Tulsa is a really interesting place. For one thing, on any given day of the week, the downtown area (where I'm staying) looks like the Zombie Apocalypse has already passed through. Not that it's untidy; it's just mostly deserted, with perfectly thriving little businesses right next door to less fortunate, boarded-up neighbors, and entire blocks of abandoned buildings growing dusty and cobwebby in the sun. Downtown Tulsa's eclectic mixture of architecture seems stuck in time, perhaps the late fifties (although there are some stellar examples of groovy 60's architecture, most notably the Jetsonesque apartment towers that must have been the HEIGHT of hip urban living when they were built, and now just look sad; although if the website is to be believed, the interiors are pretty sweet).
The circa-1964 University Club Apartments may not qualify as Googie architecture, although Tulsa possesses many other shining examples of same; but I rather like the description found in Irritated Tulsan's post about local architectural gems.
More on downtown later. Further out, you find some cool little neighborhoods like Cherry Street, where my favorite coffee house is located (no disrespect to JoeBot's, close to the theater, where the second time I went in the baristas knew my name and poison), and in the chi-chi part of town where local treasures like the Philbrook Museum are located, you see beautiful mansions and gracious, wide streets. But a great deal of Tulsa is comprised of endless urban sprawl. And then there's stuff like this (I like to think he's Oklahoma's answer to the late lamented Big Tex; except Big Tex appeared to have junk, and the Golden Driller --- yikes! --- has disturbing anatomical similarities to a Ken doll. Sadly, that is one of the first things I noticed about the Driller. But damn, when a guy's that tall, you can't avoid looking at his crotch).
Local radio ads are also stuck in a time warp. I haven't heard this many jingles since 1982, and very few local companies seem to hire professional voiceover talent --- I guess the homespun approach is what sells here. My favorite one sounds like it was written by the South Park guys and as if it's sung by Mr. Garrison --- except that it's completely without irony. The lyrics go "Driving in my car, beep-beep! Obeying the law is really neat."
Tulsa also has WEATHA. Right now, there is a huge thunderstorm breaking right over the top of my apartment, or so it sounds. And last week, we had a one-day snow dump which behaved itself perfectly: stayed long enough to make everything purty and let the kids make snowmen, and then obligingly melted by dinner time.
Now, lest you think I'm complaining or making fun of Tulsa , let me be clear: I think it's FANTASTIC. I love retro stuff and I love the weird jumble of styles that represent the parts of Tulsa I've seen. I like Tulsa, period. For one thing, Tulsans are amazingly friendly. I haven't had an awkwardly silent elevator ride since I got here, and I've had many a conversation with Whataburger counter girls ("Yeah, 2 a.m. is our busiest time of day, that's when the bars let out") and liquor store clerks ("I had to carry your case to the car to get away from that woman's perfume. She smells like a whorehouse on Saturday night!"). For another, Tulsa is quite possibly the hamburger capital of the world. You would be sinning if you ate at a McDonald's in these parts (everybody knows Whataburger is the only acceptable fast food hamburger, anyway), with all the terrific mom-and-pop burger joints. But there's really wonderful high-brow food, too. And awesomely cool little places like The Dust Bowl Lanes and Lounge, right down the street from the Performing Arts Center, where my colleagues and I like to have a drink and bowl a few games after rehearsal.
My work has plopped me down in a lot of places for extended periods of time; some great, some not so great; some perfectly fine but simply not my style. Tulsa is a place I'm enjoying spending time, and I've only seen a fraction of it. I hope to spend this week getting to know it better.
We're currently on Day 2 of a five-day hiatus between shows. (We opened last Saturday, and have two more shows, Friday and Sunday). I spent my Sunday profitably --- well, after I managed to overcome the bad case of post-cast-party Velcro ass and get off the couch --- with a bike ride along the Arkansas River.
This is another typically Tulsa thing. There's a really well-done hike and bike path that runs along both sides of the river; complete with beautiful wildlife statuary and inviting little clusters of benches, chairs, and tables, arranged not in straight lines, but like living room furniture. So you can, you know, sit down and enjoy the day, but also talk to people comfortably. See, I told you, it's a friendly city. Also, the planners intelligently created a wide path with separate lanes for pedestrians and cyclists.
No doubt, in the spring, summer, and fall, the river path is much more inviting and attractive. In the winter months ... well, let's just say it has a GREAT personality ... if you like industrial sprawl, that is. One side of the trail is bordered by the busy Riverside Drive; if you go down the other side, you spend a great deal of time passing parking lots, electrical plants, and the odiferous wastewater treatment facility, mobbed by cacaphonous seagulls.The river itself is dammed, and much of it looks like a wasteland, with big piles of broken concrete and plastic bags waving like flags from the debris they're caught on.
But once you get past the noisome and ugly (but yes, necessary) plants, the trail meanders into some actual parkland, and starts to get prettier.
In my experience, you can usually find beauty wherever you go, if your eyes are open to it. Tulsa may not be the prettiest town I've visited, but it's comfortable, like your favorite pair of jeans and that sloppy sweatshirt that only you love. It's also friendly, and interesting, and surprisingly cool. Suits me fine.