed in a car wreck, Mira discovers that she legally owns that mysterious house she used to live in in New Mexico, and goes down there to find out the truth about her mother, her mother's disappearance, and her stepmother who tried looking for her as well.
While the novel earns points for having a middle-aged (51-year-old) heroine, after the first few chapters, the novel becomes as dull as dirt. The author lavishes attention on the house, how Mira helps to paint/renovate it, and the minor investigative escapades Mira goes on to find out more about her mother. The central concept of the house and its powers is de Lint-esque, but still irritatingly vague to me and I never could understand what magic Mira was supposed to possess, exactly, or how two houses built on significant locations could engage in magical-architectural catfights over who rules the town. Many supporting characters and details seemed superfluous, just there to provide Mira with snippets of info about her Mom, eat some southwestern food, and depart. The ending twist was a surprise, but the climax where Mira learns the truth seemed out of place with the staid, unhurried, introspective tone of the novel. Meaning, the ending was exciting, but the rest of the novel had done very little in the way of leading up to it, stylistically, tonally, and narratively.
Crush du Jour Rating:
Adrian's easily distracted (translation: "Snooore!" C)
Scandal in Spring, by Lisa Kleypas
Now this novel was a refreshing read after the dusty Child. It's cheesy, it's romance, it's got a peek-a-boo cover with a "literary" scenic picture on the front and the steamy man-on-woman seduction pose underneath. But boy, was it fun to read!
Maybe it was the fact that the book was incredibly funny - scenes like Daisy and Matthew entering into a devious, seven-hour-long, Machievelli-inspired game of lawn-bowling; or Lillian's child being delivered by a veterinarian; or Daisy pretending to have a relationship with another dude to make Matthew jealous only to discover that her pretend paramour suddenly wants a real relationship. I was giggling along with the hilarious dialogue. I also liked how the three married Wallflowers were incorporated into the story with their own little epilogues, but without stealing the real show away from Daisy. Perfect? No. Great Lit-rah-chur? No. Entertaining - hell yeah.
Crush du Jour Rating:
Thursday, May 17, 2007
My First Celebrity Encounter - Chris Kattan and Patrick Swayze!
Everyone was just walking wherever they pleased, but some people had stopped to look, so I did too. A bunch of kids with shopping bags were just sitting around on benches, some where leaning up against storefronts, and a couple in fur coats (fur coats??) were talking in whispers by a mirrored column. The only person I guessed was an actor was an extremely large man in a green Hawaiian shirt who was being tended by two aids with hand-held fans and tissues trying to daub the sweat off of his face without smudging his make-up. But then someone in a megaphone yelled something, and the guys in walkie talkies started barking at people to leave the set, so I walked a ways off, but they continued to say "Keep going! You're right in the shot!" I honestly couldn't tell where I should stop, because there were still people hanging around.
I skittered nervously away to an escalator, and watched the rest of it unimpeded from the second floor. It was then that the immensity of my ADD hit me square in the face, when I finally noticed that all the kids sitting on benches and leaning around and talking were all wearing toques and parkas and winter coats. In May. And it also explained why the Mall still had it's Christmas decorations up - they were shooting a Christmas movie! Face, meet palm! It's funny the things my mind just doesn't notice.
Anyway, the director yelled, "Rolling!" then "Action!" (just like in the movies - HA!) and the weird couple in fur coats and the kids all started walking like they all had places to be - and the rubberneckers inconveniently dressed in shorts and tank-tops for the summer season had been successfully herded away. The scene, from what I could see, seemed to comprise of a man in a tan jacket and red shirt examining some sunglasses and then walking away looking around significantly.
I honestly didn't think there were going to be any stars at this point - I figured since they were doing it in the middle of the day in the summer crush they were just doing establishing shots or crowd scenes or minor shots - I imagined the man at the sunglass stand would turn out to be a bungling criminal that those meddling kids would help catch in a serious of slapstick capers. Or something. It's a kids movie, c'mon!
But then, after letting some of the actual shoppers through, the guys with walking-talkies went back to cat-herding and got them all out, and the director yelled "Action!" again. This time though, Chris Kattan - aka Mango, Mr Peepers, Mr Feather from Undercover Brother, the walking gymnast corpse from Monkeybone, the other half of that weird SNL skit where the guys tilt their heads to "What is Love?" - dressed in a black suit, stormed down the hallway looking very annoyed, with the big fat guy (apparently Preston Lacy from Jackass) waddling behind him. The actual Chris Kattan! In person!
Anyway, not knowing the plot. I imagined that Kattan would play the buttoned-up, strict Mall Manager, or some Goofily Oppressive Authority Figure those Meddling Kids would have to deal with (with slapstick capers, of course). Mr Lacy, I assumed, was his shlubby sidekick. I stood around staring at Kattan for a while (it isn't anymore comfortable staring at a celebrity as it is staring at anyone else - anytime one of the entourage moved their head so much as 45 degrees in my direction I raised my eyes to the ceiling and pretended I was looking somewhere else, I wasn't just some creepy rubbernecker like the others, oh no...), when I heard some people mention the name Swayze.
What? I walked around to the other side to get a better view, and I saw a tall, brown-haired man in a blue shirt between two jewellery carts. His back was to me, and I was looking down at an angle. He's a grip, I thought, or a best boy, whatever those are...Then he turned around. Flash! It was like walking through the woods, and you're not expecting to see any wild animals because you're a human making a big, stomping racket, and then out of nowhere this gorgeous deer leaps into view for just a second before trotting away as calm as you please. I was looking at the face of Patrick Swayze - and I was close enough to recognize him! Swayze and Kattan.
