We have started our “See Part of America” tour. Our destination is to end up we started with stops along the way. Armed, as always, with our trusty sidekick, Internet, and his new companion Roadsideamerica.com we set out, with songs in our hearts and an audiobook in our speakers, hoping to visit as many interesting features of the American landscape as feasible in our limited six week journey.
We planned our first day to be the longest, 650 miles from Albuquerque to Tulsa, putting the arid and not so compelling landscape behind us in one leap, and leaving some treasures to be visited on the return trip. Cadillac Ranch, Big Texan Steakhouse, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum will still be here in October.
We thought two nights would be enough to appreciate the best of Tulsa, but I must admit we hardly scratched the surface in the one full day available to us. Tulsa is very comfortable city. Its history, dominated by the industrial harvesting of liquified organic matter, has left parts of the area with a built environment expressive of luxury and abundance. We stayed with a friend in an older neighborhood where one can envision that sixty years ago children roller skated in the streets, organized pick-up games in the park and bicycled though farmlands that had not yet been replaced with interstate highways and strip malls. Those homes, modest in comparison to the oil financed estates, are a testament to the economic vitality of the post war years.
We are fully cognizant of the parallel history of racial strife. The scars from that period are present, with reminders and commemorations scattered through the city. I will leave it to others to make the requisite noises about that period in history and I am sure someone will feel it necessary to express concern that our past did not live up to our expectations.
We planned to visit some of the interesting oddities listed on the Roadside America website, but unfortunately did not have time to fit them in. Perhaps the future will see us fulfilling our desire to see the muffler man, the monument to the runner who died in a car trunk, the sonic center of the universe, the buried car time capsule from 1998, the freedom chainsaw tree, and other features. We missed these sites due to spending much more time than anticipated the Philbrook Museum of Art and Oral Roberts University.
I had been to both over thirty years ago and wanted Paula to appreciate seeing them. The intervening years had embezzled the details from my previous experience and left me with only vague random recollections. I was surprised at the relative newness of seeing them again for the first time.
Here are a few images from the Philbrook.
The Phillbrook Museum of Art is a wonderful building on a lush and verdant estate and has a well curated collection. The Phillips family built the estate in the twenties, and for ten years it was inhabited by Waite and Genevieve, their two children and 22 support staff. They donated the whole lot to the city o f Tulsa in 1936 and it opened as a museum a few years later. If I were a resident of the area I would make it a frequent place of refuge. If I were to visit again I would schedule two days, one to appreciate the art and another to enjoy the grounds. The Museum appears to provide considerable opportunities for children to experiment with unstructured play on the grounds. Information about the museum is available at https://philbrook.org.
One room contained a multimedia display on the history of the property It described how property that was communally controlled by native population became allocated to individual tribal members and then sold to investors. It has become popular these days to be outraged by the colonization of indigenous lands. A good measure of the outrage is due to the events being recent and properly documented and recorded. It is the same process, however, that has occurred throughout the world over millennia. Populations lose their lands to better armed and empowered invaders. The European ancestors of the industrialists and entrepreneurs who acquired the land form the native Americans had once been dispossessed themselves. European history is the history of invasion and conquest. The pain of the loss is more pronounced to those who can remember it. History is written by the winners, they say, but perhaps it is better said that history is forgotten by the losers.
Enough of that.
We were at the museum for nearly four hours after which we had a late lunch in the Arts District. One of the quaint things about Tulsa is you will probably get green beans with your meal, whether you order them or not. That is my determination after having 100 percent of our meals in restaurants having those morsels on the plate. I forgot to take a photograph of my meal to post on this site and social media, but I can assure you it had green beans served on the side.
My recollection of my visit to Oral Roberts University thirty years ago was seeing an an eerie, alien and futuristic cityscape shimmering in the light from the setting sun. On this visit I was still impressed by the architecture that seemed to suggest some sort of divine manifestation. The campus is meticulously manicured and has a serene and peaceful ambiance. On this occasion we went to the prayer tower and found it a good environment for meditating on life, consciousness, the universe and everything.
There was a video about the construction and mission of the university playing in the visitor’s center. While I watched I recalled that I always thought of Oral Roberts as something of a crackpot and wondered it that was something I actually thought or simulated thinking since it was so much the conversation among the people I knew at the time. While in that space and at that time I came to marvel at the man who had a vision to create something as big as a university with a special mission, who actually built it. Many years after his death his vision is still alive. What from my cynicism will survive me?
I’m enjoying your travels and reflecdtions!
Always have appreciated your thoughtful and intelligent cynicism Charlie. My enjoyment likely stems from your expansive contemplative listening ability. Thank you!