The Trip Home, Part Last: The Travel

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We flew out on Wednesday the 24th and came back on Wednesday the 31st, which allowed us to take as much advantage of our schedules as possible and get as much time at home as we could. We spent a lot of time on planes on those days, but we watched some movies together and read a lot (and slept a lot), so it went by actually really quickly.

Our first flight in, we flew from Newark through Atlanta to Oklahoma City, and it went very smoothly and was totally fine. We flew Delta the whole way, which was fine on the way there.

On the way back, we flew through Detroit instead of Atlanta, and I know it wasn’t Detroit’s fault, but we got stuck there for a few hours at the end of the day. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a little resentment towards Detroit about it, but in the end I talked to Delta about it and got it all worked out. Because it was so late at night, however, we got to see a lot of the airport pretty deserted. Have you been to the Detroit airport? Because if you haven’t, you should go sometime (preferably during normal flight hours) so you can see this hallway/work of art. It goes between the two terminals, and it’s just really strange and interesting.

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In fact, I still can’t believe it was a week – it felt like a day or two at most. Vacation always goes so quickly, but it was the absolute best time.

When we got back home late, late that night, we were both exhausted, but we couldn’t have been happier and had a better time on this trip. It went too fast, but being able to see my friends and family again at home for the first time since I moved was really priceless. It couldn’t have been a better trip, and I know we’ll be back sooner than you might think.

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i may not always be there in body, but oklahoma will always be a home in my heart.

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The Trip Home, Part Three: The Food

for, like, half a second, i was surprised that this post was turning out to be the most photo-heavy. however, you know, someone on my trip told me that i am clearly “a foodie” so i guess that’s what that means. i just really like having pictures of good food. usually i’m too excited about eating it to remember to take a picture, but i tried to remember on this trip so i can share you all and make you a little jealous.

i knew going into this trip that i wanted to share two major food groups with harry: tex-mex and barbecue. they exist here, but not like they do in the places where they came from.

when my parents picked us up from the airport, they drove us to 1492, new world latin cuisine, in downtown okc. the atmosphere was a little lacking (but it was also 3:30pm), but the food was great. the chorizo queso was just to die for. i had some enchiladas and a taco, and it was great. highly highly recommend.

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now, on the flip side, you can’t visit oklahoma city without eating at another tex mex staple: taco bueno. it’s not what anyone would call “great food,” but i’ve been eating there my whole life and not a whole lot can beat a good chicken muchaco. as advertised to harry, the refried beans were delicious and perfect. i don’t know that he loved bueno like i do, but again, i’m pretty sure it’s something you have to grow (up with) to love.

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naturally, you can’t go to the headquarters of sonic (oklahoma city, y’all) and not get yourself a limeade.  we went to sonic a couple of times on the trip and every time was a delight. nothing may beat a muchaco from bueno, but there’s really nothing that can beat a chili cheese coney with onions and mustard. like, man, i can’t.

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once we got done with our tour of fast food, we made a quick pit stop at POPS, a new staple of the city. the walls are lined with different kinds of sodas from all over the country (and some international, but it’s gotten a lot more local since i moved), and they have a wall of refrigerators that you can pick bottles from. they have food there, too–pretty basic diner fare–but POPS is really all about the drinks.

we got two six packs of assorted flavored sodas, from your basic ginger ale to blood orange and sarsaparilla sodas. somehow we managed to decide against the bacon flavored soda, but you know, i don’t think we had any regrets.

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we also stopped at pinkitzel, since it was on the way home, and picked up some salt water taffy and some cupcakes to snack on at home. so, so super delicious.

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other local favorites include all about cha, a new coffee and tea location in edmond, where you can get the most delicious sweet potato latte. it sounds a little weird, i know, but i don’t think anyone i know has ever regretted getting one. all i’m saying is that i’ve made a lot of converts over the years.

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if you haven’t been to mutts hot dogs down on 23rd, you’re also missing out. we went there for lunch with my parents one day near the end, and my dad and i were thrilled to get to introduce it to both harry and my mom, who’d never made it down. everything they have is great, but i always get the corn dog pups, which is pretty much what you think it is and they are delicious.

they’re also owned by the same people who run big truck tacos down the way, so you always get these great reusable cups, too. we brought a few of these guys back home with us and i love using them.

