Sunday, 12 October 2014

The New and Old in My Hometown

I’ve not lived in Oklahoma City since I was 35, back in the 19th Century; 1991 to be precise. A few things have changed in OKC over the years. (Warning, I may sound like a cranky old woman in the next few paragraphs.) There were also some familiar things that gave me comfort.

The Devon tower has sprouted like the bean-stalk since our last visit. I had to laugh, though I couldn’t get a good photo, when one very rainy day the low hanging clouds rested neatly atop every other downtown building, swallowing the top half of the Devon. Served them right for the height of their arrogance, I thought.

Looks stupid, right? (Source, Wikipedia)

The place is littered with some sort of birds with iridescent black feathers and long tails. I'd guess they were grackles, but these had longer necks. They should have been pretty, except for looking ratty, with feathers all askew. The phrase ‘dragged through a bush backwards’ came to mind. 

Hotel buffets don't provide milk for your coffee: it’s either half and half (milk / cream), or something vanilla or caramel flavoured, all disgusting to someone accustomed to enjoying skimmed milk. I bought the skinniest milk I could find in groceries. 

I figure the Waltons are rich enough already so I skipped visiting WalMart. The next nearest grocery store to our hotel seemed to be a Buy for Less on on SW 27th Street. That is a Hispanic neighbourhood now, judging from the large selection of tortillas and peppers on offer. I was very pleased to see so many healthy foods available for under $1 a pound and it was fun to wonder what they did with banana leaves and what looked like cactus leaves.  We tried to save money and calories by having 'room picnics' and so long as our hotels had a fridge and a microwave we were all set. 

North wind. (Love the dramatic skies!)

Beyond choosing salads for lunch – the only food I was certain didn’t come straight out of a freezer and into a microwave - I found it pretty difficult to eat healthily in restaurants. Part of this was my wish to re-visit old favourites like BBQ ribs, chicken-fried steak, Johnnie’s onion rings (alas, they have changed) and Tex-Mex food, so I can’t blame it entirely on the restaurant business. With a few delicious exceptions, I thought many places served nothing but deep fried or watered down slop. There is so much batter or cheese sauce (a nasty surprise) on veggies, no health benefit can remain. It’s a miracle I only gained six pounds on this trip, though we did walk a lot and drank gallons of water and unsweetened iced tea. 

That was something else new: iced tea used to come with ice, tea and lemon if you asked for it. You added sugar from the table dispenser – or not. No sugar on the table any more, not that I mind, but what exactly goes into sweetened tea?  I hadn’t realized until this trip how spoiled I have become, eating at home. I guess I am now a healthy food snob, or maybe just a control freak. All I know is that after a week in Oklahoma City I didn’t feel as well as when I arrived. Looking at menus and grocery shelves I started to understand more about America’s health problems.

Aack! Didn't realise David Carradine was dead! (sorry)

It’s not just restaurants that are hazardous to your health, apparently. When I went to the state health department to get birth/death certificates for my genealogy research (no chance, more of which later), we had to get past two guards, stating our purpose and showing photo ID. I was amazed. They said they would soon be installing metal detectors as well. I asked if there had been incidents but they said not, it was just being done. I don’t know whether to be sad about everyone’s fear or happy they are creating jobs.

South wind.

What used to be nice streets are now very run down.  A few of the old neighbourhoods have kept their value but some of the older houses I used to think were grand and elegant looked old and tired, though they still looked cared for. Perhaps I’ve just become accustomed to the grandeur of European architecture? I’m not sure that explains it, but I was sad not to be thrilled by those houses any more.

I visited some shops I used to think were fairly nice and I was shocked at how run down the buildings were, what cheap tat they offered. Places that used to offer brilliant London Fog coats with detachable hoods and linings – just the ticket to get me through British winters at the bus stop – now sell cheap clothes, Halloween costumes and candy. I didn’t find a single coat worth carrying home with me. I’ll have to aim higher next time, I guess.

I did visit 50 Penn Place (I remember Grandma and Grandpa being awed at the size of the car park when it was built as Penn Square Mall near their home). I found shoes and NYDJ’s at Dillards (Bill keeps saying DillArds, not DillErds, which cracks me up) and some blouses at Ann Taylor. I think I spent about $300 on clothes which will do me for some time. I didn’t visit my usual PayLess Shoes, vowing to try out the idea that better shoes last longer. We’ll see how that goes.

I had a great time visiting my old office, where I had probably the best job of my whole life. I hunted down the few remaining people that I used to work with and it was great to see and talk with them. 

I got the impression that Oklahoma hasn’t really experienced much of the recession. There were signs all over the place ‘now hiring’. Perhaps age has caught up with the suburbs that were once fashionable and the nice parts are now further out, or back in the wonderful Bricktown area near downtown where I see there are something like row houses being built.

Some things about OKC were still familiar. I met some bugs I knew. I wouldn’t call them ‘old friends’ but they reminded me of my childhood and are much different to the few British bugs I’ve seen (one of my favourite things about where I live, the dearth of horrible insects).

I say siKAda; Bill says SIKuhduh. This one says nothing - likely dead, but I didn't check.

I was pleased to find that they still have proper sized pumpkins (too big to carry), not the silly little ones sold in Britain as ‘large’ – that always makes me laugh. I loved the huge plums but was perplexed by diminutive bananas; what is their purpose? 

The old money section, Nichols Hills, still has lawn sprinklers that shower on in spite of pouring rain. It looks ridiculous, but no one thinks to turn them off; a great example of ‘conspicuous consumption’.

Sept 11

The searing heat – in the middle to upper 90s – was also familiar, though I was so cold in the air conditioned places the heat was nearly welcome. I didn't seem to use my sweater much, I migrated between frozen and fried. 

I used to hate the ever-present winds, but at least they counteract the heat…and are also useful for unfurling flags.


Gam Kau said...

Such an eyesore! To think, somebody thought that bldg was a good idea.

Anonymous said...

INTERESTING insights, Shelley. It must have been a very surreal experience. And your observations are spot on for the general "condition" that I believe the USA has found itself in. Maybe not everywhere but in a lot of places. After visiting Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria this summer, I understand what you are saying about the vast difference in architectural style. The way things are built and cared for in Europe puts much of what is seen here to shame. Hubs and I were in constant amazement by the cleanliness we saw while we were there--excluding our jaunt across northern Italy. Just my opinions.

Glad you got to take a visit home though!! : )