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Published: November 16th 2015
I saw quite a few places today, and as I told my friend John-Mark, it felt like I was doing a school-and-church tour. Basically, my day consisted of visiting 4 universities, a couple of churches, a middle school, a bombing site, and hanging out with a guy I hadn't seen in over 14 years. Pretty solid.
Early on, I had to make a decision about how badly I wanted a pennant from Oklahoma. OU, that is. And you may laugh at that, but as someone who has TRULY committed to seeing all FBS football stadiums and only bringing back a pennant from each school as a souvenir, this was a dilemma. Because it's Sunday, some business don't open until late, if at all. The Sooner swag store (not its real name, but I can't remember and I'm too tired to double check) wasn't opening until 1 PM today, so I could either wait around Norman, OK, where I had stayed for the night, or I could head out and consider it bad luck for the opening time. Around 8:30 AM, I decided there were more important things than a single pennant from OU. So, I got ready, did a little
reading for my class for next week, and got on the road. Incidentally, the Value Place hotel in Norman, OK, doesn't have anyone working the front desk on Sunday mornings (it was closed down and covered up, so I slid my key under the panel and went about my way). Also, I asked for a non-smoking room, but when I checked in, the girl asked if I was okay with a smoking room, since that's all she had available. What do you say, when you've already paid? Also, wifi costs $3/day, or you can get a steal of a deal for $20/week if you stay that long.
My first stop was the Memorial Stadium at OU, and that was pretty easy to find, since I couldn't really tell you anything else about Norman, OK. I was fortunate enough to find an open gate, so I could go in. Parking was a bit of a problem, but I made my own and was back before anyone reported me. This would be a nice environment to watch some college football. And it's very imposing and impressive from the outside. My Horned Frogs will be playing there next week, and I can't
say I'm too optimistic about our prospects.
My next destination was Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, but I found a few places in Oklahoma City (abbreviated OKC) that I wanted to see on the way. First was an art deco skyscraper, but due to all kinds of construction downtown, I was able to drive near it, but couldn't park or really get close to it. So that was a bust. But it did allow me to end up very near the OKC Bombing Memorial - the federal building that was bombed in April 1995. Hard to believe that was already 20 years ago. Anyway, they have a museum, but it doesn't open until noon on Sundays, plus it costs $15 - both strikes against it. The memorial itself, though, is free to walk around. There were a couple of park rangers there, one of whom was explaining the site to someone when I arrived. There was also a police officer - don't know if that's standard, or just additional due to the recent unfortunate events in other parts of the world. There's a large reflecting pool, only about an inch deep, with 2 arches at either end - one
is labelled 9:01, when the "grieving" began; and the other is 9:03, when the "healing" began, indicating the times of the blast and the rescue efforts. Off to the side, there are metal chair-like objects that represent each person who died there. The most heartbreaking thing about this memorial is that the ones representing children are about 2/3 the size of the others. So many. So senseless. Outside the memorial, there's a fence on either side of the entrance for people to post personal messages or mementos from themselves in remembrance of the victims. It's not a pleasant place to visit, but it's worth a stop.
On my way out of OKC, I stopped by Taft Middle School, originally Taft Junior High School, built around 1930. Yep - art deco. It was fantastic. I wish I had gone to school here. I would want to teach there just to see its magnificence every day. After that, I was on my way to Stillwater.
The stadium of Oklahoma State Univ - Boone Pickens Stadium - is totally nondescript. In other words, it is boring with a capital B. Only one sign outside tells you what it is; otherwise, it
might as well be a prison. All the gates were locked and most had mesh fence just inside the iron gates. No views inside the stadium - of the field, the stands, the vendors. Nothing. And that's a shame, because Stillwater reminded me a lot of Athens, GA, which I kinda like. Lots of cool, indie food options; a fun-looking downtown area; and plenty of apartments and other places that cater to college life. I went to a place called "Chris' University Spirit," because that seemed like the most obvious place to get a pennant. I had to explain to the guy at the counter what a pennant was, at which point I figured fortune was not in my favor here. He suggested the store "For Pete's Sake," a couple of blocks away. This store said they didn't have much in the way of options, but they were hanging on the wall if I wanted to look. The town of Stillwater had exactly 2 pennants in it before I got there. Now, they only have one.
My final tourist desination for the day was Tulsa - the university and some art deco, along with the hopes of meeting up
with an old friend. Check, for all the above. I made a pilgrimage to Boston Avenue Methodist Church, and it was divine. I wish I could've gone inside, but the outside alone was worth a few prayers. It dominates the landscape for several blocks, and it was one of those "whoa" moments when you see it for the first time, 5 or 6 blocks away, and you immediately know you have to get closer to it. I've included several pictures of it. My last college stadium of the day was at the Univ of Tulsa - not a major program, but some years are kind to the program. I liked the insular feel of the college, and the uniform architecture of all I saw there. The stadium was open, so I made my way to the field before heading down to meet up with John-Mark.
He suggested meeting at Oral Roberts University, since he had worked near there in the past and could show me around. They had the big "Praying Hands" monument, and nearby was something that looked like a cross between a carnival ride and something from E.T. The Extraterrestrial
. The campus certainly had a unique quality
to it. We walked around, catching up (we had worked together at summer camp in 1999 and 2000, living in the same cabin with different groups of kids every week for the whole summer of 2000; but we hadn't seen each other since 2001). We talked about basically everything - old, mutual friends; religion; politics; family; the future. We didn't always agree, but it was so good to see each other that I don't think we even cared. We ended up eating at an Italian place called Zio's, and they didn't disappoint - either in quality or quantity. All told, we probably got to hang out for about 2 hours, and I can truly say that I was sad to part ways. But I had a hotel awaiting me in Van Buren, Arkansas, and it was a 2-hour drive from Tulsa to the hotel.
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