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and since i mentioned barbecue, one of our last meals was at rudy’s bbq, which is my favorite barbecue restaurant of all time. they put one in on memorial in oklahoma city (previously the closest was in norman) and no one told me, which caused me to swivel my neck like an owl when we were driving past it that first day and ask frantically if anyone else knew that was in there. well, they had, and no one remembered to tell me, so naturally i insisted that we go.

i had a brisket potato with extra butter, which was absolutely amazing, as expected. i just love rudy’s. i just love it.

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anyway, we ate at some other places, and we ate at home (my mom makes a real mean fried chicken, fried squash and mashed potatoes) some, too, but all of the food we ate was out of this world. sometimes i forget just how good the food is there, and it was great to be reminded of it.

if you happen to be in okc anytime soon and you haven’t eaten at any of these places, you definitely need to. i promise you won’t regret it.

The Trip Home, Part Two: The Friends

i know i can’t say this enough, but seeing my best friends from home again while i was visiting was just the absolute best time. we spent almost every day with james and rebekah (great friends of mine from college, and rebekah from even earlier than that), and they got to spend a lot of time introducing harry to various oklahoma staples like sonic and braum’s and the balcony of the moore warren movie theater.

i couldn’t begin to tell you how much fun we had, but know that it felt just like being at home, being able to spend so much time with the people who truly know me best in the world. at times it felt like i was taking harry on a tour of all of the people and places i grew up with, but they were all delighted to meet him.

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we got to see various other friends of mine at various other locations (usually food locations), and it was just really lovely to get to catch up with people i haven’t seen in a year and a half. i learned a lot about the things that i’ve missed since i’ve been gone, but also i learned a lot about how much i’ve grown up and how much i’ve changed since i moved to new york almost two years ago.

for whatever reason i didn’t take as many pictures as i wanted to, but the ones we did take were just priceless. my friends kayla and scott had dinner with us at ted’s in edmond one night, and it was just so great to fall back into the same friendships and jokes and great times. kayla and i were roommates in college, and it was so fun to get to catch back up with the two of them, especially now having harry with me.

 

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stay tuned for part three, the food

The Trip Home, Part One

I know I’ve been MIA for a few weeks, but I went home for a week at the end of July and things have been so wild here that I haven’t gotten a chance to do too many updates. I have a few posts lined up now, though, about my trip home, and a few other things, so expect the next few weeks to be full of posts.

Harry and I went to Oklahoma City to stay with my parents for a week, and to see all of my friends and family, and to see things, but mostly so that I could really show Harry (who grew up in Manhattan) what it has meant to me for the last 25 years to grow up in the Great Plains. We couldn’t have had a better time, and I can’t wait to visit again.

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But really, it was just the best time. While I spent a lot of time taking pictures and videos of my dogs and cat, my absolute favorite picture is this one I took of my brother Davis and Harry and I at Rudy’s, my favorite barbeque restaurant.

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This picture encapsulates so much meaning to me, and I haven’t gotten it framed yet but I know that I will. It’s just another quick pic that I insisted on taking on this trip (sorry, Harry), but it’s one of my favorite pictures ever. It’s everything that I love. My moments that I get with my brother now are so quick and so fleeting, and now that he’s in high school I feel like I’m maybe missing some great moments, and that’s why I really love this picture.

Anyway, I had the best time, so stay tuned for some pictures and some chat about my visit. I hope you’ll have as good a time as I did.

 

 

Thinking About My Okla-home

This is a post I’ve been keeping in my head for a few days now. I have so many thoughts and feelings that I almost don’t know where to start.

On May 20, one of the worst tornadoes this country has ever seen ripped through Oklahoma City, devastating the landscape and killing approximately 24 people, half of them children. All of my friends and family are safe, with some property damage, but everyone came out intact, which is all you can ask for with a storm like this. My family just installed a safe room in their house, which I’m sure they were in all day while the storm raged, and I spoke to my mom later that day about the storm as they were outside pulling broken trees together and clearing debris from the neighborhood. They suffered much less damage than most, but they’ll still be recovering for a while, I’m sure.

