Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Last Weekend - Integris Picnic and Two Movies

"I never knew it would be this much fun," Ryan shouted about a third of the way through the virtual roller coaster ride at the zoo. About 15 seconds later when the roller coaster car was launched off of the track in an impossible arc and then caught back on the track, I heard Ryan shout next to me, "I never knew it would be this much fun!" In total he shouted the phrase about ten times. After the ride both Duncan and Ryan ran up to Tamara (Duncan's mom). She asked how it was and Ryan shouted, "I never knew it would be this much fun!"

This was definitely one of the highlights from the Integris Health company picnic last weekend at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Omniplex interactive science museum. Every year Integris Health has a variety of activities to make people happy that they work here. Every fall they have the company picnic. Last year was at a local amusement park called Frontier City, so this year was at the zoo. In the 7 1/2 years I've been with Integris, they've alternated between these two venues.

The last time they were at the zoo they served BBQ or Lemon/pepper chickcen and had lots of complaints about not having food that kids would want to eat. This year they released the menu early (BBQ or HotDogs) to help convince people it would be better this year.

The event started at 10:00 AM. After getting everyone ready and coordinating the arrival of Duncan's friend Ryan and Tamara's mom (Ellen or Mamaw to most of the kids in her neighborhood), we arrived at the zoo about 10:30 AM. We first looked at snake/lizards exhibit. Both Duncan and Ryan have seen this before, but like most kids they can't get enough of anything involving snakes, lizards, or bugs. With this building they got two out of three so they were pretty pumped.

After that, the boys and Tamara looked at the vultures while I went off to find Ellen and Calvin. They wandered off looking at stuff and now were off in some other part of the zoo. She thought the snake building would exit on the far side but couldn't see where that door was. The problem happens because the snake building is set up in a loop with the beginning and end of the exhibit by the same set of doors. It only took a few minutes to gather the group and head over to the hippo/rhino/elephant building. The boys didn't want to go in because it smelled like the feces of these animals. Lets just say it was a pungent, earthy smell. Well it turns out that only the bird exhibits were occupied as they were cleaning the large animal spaces. It appeared that they still had a lot of cleaning left to do. Actually, I find the farm-based animal smells much easier to deal with than some of the petrochemical processing smells you can run into here in oil country. After leaving the building we looked at the large animals in the outside enclosures and made our way over to the food tents about 11:30 AM.

The food for lunch was pretty good. I had a "huge" chili-dog, potato salad, baked beans, BBQ brisket, and some cookies. They also had chips for people who don't want potato salad (mostly kids). Ryan is a very picky eater. We already knew this so when he sat down with just cookies on his plate, we weren't surprised.

It was at this point that Duncan wanted to go on the virtual roller coaster. Since it was only $3 per person, we said, "OK." Duncan had to nearly drag Ryan onto the ride. But he eventually convinced him. And he actually enjoyed himself. Or in his own words, "I never knew it would be this much fun!"

The rest of our time was spent at the Omniplex. The Omniplex is an interactive science museum geared to kids but still pretty fun for adults (or at least the geeky ones). I stayed with Duncan and Ryan while Tamara and Ellen guided Calvin's experience. The older boys (older meaning 7) went from exhibit to exhibit with the attention span of . . . Well, a seven-year-old. And then they discovered a staircase and wanted to go up it. I knew this was a mistake because none of the exhibits on the second floor were interactive. I let them go up anyway because otherwise they would whine about the unknown mysteries I was denying them. Of course, they became bored pretty quickly. Even the astronaut waste disposal display couldn't keep their attention. They could have made this interactive, but it probably would have offended someone. Still, I can see it now, "Come one! Come all! See the wonders of zero-gravity personal hygene at the amazing SPACE CRAPPER!" It could be the hit of the museum.

We hooked back up with the other group near the snack bar. Ellen took the older boys to the gift shop while Tamara and I shared a Diet Coke and some nachos. When they were done exchanging money for cheap plastic we left and went back to our house.

But the day wasn't over yet. Oh no. We had time to go and see a movie. Tamara decided she didn't want to go so it was just me and the older boys racing to make the 3:15 showing of "School Of Rock." We got there, got the kid's packs of popcorn, soda, and candy, found our seats and only missed a couple of the opening commercials.

I probaby shouldn't have said anything but I turned to Duncan and said, "Now be careful and don't do anything to spill your kid's pack." Within a minute he turned to me to open his candy and dumped the whole thing on the floor. I have to admit that I was instantly livid. I was able to grab the box and cup before anything happened to them and I went immediately back to the concession stand where I told them my child tripped on the way to his seat (not exactly the truth but an easy to understand event that probably happens often at the theater), and asked if they could refill the containers. They could and did. It's important to have the paper products with you when you try this because most of these places only inventory the paper and not the actual food. So everything was made right and I calmed down as the movie started.

"School Of Rock" is a cute movie definitely written to showcase Jack Black. Even though it has a very linear story and is manically plot driven to the final "Battle of the bands" showdown, both Jack Black and director Richard Linklater create a slacker fantasy where a "differently motivated" person can succeed against every status quo of our society. The fantasy part involves large plot holes and reality inconsistencies that would sink this kind of plan in the real world and land Black's character in jail. If you can suspend disbelief long enough to root for Black, and the kids, you'll see a pretty enjoyable movie. And don't leave during the credits because important and funny things happen.

After the movie we took Ryan home and then ate diner at Fazoli's. I'm not sure what's more bland; the sauce, the noodles or the meatballs.

On Sunday Duncan and I went back to the Unitarian Church with a stop off at The Hungry Frog for breakfast. This year Duncan's Religious Education (RE) class is covering "Heroes of the Bible." It would make my mother proud. Of course, these heroes are given a very Unitarian Universalist slant.

After church Tamara and I went to see "Lost in Translation" with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. This was a great movie, but then again I think a lot of introspective movies are pretty good. Some people would be bored but they can go see Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) in "The Rundown." There's talk that Bill Murray may get an Oscar nod for this film. And on a purely male note, Scarlett Johansson goes through parts of the movie in a long-sleeved shirt and panties. And let me tell you, this is a good look on her (and probably most women who aren't too self conscious to try it).

The evening saw us sliding back into our natural rhythms as tomorrow was both a school and work day.


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