I pretty much turned into all of those idiotic "little people" who wonder wow, they look just the same as they do on screen... I honestly wished I had a camera. Seriously. Freakin' cool. I hung around for a bit, but eventually knew I had to go home. My mother was yelped when I told her the news, but no one reacted as much as Sister #1 - she's a huge fan of the Guy Who Kept Baby Out of the Corner.
Anyway, I went online and looked up the plot. From what I can gather, Chris Kattan and Preston Lacy probably play a couple of criminals dealing in counterfeit bills (that the Meddling Kids have to bring to justice with some Slapstick Capers!), but I'm quite pleased to note that Our City will be playing Our City, and not Our City Dressed Up To Look Like Seattle Because It's Cheaper To Film Here. It looks to be pretty interesting - or at least, more interesting than Snow Days, which was also filmed in our city (in front of my Nana's house!).
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
My Wonderful Tour with the UAMC
Day 1: Saturday April 28th
Okay, today was the day I had been waiting for. I woke up super-early (we had to meet at the University at 7:30 am to make sure everything was packed), and forced breakfast into a stomach in which butterflies were doing various variations on the standard waltz. I mean, this was going to be tour - I was going to be away from home for eight days, and that meant eight days away from home, where I could be sick or sad or lonely or miserable or whatever, and I wouldn't be able to run on home and pull the covers up over my head and feel better. I was already having severe second thoughts - my comfortable-rut-brain was having fits about the damage I was doing to my schedule.
Anyway, I had breakfast, double-checked my luggage, packed a lunch, and went down to the basement to program the TV shows I would be missing over the week (Drive, Heroes, The Office, Grey's Anatomy - forgetting this week was the Grey's double-spinoff episode, but more on that later).
Today was also Pyjama Day - the first day of Tour traditionally is - so I arrived at the school in my brand-new pink flamigo pyjamas. There were two Greyhound buses for our trip - a red one and a white one - and people were already busy stacking the risers and handbells and foodstuffs into the red one. Soon, everyone else started a luggage-and-sleeping-bag-train to pack our things into the white bus. I noticed my suitcase was one of the smallest present - and that made me a little nervous, let me tell you.
We were so busy putting our carry-ons into the buses (I ended up in the white one, with my friends and my billet partner, but near the front - I felt a little sad, because in every single bus trip I've ever been on, whether they're for short fieldtrips or day-long tours, the fun stuff always happens in the back), that we almost forgot another Tour tradition that was new to me - the hora. The tour members always perform a hora before we get on the buses to go to our next destination, because otherwise bad things happen. I'd danced the hora before - at a friend's bat mitzvah, but I didn't know the words. Neither did most of the other people actually, and eventually people ended up making up dirty words for it (but more on that later).
Finally, we were on the bus. It was a Greyhound, so nice and spacious and comfortable and with a bathroom - but we were cautioned never to use it except in an emergency, because we didn't know when, if ever, it would be emptied on tour. On the bus we read books, and watched movies (Talledega Nights this day - that was my DVD contribution), and talked - and handed out the Secret Pals to those who were participating. I was lucky enough to get someone whose name and face I recognized, but I jumped the gun by passing on one of their tasks and prizes right away - on the same bus. I thought it would give me away too easily, but it didn't (but, er, more on that later).
We had a brief stop in Whitecourt, which was even windier and dustier than at the University, and since most of us were in our pyjamas it made it quite an, hmm, interesting experience to go into public restaurants and restrooms in our PJs. I followed my friends from the White Bus into an A&W, where I ditched my bagged lunch for some junk food (not the best decision, but it made delicious sense at the time). Then back on the bus.
We arrived at St. Paul's United Church in Grande Prairie around 3pm, but most of us had to stay on the bus because only the Moving Crew and Bell Ringers were allowed off first to set up. I stayed in the bus and read Child of a Rainless Year by Jane Lindskold - which started out really good but got pretty boring really quickly, but I was obsessive enough about reading to insist on reading it to the very end. Finally, we went in and rehearsed - and I was expecting my Secret Pal to show up and do the task I'd asked her to do during warm-up (which was shake her ass - and by that I mean the little donkey-puppet I'd given her), but she didn't. On top of that, it turned out the slow tempo I'd been rehearsing the solo for was an even slower tempo than I was supposed to sing it at (it's slower than the CD, but not as slow as I'd been imagining it was), and so I was even more nervous about how I was going to get the solo right when there wasn't nearly as much time to rehearse it.
After rehearsal we went to dinner - a potluck which was provided by the grateful people who would be listening to us and billeting us tonight. I was a bit annoyed when the head person came out and said they couldn't ensure that there weren't nuts in some things and that they removed themselves from any responsibility - because some of the food had actual, whole, wallnuts in them. Which plain pissed me off because not only was I fatally allergic to nuts, but so was our accompaniest and we were definitely screwed big-time if he ever got sick. I just avoided a lot of the food, so I didn't eat a whole lot, but there were brownies which were labelled "NO NUTS" in really big letters that were pretty good.
After dinner we quickly dressed in our formalwear and lined up to perform. The first half I held my music binder (we were supposed to have every song memorized for every performance after this one), but since I knew most of the words I ditched it after intermission. During intermission I handed out some of the Winter-Mint Lifesavers my mum had given me, and many choir members were really grateful because there wasn't a lot of time to brush our teeth and we'd been eating garlic. We actually made a mistake this day and re-entered the church before the handbells (who play after intermission but before the choir comes in for the second half) had started their last song, a really fun number called "Plink Plank Plonk". But we played it cool, standing in the aisles quietly with our hands at our sides, so I think no one noticed.
