Thursday, July 07, 2005


Just got in the door from a week-long trip visiting a friend in Norman, Oklahoma. Quite a place, that Oklahoma. Very friendly people, an almost totally empty unspoiled landscape, and quite peaceful. Not a single blue county in the entire state. The folks are not rednecks; the state is sort of a southern version of Minnesota, that is, plenty of nice, unassuming, genuine, straight-ahead people. The place is exceedingly religious (scripture verses on full-sized billboards paid for by private citizens were a frequent sight) and patriotic (also evidenced by many billboards).

We visited several top-quality attractions. First, the Wichita Mountains, which is an unusual island (the rest of the state has more of a humid southern feeling) of southwest-style mountainous terrain full of stunning landscapes, as well as plenty of wild (and happy) bison, longhorn cattle, elk, and prarie dogs. And in the Wichita Mountains is a place called Holy City where they do passion plays every year. All of the buildings and sets are made out of red granite boulders, and the place was built by the federal government (the WPA, to be precise), in the thirties. Imagine that! A religious display built by the government! Didn't they know about the wall of separation under FDR, and what a threat to the Republic this was? Those Democrats were such theocrats!

Another great place was the National Cowboy Museum, which I'd rank up there with the world's greatest museums. In addition to the various displays (including an excellent history of movie Westerns), there is an annual art exhibition called Prix de West. I was stunned by the quality of the paintings there; I'd thought that the classical style of realistic painting was dead, but the exhibition was full of absolutely breathtaking modern masterpieces depicting western themes. In terms of pure visual splendor, I found it to be the equal or superior of any art museum in the world.

Oklahoma City itself has a redeveloped warehouse district called Bricktown, which is quite similar to San Antonio's Riverwalk. Very nice. Finally, there is a place called "Outdoor World", which is a gargantuan store for outdoorsmen. The place has to be seen to be believed. The inside is sort of its own museum with dioramas, entire themes for the different departments, and the elegant feeling that you are inside some kind of gigantic National Park lodge.

On the Fourth of July, we were able to head out just twenty minutes before the fireworks, find a good place to park, and meet up with a bunch of my friend's new Southern Baptist acquaintances all before the spectacular display began (you try doing that in the Bay Area; if you want to see the best show, you better get there a couple of hours early, expect a couple of hour traffic jam to get home, and good luck finding your friends, all of this assuming of course, that the fog doesn't roll in to obsure the whole thing).

Good stuff. This is a great country. I find it very therapeutic to get off the coasts and into the middle now and then to see the "Heart of America".

Oklahoma sure hit the spot.

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