Now that I live in NYC, I had no idea a storm of this magnitude was coming to my hometown, and honestly, with the utter lack of warning you can get for a tornado, neither did they. The day before the tornado, the city saw a massive storm with 200-mph winds that tore down entire power lines and trees, already incapacitating much of the city. My best friends had to park a few blocks away from their apartment and walk back to get their things and dog, and then drive to stay with a friend. A few blocks in New York is nothing, but a few blocks in Oklahoma City is much less urban and much less safe. They’re fine now and can get back in, but it was not a great night for them or anyone affected.

And the next day saw one of the most tragic and deadliest storms the state has seen in years, comparable in so many ways to the May 3rd tornado. This storm blew through the city and surrounding areas, flattening entire neighborhoods and destroying multiple schools and businesses. Tornadoes don’t discriminate in any way. They touch down when and where they want, with no regard to whose lives they’re destroying, and they move quickly and brutally through their path.

When I was in elementary school, I remember the May 3, 1999, tornado night. I remember being afraid, not because of the storm (I don’t think I was quite old enough to grasp the gravity of the situation), but because it was clear my parents were very afraid. We gathered the cats and our dog into the cupboard under the stairs, previously filled with tubs of holiday decorations and other miscellany that was shoved into the hallway. The handcrank radio was going, updating us on the location of the tornado, since our power and phone lines had been out for a while and it was our only way of getting news. I remember holding my cat Bagheera in my arms, wondering if we were going to make it through the storm (which I still even now remember feeling as a very abstract idea, that we wouldn’t make it to the next day). I remember asking my mom if I could bite my nails since I might not get to do it again, which now I find laughably morbid, and I’m sure her reaction was a combination of confusion and concern, though she did say yes.

We made it, though, and once the major part of the storm had passed over us, we went out into the front yard to look for funnels and bad weather patterns in the clouds. It’s just a thing you do if you grow up with tornadoes and I don’t know what to tell you if it’s not something you’re used to. It does sound outrageous because it is outrageous and ridiculous, and yet it’s just a thing that people do. I was so young at the time, but I remember it all so vividly.

One of my best friends at the time lived in a small town nearby, and she told me the next time I saw her that the tornado had passed directly over their house. They didn’t sustain too much damage, and they were fine, but she said she’s never heard anything like the roaring vacuum sound of a tornado passing overhead.

We’ve lived through so many tornadoes since then, but the story is always the same. We get the notice about an hour, maybe 90 minutes in advance, and we have to hunker down where we are, in the innermost room of wherever we happen to be, whether that’s the bathroom of our college apartment, cupboard under the stairs, or storm shelter in a nearby building.

And now that has happened again, in the same pattern that tornadoes always take, the same route, the same damage–except this tornado was much worse than any except the May 3rd storm, and some are saying it was worse than that, or comparable. Lives were lost and properties were absolutely destroyed, but Oklahoma has once again pulled together. We know how to recover from a tornado. People are only as prepared as you can be for a tornado (which is not very and usually less than an hour’s notice), but we have recovery on point and are doing as much as we can. This time around we have so much support from around the country, especially financially, which is where the recovery usually struggles.

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Before and After, Moore, OK

It seems a lot of people on the Internet have taken to asking why we don’t have storm shelters, why we weren’t better prepared, and generally, why we choose to live in a place like that. The short answers are that

  • We do, but if they aren’t already built, it’s nearly impossible to put them in without incredible expense. Companies do make standalone storm shelters you can have buried in your backyard, but again, the cost is quite dramatic. The soil in Oklahoma is such that most buildings built before the last decade don’t have basements at all, with the exception of major buildings and businesses. Very few homes have basements because of the makeup of the soil–it’s just not feasible. And by the way, an F5 tornado doesn’t care about your reinforced basement, because it will rip your house off its foundation and then pull the basement with it. That’s just the way things are.
  • Tornadoes come up very suddenly and with little warning. In Moore, they had approximately 40 minutes warning, and I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this, but there are fewer dumber choices than trying to outrun a tornado. They move so much faster than your car can and will rip you right up if they catch you. Evacuation simply is not an option for tornadoes, and once the warning exists, you simply have to go to the nearest shelter and stay put.
  • Lastly, are you serious? Why do we choose to live where we do? Why do people in California live there knowing there are earthquakes? Why do people live near the Gulf Coast when there are hurricanes? Why do people not live in bubbles at all times? Don’t be offensive. You’re better and smarter than that. Do better, people.