Then came the important part - the second half. With the introduction to The Little Mermaid medley, my heart started pounding double-time. I was expecting this, and it usually makes my performances better, but then my knees started shaking, really knocking together. I was terrified - what if I actually fell down when I came down off the risers to sing the solo? I somehow made it down, and really listened to the piano to make sure I got the tempo right, and started singing. The terror didn't stop until I was done. I kept being frightened that my voice would waver or that I would run out of breath because my knees were just shaking so hard, and I know that I can't really sing smoothly when I'm walking or running around too much. But I managed it, and calmed down during the next two songs in the medley, and then we were done and I just felt so happy.
Then came the billets. My billet partner and I were billeted with six other girls, and the woman who would house us and provide us with breakfast and a bagged lunch had to make two trips. She had a really large, big house with lots of rooms - because her kids were all grown and she gave music lessons in the basement for kids. I was still pretty nervous - this was a stranger's house, and I would have to sleep and bathe in a place that I was totally unfamiliar with. I'd also forgotten to bring any kind of alarm clock (the other girls used their cellphones), so I had to borrow one. That first night I called home - I didn't want to have to go through with this, I didn't want to have to deal with strangers, and I didn't get to sleep for a long while because two of the girls (a bell-ringer and a flautist) stayed up late talking.
Day 2: Sunday April 29th
I ended up waking up first, before my alarm, and I went into the first bathroom, locked the door, stripped, and found out I couldn't turn the cold-water tap for the shower. It was stuck. Horrified, I got out, re-dressed in my pyjamas, took my bundle of this day's clothes with me and shuffled into the second shower (that was attached to the lady of house's bedroom) and used that. I dunno - it's always been a squicky experience to use someone else's shower, because there's this ever-present paranoia that someone will walk in on you (even with the locked door) or that they have cameras everywhere or something. It's impossible to be comfortable in your own skin in a stranger's shower.
Breakfast and lunch were interesting - the lady of the house had a milk and gluten allergy, so I made my sandwich with oatbread and mayo. She made a pretty big breakfast though - frozen hashbrowns and eggs and bacon and (oatbread) toast, with sliced pineapple and tea and raspberry juice. We also saw a group of deer sidle up to her backyard fence. We squeezed into her car and arrived at the church to find out that someone by the nickname of "Kato Ace" had graffiti'd his name onto the white bus, which was immediately christianed the "Thug Bus" - meaning it had more street cred and was more "gangsta" than the other, red bus.
This morning, all the Secret Pals came out in earnest - I'd been earlier than all of them, which was something I would have to remember for the next tour. Something I also learned is that the time when most people do their Secret Pal tasks is in the circle right before the hora - it just makes it easier. So my Secret Pal did go and shake her little donkey, and someone else had to perform a scene from a chick flick with handpuppets (he chose the death scene from Titanic), and we also humiliated one of the choir members who had not only forgotten his music binder (which means he has to be punished by the BLF - the Binder Liberation Front) but he'd actually stolen one of the tour manager's binders and lost that. His punishment was to pretend to be a Charmander - because he looked like one with his brilliant red mohawk.
I gave my Secret Pal her first clue - that I have glasses - and then it was back on the bus. We watched Super Troopers on the bus, but the screen was so small and blurry I was missing most of the jokes - and even then, the movie was still funny. Something that happened in Super Troopers caused our bus to be re-christianed Bus Ramrod. We took a break in Pink Mountain - which was a rather desolate part of BC that was comprised, as far as we could tell, by a restaurant on one side of the highway that (conveeeeniently) became "Open" once we showed up, and a convenience store on the other side that sold cold medicine and books next to firecrackers and Cherry Bombs. I bought some more presents for my Secret Pal, some cookies, and then went over to the Restaurant to discover that my Secret Pal had just discovered that the bouncy-ball I gave her not only had an eyeball in it, but lit up when you bounced it. Fantastic.
We all got back in the bus, watched Madagascar (not bad!), and fiddled around until we arrived in Fort Nelson BC. The Moving Crew and Bell Ringers got out to set up in the town's one Secondary School, and at the sound check I got something from my secret pal - a Darth Vader ring and the task to go around asking people in the Vader Voice "ARE YOU MY DADDY?!" I thought it was silly, but I wouldn't get a clue until I did it. Then we all got out to eat a spaghetti dinner provided by the school. I stayed away from the desserts. There, my Secret Pal performed her second task (sing a song of friendship and hug the other tour manager), so I secreted her another clue. I asked a bunch of people "ARE YOU MY DADDY?" and got a few confused looks but all noes - most people realized that if someone's acting strange on tour, it's usually thanks to Secret Pals. Our club's President-Elect, for instance, had to sing "Food! Glorious Food!" everytime someone said the word scrumptious during dinner, but towards the end of the meal he was scowling and muttering "foodglorfood..."
However, I had to keep asking "ARE YOU MY DADDY," still no clue, and it was getting increasingly embarassing to ask it, especially to guys. I guess I'm a bit of a prude, but I saw that there were sexual implications in asking guys if they were "my daddy" and it was really uncomfortable. I ended up asking more and more people, until the Assistant Conductor - who, like me, was realizing I was getting nowhere - asked me to say the question to a whole room of people in the hopes that someone would have a clue for me. No one did - and I was practically in tears. Now, I'm a complainer by nature - and it is something I'm trying to stop - but that's when I started complaining that if you make your Secret Pal cry, you're obviously asking them to do the wrong thing. After asking (I kid you not) about 70 of our 76 members, I finally got a clue - written in Chinese. Someone translated it to mean "Hunter" or "Male Shooter" in Outlands - so I figured they played World of Warcraft, which narrowed the field down only slightly.
