Tuesday, October 2, 2012

THE Trip - Day 2. The Banquet

Well, we woke up at our usual time.....Joe usually gets up at 4:50 to shower and then wakes me up to make coffee and his lunch.  We did on Thursday as well, only 4:50 Philly time is actually 3:50 Omaha time.  He wanders out to the living area and finds the coffee maker.  Ecstatic that there is a coffee maker, he opens the pods and makes both cups.....only to be disappointed that each makes only a 6 oz. cup....so poor thing, he only has 12 oz. of coffee and it's only 4:30 in the morning and the breakfast buffet put on my the hotel begins at 6 am.  THE HORROR!!!! Me, well, I say, it's 4:30 in the FREAKIN' MORNING.....go back to bed.  He eventually does, but keeps an eye on the clock...watching and waiting......by 5:30 he is up, dressed and heading for the elevator, with me in tow, to get that precious black liquid that makes his life complete.....the breakfast buffet smells lovely, but we are going to breakfast with Jonathan as soon as his meeting at the office is over, so it's just coffee and more coffee for us.  By 8 a.m. Joe is human again and we people watch in the lobby.

While waiting for Jonathan, we see his colleague, Justin, coming in to pick up the Radiology Division Employee of the Year.  She had flown in from Maui, but Justin told us that she came from Pennsylvania as well.  When we asked, we were told Bushkill Township and that she had attended Northampton Community College! Now Joe attended Lehigh Carbon Community, but we actually live closer to NCC!  To think, we go to Omaha from Coopersburg and she flies in from Maui only to find out that she is from no more than 40 miles from where we live.  After having an 'old home week' reunion, they leave to be on their way and Jonathan arrives and we're off......

We go to a diner for breakfast.  Geez, I am totally in awe that Omahans, Omahians, oh hell, people from Omaha....aren't the size of small city-states by the size of their meals and portions!!! Jonathan gets something called a Trucker Omelet and Joe gets an Andouille sausage omelet.  Me, I'm still stuffed from that 'petite' steak the night before (and let's be honest, all the Imodium I have been ingesting) so I get a simple chicken salad platter.  Let's start with there was 'nothing' simple about that chicken salad....chicken and celery, a few spices and mayo we expect....but this had grapes, craisins, walnuts and a few various and sundry other items in it as well....and instead of the obligatory scoop of salad, there is is two, and guess what? I get a 'side salad' to go with it!!!!  I eat, well, attempt to eat, push a bit around the plate and eat a little bit more while we discuss what we will do the rest of the day.  The guys are done and we head back out to the SUV.....I eye it hesitantly as I think we may have to call a rollback to lift me back in the vehicle.  With me finally in and relieved to find out an extension is not needed for the seat-belt  we head to downtown Omaha to take the grand tour.  

After seeing the upswing the formerly downtrodden downtown area is taking, we end up at the Durham Western Heritage Museum.  This is housed in the former Union Pacific Railway Station.  For those who are train happy (and there are more than a few of you)....this is the railhead for the Union Pacific as it's headquarters were in Omaha.  Built similar in size and style to Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, it is a huge edifice of marble and soaring ceilings and just entering it, you can see the ghosts of the millions of people whose lives intersected at this place at some wrinkle in time.  You felt if you closed your eyes, you could hear the whistles, hear the steam and chugging made by the multitudes of trains and feel the breezes made by men and women rushing to make their connections in another time. We pass thru the doors and enter a glass elevator that faces the once busy track area and you see the sister station across the expanse that housed the freight terminal.  Exiting the elevator, you see a map on the floor....all of Omaha is at your feet.....streets, highways, interstates, places of interest....it's all there..waiting for you.  The museum then beckons you.

