Tag Archives: oklahoma

A Night Drive in Late August

After everyone else has gone to sleep, when the house is quiet, the dishes are washed and all I can hear is the kitchen clock ticking and the ceiling fan, this is the time for the night drive. Instead of turning out the last light and brushing the teeth for bed, I put on my flip flops and grab the keys.

A night drive must not be taken too early in the evening. It should be no earlier than 10:30 and no later than sunrise. If it goes later than sunrise, it is no longer a night drive, is it? Night drives are best on clear nights. Something about being able to see the stars makes the road seem more free. There’s more space for the night soul to roam.

I pull out of the driveway and hear the garage door creak shut. I roll down the windows and turn off the radio. On night drives, I prefer only the sound of the crickets and the cicadas and the frogs from the forest and the wind rustling through the leaves. Sometimes I like to sing to myself too, but nature sounds more beautiful.

I pass through the nearly empty streets of my quiet suburban town, my old high school, the Wal-Mart I used to frequent, the soccer fields I played on. I leave the city’s center and am now on purely residential roads, the country byways between spacious housing developments. Trees line the road and my car goes up and down over the gentle hills, rolling past Chisolm creek and over the railroad tracks. Outside the sky looks purple and the air is perfect as it comes through the windows. It’s cool and smells like trees and soil.

I roll up to a stop sign and stop there for a good while. There’s no one else around. There’s no rush. I sit in perfect silence and listen to the outside. It’s an entire world. I want to get out and leave the car on the side of the road and lay down and watch the stars circle around overhead and listen to the forest soundtrack forever. I don’t think anything has sounded quite as beautiful as this. It’s a little heartbreaking.

But I stay in the car and drive a little longer, singing an Eagles song, going up and down on the road that moves on the hills and in between the trees on a night drive in late August.

“Take it to the limit, take it to the limit, one more time.” 

 

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Live Free. Die Hard. Use Gym Equipment Properly.

Live free or die hard.

Live free or die hard.

There is a gym at the intersection of 2nd and Danforth in Edmond, Oklahoma. Edmond is a suburb of Oklahoma City and is like most other suburbs in the world except maybe a little more spread out and far from major bodies of water. We don’t even have a river.

The gym used to be called Aspen. It was fun to say, “I’m going to Aspen,” and imagine that you were going to the mountains to ski wearing a white mink coat. It was also fun ask people, “How’s your Aspen?” It almost works because most people would go to the gym to do something to their Aspen, to shrink it or firm it up or make it more bubbly.

I’ve spent many cumulative hours in this gym, though it is no longer called Aspen. It was purchased by Gold’s some time ago and now has all those really annoying signs around it with attractive people wearing shorts and sports bras lifting 5 lb. free weights or stepping in a puddle: “Pain is temporary. Quitting is forever.” “Your body can stand almost anything. It’s your mind you need to convince.” “Work hard. Work hard.” I don’t really get the last one.

Growing up, visiting the gym was usually a bit stressful for me. I was uncomfortable with strangers seeing me sweat or exert myself in any way. I was convinced, incorrectly, that I was not athletic because I was not thin. If I could have exercised in a dark room away from the glaring fluorescent lights and television screens broadcasting Fox News and Maury, I certainly would have chosen it. In fact, I would have paid a premium to hide the shame of my perspiration somewhere even I wouldn’t have to see it.

My teenage gym dream has come true. There is now a cinema room at Gold’s Gym. A cinema room is a darkened enclave within the larger gym complex. It is so dark, in fact, that if you walk directly into the room after having been outside in the noonday sun, you won’t be able to see anything, and you’ll have to grope each piece of equipment to find out if it’s an elliptical trainer, treadmill, or stationary bike. This is probably what aliens feel like when they probe people.

The machines are arranged in front of a movie screen that is showing  – unsurprisingly – a dude movie of some stripe. Granted, I’ve only been in there twice, but the first time they were playing an Adam Sandler film (not Punch-Drunk Love), and the second time was Live Free or Die Hard.

I visited the gym today and was very excited about getting to use the Cinema Room and experience the joys of working out in the dark. True to form, when I walked in I almost immediately ran into a machine in the pitch-black room. After touching every piece of equipment, I finally found an elliptical trainer and placed  my feet on the landing pads and started to ellipticise. At that moment, I looked up and saw Bruce Willis, covered in dirt and sweat and blood, giving another man a wiener-withering glare. This is what I was working for, that kind of power.

I’d burned 235 calories after being on the machine for 17 minutes. Sweat had completely soaked the back of my shirt and my chin was dripping too. On screen, I watched Bruce single handedly break into a federal government building and throw a Russian assassin through a turbine. He was doing everything he could to save his sassy but still kind of wimpy daughter. I pushed my mph to 7.5.

At 43 minutes, everything on my body was soaked in sweat. I was going backwards now since my toes had gone numb and I thought, “Should I end it here?” But Bruce had just commandeered an armored semi-truck and caused millions of dollars of damage to Baltimore’s infrastructure while fighting off a fighter plane before shooting himself through the shoulder in order to kill the man who was holding his daughter captive. So I kept going.

