Brian shares his chaperoning experienceSo last week I found myself sitting in downtown Minneapolis, surrounded by slouching 8th-graders and adrift in a sea of silver hair. I know that sounds like the setup to a bad Justin Bieber joke (not that a good Justin Bieber joke even exists), but it really happened.
By: Brian Matuszak, for the Duluth Budgeteer News
So last week I found myself sitting in downtown Minneapolis, surrounded by slouching 8th-graders and adrift in a sea of silver hair. I know that sounds like the setup to a bad Justin Bieber joke (not that a good Justin Bieber joke even exists), but it really happened.
You see, I was one of the parent chaperones for Kaylee’s band trip to the Twin Cities. (Chaperone: French for “ensuring all fun is ruined.”) This trip included hauling a busload of Hermantown band kids down to a classical concert at Minnesota Orchestra Hall, followed by an afternoon at the Mall of America. Guess which event the kids were more excited about?
These kids, by the way, do not know how good they have it, and not just because they got a day out of school to head down to the Cities. Their band teacher is someone who actually practices what he teaches: he’s Randy Lee, one-third of the Randy Lee Jazz Trio that performs at many functions all around the area.
In fact, Mr. Lee is the one teacher who can actually instruct students that their “polytonality is side-slipping the shout chorus of a moldy fig” and not be called in for sensitivity workshops. He is a fantastic musician and knows how to organize a field trip jam-packed with education and fun, not necessarily in that order.
Mr. Lee had our school bus loaded up at 8 a.m., and we pulled out of Hermantown Middle School right on schedule. The first thing I noticed was that school buses are much different from back in my day, when the AlBrook Falcons basketball team spent the 1980s jostling around the hidden backwoods of northern St. Louis County.
The seats in this particular bus had more surface area because the backs were much higher, but they apparently didn’t have the budget for additional padding. In fact, I think they took the original amount of padding and just spread it around.
I also noticed that the bus driver (a very cool guy named Denny) had more gizmos and gadgets around him than Captain Kirk. Not only was Denny able to keep an eye on the entire bus thanks to the one huuuuge floating mirror above his head, but he was also able to deliver an electronic jolt to each individual seat. (That last part is a joke, although there were certain portions of our trip when I did notice Denny’s left hand creeping towards a big red button labeled “Jettison”.)
Also, the shock absorbers on our bus were undoubtedly the same ones that serviced the bus on MY 8th-grade band trip to Rhinelander, Wis., in 1976. Every bump and tar-sealed crevasse from here to Hinckley was registered in the base of my spine and deep in my soul.
This, in turn, made me quickly regret not visiting the little musician’s room before we left. “Forest Lake isn’t that far away,” I kept telling my insistent bladder. “Stop pressuring me.”
After a slight miscue on 35W (the 11th Avenue exit is NOT the same thing as the 11th Street exit, for those of you keeping score at home), we rolled into Minnesota Orchestra Hall with ten minutes to spare. The kids descended on the free doughnut table (FREE DOUGHNUT TABLE! AT A CLASSICAL MUSIC CONCERT!! ARE YOU LISTENING, DSSO?), and then found their seats.
The concert was two hours of exquisite music that culminated in a Tchaikovsky piece (Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Opus 74, Pathetique for those of you still scoring at home) that was passionate, bleak, emotional, tragic, and beautiful. It was quite simply the most amazing piece of music I have ever experienced. My soul sang!
The souls of the Hermantown 8th-grade band, however, simply yawned. But the promised land of Mall of America waited just down the freeway, and after three hours of shopping, roller coasters, and hot fudge banana buster chocolate whizzer whammies, their young souls were not only revived, but also needed their heavenly stomachs pumped.
In all honesty, this was a great group of kids. I know I would have been much more twitchy when I was a bored, inert, 13-year-old trombone player, and all those kids, despite the nodding heads and counting of light fixtures, all behaved appropriately and respectfully.
All in all, it was a fun day out of the house for me, and, except for the SpongeBob impressions as I followed her group around the Nickelodeon Universe, I didn’t even embarrass my daughter too badly.
Although I did see her later, as we were loading the bus for home, asking Denny how that Jettison button worked...
Brian Matuszak has been difficult and demanding since February 2008. He is the co-founder of Renegade Comedy Theatre, founder of Rubber Chicken Theater, and he is available to chaperone ANY future field trip that involves going to a Twins game or Las Vegas.