Anyway - the concert went fine, but I was still incredibly embarassed, and after that came the billets which made me even more embarassed. Seriously - I may go on a dozen tours and never get used to it. Me and my billet partner got partnered again with the Bell Ringer and Flautist, and were driven to a nice home in Fort Nelson owned by an elderly couple - a woman who was very appreciative of my singing and a man who could have rivaled Father Time with that crazy-long white beard of his. They lined their stairwells with Christmas lights instead of nightlights, because they "were prettier and used less wattage" and for their fiftieth anniversary the husband made a poster with their wedding photo and a big number 50 made out of tobacco cans pasted onto it - but with an earring under each one because the woman was fond of earrings. My billet and I got a bed in a room where two of the four walls were huge windows (and the woman made a surprising joke about how if we didn't want to use the drapes we could give the neighbours a wonderful time), while the other two decided on couches, and these were the types of couches I've always categorized as "Old People Furniture" - you know, the ones with polished wooden frames and golden-tan cushions printed with enormous pink cabbage roses on them, that rest on brown shag carpets so thick it makes it hard to close doors.
I go to sleep pretty early (and we were now officially on BC time - which is an hour later than Alberta time), because I'm all "early to bed, early to rise" - but the bell-ringer and flautist stayed up and played duets on the piano and flute. It was very nice, and eventually I went to sleep, so there wasn't a whole lot wrong with it.
Day 3: Monday April 30th
We woke up, I used the shower (in which the hot and cold taps had been conveniently labelled in marker), then went down to breakfast. Today was dress up like a Yukon Miner Day, but I figured I didn't have the suitcase space so I didn't bother. The lady of the house had pre-made breakfast plates of eggs, bacon, red peppers and fried potatoes - only the egg was raw. She put it in the microwave for two minutes and then everything came out cooked. We were then supposed to make our lunches, when I discovered a giant bowl of pistachios next to all the lunch food. Now, I don't know if my allergy can be triggered by inhaling as well as eating, but I haven't been in much of a mood to test it. I don't know if the woman simply forgot the allergy information she got or just ignored it - but it sent my appetite all to hell.
And she had so much stuff to put in the lunches too. My allergy is also kind of psychological. If I see a big uncovered bowl of fatal nuts in a house, than I just feel constantly tense. I managed to make one sandwich and take one wrapped nut-free chocolate bar, and she kept insisting I take more, but I simply said I didn't eat that much because I didn't want to scream in her face: "I DON'T WANT TO EAT ANYTHING YOU'VE MADE BECAUSE YOU PLACED IT ALL NEXT TO A BOWL OF NUTS THAT WILL KILL ME!"
Anyway, we met up back at the high school, where I gave my Secret Pal another present and task (everytime someone said the word "sun," that day, she had to quote The Princess Bride), and I got another message from my Secret Pal - that my uncomfortable experience the last day had been to build character. My next task was to identify a text he gave me and detail in public what is was about - and I figured out it was Jonathan Swift's treatise on eating babies just after the hora. The note also said to have something sweet to make up for my sour experience, but there was nothing attached to the note except for the text. Anyway - we had the hora, where TWO people had to seduce the President-Elect with "Happy Birthday" a la Marilyn Monroe, and another guy had to dance sexily with an inflated lizard.
After that, we discovered that Bus Ramrod (the white bus) was discovered to be broken down after the driver scrubbed the last of the spray paint off. It could be fixed, but no one was sure when - so that meant that the conductors, bell-ringers, instrumentalists, and Moving Crew were put onto the Bus of Rad (the red bus) to make sure that if Bus Ramrod was late, there would still be a concert. That also meant that I (as the soloist) was moved to the Bus of Rad. It was lots of fun - the bus was extra packed, but we watched The Princess Bride and everyone yelled out about a three-fourths of the script (including the Conductor - who loves the movie)!
The bus made its break this time in Toad River, and while I felt brave enough to eat the chocolate bar (because it was wrapped), I threw my sandwich in the garbage because I just didn't want to take chances. If I went into shock, that would be it for tour - even if they took me to a hospital, I probably wouldn't have been able to sing for a while. I then lined up for the bathroom (the lines are always long) but the place as interesting because the entire ceiling was completely lined with ballcaps from truckers and people all over the world. Some guys had even signed theirs. It was cool.
We alternated bathrooms (because there was only one toilet in each) so I got the men's one when it was my turn and I was surprised that the graffiti etched into the wood of the sink was comprised mainly of political commentary regarding the martyr status of suicide bombers (with one penciled comment: "lern how 2 spel!") I bought chicken fingers and fries at the diner, and got into a spirited discussion about good fantasy novels with the Assistant Conductor. I then had my picture taken at the Toad River sign and then everyone got back on the bus, where we learned that Bus Ramrod had been fixed and was now three hours behind us on the road.
We watched Little Miss Sunshine, while the busdriver pointed out the wonderful number of caribou on the road (because it had been salted), and we even got to see a herd of bison! We arrived in Watson Lake, Yukon Territories, where we had a bare-bones rehearsal (because half the choir was still catching up in Bus Ramrod), and we had another spaghetti dinner. By this time, my cold was starting to take a turn for the worse, I was blowing my nose all the time, and my throat was starting to hurt, so the Conductor gave me some Halls, and during our free time we went out and saw the famous Signpost Forest - where people from as far as Germany send in road signs, city signs, place signs, and personal family signs - and they're all nailed up onto hundreds of wooden posts. We saw a sign for the city of Cool, Gays Mills, Dycksville, and Saturn - I found signs of places that corresponded to both my first and last names - and before we left the next day we nailed up a UAMC sign for them to remember us by.
