Texas Dec. 8-10, 2017: Baytown & a Party

Fri. Dec 8th:  Woke to a dusting of snow on the deck and on our cars. Even the beach looked white, not its usual gray wet sand color. I felt bad that Jr. and Jackie came here expecting warm sunshine, but instead were greeted with the same weather they left in northern Indiana. But nothing to do but work with what we got.

Oil Refineries and Tanker near Baytown, Texas

We drove to Baytown to spend the day with Deloris and her husband, Pete for her 47th birthday. Jr. and Jackie were intrigued by the miles and miles of refineries  we passed driving north on Texas 146. When our olfactories picked up the faint smell of burnt oil, which permeated the air, Joe explained that to the locals that was “the  smell of money” since the biggest employer of Baytown was Exon-Mobile. We also enjoyed seeing the big ships below us we drove up and over the Fred Hartman Bridge, a 2.6 mile cable-stayed bridge suspended over the Houston ship channel which connects La Porte to Baytown.

Fred Hartman Bridge – LaPorte to Baytown, TX

Both Deloris and Pete had the day off work and were waiting for us when we arrived. We visited awhile and got reacquainted with their two dogs, Benji and Grace, then headed out for an early dinner at El Toro Mexican Restaurant on Garth Road. Excellent meal, which ended with the staff singing an upbeat Birthday song to Dee in Spanish and presenting her with a special dessert.  After dinner, we drove back to the Calypso where we settled in front of the TV and chilled till bedtime.

Sunrise on Jamaica Beach Galveston

Sat. Dec 9th:  We were up early and watched the sunrise over the Gulf. The horizon changed slowly before our eyes, from steel grey streaked with pink and gold to pale blue to brilliant yellow and white-gold reflecting off the frothy waves rolling onto the shore. Photos never capture the true joy of a sunrise, nor can a digital image give us the colors and light we perceive as we witness this miracle that is happening before our very eyes. But we couldn’t linger and enjoy the beach as we had places to go and people to see, also a party to attend. It seems the G’s – R Sr. and T, our son-in-law’s parents, put together a double Birthday Bash for Deloris and their daughter, J to take place at their home Saturday night.  And since they live in Houston, over an hour from Jamaica Beach, we made reservations at the Holiday Inn on I-10 just ten minutes from the party location and we also booked the dogs for a night at Fabian Kennels in Galveston. We were excited, knowing that the Gs know how to throw a party, complete with Karaoke and lots of family and friends. But since we had over four hours to kill before we headed to Houston, we decided to do some touristy things in Galveston. Our first stop was along the Seawall, where we paid to park via cell phone app and paid again to walk out onto one of the many Fishing Piers.  Jr. and Joe were mistaken for an employees of Texas Fish and Game when they began asking one man questions about his catch that morning, until they identified themselves as nosy tourists.  It was really nice standing in the bright midday sun with the sea below us far from the shore on the wooden dock.

The Elissa, 1877 Ship Galveston Harbor

After lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf on Harborside Drive, where we sat on the deck with a view of the Elissa, a restored 1877 tall sail ship, we decided to walk over and visit her but we had to go through the Texas Seaport Museum  before boarding the ship. The self guided tour was very interesting. We learned much about the 200,000 plus immigrants who entered this country via Galveston from 1863-1924. Once on board the ship, I especially liked going below deck where the cargo hold was. I could feel the energy still held within the belly of this ancient vessel. We reluctantly had to cut our tour short, as we had a party to get to.

We were the first guest to arrive at the Gs home, but it did not feel awkward as R Sr. met us at the door and immediately made us feel at ease. Jr. and Jackie were introduced and we slipped easily into conversation.  T proudly showed us around her new home. (They had recently purchased and moved into this house, which was just down the street from their previous home.)  The house soon filled with family. Everyone present was family, the G’s make sure you know that. A table of food was spread out and more kept arriving. Homemade Lasagna, salads, snacks and a platter of tamales. There were soft drinks, wine and beer to drink, but it soon became evident that alcohol was not necessary to create a party atmosphere as most of the guests were not imbibing. As we sat around with our plates and drinks, we talked and laughed. There were no strangers. Here’s a list of attendees:  R Sr. and T, Aunt Rickie, T’s sister, L, R Sr. and T’s eldest daughter, and her two children, 14 year old M and 10 year old A, daughter J and husband E, son Pete and his wife, our daughter Deloris, our daughter Carolyn, who also lives in Houston, me and Joe, Jr. and Jackie, and family friends Eugene, Chris, and Prescott.