Soon the movie ended and for the last seven minutes of my workout, I was held captive to the DVD intro as it looped.  It was kind of painful, but then I thought about what Bruce had gone through to save his daughter, and what I’d gone through to find that Moroccan place for lunch, and I knew that my body could stand almost anything, including this DVD repeat torture in the darkened Cinema room at Gold’s Gym Edmond. Needless to say, I stayed. If I live an extra two minutes because of that workout, Bruce will have saved yet another person from dying too soon.

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The Chapel at Ft. Reno

imageDown the road a ways from Oklahoma City, down Rt. 66 West, you’ll find the city of El Reno. If you’re driving that way you’ll pass right smack through the middle of it. At first glance, it looks like modern times haven’t been too kind to El Reno. Most of the buildings downtown are vacant, little more than glorified pidgeon roosts. You want to believe that this isn’t the whole story, but there isn’t much else to go on. Second and third glances confirm your first glance.

If you park your car and get out and cross the street to the Old Opera House, you’ll see a fading mural on a brick wall. If you walk under the awning, you might be startled by pidgeons swooping down and flying across the street. You’ll notice pidgeon droppings on the sidewalk and broken windows in the shop fronts. It’s the middle of the day but something about this place feels spooky.

You might decide to hurry back to your car since it’s kind of hot outside and that man across the street looks a little wierd. You hate yourself for thinking that but it’s just what you think. If you drive around town, you’ll see some of the old houses where the townies live. Some have porches sunken in, paint peeling off the walls. There’s an old Victorian style house all in brown that must have been beautiful at one time, and there’s a stately house, all white with pillars that looks out of place next to its shabby neighbors. You wonder if everyone knows the family that lives there.

imageInstead of turning back, you continue down Rt. 66 for just a ways to see what else there is to see. There’s a sign for Ft. Reno and you figure you don’t have much to lose but time and you got plenty of that, so you go ahead and exit towards the fort and continue one mile down the road. The landscape is flat and green and brown all around you. There are lines of trees here and there and some gentle sloping but no major hills.

You park in front of the museum, which used to be an officer’s house. You learn that from the woman behind the front counter, who says they now charge admission prices as of August first. It’s two dollars for an adult. She tells you about the fort and how it started as a way to keep the Indians in check and then had some other uses throughout the years as a stablery and some other things. Apparently Seabiscuit’s sire was bred here. Now it’s a headquarters for the USDA. You pass on into the next room and  overhear her talking to another group. Her grandfather had a farm not too far from here.

Outside you can hear cicadas in the trees and someone mowing the lawn. You take a look around the old house and then head out to your car again and drive towards the chapel. This is where they have a lot of weddings during the summer. The chapel is small and not much to look at from the outside. It’s white washed like all the other buildings here and faces the big green lawn at the center of everything.

imageThe door is slightly cracked and you walk in. The first thing that hits you is the smell of warm wood. Everything in the chapel is made out of pine, and the windows are colored yellow so the sunlight coming through them looks like honey. The air is cool in here and you are alone among the empty pews and pulpit. You sit down on a pew near the window and just sit there.

Outside you can hear the man riding the lawnmower still. You can imagine him sweating under his hat, making neat sweeps on the grass which looks all faded in the noonday sun. His feet are hot in his boots. There is a cicada rattling in a nearby tree. You can hear the chapel settling and creaking and almost feel the air as it rises and settles in currents around you. It carries dust with it.

You sit in the light, the light that looks like honey and is warm like teddy grahams. Your hands rest on the smooth, cool wood of the pew, palms down. It feels you have stolen a moment away, that any second someone will call for you or ask you to help with something.

But no one calls. You continue to sit in the Ft. Reno chapel, and outside the man continues circling the lawn until every blade of grass is cut.

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Play Me Something Country: A City Woman’s Morning in the Fields

Oklahoma has the longest drivable stretch of Rt. 66 in the entire country. I decided to take advantage of it this morning after dropping my sister off at work and stealing/borrowing her car. I had dreams of driving all the way to northern Texas before I had to return, but didn’t even make it out of the second county because things got interesting.

Here’s a play by play of my morning until 9. And it only got more interesting from here, but you’ll have to see the made for TV movie about my life to find out what happened.

6:00 A.M. CST

Dropped my sister off at work. Have her wheels for the day. Will try not to destroy anything.

6:05 A.M. CST

Pulled up to Beverly’s Pancake House. Looks like some waitresses just started their smoke break. Hope I don’t interrupt it by being that 6 A.M. customer.

Beverly's Pancake House

Beverly’s Pancake House

6:06 A.M. CST

Am definitely that 6 A.M customer and definitely interrupted their smoke break. Tried to apologize for it and the waitress told me not to worry about it, baby. It’s nice to be called baby by an older woman sometimes.

6:46 A.M. CST

Am taking this pancake, this strip of bacon and what’s left of my hashbrowns on the road with me, along with the rest of this book I’m reading, “Lessons from a Desperado Poet.” Time to hit the road. I’m heading to Rt. 66 East.

