(this was typed up yesterday, but since I didn't have internet, I couldn't post it until today)
Sorry for the lack of updates! I've been on the road for the past 29 hours or so, on my way to Texas Tech with the band!
We left yesterday at 5:30 P.M.. Because of the doctor's appointment I had to schedule for my allergy shots (which takes at LEAST 20 mins because I have to wait that long after getting my shot to make sure I don't have any severe reactions), plus the fact that I resolved to shower right before we left, I had to run around like a headless chicken getting everything packed at the last minute because I was too damn exhausted the night before. So far, the only things I've forgotten consist of exercise shorts to wear under the uniform pants and a power strip. Everything else seems to have made it - my black shoes, black socks (albeit the shorter ones, as I later found out - d'oh!), Pride shirt, gloves, extra reeds, my uniform in its garment bag (packed in my suitcase, to boot!); laptop, phone, Nintendo DS, games for said DS, and iPod, all with their respective chargers; five sets of clothing; all of my shower and hygiene maintenance items; a hand towel and a body towel (I got flak from my roommate for packing that); my Rayquaza Poke'mon card tin for card storage; and a shitload of snacks bought at the convenience store that as of now I've still yet to really touch much of, which is good; all were packed and are with me, thankfully.
We had three tour buses, complete with "University of North Dakota" on their sides.
They have our school's name on it and everything!
The bus ride yesterday wasn't too bad. I had to be on the drumline/Dance Team bus because the other buses were out of room; it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The girls were nice to me, and were doing their homework, too (the girl next to me was doing her Chemistry homework). I got all of the homework I could do done (reading Tom Stoppard's Arcadia in its entirety, reading Orwell's Politics and the English Language [which was done in Pre-calc], cutting down my music so it would fit in my folder). I then got to play on my DS for a bit and call Mom to tell her my status and to ask her to look something up regarding a newly hatched Poke'mon (the Lonely nature gives 110% to Attack, but what stat does it cut down to 90%? The answer, it later turned out, was Defense).
Around 9 or so, we stopped in Watertown, South Dakota (?) for food. McDonald's FTW. It was kinda cool, getting the freedom to do things by myself. Of course, I got the number 7, large, like I always do, right, Mom? I felt sorry for the people working there, though. There were only three of them and then all of a sudden a hundred or so band kids come in for food at the same time, plus the drive-thru.
Sleeping on the bus was difficult, in part because I had the snacks in my backpack in the front pocket, making it outright painful to use it as a makeshift pillow. After taking out all of the snacks and stuffing my jacket into the main compartment of the pack, I finally got to sleep, especially since my seatmate was sleeping in the aisle, freeing up the seat next to me and allowing me to sleep with my back against the backpack and window.
And I found out that even on the road, I still dream about Persona 3. Seriously, this is getting ridiculous. The latest game I'm playing is Okami, and yet I'm still dreaming about Arisato kicking Shadow ass with Thanatos. WTF.
After about half an hour of sleeping, I woke up and found that we were on the outskirts of Omaha, Nebraska, which was kind of bittersweet and strange. Y'see, last summer, my dad (who lived in Omaha at the time) and I took a little road trip when I visited him. We used the exact same highway we were using yesterday to get to Grand Forks. So using that same highway and ending up in the same city where my dad used to live was kind of a strange, almost sad feeling. Even recently, I have to catch myself when I talk about him, because I find myself saying that he lives in Omaha instead of in England where he and my sisters live now.
It was a very, very good thing I was awake, because shortly after leaving Omaha, the bus slammed its brakes. I found myself wondering why the UND bus ahead of us was getting closer and closer without us slowing down enough until he slammed the brakes and promptly woke everyone up. Why did the driver slam his brakes? Because we were pulling into a rest stop. Gee, thanks. At the rest stop, aside from going to the bathroom, I took the opportunity to use the information touch-screen in the lobby to pull up weather warning data. Nothing for the counties of Nebraska. Yay. On one hand, no bad weather meant a higher probability of survival; on the other hand, I had yet to get a decent thunderstorm ever since I came to Grand Forks to attend class.