By the time we got back, the others had caught up (the wonderful bus driver had sped like hell to get here), and we had a great concert - although during intermission, one of the Social Conveners took me aside and asked if I wanted to call the whole Secret Pal thing off. I'd been very vocal about how uncomfortable the first task had been, the Secret Pal had heard about it, and did I want to continue with it? I said yes I did - I'd calmed down somewhat, because I knew the person hadn't mean to humiliate me on purpose and I realized most of the embarassment came from the fact that I'd had to ask the silly question about 70 times before finding the clue and that was just bad luck. We finished the concert, I aced the solo, and we went back to the rec centre for a group sleep, where everyone sleeps on the gym floor in their sleeping bags. This we did - once again, I felt the pang of being an early sleeper in a group of late-night partiers, and I ended up sleeping near someone who snored like a herd of elephants so I ended up staying up late, too.
Day 4: Tuesday May 1st
I woke up today with my throat on fire and a serious cold, and it was then that I found out I was missing a crucial item - it wasn't on the Tour list, but it was needed just the same - a towel. I had no towel, and I couldn't very well borrow anyone else's. I hadn't even packed enough clothing to use a spare shirt - because with the way my luck was going I would probably have to wear it again. So instead of heading for the Rec Centre's showers, I tiptoed into the Ladies bathroom, lathered up in the sink, and dried my hair and armpits (rather ineffectively) with paper towels. I came out feeling all plugged-up and awful (and also knowing that I wasn't going home for another four days). I gave my Secret Pal another present and a task, then had a breakfast of hot coffee, cereal, and toast provided by volunteers, and then made my lunch from some food that was also provided. I then sucked on a bunch of throat lozenges because we weren't done with Watson Lake yet - we had a school concert.
Instead of formal wear, we wear our UAMC t-shirts and blue jeans. We also had a bunch of pranks to pull on the Conductors - another Tour tradition for school concerts. When singing the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty" we sang "All the king's horses and all the king's men, couldn't put Assistant Conductor [I'm not saying his name] together again" - which made the AC grin, and then during The Little Mermaid the dudes sang "Guess Head Conductor will be on the plate." Then, at the end, we're all supposed to put on our sunglasses and run out in order - I screwed up the order and ran before I should have, but the others said it was no problem. Then we had the hora, and my Secret Pal completed her task of dancing like a hummingbird.
We got on the bus again, and stopped in Teslin, where my Secret pal gave me candy and a Yukon keychain - he hadn't been able to give me the candy before because of the bus fiasco. Also, another clue: He had a BA and flew British Air a lot. I immediately felt better! We checked out their animal museum, and after an hour got back on the bus where we watched The Dark Crystal - again, the sound and picture weren't very good so all I got out of that movie was that it was about a bunch of puppets who scream at each other and shoot blinding lights. Finally, after a long drive, we arrived in Whitehorse, Yukon.
We had a great potluck dinner - because some (wonderfully!) lazy people brought pizza and take-out ribs as well as all the other stuff, and more Secret Pal shenanigans were performed during supper. We then went and performed, and I was embarassed, because no matter the cold meds I took or the amounts of kleenex I drenched (I'd had the foresight to bring a lot and they were all needed), my nose my running like a faucet and I spent the short periods of applauce snorking and snuffing so that I didn't dribble all over my choir dress. My solo still went well. During intermission, I found out from friends who my Secret Pal was - he was the President (outgoing)! As in, the guy who sat directly in front of me on the bus and probably heard every word of my whining about Secret Pals. *crap crap crap!* I guess, anyways - but I turned out to the third who guessed, so no prize for me.
While Whitehorse was supposed to be a "group sleep" place, a whole lot of people volunteered to billet after the concert, so I ended up billeted again. I'm not sure whether I was pleased or not. There's no paranoia in sleeping with a gym full of your friends - but no showers either. Anyway, me and my billet partner, two other girls, and the Bell Ringer and the Flautist were sent over to a B&B. I got a bed to myself, which was great because I was going through kleenexes like a mofo.
Day 5: Wednesday May 2nd
I woke up, had my shower (with a detachable shower-curtain that was always threatening to fall) and one of the choir girls made pancakes and we had cereal, too.
We went back to the gym for the second school concert, and there I gave my Secret Pal a day-appropriate gift: today was Hawaiian Day (I was wearing a sarong) and I gave my SP a beachball! We also had even MORE pranks for the Conductors. For the AC, who was doing a set of nursury rhymes, we were asked to sing scales in the wrong direction, exchange "moo" for "baa" when singing "Little Bo Peep" and having a girl say "what a good girl am I" during "Jack Horner". The AC kept smiling, although panic began to rise in his eyes, especially when we started "Mary had a Little Lamb" and the pianist's joke was to play the original tune everyone knows instead of the modified one for the set, and we all started singing the wrong notes - it took a few bars for us to wrench ourselves into the right tune.
During The Little Mermaid, we had to sing "Part of the Head Conductor's world," but I sounded like I was the only one who remembered. But the kids were so appreciative. When I got up and sang my solo (I was even introduced as Ariel!) two of the girls in the front row did open-mouthed double takes! And when the HC said the students could ask four questions, two of those questions were "could you play some more/again?" (Both answers: no). I got to talk with some of the students because recess happened right when we were doing the luggage train, and they said the cutest things!
