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San Antonio

Sorry about the slovenly website updating. I promise, again, to be more attentive. I got back from San Antonio on Friday, and it's now Wednesday. Anyway, we arrived in town, and Geoff and I were on the same flight, so we split a cab to the hotel, and made for the Riverwalk as quickly as we could. When we got there, we found that the annual civic celebration known locally as Fiesta, was about to kickoff with a parade on the river. Downtown San Antonio is arrayed, annoyingly in this case, so that pretty much every bar and restaurant is situated right on the Riverwalk, which itself, is not really a river, but a pretty series of canals branching off in several directions. So, saying that your establishment is located on the Riverwalk is not a very specific instruction for helping people to locate it.

It was trouble for us because we wanted nothing more than a nice quiet place to relax, and have a beer and burger after our travel day. This proved to be exceedingly difficult, as, like I said, most places that serve food and alcohol are on the Riverwalk, and the impending parade, set to commence that evening, had caused all these places to close their doors, and hold private parties, open to paying ticketholders only. We wandered amazed around downtown, and it started to rain.

After asking several people, we eventually found a Pat O'Brien's that was mercifully separated from the Riverwalk, and so was open. It even had open outdoor seating, to which Geoff and I helped ourselves, as the staff helped us get our table under an umbrella. About as soon as we sat down, however, the rain stopped, and the sun started to try peeking out. We ate some hot wings and drank some Hurricanes, before taking our leave, and running into Bill and Bob, the Eastern Region senior team, with whom we decided to visit the Alamo.

The Alamo was on the way back to our hotel, and was open free of admission charge, for the occasion of Fiesta. It was pretty much like I thought it would be: an old musty churchlike silence, filled with placards and segments of weapons used in the battle of the Alamo. The neatest part, in my opinion, was the memorial to all the soldiers who fell defending it, 169 years ago. As well, there is a fenced yard in the front of the building's facade that has some of the most beautifuly manicured grass I have ever seen.

That evening, we joined the rest of our cohorts in a run out to Rudy's barbecue, which is apparently something of a Texas mainstay. Texans and Oklahomans I have spoken to say that barbecue made in the Texas style is better than Kansas City barbecue. If Rudy's is Texas barbecue, then I find that I still prefer KC barbecue, but not because I think it's better than the Texas variety. I just don't think the two can be easily compared.

Texas barbecue is like everything else in Texas: big. It's an excellent representative of its state and its abundance. The focus is on smoking whole slabs of prime loin meat, while the focus of Kansas City barbecue is more in the vein of using what would otherwise be crappy or small cuts of meat, principally ribs, and just plain cooking it. There are lots of points I could go over, but the bottom line is that I think it's an apples to oranges discussion, when trying to compare Kansas City and Texas barbecue, and I never saw a lamb ribs and beef burnt ends dish at Rudy's.

Anyway, training went on as planned, in a room that seemed to be heated, not cooled. We sweated it out for the first day, fighting sleep as we were given presentations that largely were unrelated to system administration.

That evening, Geoff, Paul, TJ, and I went out to a more suburban stretch of San Antonio, to dine on Paul's favorite kind of food: German, at a place Geoff found out about on the internet, called the Heidelberg. After two bottles of Optimator and a paprikaschnitzel, I was ready to lie down. We had other plans, however, for when we got back downtown. Paul drove us from the restaurant on the expressways, at about 25 miles per hour, and eventually dumped us off at the Hotel.

Geoff and I moved on to the actual Riverwalk, and sat down for a drink or two at Mad Dog's, an English-style pub with Boddington's on tap, and surly atractive waitresses in shortened kilts. When they closed the glass doors for "adult karaoke," we paid up our $26 for four beers, and set off on our way. We walked down the very scenic Riverwalk in the perfect weather, until we got to a place I had read about on Beerfly: Durty Nellie's Irish Pub. We walked inside(they had no outdoor bar), and found that it was a very popular spot. There was nowhere to sit in the bar, and there was a buy playing dirty songs on a piano, to the crowd's intense delight. Don't get me wrong, I think I would have loved it, if only we could have found a seat. But as it was, we quickly drank out Shiner Bocks(it's everywhere in Texas), and again, took our leave. When we got outside, Geoff had to pick wet sticky peanut shells out of his sandals.

We left the Riverwalk and started to head back to the hotel, and walked past a place called the Sirius bar. It was a comfortable quiet affair, with a nice polished wooden bar top, and brick interior. It was also the first place I ever saw Dos Equis on tap. We helped ourselves, and noticed the crowd get bigger, and the music get louder. I can't believe there's a popular song out now that repeats, "Where's my shit," over and over again. About the time we were thinking it was time to start heading back to the hotel, some guys came in and started kissing each other. We drank our beers up, and hoofed it back to our rooms.

The next day dawned hungover and sleepy, and training went really late. It wasn't until well after 9PM that we were able to get away and have some dinner. Geoff and I drove out to the Flying Saucer, where I was ecstatic to find that they served 90-minute IPA. After a so-so meal, and a couple of first-rate pours of beer, we headed back to the hotel, and fell heavily asleep.

Thursday was a bit easier for us, but that was also when the heat started to come back, in south Texas. With midday temperatures tickling ninety degrees, we sat perfectly still in the stifling room. We split up between DBAs and System Admins after lunch, and I gave my presentation, which went pretty well. I was afraid I'd be out of things to say after only about fifteen minutes, but I managed to keep it going, and keep it interesting for about an hour.

That evening, we all went down to the Riverwalk again, and rather than describe it verbally, I'll let the forthcoming pictures tell the story instead. On Friday, I woke up at 6AM and vomited, and remarked at my new scar, before popping some aspirin and catching a plane.

Let me say here that Houston Bush/Intercontinental Airport is the worst airport I have ever used, including Boston, St. Louis, O'Hare, and Laguardia. With twenty minutes to make my connection, I was dropped off in one terminal, and had to sprint over to another to just barely catch my plane back to KC.

It was a great trip.

7:48 PM, Apr 23, 2005

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