Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

October 17th, 2006
Oooooooklahoma!

You might think of it as a "fly-over" state, a place that you fly over to get elsewhere, but Oklahoma has some amazing attractions like the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, the Oklahoma City National Memorial, Frank Lloyd Wright‘s only skyscraper, and the capital of the Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah.

Art, culture and cowboys… what more could you want out of a visit? I go to Tulsa at least once a year: my mother and her people are from there and still live there. My friends look at me with pity when I announce these visits, but if they only knew… I guess it’s time to tell ’em.

The Song promises waving wheat and windy plains (not to mention honey lambs and hawks), but the Oklahoma I know is the hilly and lush little enclave of Tulsa, once home to my grandparents, who have sadly passed. We used to spend holidays visiting with them, watching their programs, and trying to fend off all the food my Bubbie foisted on us.

Our honeylamb status as grandkids used to spread like wildfire, and soon the tumbleweeds that were my grandparents’ 80-year-old friends appeared at our door to pinch our cheeks. This time, with only cousins and aunts and uncles around, I begged my mom to take us out of Tulsa (for once!) and down those freeways that promised exotica like "Broken Arrow." 

She acquiesced, and soon I found myself at the Cowboy Museum. It’s only about an hour and a half from Tulsa to Oklahoma City. We couldn’t stay long because we had to get to the Memorial, so we just peeked in at the tremendous statue, The End of the Trail, by James Earle Fraser, and had to save the turn-of-the-century cattle town replica, the gun gallery and more for another time.

Next on our itinerary was of course the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Can I just say, WOW? I hope that the visionaries behind the 9/11 Memorial can get it as right as the brilliant minds who worked in Oklahoma. The Memorial and museum are tremendous, haunting, with minimal symbols leaving maximum impressions. Chairs sit in on a peaceful, grassy knoll, one for every victim, and those representing children are small chairs (there was a nursery in the Federal Building right where the bomb hit). The museum not only outlines the day but includes the story of the FBI investigation as well as heart-wrenching tales by survivors. It is a marvel and a reverant tribute. Again, wow.

After that, it was a rush to get to Norman (my father was a University of Oklahoma graduate), which took about a half hour, to meet with director Eric M. Lee at the exciting Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University (Go Sooners!). They had recently been bequeathed a startling art collection, and my mother couldn’t wait to check it out. Picture every European and American master and mistress, plus a vital array of Native American art, and you have the essence of what makes this museum so special, not to mention the spectacular redesign by architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen. Truly it is spectacular for any museum, not just a university museum, and not just as an oh-how-cute, they’re-tryin-to-make-culture-in-Oklahoma kind of way either. Experts agree!

One had to feed oneself during all the touring, so one had no choice but to stop for bbq at Van’s Pig Stand in Norman. 75 years and still smokin’ is their motto, and we sure did enjoy our slop.

And that was that. We had to get back to Tulsa for dinner. Oklahoma is a great and easy road trip, see? Think how much we saw in just a day! Other sights we did not have time for but are on our list include:

1. Tahlaquah, the capital of the Cherokee Nation

2. Bartlesville, where Frank Lloyd Wright’s only skyscraper lives, the Price Tower Arts Center

3. Branson, Missouri, world class entertainment in the Ozarks and just 3 and a half hours from Tulsa. It’s The Country Live Music Show Capital of the World! 

Tulsa sights include:

1. The Boston Avenue Methodist Church, an art deco wonder! I love this building.

2. Utica Square Shopping Center

3. Museums that are gorgeous: Gilcrease and Philbrook

Thanks for listening, Honey Lambs! 

One thought on “Oooooooklahoma!

  1. I was a Tulsa “boy”, a grad of Central High School, class of ’48. Our 60th reunion will be held on a cruise ship out of Galveston this April. I took my wife of two years to the 58th reunion in Tulsa. I showed her the Boston Ave Methodist Church, where I attended in the ’30’s and ’40’s; Philbrook, which I used to go for a romp in its grounds and a look at all the fastenating Indian stuff, when in grade school at Barnard on 17th and Lewis; Gilcrease, which was born after I left for California and other parts of the wider world; Utica Square, which was my mother’s favorite shopping venue. You forgot Woodward Park and the Rose Garden.

    My parents were Bess and John Johnson, Tulsa residents for over 50 years. Mother began life as Signe Marie von Krusenstierna, a child of Swedish Immigrants. I correspond with Nina von Krusenstierna, although not the Nina that owns the restaurant. Small world.

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