"You sounded just like Ariel!"
"Is that your real voice?"
"I liked that guy who screamed during the song!" (the President-Elect, who played the Scuttle role in the "Kiss the Girl" number, you know the -"waah waah waah!" thing he does)
After that, we didn't do a hora, but we all gathered for the SP tasks. Mine was to perform Hamlet's soliloquoy, but I spiced it up by doing half of it as "great Canadian actor" William Shatner, and then to keep the piece short I said he got drunk and wandered off the stage so Sylvester Stallone had to fill in (which allowed me to get away with a lot of mumbling) and then I finished up by saying Shatner had come back on to finish and screamed "KHAAAN!" I got lots of applause for that one!
After that came free time - so I went with some friends to explore Whitehorse. One of my friends wanted to go somewhere local to eat some "Yukon Food," or at least, no junk food, but we ended up settling on a cart that sold caribou smokies. We sang after we ate them, too. I also bought souvenirs for my sisters - two vials of water filled with small, yellow flakes of pure-gold. I thought they looked cool, anyway. Also, there were two car accidents within blocks and minutes of each other that happened while we were there - a bike got hit in one, a woman another. We then did another hora before we departed, and I heard some of the made-up words people had made to sing to the hora because they couldn't remember the real words:
Hey, hit the floor!
Hey, hit the floor!
Have-a another one,
Have-a another one,
Have-a another one,
Hey, hit the floor!
Who gave me an STD-a?
Who gave me an STD-a?
Who gave me an STD-a?
Hey now, let's hit the floor!
Very hard to keep from laughing - but now, back on the bus! We arrived in Teslin, and that's when I started experiencing a load of health problems. I'm talking huge headache, can't breathe through my nose, my toe's bleeding for no reason...We sat down to a pretty good dinner (they made chicken cordon bleu, which was good, and apple pie which was so bad I would have thrown it out if the chef hadn't been standing right there, but he gave me an out by saying "Oh wait, cinnamon's a nut isn't it?" and I said, "yes, yes it is..." not really knowing - so that I could take another piece of bumbleberry pie instead)...but through it all I wanted to die. Or go home and curl up under the covers and then die.
So I changed into my choir dress, and buried my head in my pillow as the bus makes its way to the school (the town's so small the school doesn't even have an address - and grades 3/4/5 are all taught in one room!), where I felt a little better. There were cute babies in the audience! But I still felt like crap - one thing about me and colds is that my lips feel so sticky, so I'm always licking them, and then they dry out, and then the skin under my nose dries out from all the blowing and I haven't even brought any Vaseline...ANYWAY - I gradually felt better as the night progressed. We spent the intermission in the children's library so it as nice to comfort myself with Lois Lowry and Ursula Le Guin. We all came into the hallway as the Bell Ringers played "Plink Plank Plonk" - and we all danced to it. Then we went back in, and I didn't screw up the solo.
After that, we had to trek through the mud to Teslin's other museum, where there was punch and snacks, then we unloaded our stuff into their gym for another group sleep. I changed into my PJs and decided to wash my hair in the sink at night, so that I wouldn't have to bother after I woke up - and it turned out I wasn't the only girl uncomfortable with open showers. There was a bit of a fuss when we accidentally set off the alarm, but that was quickly taken care of. I also made sure to sleep on the opposite side of the gym from the person who snores, and right next to one of my new friends! We read the same stuff, and watch the same stuff, and we've sat together all through the tour, it's so great! I then watched a few minutes of Heroes someone had bootlegged, read some more of my novel, then went to sleep.
At around two in the morning, I woke up, picked my way across the sleeping bags on the floor, made it into the bathroom just in time to absolutely puke my guts out. I don't know whether it was the caribou smokie, or the karmic payback of taking that bumbleberry pie slice, but when I went back to my sleepingbag I feel asleep right away and woke up fine. Who knew?
Day 6: Thursday May 3
I woke up around six, and found I could be lazy since I'd already rinsed my hair in the sink, y'know, before I'd voided my stomach contents. The volunteers provided us with a pretty good breakfast - with strudel and muffins and cereal. I had cereal, and chanced a strudel, but stayed away from the muffins. I gave my Secret Pal another present - a pencil with a little wooden dog on one end whose ears spun if you shook it. It's great finding cute little gifts to give people! We had another hora, then went straight back on the bus. Most of us were pretty excited, because today was Hotel Night. For one night on tour, instead of performing, we all stay at a hotel and relax and have fun. It's also an occasion to drink and dance and go crazy, but I didn't do that today.
We watched Shaun of the Dead on the bus (all the last ten minutes, which drives me crazy and means I have to rent it for myself), and I finally finished the incredibly boring Child of a Rainless Year and was able to start the fluffy, cheesey, but incredibly fun Scandal in Spring, by Lisa Kleypas - my, ahem, second romance ever. Very silly, but I liked it.
And then, hotel night. I was paired with my billet partner (great friend!) and my seat partner (another great friend!), so I was looking forward to it. Lots of people were going out to eat (and drink), but I decided to stay in. I know, I could have been listening to my rut-brain telling me to stay away from people, and hole up in a cozy room with a book and no one to bother me, but I'd also had a killer cold/headache the day before, and actually been sick early this morning, so I decided to eat at the hotel restaurant and relax with my friends, who were all staying in as well. I did have my regrets, but I think it was for the best and I was sociable on skit night (more on that later!).
