Date of Trip: May 2001
Back in my pre-collegiate days, I was a member of the Montgomery High School Wind Ensemble as well as the much cooler MHS Stage Band. Every year, we would go on a band trip to a different region of the US to compete in a somewhat amateurish battle of the high school bands.
Although I would have liked to travel by dragonfly, we usually took a luxury coach bus instead. Our band director, Vala, would entertain us with impressions of the deceased comedian Sam Kinesin. The impression created confusion rather than laughter.
Long bus trips are always fun for about four or five hours, and then you really just want to get to the destination. You’d think that seeing a large part of the eastern United States would be an edifying experience, but after a few hours everything begins to look the same. Eight or nine hours following our departure, we stopped to see Niagara Falls, where we did the standard tour of the falls aboard the noble, seaworthy, vessel — a craft thatwould bring a solumn tear to the eye of the ancient mariner himself –“Maid of the Mist.” The minimum-wage earning crew members hand out ponchos, which you get to keep (as you approach the falls, the water becomes more and more blinding). By the time they’ve taken you as close as is safely possible, you are being pelted by a sheet of water.
Niagara Falls firmly in the books as something done once and never to be done again, we headed on to Toronto. What can I say about Toronto? Nothing really.We were on a supervised band trip, so we didn’t really get to see much of the city. It’s a modern city, clean and efficient, but it seemed to lack a great deal of style. If I ever go back, I’ll try to really engage in my environment and write a more comprehensive trip report. It is unlikely that I shall ever go back though.
We found our accommodations (Comfort Inn? 10 to a room?), dropped our belongings, got back on the bus and headed to a popular theater to see the musical “Mama Mia.” “Mama Mia” i sa show that eventually made it to Broadway comprised entirely of songs by the uber-Dutch super-uber-group Abba. Toronto is supposedly a common stop for awful touring musicals that aspire to end up in Broadway or on the West End in London. Lord that was a brutal performance, but as I was in high school, and had no real freedom(s), we were forced to attend the performance. Some of us were slightly embarrassed by the fact that our band director, who fancied himself a man’s man, was really into the show. He was dancing excessively in his seat.
My recall is poor, so I can’t really remember how we spent the following day. All I remember is that we stopped at a shopping mall that just so happened to also house the Hockey Hall of Fame. The hall is a little lame, but I got to touch the Stanley Cup, which I guesswas an emotional experience. Or was it a memorable experience, notable for an overall lack of emotion? The symbolism of the Cup really speaks to me in a way that’s hard to adapt into language. It’s a Jungian symbol that seems to resonate with a collective consciousness much as the idea of the “hero quest,” or Kundulani, resonate. So much history, so much heartache, so much yearning.
Our final day in Toronto was spent by competing against other mediocre/below mediocre/laughably-horrible/depressingly-horrible high school bands. The prize: plastic trophies. After the early morning competition, we spent the day at Canada’s Wonderland. According to the City of Toronto, “Paramount’s Canada’s Wonderland features more than 160 attractions and 50 rides in a thrilling environment,” so you can probably imagine what the day was like — hours in line in exchange for thirty seconds of effluvience. The park is a typical six flags experience.