We go thru a caboose, a pullman, and then inspect Engine #1234 of the Union Pacific.  Apparently the westward expansion began here and the railroad was primary in this.....there were displays of all the cars used by the Union Pacific, banners of all the railroads that ran thru this station and a layout that showed how the railroad affected daily life.  From there you saw Main Street America...a history of cabins, Native American homes (lodge, tipis, and hogans), one room school houses and general stores and the growth of Omaha.  Panoramas of the city from it's inception to the current time......really neat.  The most moving, however is an exhibit of the American Soldier....it traced the history of the American Soldier from the Civil War to the current time.  Unfortunately, there were no photos allowed or I would be snapping away...this was THAT moving.  There were some silly shots mixed in, to show the humanity of the soldiers, but mostly they showed the inhumanity of war.....babies, and I do mean babies, dressed up in their Union or Confederate uniforms then later shots showing the same babies laying in ditches, some in disarray, obviously dead.  The same youthful faces looked out from doughboys of the Great War then the same death stare.  I was moved to see the soldiers in Korea, and the description of just how cold it was there.  We joked to break the tension, saying we were so glad that our friend, Will, was not there to see them as he would hop in his plane and go get Christie (his daughter, currently stationed in Korea with the Army) for no other reason than to make sure she is warm.  I was moved to tears, almost, when we passed thru the Persian Gulf/Afghanistan/Iraq photos...thinking of the casualties, some not visible, of those who served there.

We had to shake it off and move on to the history of Omaha......sights and signs of the growth....wagons, hospital growth, bank histories, and the growth of department stores.....being human again, we ended our tour back in the gift shop where I HAD to get the grandbabies something (remember, this is WHY I was allowed to get on the pwane).  I had text messaged their mother and asked what they wanted....B wanted a 'bad guy' and Lucas wanted a 'gun'.  Since neither were going to get what they asked for.....we ended up getting them each a buffalo....I got our resident Civil War buff a set of playing cards with Union and Confederate generals and shot glasses for Josh and Alyssa.  From there we went to the 'old city' and ended up at the Visitors' Center.  Again, a shot from home, the gentleman at the desk wanted to ask us about Dorney Park! We saw a t-shirt that said 'Walk on Bob'.....intrigued, we asked what that meant and were told about the history of a government pork product...the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Walkway, a bridge connecting Omaha with Iowa.  It was decided, then and there, that was our next stop.  So, from the museum to the 'old city', past the rodeo that was in town, around the brand spanking new ballpark and then past the sewage treatment plant (why? why do major cities put tourist sites next to these things? We know we all need them but since when are they considered 'tour worthy'?) Finally we ended up walking up the ramp and standing in the middle of the span over the Missouri River.  We could look downriver and find the lights of the casinos and up river and see the damage from the floods of a year or so ago.  What was striking was standing there and looking at the skyline of Omaha, seeing the Woodsmen of the World tower, the Mutual of Omaha building and any number of large buildings in the forefront, then to turn and look at Iowa, and see....well, dirt.  With the exception of seeing a building in the distance that was indicated to be the casino, there was nothing else......just beach.  Looking down at the shore, there was a single pop-up tent.  Jonathan remarked that the area was not a designated recreational area so Joe remarks that since there is no other sign of life in Iowa, that must be the lone homeless person from that state.   With that, we look at the time and realized we have to be getting back, as the dinner/photo op/cocktail appointed time of 5 p.m. was fast approaching and we must be getting back.....running to avoid the fumes of the treatment plant we had to pass by to get back to the vehicle, our Day 2 touring was complete....now to the big magilla.

On the way to the hotel, I asked if we were going to pass a Target.  In my haste, I had packed the empty deodorant for Joe and I wanted to pick up a new one, and I also thought 'I'll give those nimrods another chance at those damnable cookies (remember in the Prelude I told you those cookies would come in play later).  Sure enough, there they sat.....a whole shelf of them (I did tell Target in another not so nice email, that I had to go to Omaha FREAKIN Nebraska to finally find them).  I pick up three packages, one for Jamie, one for Christie, and one for Gavin (Jonathan's little boy - I gotta grease the kid up if I'm gonna go all Gramma on him the next day, I wanna make a friend first!!!)  After this Jonathan drops us off to get ready and went home to smarten up himself and then, whoa, it was really sinking in....this was it.

