Wednesday, March 12, 2008

K2Chem Dec 2007

K2Chem Christmas in San Antonio 2007

We met up with the majority of the K2Chem team in Dallas, Texas and then went on to the second flight to San Antonio. We sat towards the back of the plane and Greg was right across from where the Flight Attendant sat during take off and landings. When she walked away, he reached over to see how the chair works and I said, "Like a kid in a candy store." I think it's cute how curious he is, especially when it's how something works. When our flight attendant returned, Greg asked her, "Why is it that your chair is facing backwards?" She responded, "To make us feel a little crazy." We laughed and the conversation took off from there.

She shared how this flight to San Antonio is the one that Cowboys take. She gave us a description of the flight with the Cowboys yelling across the plane, how their broad shoulders made it difficult to walk the aisle, etc. She remarked how not as many famous people are on the flight to San Antonio, but that she has an autograph from Michael Jackson. I don't find that we have accents, but she claimed we sounded like we're from Boston. For the rest of the flight, she was tickled to learn our New Orleans street names and Southern cities. I think Thibodeaux and Tchoupitoulas are newfound favorites for her! It's so easy to forget how special our heritage is until you hear it from a different perspective.

When we headed towards the baggage claim area, we saw an army man being welcomed home for the holidays by his family. They were in tears, hugging and their absolute joy in seeing him welled up the tears in my eyes. It was a touching moment to remind me what the spirit and joy of life really is, something we often take for granted...

Our hotel room was in the lovely Hilton Del Rio, on the Riverwalk. The sun was already going down and the lights were on, oh how lovely those Christmas lights were! You can't look without seeing lights, in the store fronts, along the bushes, hanging in the trees, lights that stream along every beam and eave, reflecting in the water from icicle lights to white and multi-colored. I don't think I've ever seen such a cavalcade of twinkling bulbs in one place that seemed to go on forever. Those little lights make the world seem a little bit brighter and you can see it in the eyes of everyone around you, the harmony of season.

But it wasn't just the lights; the riverwalk is a riverside park meandering through downtown San Antonio with boats to give you tours, "the Venice of the West." We didn't take a night tour, but rather walked around to enjoying waterfalls and boats with carolers ringing in the Christmas cheer. I was enchanted with the area and don't know if I can ever see San Antonio, other than in the Christmas decor. Greg's description of the Riverwalk was very apt, "It's like Bourbon Street, only cleaner and family oriented. It has a good atmosphere of being together and having fun."

The K2Chem group went to Aldaco's Mexican Restaurant that night. Maybe it was because we were hungry, but that salsa was excellent, though spicy! I thought the chicken flautas were good, but I think Greg was a little disappointed that his meal wasn’t served on a steaming skillet. A couple of times Dan Ward threatened to toss a tortilla across the table. Danny said that if he could toss it over, hit him in the head and land in the plate, Danny would give Dan Ward 50 dollars. Of course, there was some joking about this and Dan acted the part of making attempts, but instead of throwing it at Danny, he aimed it at Greg and hit him on the side of his face. Greg is an excellent sport and laughed it off, making jokes with the rest of the group.

The hotel had arranged for us to use the restaurant’s van. To get there, the van made two trips for the entire party. On the trip back to the hotel, half of the group was in the van, the driver went to her place and Darla opened the van door. She was asking about where we would meet up and so forth. I guess the driver didn't realize Darla wasn't in the van, she started taking off!

Darla's expression was priceless, a look of total shock. She started to run to keep up with the van and then the door slammed shut! Poor Darla and then, poor bus driver, because the entire group gave her a hard time, though they laughed about the situation too. The comments ended up with, "So if Darla ever gets long winded, we'll say - Darla the bus is leaving!" It was a running joke for a while, but I think what got everyone was the look on Darla's face. When the driver said something and tried to apologize, Danny commented, "Oh don’t worry, you still have to pick up Darla!" Knowing she would have a comment or two to add. I think we may have made the driver want to quit after that mortifying moment. But my gosh, what if Darla was trying to get into the van and the driver had taken off like that?!

The group did meet back up at a bar outside of the Hilton and along the river. I liked how they had individual candles in bags along the walk. I wondered who light all of those candles each night; it certainly adds to the romance of the area.