The main event of the party was Karaoke. R Sr. has a set of big speakers, two professional microphones and the Karaoke program on his laptop which has thousands of songs to choose from. The Gs are a singing family. Pete sang in the Houston Boy Choir  years ago and now M is a member, in fact he had just returned from a performance that afternoon. There is nothing that binds a group more than singing together. Those who begin the evening saying, “Oh, I can’t sing,” will soon be joining in. I believe we covered most genres with our show; Country, Pop, Blues, Rock & Roll, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s. The first performance of the night was Dean Martin’s Going Back to Houston sung by Joe and R Sr. who gave a southern and Texas twang to this ballad. I cannot recall every song that was performed and by whom, but the voices joining in on well known choruses and the clapping and head nodding along with the beat made us all feel like we were in a music hall.  Here’s a list of songs and the singers I do recall:
Deloris  – Loretta Lynn’s Coal Miner’s Daughter
Deloris & R Sr. – Johnny Cash & June Carter’s Jackson, 
Deloris & Carolyn – Björk’s It’s Oh So Quiet
Chris – Beatle’s Let it Be
Carolyn & E – REM’s The End of the World as We Know It
Ginger, Joe & Jr.  – Tom T. Hall’s That’s How I Got to Memphis
R Sr., Joe, Jr., Eugene, ChrisPauncho and Lefty
Pete – Etta James’ At Last; Pete’s rendition of this old blues ballad from the 1950s was so good, that if you looked away, you’d be sure this throaty bluesy voice was not coming from a man.
A – Lorde’s Royal and Adele’s Rolling in the Deep; A is 10 a ten year-old phenom. I felt like I was watching a child prodigy on America’s Got Talent.  Her stage presence and movements showed spunk and a real flair for showmanship.
Then R Sr., T, Aunt Ricki, & Eugene serenaded Deloris and J with Las Mañanitas, a traditional Mexican birthday song. Although most of us did not know the exact words being sung, we all felt the love and understood the pantomime of rocking motion by the singers was an indication of the two birthday girls as el bebé.

When we took a break from singing to have Deloris and J open their presents, A naturally took the role of MC. She talked into the mic, describing each wrapped gift as they were distributed and then narrated the unveiling of the contents inside with wit and humor. She sounded like a game show host describing the prizes a contestant was receiving. I do believe we just may see her on TV in a few years.

The party started winding down around 10.  Goodbyes, thank-yous and hugs were exchanged by everyone. We planned to meet the next morning for breakfast and of course we invited everyone to join us on Christmas at the big house we were renting on Galveston beach. We have a 5 bedroom, 3 bath house rented for Dec 23-26 for our family Christmas together. And we really felt that our Holiday celebration will be enhanced by the added presence of our extended family from Houston.

Group Selfie  after breakfast;   Watkins & Gs.

Sun.  Dec 10th : Sunday we had a fabulous breakfast at Comala Mexican Café.   It was like an encore of the previous night’s festivities.  Most of the G’s came to join me, Joe, Jr. and Jackie. After a great Mexican breakfast,   we parted again, hugging goodbye in the parking lot with promises to see everyone on Christmas day.     

As we – me and Joe, Jr. and Jackie – drove back toward Galveston Island, we talked about the great time we had at the G’s and how hospitable they were.  The whole family was so friendly, gracious and open. I feel so blessed that our daughter is part of such an awesome extended family.

Read Previous Post Dec 7th; Antique Warehouse
Read Next Post Dec 10-13, Another Road Trip

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