Well, later on, I got the thunderstorm I wanted. The thunder and lightning woke me up, in fact. It was pouring outside, and considering the little stunt the driver pulled earlier, I was a bit nervous about going what was essentially 75 in pouring rain in a freaking tour bus.
I fell asleep and woke up right as we were stopping for breakfast at the local convenience store and gas station, around five or six in the morning, today. I had no clue about where I was until I was on my way to the bathroom and saw a map for Wichita, Kansas hanging on the wall. It was still cloudy and drizzling outside. I resisted the temptation to get a Frappucino (almost a tradition when I travel now, ever since that road trip with Dad, in which I pretty much got one every time we stopped somewhere) and got two breakfast sandwiches instead. Hey, I was hungry. I had to throw away the second one in the middle of eating, though, because I quickly lost my appetite for some reason.
Which was a very good thing. Not three or so minutes after getting back on the bus after finishing breakfast, it started pouring, plus thunder that shook the parked bus. I felt very sorry for the people who went across the street for food.
The bus ride afterwards was pretty unremarkable until we got to Enid, Oklahoma, the home of Vance Air Force Base, as the billboard greeting us proudly proclaimed. We stopped at was called the Oakland Mall for lunch - total heaven, because we essentially got two hours or so to do whatever the hell we wanted.
Oddly, the mall was pretty deserted...for a mall. Since I was still generally full from breakfast, I decided to get a peach smoothie from a shop in the food court called "America's Best Cookies" or along those lines. Best. Goddamn. Smoothie. EVER. The person who made it asked me where I was from. It was pretty cool getting to associate myself with a college band now.
Okay, okay, it was Great American Cookies. Whatever.
There was a GameStop there, and I went in solely to look. I found that the PS2 version of Okami was now being sold as a Greatest Hits title, despite the fact that it utterly bombed sales-wise (then again, Odin Sphere didn't sell all that well, either, and still got the Greatest Hits moniker). This meant that the game was being rereleased and the copies were being sold for $20 new. It's one of the many reasons why it's smart to buy the console at the end of the console generation instead of picking it up the instant it comes out.
Still talking about the GameStop, I eyed the DS Lites enviously solely because of their superior battery life to my DS (which actually hasn't been too shabby as of late), nevermind their smaller, more pocket-suited size, brighter backlights, better buttons, and the plethora of accessories, such as carrying cases, custom styli, etc. that are available to them. $125, despite the release of the DSi. Baaaaah. I can buy a brand-new PS2 for $99.
After leaving, I wanted to finally find some damn Poke'mon cards that I've been wanting to pick up as souvenirs. I went to the nearby Blockbuster, which didn't have them; out of guilt for walking in and asking for something they didn't stock (unlike in Las Vegas), I bought a pack of Twizzlers. Haven't had those for a while. After that, I went to the Big K-Mart across the street and found the cards I wanted. Not only did they have cards, they had the older ones that I hadn't been able to find in Vegas for months. Secret Wonders and Stormfront (which I picked up solely because the series had been treating me very well with each pack).
The cards in Secret Wonders pack were kinda "meh", though it contained some species I didn't have in my album, such as Wormadam (Grass type), but the Stormfront pack delivered yet again, with the awesome gem of a holographic card that had to have been some sort of super-special thing, since its number was 102/100. What was most striking was the illustration of Charmeleon, which instantly struck me as one I've seen before, except better art-wise. The illustration was a remade version of the oldest Charmeleon card, which I have. I was really wowed by that card.
The super-rare-awesome-chocolatey-fudge-coated-mega-super-card. The old Charmeleon card, which I have back at home, is next to it for comparison.
We left for Woodward, Oklahoma, and I fell asleep. We got to their only high school, where my band director graduated from in 1988, as I later found out. The weather was like Las Vegas except with humidity and with wind that didn't feel like it came out of a blowdryer. Much sweating ensued.