This is just my personal, emotional answer (and if you want me to “set aside my emotions” for this argument, that’s not going to happen). If you want some more scientific and deeper answers to these and more questions, see this DailyKos post about tornadoes and specifically this one. It’s pretty fantastic, even from someone who’s not an Okie.

We don’t need criticism right now. There are always things that can be improved–I’m not under any delusions about that. But now is not the time to criticize. Now is the time to send money, to send goods, to spend your time helping. While you’re on your computer reading this, there are people who have lost literally everything, including their homes, and they’re starting over with nothing. So do what you can to help them.

The Ben Folds Concert Was Everything I Could Have Dreamed [+setlist]

Is it cheesy if I say that tonight was one of the best nights of my life? Is it?

Because it totally was.

After a long day of unexpected events, I drove with five of my good friends to see Ben Folds at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. Now, if you recall, this is the concert that was canceled for snow in January. Which was bad but also a little good because I was so deathly ill (with, like, quasi-flu or something gross…TMI?) at the time that I don’t think I could have gone.

First, his opener, Kenton Chen, was amazing. He only played four songs and that made me a little sad, but I thought it really said something about his talent that we all wanted the opener to play more songs. His EP just dropped on iTunes last week, so you should definitely go check him out. I usually hate Ben’s openers, but this guy is truly, truly talented.

And then Ben Folds came on and played for two hours. And honestly, it was by far the best show he’s ever done that I’ve seen – and this is my fourth time to see him.

  1. Levi Johnston’s Blues (Lonely Avenue)
  2. Doc Pomus (Lonely Avenue)
  3. Gone (Songs for Silverman Rockin’ the Suburbs)
  4. Belinda (Lonely Avenue)
  5. Sleazy (Ke$ha cover)
  6. Sentimental Guy (Songs for Silverman)
  7. You to Thank (Songs for Silverman)
  8. Effington (Way to Normal)
  9. Still Fighting It (Rockin’ the Suburbs)
  10. The B*tch went Nuts (Way to Normal)
  11. B*stard (Songs for Silverman)
  12. Rock this B*tch (original every show)
  13. Jesusland (Songs for Silverman)
  14. Brick (Whatever and Ever Amen)
  15. The Last Polka (Ben Folds Five)
  16. Gracie (Songs for Silverman)
  17. The Luckiest (Rockin’ the Suburbs)
  18. Annie Waits (Rockin’ the Suburbs)
  19. You Don’t Know Me (Way to Normal)
  20. Landed (Songs for Silverman)
  21. Zak and Sara (Rockin’ the Suburbs)
  22. Hiroshima (Way to Normal)
  23. Not the Same (Rockin’ the Suburbs)
  24. Kate (Whatever and Ever Amen)
  25. Army (The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner)
Encore: Underground (Ben Folds Five), Philosophy (Ben Folds Five)
So as you can see, he played a WIDE range of music, but curiously, a LOT of songs from Songs for Silverman and Rockin’ the Suburbs. It was really interesting, considering most of the music he played on the original Lonely Avenue tour was stuff from, well, Lonely Avenue. Reinhold Messner is my favorite album, so that was exciting, and Songs for Silverman and Rockin’ the Suburbs are not far behind. And really, Whatever and Ever Amen is excellent, too. I like Way to Normal, I like a lot of the songs, but as a whole it’s kind of eh. And also, some of the really old stuff – Ben Folds Five stuff, wow! He was all over the place tonight. And I love the new stuff, but it was just so thrilling to hear my favorites. Songs 11-17 were just piano rock – no auxiliary.
But speaking of auxiliary, he had a huge amount of it tonight. There was even a guy to play French horn on the first few songs, and he was fantastic. And there was a cutie bass player – he looked like Andrew Garfield. So. Do with that what you will.
Landed is my favorite song of all time. Like, literally, of all time. I could listen to it over and over and never be tired of it (have done that, actually). It has gotten me through SO much in my life, and it has so much meaning. I’ve never heard him play it live before, and I think my heart actually broke a little bit. And, of course, my favorite live songs are Not the Same and Army – he’s never done both. I felt gluttonous when he closed with Army – his audience participation songs are the best.
There was a point in the concert, fairly early on, in which I just decided to let loose and enjoy myself. I was feeling good about things, so I just stopped caring that other people could see me and sang along (loudly), danced, clapped, generally rocked out, and had the best time. I’ve never had that much fun at a concert. Every time I see him it’s just such a personal experience – I feel revitalized and happy and like everything is going to be great, no matter what’s going on outside of the concert. And it’s really something special to me that it feels that way. I don’t feel like that about a lot of things.
So, really, tonight was actually one of the best nights of my life – and if you’ve never seen him live, you are seriously, seriously missing out on something really and truly great.