Anyway, we went to the restaurant, where the waitress was completely incompetant. We ordered our food, and I alerted the woman to my allergies, but she didn't actually say that my order wasn't safe to eat until she's actually served the two women first - so I'd had to order something else and wait while they cooked it when my friends already had their food because the woman was an idiot. Grrr...anyway, when my new order came, the food was good, but we waited around with our paid bills for a quarter of an hour until someone told us we had to go to the front to pay it. Thanks a lot, waitress! I didn't tip her a cent, but I took half my supper in a doggie bag up to the room, and ate the rest of my beef sandwich and fries watching the last half of The Office and Grey's Anatomy with my friends. I also dug into Scandal in Spring, which was a decadent read and a million times more entertaining than Child of a Rainless Year.
I think I'm getting just the littlest bit tired of Grey's Anatomy - I think they jumped the shark when they ruined the George-Izzy platonic relationship, and this episode, which had the adulterous Addison whining and crying and tongue-kissing completely random people because she finds out that she has no boyfriend and will never have children, really tried my tolerance of the soapy-sex that goes into this show.
Day 7: Friday May 4th
The hotel breakfast was at nine, so we got to sleep in for a bit. It was nice, and the hotel, while not flawless (there were watermarks on the ceiling and cigarette-burns on the sheets) was pretty comfortable. Hotel breakfast was everything I hoped it would be - in fact, breakfasts are my favourite part of staying in hotels. They had a buffet of fruit and hashbrowns and bacon and the biggest pancakes ever - I took it all, except for the eggs (which turned out to be a good thing - they were powdered and no one liked them), and had a grand old time.
Today was Be Your Billet Partner Day but my billet partner and I were so different in styles, appearance, and clothing size that we just didn't bother. We got back on the bus, stopped for lunch in Fort St. John (I took advantage of the tour's Lunchmothers program and had summer sausage and pitas and Oreos!) then bused until we arrived in Dawson Creek. By the time we arrived I'd finished Scandal in Spring. When a book is fun, I read it quickly. Child of a Rainless Year took five days - Scandal took one and a half: do the math. I picked up Melusine by Sarah Monette afterwards - darker, yes, and more serious - but delicious for all that.
We had a great dinner - yeah, it was spaghetti and Caeser salad again, but I switched it up a little by making a spaghetti sandwich. They also had cookies that were clearly marked as having NO NUTS, and they tasted great - especially when dipped in hot coffee. The performance went without a hitch, but when it was over it was billet time again. Me, my billet partner, and three other girls (no Bell Ringer or Flautist this time, for some reason) were hustled into a car and driven to a farm - which meant it was pretty far away from town, which meant that with every mile we were being driven into the dark I was having the willies about this strange man taking us to the outskirts of town to dispose of us so that no one would ever find us again. He had a pretty large house though (with brown shag carpets, natch) with beds for everyone, and this time I decided to shower at night. I think on the next tour I'll do that as well - at night I'm more alert, more reasonable than early in the morning, and it'll be less of a rush and no mistakes will be made. Still, the shower was weird - yes, the man of the house had a wife who was out at an art show, but I still wondered where the cameras in the bathroom were, the cameras and peepholes and weird one-way mirrors that just had to be there because this was a situation in which an old man was alone in the house with five young women. In the light of day I know I'm absurd, and doing this kind couple a disservice, and they were kind and hospitable in every respect - but I just wasn't comfortable sleeping/showering/eating in a stranger's house.
Day 8: Saturday May 5th
Woke up, didn't have to shower, and had an awkward breakfast of strawberries and cereal - we met the Lady of the house, but it was a brittle interaction because she was one of those people who has to be asked for every single thing instead of just bringing it all out, and I hate asking strangers for things because I feel I'm imposing.
Anyway, we were soon all packed up and sent back to the school to meet with the other choir members. I received a container of bubble formula and another task (write a Royal Sonnet about the word "kimeo" - a nonsense word that was part of one of the songs we sang). This was a pleasant surprise to me, because I hadn't heard from my Secret Pal in a while, and I'd just assumed that he knew I'd guessed and didn't want to bother with it anymore. Apparently, he didn't know I'd guessed. After, we all went to take pictures at the part of Dawson Creek that indicated we were at Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway (the road we'd used to go up to Whitehorse and back down again). Then, the Secret Pal tasks, a dance-off, the hora, and back on the bus to Valleyview Alberta, and eventually, Skit Night.
Valleyview was sunny, but windy, and we arrived early. Most people went off to rehearse their skits for skit night, but because I wasn't in any of them, I went with some of my friends to the drugstore to pick up munchies for Skit Night: booze makes me sleepy, so I like sugar instead because it keeps me awake. I got watermelon-flavoured Twizzlers, French Toast Crunch cereal, sour cream and onion Pringles, and a case of Berries & Cream Diet Doctor Pepper (which in the long run was a mistake, because it tastes like a Doctor Pepper that someone has let a berry popsicle melt in).
We went back, and supper was served soon after - it was tasty chillie with corn chips to dip in it! In the food line, I was ahead of one of the more well-known "Old Guard" of the choir. She wasn't ill, but she'd caught some throat thing that deepened her voice so she wasn't able to sing, and she was talking about what other jobs she could do with her voice instead of singing. I'd blurted out that she could sign up for a phone sex line, and she laughed so loudly and with such shock. "Don't take it the wrong way!" she said, "It's hilarious, but I never expected such a joke to come from you!" Well, just wait until she heard my sonnet! As everyone squeezed into the tiny Home Ec room of the Valleyview high school to get supper, I stood up and read my sonnet aloud.