Back in the hotel room, showered and primped.....Joe suited up....Black on black, his pop of color was a gecko tie....he had Jonathan sweating it whether he was going to wear neon green bobos....he shouldn't have.  He was presentable.  Now it was my turn.  Black dress, black shoes, black jade earrings (thanks to Josh who bought them on ebay for me, like I would have thought of jewelry) now comes the horror....make up.  I used to be pretty good at it, but I haven't put on make-up in a good ten years and I had to go out and buy new, I was so horrified I would look like Mimi from the old Drew Carey show that I literally shook when I put it on.  I had to send Joe down to wait for Jonathan, I was that worried that I would mess it up totally and have to scrub my face and start over...then came the hair.  Spray and curling iron, although not as foreign as the make-up,it still give me agita. So, being fashionably late, I am finally done and go down in the elevator to meet my two exceedingly handsome escorts.  (I know some will say, where are the pictures of you?.....a set was taken for the formal occassion, but otherwise I avoided that side of the camera.  I may explain later, or not)

Entering in the hall, there are two bars, a 'mingle' area and the dining/presentation area. Besides Joe, each division of C & A Industries has their own Employee of the Year, so there were to be eight presentations in all.  His was the third of the night.  We go on to chat and laugh with all the people we only knew as 'names and voices' before and we had a really good time, we had the most fun with the young ladies in the office who were *intrigued* by the names of the towns in Pennsylvania Dutch country....all you would have to to set them off was tell them you go past Virginville into Blue Ball before you get to Intercourse. They were giggling in their drinks at the thought of this.  Finally, we get to sit down and have our dinner.......we had roast beef, 'rubber' chicken (as one of the other honoree's significant others called it), au gratin potatoes, vegetable orzo, and 'mustgovian' veggies (the kind where they opened the freezer and combined all that they found that had been previously opened).  Dinner over, the festivities began.

Two were called before Joe.  Then the video started for him.  I had been asked to provide pictures of his life and they compiled a video telling everyone what makes him so special.  (Like I didn't know this, I married the lug, ya know).  Jonathan is called upon to present Joe with his award and Joe has to speak.  I expected him to say 'I'd like to thank the Academy' or some other BS, at least to thank Jonathan and Bill....but no...who does he thank.  The Big Shit thanks ME!!! He tells them I have been there thru thick and thin (duh, that's what I signed on for, I'm nothing if not loyal) and he almost, ALMOST, made me cry..called me his 'blushing bride of 29 years'...(how sappy can you get).  Then I thought about how much agita I had over putting on that make up and said to myself...'hell, no, I'm not gonna cry...I'm gonna kick his ass....that's what I'm gonna do'.  Dude really knows how to throw a curve, I'm usually the cohort tho, not the victim of said curve.  To tell you the truth, I don't remember what else was said about the others, I was too 'moved' to pay much attention, that and plotting my revenge for mortifying me.....

The dinner was done, speeches over, and the room was being broken down by 9.  We stood in the lobby for another 30 minutes or so...Networking.  Jackie Smith...call me.  Your name came up in conversation more than once, were your ears burning last Thursday?  In the end, we ascended in the same glass elevator we made our grand entrance in, and back to the room we went.  Changing into something comfortable, we head back downstairs to the bar.  Feeling flush, we order something 'different'.  Joe says to me, you know, I've never had a Bloody Mary...I want a Bloody Mary.  Me, I get something called a Citrus Sunrise....citrus vodka, lemonade and club soda.....the kind of drink that you think is a girly drink, with no kick...until you stand up.  Our celebration over, everyone from C & A having gone home to their loved ones, we go out on the patio in front of the hotel, enjoy the breeze of the 60 degree weather, and wonder whether or not this night could get any better.

Content with our state, we call it a night and go up to bed.  We will need our rest for what the morrow brings...beside having to get all our belongings together we will have a full day of baby cuddling, kid chasing and otherwise saying good-bye to Omaha and all the people we have come to know and love.

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