Ten things I love about Tulsa
Dan Paden correctly pointed out that my recent post about Tulsa was far too negative. Aside from the wacky charismatic strain in the religious culture of Tulsa, I actually love the city. I officially left there when I went to college in 1972 and have never resided in Tulsa for more than 3 months at a time since then. I've now lived three times longer in California than I ever lived in Oklahoma. But I still refer to Tulsa as my hometown, and I love it there. Here are my ten favorite things about Tulsa (in mostly random order):
- My parents and siblings and a lot of my nieces and nephews all live in Tulsa, or within a hour's drive. It's a great place for a family reunion.
- It's well-nigh impossible to get lost in Tulsa. Except for the immediate downtown area (which was laid out to follow some ancient diagonal railroad tracks), virtually all the streets in Tulsa run straight north-south and east-west. East-west streets are all numbered in order (1st, 2nd, 3rd street, etc.). Major thoroughfares all end in "1" (11th, 21st, 31st, etc.) and are exactly a mile apart. North-south streets are called "avenues" and are named in alphabetical order, with Main Street at the center of downtown. Avenues east of Main Street are named for cities east of Tulsa (Boston, Cincinnati, Detroit, Elgin, etc.). Those west of Main are named for western cities (Boulder, Cheyenne, Denver, Elwood, Frisco, etc.). Again, all major thoroughfares are one mile apart, and once you learn the major avenues (Peoria, Lewis, Harvard, Yale, and Memorial), you can find any address. An address like 2100 S. Yale is found at 21st and Yale (across from the fairgrounds). In less than an hour, you can learn the whole grid, and then you can easily find your way from anywhere to anywhere.
- Speaking of the fairgrounds, the Tulsa State Fair is the city's largest annual event and is one of the truly great state fairs in the nation. The fairgrounds host a fine Triple-A baseball stadium, a great stock-car racetrack, one of the largest display areas under a single roof, the best midway I ever squandered money on in my youth, and
- The Golden Driller, a big statue of an oil-field worker (made, I believe, from chicken wire and stucco) who used to be painted dull gold, but these days is more of a mustard color.
- Next door to the fairgrounds is Bell's Amusement Park, one of the best compact family amusement parks anywhere.
- Empire Roofing Company was my first employer, and the place where (while working 12-hour days in the wake of a devastating tornado in May 1971) I realized that construction work was not what the Lord was calling me to do. My father helped build this company into one of the finest and most respected roofing companies in Oklahoma, and now my brother, Cliff, is the company president. When I worked there in the late 60s and early 70s, company trucks were easily recognized around town by their bright orange color. Cliff has toned the colors down a bit, I believe.
- Tulsa International Airport, at least 45 years old, is nonetheless clean, modern-looking, convenient, never too busy, and as pleasant as an airport can be. It now sports a centralized security-clearance area that's as fast and friendly as any I have ever been through. The scanner caught Darlene accidentally smuggling her best embroidery scissors aboard in her carry-on bag, and instead of confiscating them, the staff actually helped her mail them home to herself.
- The restaurant scene. Dan Paden mentioned BBQ, especially Latimer's. There's no shortage of great BBQ places in Tulsa, and some of the best, including Latimer's, are north of Admiral. Tulsa also has some great franchise restaurants. My personal favorite is Cheddars. I noticed on my recent visit that Casa Bonita is still operating. When I lived there, it was a great, fun, well-decorated place with a killer Mexican buffet. There are too many other great restaurants in Tulsa to even try to give a complete list here.
- Nathan Hale High School. Sadly, the school is not what it was in the glory days when it was situated on the city's growing edge and the football team was usually in the state's top ten. But I still have an affinity for Hale. I spent my years there in the marching bandthe Hale Marching Hundred. Hale's most illustrious alumni include Gary Busey and Mary Kay Place.
- Music. Tulsa is musically diverse. The population of 400,000 manages to support a full-time symphony orchestra, an opera company, and a ballet. Country music legend Roy Clark lived in Tulsa at the height of his career. Leon Russell, Phil Driscoll, and Anita Bryant are all products of Tulsa. Driscoll was first trumpet in The Young Tulsans, a concert and marching band I was also a member of during my high school years. My own love for classical music germinated during my high school years in Tulsa, and it's one of the few active interests I have maintained for nearly 40 years.
I didn't even mention Route 66, the Port of Catoosa, Bama pies, the kitschy architecture at Oral Roberts University, and several other things I love about Tulsa. Obviously my roots there go deep, and despite all my concerns about the spiritual climate in Tulsa, it's where I came to a saving knowledge of Christ in April of 1971. The city will always have a special place in my heart.