The night was relaxing and there was a nice breeze. The group ordered the well-known margaritas and such. Greg and I stuck with our usual of diet Cokes and Dan Ward said, "You shouldn't drink Diet Coke." Greg questioned this and Dan replied, "It causes a lot of problems. Does your wrist ever hurt?" Greg replied, "Not since I got a girlfriend!" The group busted out laughing and jokes rolled from there. Where Greg comes up with these quips I'll never know, but "there's no buffer" between the mind and mouth!

I like the K2Chem group; they are a friendly lot. We heard about Keith and Karen's goats. He said, "Those are stupid goats." The story was that he was in the truck and suddenly heard a loud "baaaahhhh" and wondered what was going on with the goat and then, thump, thump and another "Baaahhhh". He had to shoot the goat, because he ran over its legs, as it didn't get out of the way. Karen said, "We went back to the house to get 2 beers." Greg laughed and said, "I thought you were going to say, went back to the house to pray, but instead, you wanted beers." My heart really went out to Karen when she told of having to shoot a goat to put it out of its misery. She said she was trying to follow Keith's advise to shoot, but it took her 3 shots to kill the goat...... because she fired with her eyes closed! (Someone remind me not ever go hunting with Karen!)

At one point, the group talked about bald spots and Greg said, "At one of the accounts, they told me to bend over because they needed a white board." Everyone laughed, but Keith was in tears, because at first the thought the "white board" wasn't Greg's head. Keith threw a menu in front of his face and said, "I heard bend over and thought it was something else."

The next morning, as the K2 guys met for their annual meeting, which Greg explained to me later, was finding out about new types of pipes. I think that's right? But where the piping has an inner tube that moves the chemicals along. It sounded neat. While the guys were learning about this, the ladies enjoyed a brunch, consisting of fruit, croissants and muffins. Darla had set up a cute gift steal with ornaments in each bag (I'm using that same idea for my company's Christmas gathering; it was fun). I think two of the ornaments I picked were stolen, one was a boy on a fire truck and the other was Santa on a Harley and I ended up with a Snowman ornament. It was a good way to start off the morning!

From there, the group walked to the "Hall of Horns" though I think it is called something else now. Every type of horned animal that you can think of was hanging in the walls. When they sat down to eat for lunch, Greg said, "I'm going to play a game that my niece and nephew like to play, in order to pass the time. It's called I Spy. I spy... something pointy!"

It was this day that I met Nathan and his wife and 2-week-old baby. At one point, Dan Ward was holding the baby and Greg said, "Hey Dan, she has your hair!" Danny told Nathan that he should create a service ~ hold a baby for 10 minutes and pay 10 dollars. He said that this way the women could get the baby fever feeling satisfied and he added, "And trust me, the men would be WILLING to pay!" He watched as Kathy held the baby and said, "Kathy, you got your baby fix yet?" Hmm, it's an enterprising thought. Maybe they could call the company, "Pass the Baby." Yikes, ok, child protective agency will be all over that one!

From there, the group split on a corner, some went shopping and some went to the Alamo. The Alamo was built about 1722 and is known as the most heroic episode of the Texan War of Independence against Mexico. During the battle where a small band of Texans held out for thirteen days against the centralist army of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, all of the Texan defenders were killed. You would think the spirit would die with it, but the death of Alamo Defenders represents courage and sacrifice for the value of Liberty. The exhibition included a well-preserved monument (with signs not to take pictures inside or to touch the walls), rifles, guns, cannons and swords. I liked the miniature replica of the fort, to see how far back the remaining building was in regards to the entire area.

I enjoyed reading the quotes of various Defenders, but mostly from Davy Crockett. One quote I particularly liked was: "I have always supported measures and principles and not men. I have acted fearless and independent and I will never regret my course. I would rather be politically buried than to be hypercritically immortalized." I saw about 3 memoirs by Davy Crockett and I wished they weren't cased in glass, as I would have loved to read about his adventures. One thing I did think was funny, we were told that Davy Crockett didn't wear a coonskin cap as so many people portray, though he is supposed to have towards the end of his journeys. I also read that upon entering Texas, Davy hand-battled a cougar that attacked him. Davy won that fight. Unfortunately, the same wasn't true for the Alamo, but from what I gather, Davy was one of the last to be killed at the Alamo.

