Sunday, May 18, 2008

about OKC

Messing with my one-per-day format this weekend to answer Brooklyn's question, and for anyone else interested.

Sometimes OKC makes me feel like this:


And, sometimes this:


Oklahoma City it truly a "mixed bag" - a lot depends on what you make of it (and what it is an individual wants in the first place).

OKC has low cost of living, well below the national average. (This is often paired with lower pay, but maybe that wouldn't apply with a company relocating.) Real estate and land are especially reasonable (cheap even) compared to other places. Many houses here are actually appreciating, a trend opposite that of many places. There is a sales tax (near 9%) on everything, including food, and also annual income tax.

Commute time is a lot lower than many places - it's not impossible to get from one side of the city to the other in a reasonable amount of time. Cars are more of a necessity than a luxury here though. Public transportation consists of slow buses. There aren't bike lanes. It was voted the worst of 500 cities for walking (based on numbers of parks, people who walk to work, practicality, etc). It is very spread out, but also has a stigma against walking to places. When attempting to walk (unless at a park with a specific walking path), one either gets looks of pity (you don't have a car?) or honks / stares / hollers (gee, tasteful!).

Oklahoma is a predominantly "red" state; it goes Republican for national elections (though Democrat for some local) - all the candidates boast "family values" and "conservative" when campaigning here. There is a a predominantly narrow world view among the average people. My husband has commented that even at work, the pro-republican, anti-gay comments are surprisingly open. And, he even walked into work one day to spot signs, in honor of someone's retirement, about killing deer. (We're vegetarian, whoops. Management did remove them promptly though...) It reminds me of an incident that happened quite a few years ago when I was in school and working retail. The other worker looked at me and expressed extreme distaste for lesbians, eying two women walking in the building, and said she could spot them from a mile away. She had "Jesus loves you" buttons all over her shirt. (The Very Funny part of this is that I was interested in primarily females at the time. I guess her Radar was a little "off" after all. Stereotypes, anyone?)

There are at least pockets of people who are progressive in mind / spirit, open-minded, creative, and not fundamentalist Christian. If you are not conservative, then finding your personal niche can make it seem much more like "home", I think. There are still groups that meet with the focus of peace and tolerance / acceptance, groups for gay support and pride day, independent art studios that do innovative shows (though, the Individual Artists of Oklahoma charges to get into its annual Biting the Apple because they have trouble getting corporate sponsors during the year since place don't want to be (gasp) associated with an erotic art exhibit...) There is a UU church (which tends to have programs for various beliefs, and has a program specifically for gay acceptance) and Buddhist temples (and, actually, a mosque and hindu temple too), among the numerous churches. There is an art district, yoga studios, nice museums, theaters, various clubs and music venues.

The downtown area has gone through a revitalization, particularly an area called 'Bricktown' with a canal and river walk area. It looks a lot better, but on a recent walk, it seemed to mainly be a couple of clubs and average restaurants. There is also a Midtown revitalization effort happening, which is spawning potentially a second artsy area, and more availability of housing close to the city's center.

Neighborhoods are more sprawl than independent culture. One could be another could be another could be another, except one might be closer to Walmart (which we have several of, thank you very much :( ) or have bigger houses or be in better schools.

The city isn't that attractive when just driving through. (My mil from New Zealand always finds the abundance of trees appealing, but a lot of the city is just flat with mass retailers). However, there are quite pretty places to go at various locations throughout the city - lakes, nature center, gardens, zoo, etc. And, a drive outside of OKC leads to many enjoyable, pretty state parks. We have multiple eco-regions, ranging from open farmland to forests with small waterfalls to rolling hills to desert.

The weather is a play of extremes. In winter, we have mild stretches mixed with frigid wind and mixed precip; lots of ups-and-downs. We tend to get ice a lot more than fluffy snow, last year breaking a record with damage, causing electricity to be out for us a whopping 10 days (near the center of the city). The autumn is beautiful with all the rich colors; the spring is pretty, but usually with some tornado scares, and most homes don't have underground shelter. (However, central OKC rarely gets harsh direct hits. South, the suburb of Moore, is a completely different story...) Summer is very hot with mid 90s to 100+ very common. We have beautiful thunderstorms and gorgeous skies.

People like their sports. There is huge competition between the state unis. The voters extended a penny sales tax to lure the Sonics here. This makes people animated, and the news was all over it. Added culture, added revenue. I'm not a sports fan. But then again, I'm also not a frequent visitor of 'Toby Keith's I Love This Bar And Grill' so my ideal is different than some people's.

Oklahoma is rough on allergies / sinuses, and we were officially voted one of the top 20 worst places in the USA for it.

I saw on your blog that you had a concern for racial harmony. There is a range of various cultural festivals throughout the year. There are events that promote appreciate for world cultures (and social integrity), like Worldfest, a fair trade event. In the autumn, we attended an annual cultural dance event that was fantastic called 'Dances of Passion'. There are restaurants to represent many cultures. The population is quite diverse. There is still some division - there is an Asian district, an area of the city that is mostly in Spanish, and a whole section of the city that is primarily African-american. I think deep acceptance depends on who you're interacting with, and partially the socio-economic backgrounds. Most people are at least okay on the surface, but I can't really analyze what buried issues each segment of society holds or doesn't hold. Growing up, I always had friends of multiple races without tension. Inter-racial couples openly show affection in public, but if they get grief over it, I don't personally know it. In my extended family, which holds its share of backwards-types, I would say there is some racism, but more repressed than openly expressed. So again, OKC has a large population so you'll likely discover a mix. Maybe talking to people of similar family dynamics who have experienced things first-hand can lend better understanding. (I reconnected with an old friend who is in a Caucasian / African relationship, if you'd like me to ask.)

People, in general, tend to be more openly friendly than reserved. (That doesn't mean it's always sincere, but sometimes it is.) If you break down, need help, or want to chat to someone in line, people are there. If you want to ignore someone or be rude, usually someone will be there to meet that challenge too (grin).

Some links (though, in no way extensive):
Travel Oklahoma:
The Peace House:
Paseo Art District:
Wed on Western:
Individual Artists of Oklahoma:


Dan said...

Hey thanks for the background on OKC. I have driven through a few times but never have had the opportunity or reason to stop and look around. Running the OKC Marathon is on my list so maybe that will be when it happens.

Wonderful pics! Looks like you have the making of quite the little actress there.

ananda.tashie said...

Hi Dan, thank you. :) Though, we'll stick with calling him an actor, unless he decides otherwise later down the road (grin). ;) He's become a bit of a Camera Ham - he made a range of sad, angry, startled, etc, faces, then was all too delighted with himself.

Good luck with the future marathon - and, you'll have to tell me what you think if you eventually explore the area. :)