Dinner was at the local park, titled "Crystal Beach" because there was a lake nearby. There was also a water park, which the Dance Team took advantage of because a bunch of them actually brought bathing suits with them, something I didn't consider while packing. I sat around with the Baritone section leader, Jocelyn (not sure if I spelled this right), and her friends and talked about random things. That is, until Donnie, one of my friends in the band who happens to play video games and is in the Varsity Bards (and is in practically every single damn picture the Arts Center has of them hanging up), came over with a grasshopper in his hand, which Jocelyn, who likes creepy-crawlies (like that tiny little toad at the end of band camp), stole it from him in the blink of an eye and started petting it, poking it, and generally trying to make it do anything except stand there, motionless, on her hand like it was doing at that moment.
What a cute widdle grasshopper!
There were also cicadas at the park, and I got to see their molted shells on a tree.
Pretty cool, huh?
Dinner was homemade brisket, which I've never had before, alongside a homemade (!!!) cinnamon bun. Yummm. I talked with the girl who is from Phoenix, Arizona (can't remember her name, sorry!), generally about how shitty both Phoenix and Las Vegas is in general (they apparently have a lot of similarities) compared to Grand Forks. The residents of Grand Forks, for instance, don't walk around with their pants around their knees and spit everywhere like the people of Las Vegas.
We drove back to the high school to change into full uniform and perform, and we got to change inside the school. The hallway, which had bathrooms, also happened to have posters up with pictures of all of its graduating members for certain years. One of these was 1988, and a whole bunch of people were crowded around it. Wanting to know what's up, I came over there and saw one of the most laughably traumatizing images in recent memory:
My band director with a spiked mullet. His face looked almost exactly the same as it does today, sans glasses, but GOD, the mullet. Which was spiked on the top of his head. GAAAH.
I even took a picture of it.
Ok, it's hard to see, but still nonetheless traumatizing.
Getting into uniform was kind of an ordeal. The jackets open in the front, but you have to undo half of the twenty or so buttons in front in order to even get to the zipper. Add to that the fact that I needed to adjust the hat I never really wore and cut the tips off of my gloves. Add to that the fact that I was running late to begin with. I ran to one bus, put away my (very sweaty) change of clothing, took out and put together my instrument, ran to the bus I actually rode in, dug around in my backpack for scissors, and was really, really happy that I had four years of experience in this kind of stuff, because it only took me a few minutes at most to cut the tips of my gloves off, accurately, without measurement. About this: only the clarinet players have to do this, because we're the only marching instrument with holes that the fingers have to cover. Even the flutes have keys. The tips of the gloves jam up the metal ring-like keys around the holes and prevent me from playing anything lower than my lowest C (not that low) and higher than a mid B-flat. In other words, it screws up my range and my playing.
It was really freaking hot inside that uniform. We performed, it wasn't my best, unfortunately, but still pretty good. Every performance of The Pretender, I like to make a point that putting me, a freshman, on first clarinet part was the right choice to make by loudly hitting the highest C in the clarinet's range with no squeaks, thank you very much. It always makes me pumped near the end of the song.
On that note (no pun intended), I am surprised at how much I've improved in terms of sound production in such a short time. I started out with reeds of 2 1/2 thickness, which I played on all last year and was convinced that I couldn't do any better. Then after having issues playing loudly enough with 2 1/2, I switched to 3s, which use more air and are thus harder to get sound out of, but has better sound quality. Now, I find myself wanting to get 3 1/2s because I feel that I can't play as loudly as I want without squeaking because the reed can't keep up.
After our performance, we got to hear the Woodward band play the national anthem, and I was surprised at the quality difference between us and them. Let's just say that I could hardly hear the melody of the anthem while they were playing it. Was that what I sounded like in high school?
Afterwards, we got on the buses, still in uniform, so we could go to our hotel room. I'm kinda miffed about this place. It has no internet, which means that I have to post this a day late; they also only had two towels for a room supporting four people (HA, take that, Jane, I totally needed my towel!). Apparently, one of the rooms of the band members had wasn't even made up yet.
Better than trying to sleep on a bus, though.