Being in the area, you want to shout, "Remember the Alamo!" There is a deep sense of pride and value in the area. From there, Greg and I walked back to the hotel to change for supper.

This is the part of our trip that I dub as, "Darla's revenge." The Van met us at the hotel, to bring us to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. There wasn't enough room, but we figured we could all squeeze in and make the ride. After all, it was only supposed to be 2 minutes away? Someone should have added, "Texas 2 Minutes." I sat on Greg's lap and Cindy was on Matthew's lap. A bunch of the guys stood and held on to the side. We were packed tighter than sardines! At one point we wondered if we should walk to the restaurant if it was so close, but when we went on the Interstate, we saw it was a good idea to be in the van.

And here's the revenge, the traffic! It was stop and go and stop and go and if that driver stopped and went any more we would have been seasick. The driver said, "It's right there, at the next light, take a left and Ruth's Chris is right there." Danny said, "I'm getting off the van and walking." A handful of us decided to do the same thing and that made room for the rest of the people to sit comfortable. I went with group walking, thinking we would make it there quicker than the Van. As I got off of the van, I heard the driver tell Greg that he could NOT leave, because the light turned and the driver had to close the door. I told Greg that I was grateful he got off the van and walked with me, even though the driver demanded he had to close the door and leave Greg on the van. Greg told me later, "That was NOT an option" that he was going to be with me. I have to admit that Greg makes me feel like I will be protected.

Right as the van pulled off, the driver shouted out, "I was wrong, it's the SECOND red light!" Needless to say, it was decent walk, coupled with a homeless guy coming up to us and asking for money and then a group of thug looking guys walking the streets, but we made it safely. I was glad to make it to the restaurant.

The meal at Ruth's Chris was delicious! We sat at one end of the table in the wine cellar. Yes, the wine cellar! When I first heard this, I imagined cobwebs and musty smells, but it was none of that. It was actually quite lovely with candles behind the wine bottles (fantastic idea for simple decoration and ambiance). The service was quick and we had a steady stream of delicious food. The last time I was at Ruth's Chris in Metairie was some years ago and I was slightly disappointed, but this trip to San Antonio's Ruth's Chris has restored my original flavor. We only had to choose our main entree and if we wanted soup or salad and what desert, otherwise, all of the appetizers and side items were part of the meal. (And oh that chocolate cake was sinful!)

The conversation was light and filled with laughter. Danny was at the other end of the table and after a while he walked over. He recapped some "Greg" stories (when Greg went into the ladies room during our Tennessee trip, the bodies in the river in Tennessee and Greg's time he had to use the bathroom while on the Interstate). Those are hilarious stories but what's even better is the animation of Danny and Greg as they talk about it. The stories went around the group in bubbles of laughter. A number of times, people said, "Greg, we want you in the middle of the table next time." As Greg said, "The thing is, I couldn't make up these stories! They happened!"

The next day was our flight back home, but we had plenty of time for breakfast and then to take the riverwalk boat tour. I thought we would miss out of this, but was glad we had enough time! I would recommend that anyone who goes to San Antonio to take the boat tour and enjoy the information about the city. We learned how there was a large German settlement in the area and to this day, you can go to a certain section and hear people speaking German.

There was also the building that was purposefully made to look like the bow of the ship coming down the river. I like the bridges we went under and the waterfalls, the Christmas decorations, the trees coming out from the sides of the buildings, the theater with bells, the flat building and also the Christmas tree in the mall center that we went around. I thought it was funny that our hotel, the Hilton Del Rio, was part of the tour. Our guide explained how the hotel was built in 9 months and was one of the first buildings made in the modular construction method. It was created in time for the World’s Fair.

We also passed by the "Friendship Torch." Our tour guide said, "Texas motto is not - things are bigger in Texas, as many people think. Instead the motto for Texas is Friendship." The artist of the Friendship Torch sculpture is Sebastian and was made to represent the bond between Mexico, the United States and Canada.

I’m so glad we didn’t miss the tour, because it was informative and relaxing. Our guide did a good job in knowing the area and entertaining us with history and stories.

The flight back home was quite and a sunset greeted our arrival. I love sunsets and being in the clouds and above made for a shutterbug moment. All in all, it was a memorable and enjoyable K2Chem Christmas!

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