Sunday, November 21, 2021

Oklahoma OK

Buick Valve In Head Motorcars

Two weeks ago, Peggy and I drove to Oklahoma City. It’s 450 miles of flat and mostly ugly, especially the Texas Panhandle part. It's a vast nothing punctuated by the occasional grain elevator and a mile long feed lot whose odor stays with you for half an hour. But the trip was essential since Peggy was part of the prestigious Small Works Great Wonders show at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. According to the museum, “The exhibition features works by 100 of America’s finest artists.” With that billing she had to attend and, as her spear carrier, I came along for the opening shindig. Turns out the 200,000 square foot museum was epic in scale, had the largest collection of paintings by the Taos Society of Artists that I’ve seen and the Small Works Great Wonders opening was boffo. That’s theatre lingo for huge crowds and huge sales. 

Coffee with a splash of Buick

Nichols Energy Services

The museum alone was worth the trip and Oklahoma City isn’t the backwater I have avoided like the plague for decades. It is after all in deep red Oklahoma and my expectations were muy low. 

But, cowboys and cowgirls, Oklahoma City was a real city, had a measure of sophistication, a bounty of charming historic neighborhoods and quite a food scene. I am chastened by my misjudgment of the place. Next year I’ll almost maybe look forward to returning.

We stayed in Bricktown in a decent hotel but in a neighborhood long past its prime. Once a vibrant entertainment district Bricktown is a somnolent, shabby cluster of 1980’s chain restaurants and karaoke bars. It’s the kind place with the kind of restaurants that, and I quote, “Appall me.” Bad chain restaurants make me lose my appetite until I find redemption in a well operated local establishment. 

I have a nose for good restaurants if I do say so myself. So, to escape Bricktown I found an all-day breakfast place at the corner of NW 10th Street and Broadway. Breakfast is my favorite meal as you know. In the neighborhood called Automobile Alley, so called because it was once ground zero for car dealerships, were myriad locally operated eateries including the worthy Hatch Early Mood Food. It served one Hell of breakfast and boasted a buzzy clientele that streamed in and out that Friday morning at 10:30.

Where good restaurants congregate you'll find a healthy residential neighborhood supporting them. Such was true in Automobile Alley. Handsome brick car showrooms had become cafés, bars, restaurants, fitness studios and hip looking engineering firms. 

And more importantly as Automobile Alley gentrified it kept its early 20th century bones and a trove of Art Deco signs the likes of which I’ve never seen. I haven’t done the neighborhood justice with these meager offerings, but you get the picture. 

High wire act

The stairway to nowhere

And there was an architectural novelty, a spiral fire escape suspended in the alley between Broadway 10 Chop House and the parking garage where I was standing. The metal snake led nowhere and didn’t reach the ground. It was mysterious and playful at the same time. The relic was salvaged from Marion Hotel across the street and became a quirky piece of public art.

The Marion is becoming luxury apartments which will make the lovely folks at Broadway 10 and Packard's where we dined muy happy.

1 comment:

Blacks Crossing said...

Native New Mexican friends of ours who lived on a ranch in Oklahoma for a bit swore by Oklahoma City, and its arts and architecture. Apparently, you discovered that as well. It is nice to see it from your fresh perspective, guided by that ever-present sense - nasal and otherwise - for good restaurants. They do miracles for neighborhoods! Glad you were able to have your fill of fine breakfasts and meals there. Congratulations to Peggy for the honor of being included in the Small Works, Great Wonders show at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and to you for serving as her spear carrier.