Oklahoma City of Airmen and Cowboys

I spent about four days visiting Oklahoma City, mostly devoting it to seeing friends and spending time with my family. It was wonderful to visit at a time that wasn’t a holiday, to not have to rush around and do anything else besides see people and relax. I took a bit of an internet vacation and didn’t even check my email very much. What a nice change! Not that I don’t like my complicated hyperspace, but sometimes it’s refreshing to disconnect from the nonstop information.

I visited a lot of old haunts, like the Red Cup for coffee, the Paseo bars, and the Mont in Norman, which I frequented as a college student. I also checked out places that have sprung up since I moved, like the Drunken Fry in the crazy HiLo complex. If you’ve never seen the building, it looks like a bunch of unattractive small buildings were fused into one abomination, but in a way that I find somehow appealing. It’s just easier to link to a picture than to describe it. Anyway, the Drunken Fry had several Oklahoma brewed beers. I tried the tornado-branded F5 IPA from COOP Ale Works and was surprised at how good it was. I guess I’ve had my doubts ever since drinking absolutely horrid vodka made in Oklahoma. Anyway, I also went to the Iguana Grill off of Automobile Alley, got a jackfruit smoothie at a bubble tea place I used to go to, and met friends at the Humble Pie pizza place in Edmond. In other words, I tried to visit as many people and places as possible.

My brother Tim was nice enough to act as a chauffeur and indulge my meandering trips down memory lane. We drove through Stockyards City, where there seemed to actually be tourists! That’s quite the achievement for Oklahoma City. Not that it doesn’t deserve it, and the Stockyards are definitely worth a visit if you want some genuine cowboy experiences. It’s the place to go to get a custom made hat, boots, and all manner of Western wear, all next to one of the largest cattle markets in the world.

We also stopped by the Oklahoma State Capitol, which was almost completely empty due to it being summer. Kind of interesting to just be able to wander by the governor’s office (after going through security, of course). As you can see in the above picture, there are still active oil wells on the site of the Capitol, this one nicknamed Petunia #1 since it is in a flower bed.

Although the capitol building was designed to support a dome, it was left off when it was opened in 1917. It wasn’t until 2002 that a dome was completed (you can see a picture of the building pre-domed here). The interior colors are meant to represent the state wildflower, Oklahoma sky, and American Indian beadery. If this really interests you, the dome actually has its own website.

I really love all the vibrant art and murals in the capitol building. There are also portraits of famous Oklahomans, with the most prominent places of honors going to Robert S. Kerr, Sequoyah, Will Rogers, and Jim Thorpe.

I was most excited to see the portrait of my personal hero: airman Wiley Post. Known for his record-setting around the world flights, he also designed and tested one of the first pressure suits, which was a model for what astronauts would wear in space. Last Sunday, August 15, was the 75th anniversary of the Alaskan plane crash that killed both Post and the cowboy comedian and writer Will Rogers. That also happens to be the date I flew out of Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers Airport to New York in 2009. I guess I’m not too superstitious.

We stopped in the State Art Collection, which has pieces by significant Okie artists like Ed Ruscha, Leon Polk Smith, and Eugene Bavinger. Above you can see a couple of pieces in the sculpture room, one a mask made of Ford auto parts by M.R. Smith and a metal animal head by Ken Little.

Outside, we wandered around and happened upon the Meeting Place, which I’d never seen before. It has a fountain in the center of four huge granite structures topped by all the American Indian flags.

During my visit I also saw the new and impressive Classen Curve. It was designed by Rand Elliott with the same modern, metal and glass style he brought to the Chesapeake Boathouse and POPS 66. Most impressive of all is that there is a raw foods restaurant there. I would never have expected beef-obsessed Oklahoma would ever go for that, but yet again, this state surprises me.

On my last day in OKC, I visited the Oklahoma City Museum of Art to see Sketch to Screen, an exhibit of film costumes and their designs. It was a really well-curated and interesting exhibit, and I especially like the polaroids of actors modeling costumes before the shoot, out of character. I’m amazed they were even able to track down things like a dress Mary Pickford wore in a silent film or a fan/lipstick/mirror combination that Gloria Swanson designed herself for one of her movies.

I flew back to New York on a Tuesday evening with a suitcase full of books, as I slowly try to migrate my embarrassingly large library to Brooklyn. My cab driver from LaGuardia got horribly lost and didn’t believe me that a giant cemetery was going to block the road at some point. Oh well, I made it back, yet again. It was wonderful to visit Oklahoma, although nice to return to my busy Brooklyn routine. Although besides the full-time job, I don’t think I’m in too much of a routine, unless picking a concert/opening/event/random historic place at random is a routine.

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