Day 19. A lesson learned.

It’s been an interesting day, for sure. A slow start, but this afternoon was jam-packed of things to do and things to think about, and it’s almost 9:00 and I’m finally catching a breather. I’m about to hop up and go somewhere again, but that’s only one last thing I have to do before I can go to bed. And wake up and do it all over again.

Unless the 70% chance of SNOWPOCALYPSE pulls through, in which case I may not be doing much of anything tomorrow. Probably still work, since we were open during the May flood (I worked, which was slow, but fun), but it’ll probably be a slow day because of SNOWPOCALYPSE.

Every time I check the weather tonight, tomorrow’s high drops a few degrees. I don’t think that’s a good sign, y’all.

Anyway, I didn’t come here to post about potential bad weather. Lame, right? I learned no lessons about weather today. Except the lesson I did learn last week is that when there’s a sudden drop in temperature, make sure you have plenty of gas, and also go check to make sure your car starts right when you wake up, so if you need to call your dad to come jump it, you don’t figure that out when you need to leave. And if you’re me, you don’t leave until YOU HAVE TO LEAVE, which makes the situation pleasant for no one.

Well. That was a really long story.

Today was the day that I was reminded of the really good things about small colleges. My university has about 2000 people, give or take a hundred each year. I really like it. Yes, there are things I dislike about it, but there are a lot of things I’ve liked about it. Sometimes I do wish I’d gone to a bigger or more prominent school, but in high school I didn’t know if I could have gotten in. Now, looking back, I know I could have, but that’s in the past. I chose my choice, and I’ve been as happy with it as I could have been.

While there are a lot of things I’m not sure I’m a fan of about small schools, a relationship with the faculty and staff is not one of those things. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that professors at small schools are there because they like the intimate classroom environment. They’re there not because they like teaching, but because they like students. They want the students to succeed.

And, for the most part, the staff is the same way. Maybe my situation is a little different because my mom works on campus. Maybe so. But I honestly believe that the vast majority of the men and women who work in offices on campus will do what they can to help you. Because at the end of the day, college is a business, but at the end of your day, if you’re doing everything you can to succeed, they will want to help you. Despite how it may seem sometimes, they aren’t there just to suck money out of you and kick you out on your behind. They want you to do well, to represent the university well once you’ve graduated, and they want you to be happy. Yes, I know there are exceptions and sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way you want it to, but in my experience, it has.

And honestly, I’ve made some serious mistakes. I’ve done some things I know I shouldn’t have done, school-wise. I’ve made some stupid mistakes. But there’s always been some way to work it out. If you’re willing to take the time to go talk to people and look at your options, there’s a way to find some sort of solution. So that’s my plug for small schools for today. This is my last semester, and I’m thrilled to be done.

If you’re in Oklahoma, stay safe tomorrow. Something tells me I might need to pull out my snowboots to wear to run errands in the morning.