I felt bad about my reaction to the first task, because it made me look like a prude, and I was a prude - the so-called sexual implications of the task shouldn't have made any difference. Everyone knew it was a Secret Pals thing, and it wouldn't have reflected anything whatsoever on my character. And even the deep-voice girl knew of my growing reputation as, er, an "innocent." So to make up for my whining I made my sonnet incredibly dirty - the first stanza was ordinary enough (except for a reference to a hobo knife), but it got dirtier and dirtier. By the end of it everyone was howling and clapping. Did they think I was a slut, or a person with bad taste, or someone who needed their mouth washed out with soap? Did they think less of my morals? NO! They saw me as a person who was really breaking with her rut-brain and jumping more readily into the Choir Social Scene. Deep-voiced girl half-wailed, half-laughed "Oh, what have we done to you?" and the Head Conductor mocked, "They've finally turned you into one of them." I was finally one of them. Fantastic!
My Secret Pal was ecstatic, and sent a note saying he'd buy me something for skit night if I could guess who he was - I promptly did, and asked for chocolate M&Ms.
As for the performance, it went wonderfully, and one of my friends who'd opted out of singing due to illness managed to film the one minute of my solo on her camera, so that my parents will be able to see it. Not only were the people of Valleyview in the audience, but also lots of choir people who'd driven down from the capital. They hadn't been able to go on tour, but they were present to see the last performance and take part in skit night. Charmander's girlfriend was there - and she had a mohawk too, a long sheaf of bright pink hair that was combed demurely over one side of her shaved head. It'd taken three hours to dye them both, she'd said. Also - one of our tour managers was there - she'd done all the legwork before tour, but hadn't been able to come herself due to nursing scheduling.
It didn't come to mind that this might have been the last tour for a lot of people until the last song - the tour manager in the audience apparently started crying during the final song, "Good Night," because she wasn't coming back to choir. Another person in the choir saw it and started crying, then the Head Conductor saw him and his face screwed up in concentration. We barely made it through and ran out the doors to do another after-concert tradition (waving the bells and screaming like mofos), before so many people just started bawling - especially lots of the guys. Who knew? It turns out a lot of people, due to jobs or graduation or whatnot, were not coming back for choir next year - including one of our Social Convenors, the "Raging Buffalo." But tour meant so much to everybody that this last performance was so tearful. After it was all cleaned up and put away, we all changed into our PJs and started Skit Night.
First came speeches from the Head Conductor and one of the Social Convenors (the one who wasn't leaving), then the skits - and interspersed between them was the Secret Exec event (which was like Secret Pals but for all the executive members of choir). There was the traditional "Bell Skit" - which the Head Conductor took part it, which was very silly and ended up with everyone dead but gave plenty of excuses for the Bell Ringers to perform versions of "The Pink Panther Theme," "The Godfather Theme," and "Secret Agent Man." After that came the "Anti-Bell Skit," where the Assistant Conductor, and two other people went on about how bells were invented by Adolf Hitler and are fashioned out of the tears of baby panthers, and all the evil people who are bell-ringers (like Mugatu - "I INVENTED the piano key necktie! I INVENTED IT! What did you do? NOTHING!").
Lots of other skits followed, my billet partner/friend sang a Broadway song (and very well, might I add) - and then the Not-Leaving Social Convenor, the President-Elect, and Charmander got up and read the "Dear Secret Pal" thing - which is they say, "Dear Secret Pal," then make a quotation from a movie or a TV show or a silly comment about what "Secret Pals" shouldn't do. Charmander said something like, "Dear Secret Pal, yes, the baby is yours" and I blurted out, "Well maybe you'll miscarry!" He felt down like he'd been hit, laughing, and people said I'd broken his brain.
Then came the dirty, XXX-rated skits. People were warned that they could take their sleeping bags out into the hallway if they were uncomfortable with that sort of thing, but I stayed right where I was. What followed was the traditional "Naughty Seaman" sea shanty that was sung by the guys, and the filthy musical repost from the girls (called "Flaming Breasts") and a dirty version of "Under the Sea" ("Under the Sheets"). It was all pretty shocking, and even me with my dirty sonnets could not be tempted to sing ANY of the lyrics from "Flaming Breasts" out loud EVER, but it was great fun! After that came more speeches, and the final thing of skit night - the "I Wish." During the week, everyone was supposed to right a wish on a piece of paper, and it could be something funny ("I wish the water in Teslin didn't smell like diarrea") or serious ("I wish I could go on tour next year") and the Leaving Social Convener read it, and pretty soon people were in tears again.
We were supposed to go to sleep then (it being 2:30 am), but people stayed up to talk so I did too. It was a long time before they had to enforce a lights out.
Day 9: Sunday May 6th
Woke up, didn't shower, put on dirty clothes, ate the rest of my French Toast Crunch cereal, had a final Hora, then we all got onto the bus. We drove mostly in silence (watching Love, Actually) until we got back to the city, which looked all shiny and modern and sophisticated suddenly in comparison to all those small towns we'd seen. We did a final luggage train and carried all the risers up to the where they belonged. I collected a bunch of e-mail addresses, promised I'd join FaceBook to see the choir pictures (1200+ of them, and I'm in about 10 of them, ha!), and then collected my Program - I forgot to mention, everyone gets a special personalized Tour Program, and everyone signs it year-book style with helpful comments. I then went home, finally, had a clean shower (no spy-cameras!) got into clean, impractical clothing, and sat down to read the comments in my program. Then, finally, I started crying. Tour was a blast, now it was over, but I had something to look forward to next year.