July 26, 2006

Where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain

This is how many cabs and lines it takes to go from Chicago to Oklahoma City.


This is how long the plane ride is.


I arrived in Oklahoma City yesterday, and dudes, I can't even tell you what a good time I had. I don't know what I was expecting...since all I knew about the place was the song, but it wasn't this. This place is terrific...and flat (wow is it flat) and hot. It was so hot yesterday that as Jayme and I tried to walk just a few blocks through the city, I was moved to profanity. I kept trying to articulate the exact way that it was hot and ended up failing (since it was too hot to think) and being reduced to four letter words that I hope conveyed the remarkable impact. It is obvious to a newcomer to Oklahoma that this place is much closer to the big ball of fire in the sky than Toronto is and the heat has a quality that's hard to describe. Toronto gets that hot, and Toronto is far more humid...but the wind of Oklahoma adds a characteristic that's breathtaking. It's like standing in a convection oven.
I'd complain more, but I come from a place with a 58 day summer.
I loved it.

Here are things you may not know about Oklahoma.

1. On election day (which it was yesterday) you cannot purchase liquor in a store or restaurant. This was explained to me with enormous sympathy by the bartender at the Bricktown restaurant I went to.


That's Bricktown. See the canal? Who knew Oklahoma city had a canal? That's #2.

I staggered in out of the heat, sank into a chair and said the only thing a Canadian can say when transported that far in this heat.
"Beer please."
That's when he explained to me about the law. I thought it a wonderful expression of the importance of sober democratic reflection on election day, and asked him what I could have.


Seriously. Bud is exempt. Turns out that 3.2% beer is considered "food" and can still be obtained. (Having drunk the first Bud of my life now, I can see why. With all due respect, it's really more like beer scented water. I drank it with enormous grateful enthusiasm regardless.)

3. Every single person I met in Oklahoma was absolutely charming. Absolutely. Funny, witty, kind...hospitable. These people are fabulous. Even the cab drivers were exceptionally entertaining.

Some Rangers came up to me while I was taking sock pictures, and for one moment I thought I was busted. (I don't know why. I'm sure this sock thing is just stupid, not illegal, but I respect authority.) Turns out that they just wanted to offer to take a picture of me with my sock...if I wanted. I explained how it worked instead.


Oklahoma Park Rangers.

4. The Oklahoma City Memorial is exceptional. My pictures don't even begin to do it justice, so if you haven't seen it, do click and have a better look. The site of the building is marked by two enormous gates, one at one end marked "9:01"


and the other "9:03"


These two gates surround the time of the explosion, 9:02, and look forward and back on that moment.


There is one chair (some big, some small...for the children) for each person who died that day, and each is inscribed with a name. There are a terrible number of chairs.

It is a remarkably beautiful thing, and Oklahoma should be really proud of finding a way to erect something so beautiful out of something so ugly.

5. Margaret from Gourmet Yarns, Susan and the Oklahoma City Knitters Guild and Anita from the library are clever, capable, funny and throw one heck of a party. (They are going to be a really hard act to follow.)
Behold! The knitters of Oklahoma! (And quite a bunch from out of state too.) Click these to make them bigger.





The absolute high point, the point I'm still laughing about today, the point that will stay with me for all of my days and bring light to my life when I am an old, old lady, was when this huge group of spectacular women (and a few men for good measure) rose, powered by state pride and a clear and glowing love for the place that they live, Rose to their feet, carried by I don't know what and sang. Do you hear me? They sang. The sang loud, they sang proud, they sang


I've got to tell you, I was reduced to helpless laughter and insane glee. I could scarcely stand, scarcely breathe. People, it was better than Broadway ever did that song. Way better. Take me now. For I have heard knitters sing Oklahoma, and it was fan-freaking-tastic.

6. You can get a sunburn in Oklahoma in about six minutes.

7. Oklahoma has great alpacas. I know this because there was some in the keen basket (shaped like Oklahoma) that they gave me last night. It's a great basket full of tastes of the wonderful fibre things that this state has to offer. (Other stuff too.) It's almost as good as the song. There's even a washcloth with the state of Oklahoma knitted into it. (When I remarked how stunning and generous and completely great the whole thing was, and how totally overwhelmed I was by the pride people had in the place they lived and how I couldn't believe they had given me stuff, one of the knitters said "Oh that's nothing. You should see us a Christmas. We go all out."
(I laughed for an hour.)

8. Look at this. Three generations of Oklahoma knitters.


That's Annette, Phoebe and Baby Trixie. (I don't think we have proof that Trixie is a knitter, but she shows great promise. )

9. Here's Marianne.


Marianne's the lady from the comments whose been counting down the days until the first day of school for me. She's exceptionally kind and thoughtful, and she knows what I mean.

10. There are too many wonderful knitters in Oklahoma to name. I'm missing so many, but there was Cassa, Susan, Chris, Heidi, Rosemary, Missy, Regina (the Oklahoma stitch markers are brilliant), Mellanie, Emily...They all turned out not to be imaginary friends at all, and I couldn't be more grateful or impressed or totally in love with this place. I'm going to be sorry to leave...

Which I will. My flight is at 2pm, I've got to pack (I need to hurry) and I'll see you in Mesa. (PS. I know I'm not answering email, I'm sorry. Bear with me. If it's urgent, email again. I'm snowed under in the most spectacular way. If you're one of the knitters looking for the peacock yarn from yesterday, there's a link to Suzie's Etsy shop in the comments from that day. )

Posted by Stephanie at July 26, 2006 11:50 AM