Friday, October 10, 2014

Road Trip! You Can't Go Home Again...

...but you can try.  I had a prior business arrangement in Oklahoma City, and so I hopped in my Blazer and made a weekend out of returning to the city of my birth.  The saying "You can't go home again" isn't exactly true.  You can, but both "you" and "home" have changed.  The minutes and miles have passed, time's erosion has done its damage.  But instead of waxing metaphoric about the roads traveled, let's put the pavement under foot and experience it ourselves.

Crossing the Red River, which has been shrunk to a small creek with the years long drought here, I was amazed to gaze not upon the "Welcome To Oklahoma" sign that I was expecting, but a huge sign, purple and gold, with a large arch, announcing to the world that a marvelous casino was just a few stops down the road.  I can only imagine a thousand years from now, when archaeologists explore the society of the Native people of this great land, they will find piles of poker chips and alcohol bottles.  It drives me crazy to think that the only way they can make a living is through building of casinos based on loopholes through the separate nation status that the Native Americans enjoy.  And no doubt that the owners of these places aren't "Indians" at all, but outsiders who are using the loophole to their greatest advantage. So you come across the abominations, a casino shaped like all the monuments of the Western World... not the world that should reflect their own heritage... ridiculous...

The area from Ardmore to Sulphur is peaked with slabs of Granite, Limestone, Shale, giant rocks with plateaus that stick out over the Interstate.  What I wouldn't give to stand upon those peaks and look out over the plains, to see for miles, with the Oklahoma wind blowing and the dry heat of the summer. It would be certainly glorious!  And beyond those slabs of rock is Turner Falls, which I've never been to, but from the pictures I've seen of the waterfalls and the river valleys, it is someplace I will certainly explore when the weather turns back warm, the Good Lord willing...

Driving through the town of Davis (past the new Choctaw Casino....), I see the same little town I remember from the 80's.  Sooner's Foods is still where it was, with the darkened isles and the stubborn tenacity to remain in business while Walmarts spring up throughout the area.  And the small shack where we bought firecrackers to set off at the Lake House is still there, still advertising its wares.  There's the turn-off to the Lake House (now cornered by a McDonald's and a Walmart), and past the Chickashaw Heritage Center, a place where they have stored how they used to live so that it won't be lost in neon lights, rounding the corners where mobile homes, A-frame Houses, and people that have lived there for decades still live, still sitting on their front porches and listening to the cicadas in the trees and the wasps building a nest in the corner of the porch.  That's the Oklahoma I remember, taking myself forward on the road and backward through time.  I turn off onto the gravel road that turns to the lakehouse, past the bumps and the hills, but there are new road signs, and Hilltop Road is actually what we called Rock Drive (and that's what it's named on Google Earth, see my prior blog about the discovery), and I drive to the end of the road... to find the gate closed and the grass growing high.  It woudn't surprise me if the bank owned now, from whatever people bought the house after my Grandmother sold it.  The road was the same, and although I was different, it felt good to find my way to one of my homes.

Drove down to the end of the road to the Lake of the Arbuckles, and found that the drought had hurt the lake something fierce.  The buoy that signified "No Boats" was so close to "shore" I could have walked out and touched it.  It's funny, because I remember that buoy being so far out in the middle of the lake, I could never have swum out to it.  But something tells me it's not the drought that made it look odd.  The lake may have grown smaller, but I've grown bigger, and those distances aren't so far anymore.

Pulling into Oklahoma City, the old knowledge of the roads took over, and it would be impossible to get lost.  I asked my mother where every road in town went, and I knew it by heart.  Having time prior to my meetings, I drove out to Westbury, where I used to live.  The outlet malls along I-40 and Rockwell look just as bad as the casinos, but at least they tried to approximate the teepees and other colors of the Native Americans.  The truck stops had grown larger, a sign of prosperity (the outlet mall had sold all of it's shops well before it was even made, and three additions later, it's still full) in the Grand Old State. The houses and roads of neighborhoods newer than anything I knew of (I last was here in 2005) grew up like the grass in the fields, spreading out for miles.  And there is the neighborhood I lived in, the street, the house.... and it looks good! Someone has repainted it and it still looks as I remembered it.   I drove to both my grandparent's houses as well, and they looked okay, both sold long ago and now have new tenants. It's good to take a dip into the past.

I sat upon the bench in front of Mustang Valley Elementary School and called those who I wanted to meet, and while some were out of town, others were there and available.  Mustang Valley look exactly the same... except they paved over the playground to make a parking lot (cue Joni Mitchell) , and the new playground is plastic and safe and looks like the things they are supposed to represent.  We made the rocket ship into such a place, and the Spider, and the gigantic Teeter-Totters that I'm sure would have spawned lawsuits today... but it used to be my playground (see prior blog for that, as well).

I went to visit my mother's friends who agreed to let me stay the night, and we went to BJ's Brewhouse and I had some wonderful Balsamic Glazed Chicken with White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes.  I also went to see the Granddaughter of Robert Orbach, my grandmother's boss.  I found, while cleaning out my house, a scrapbook of all of the goings on of Orbach's Department Store, along with the writings he did on his own Printing Press.  I brought the scrapbook to them, as I felt it would the only place on Earth it would be appreciated.  I was so right on this, as they had lost a lot of Mr. Orbach's writings in a house fire a couple of years ago.  It made me feel good to bring them home.

One other thing I did was to drive to the east side of Oklahoma City and visit the Omniplex (okay, yes, it's now called Science Museum Oklahoma, but to me, it will always be the Omniplex).  It was like reliving my childhood.  Some things had changed, some were the same as I'd always known it.  The balls that rode along their prospective tracks have been doing it for as long as I remember.  I stood there watching it for quite a bit, as it was, if nothing else in that city, the idea that, in a world where change is inevitable, there are always those points of constancy. It made me feel good.  I missed the pendulum, slowly swinging with the power of the Earth's Rotation, and the Geodesic Dome Playset (which probably was taken away when someone got hurt and wanted to sue...).  The Earthquake display was still there, showing that same movie with actors with 80's clothes.  The planetarium did their daily show, and I went into the darkened room with the night sky projected on the domed ceiling and relaxed.... until a family with 8 kids came in and sat behind me... all with attention spans of 30 seconds.  Last time I'd been there, the guy doing the show probably hadn't even been born.  It was a perfect ending to my trip, my look back into my past.  

There's a certain confidence I found there, to see everything that had changed, mutated (the casinos and outlet malls), and grown up all around the city. And so had I.  I could now drive anywhere I wanted, go anywhere, and I had the ability to do it.  I brought things home, even as I had come home, to a certain extent.  But in the end, I drove back to Dallas, to my apartment, to my job, and to my home.  And I'll go back... there's so many people I didn't get to see, places (like the OKC Bombing Memorial and Bricktown) that I want to visit, but there will always be time for that.  Just 3 hours north.  A short jaunt, as the hawk flies.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting and thoughtful post, as always.
    Your comments about the casino reminds me of Cherokee, North Carolina. Those who are descended from the few who were able to escape "The Trail of Tears" are now surrounded by all the great gamblers from Atlanta, that's America for you.
    Lovely that you took those writings back to Oklahoma, that your Mother had...I am sure that was much more appreciated than you will ever know.
    Glad that you are happy in your new home and glad you could stay with your Mother's friends while in Oklahoma too. Oklahoma is OK!