7:01 A.M. CST

Got turned around somehow. Don’t really know where I’m going but might make more sense to just go on Rt. 66 West since it’s right in front of me.

7:11 A.M. CST

I love everything about what what I’m doing right now. The sun is still rising, the roads are still clear, and I got the entire west of the U.S. in front of me and more diners than I know what to do with. This is awesome.

7:45 A.M. CST

Time to fill up the ‘ol tank with gas. Probably shouldn’t have hopped that curb quite so much. Hope these tires aren’t misaligned now and that my sister doesn’t read this post.

7:58 A.M. CST

Got a coffee from McDonald’s too to seal the deal after taking a piss. Man I can’t help using this country lingo after listening to country jams all morning. Not sure I’m saying them right though. Oh well, ain’t y’all!

8:12 A.M. CST

Saw a sign for Chester’s Party Barn after passing through Piedmont. Looks interesting. I’m going to investigate.

Chester's Party Barn

Chester’s Party Barn

8:21 A.M. CST

Still no sign of the party barn but I’m on a dirt road now. There’s no one out here. I like to stop the car on the road and get out and walk around and feel the solitude. More birds than you can shake a wooden spoon at.

8:27 A.M. CST

Where is Chester’s Party Barn? Is this a trap? Am I going to be shot?

8:42 A.M. CST

Found the party barn. Apparently they do comedy shows. Could this be a new venue for me?

image

8:43 A.M. CST

Realized there’s dirt all over my pants and the back of my sister’s car. I guess this is what all those country songs are talking about. They make it sound fun, but this kind of sucks.

8:53 A.M. CST

Mule!

image

8:59 A.M. CST

Damn I think I’m lost.

9:10 A.M. CST

Found my way again! Just need to follow the signs in the opposite direction of Chester’s Party Barn. Also, I saw a hawk!

9:23 A.M. CST

Stopped at the McDonald’s again to go to the bathroom. Didn’t buy anything this time, but on account of the dirt on my pants, it looks like I went out into the fields to do a drug deal or have a love tryst in between McDonald’s breaks.

9:32 A.M. CST

Back on Rt. 66 West. We’ll take it just a little longer to see where the adventure goes.

NB: this is not Rt. 66. Just pretty picture.

NB: this is not Rt. 66. Just pretty picture.

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14-ish Things That Happen When You Return to Your Hometown

i am!

i am!

After leaving, can we ever really go home again? The question has been posed time and again by singers, writers and poets of many generations. It’s kind of silly because the answer is obviously yes. We can definitely go home, but it’s usually a little weird and can even be uncomfortable.

If you’ve ever gone through the experience of living away from home and then coming back after a while, you’ll probably relate to one or more of these.

1. Your parents have done something new with their house. It might be a new couch, or a new door, but whatever it is, it reminds you that nothing is sacred and nothing stays the same.

2. A business that you loved and / or saw constantly will be gone. “Why, Homeplate hot dogs, why?! I never got to try your savory dogs!”

3.  You remember all the reasons you left your hometown in the first place. “Really, camo-vest, man? Do you have to take up two parking spots in your Ford 350?”

4. Certain places become “minefields” where you’re doomed to run in to people that you went to high school with, and we all know how much you loved high school. Not.

5.  Inevitably, you’ll run in to someone you know, and then both of you will either fight the urge to or wholeheartedly engage in “catching up,” also known as “dick measuring.” Recent trips, relationship statuses, current jobs and apartment sizes must all be covered and compared.

6. Your hometown will surprise you i.e. “Where did that Moroccan tea place come from?” “Wow, vape places are really popular.” “Interesting, didn’t know that Shepler’s Western wear had a store here.”

7. You’ll go to a bar, see one of the popular kids, and freak out a little bit. You’ll try to reason with yourself and be like, “Nah, it’s cool. I live out of state now,” but beneath that pscho-babble there is real fear and an acknowledgement that this is not your turf. It belongs to the polo shirts.

8. You’ll resolve to never go to the aforementioned bar again and give another excuse for not going besides cowardice i.e. “the vibe wasn’t really for me.”

9. While grocery shopping, you’ll feel like a complete jackass for looking for Belgian endives.

10. Occasionally, someone will mention a person or place to you that you’ve kind of forgotten and they will be surprised that you don’t remember what you’re talking about. Secretly, you like when this happens. It means your brain has been filled up with more interesting things.

11. Someone you used to know will see you and enthusiastically comment on how good you look. This will happen regardless of your appearance. You know this, but you’ll still leave the conversation wondering if you really look that good. You hope so.

12. When you get off the plane, you look around wondering if there are any old crushes or enemies lurking about. There never are.

13. Despite your best efforts, you will compare your hometown and the city where you now live in front of other people. Whatever you say will be boring and kill the conversation and you’ll hate yourself for doing it, but you’ll do it at least three more times before leaving town.

14. If you’re staying with your parents, you will revert to childhood and find yourself roughhousing on the couch with your sister with your mom in the kitchen yelling, “If anything happens, I’m not paying for it.” This will mean more to you now that you have your own health insurance (or lack of it.)

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