Thursday, October 9, 2008


I'm sitting at a local coffeeshop, Shades of Brown. I've observed something about Tulsa's Indie crowd. Maybe it's just that it's hitting here, now, but things seem altogether harmless and decidedly less bohemian than one would expect.

Unlike the urban Indie scenes of Bucktown, Greenwich Village, or South Austin, Tulsa has a very clean gloss over the stylishly un-done hair, almost mismatched clothes and tight jeans and shirts that pervade the "scene". The indie kids drive in to the areas of town that are cool enough to be noticed from the comfort of McMansions and hard-earned cash of their parents. They might get jobs working at retail stores or maybe the local Whole Foods, but inthe end, they cannot afford to life near their haunts and settle for cookie-cutter apartments in giant complexes that greet you as you drive from city center to suburbia.

Sure, everyone has an upturn their every sentence, as if they must always ask questions to seem as though they are questioning their reality that is "so, like, paternalistic?" I suppose everything is in the interrogative.

But where do these questions lead? That's what I DON'T see. I don't see the essence of the movement here. I don't see people being innovators for sustainability, or even throwing gender roles on the ear the way that the music out of Portland and Austin did to kick off the music. Where are the sensitive intellectuals that are to ride in the wake of Ginsberg, Creely, and Kerouac?

Perhaps the thing against which they rebel they depend upon so deeply, money and comfort. To some degree, they must believe that there is a safety net. Otherwise, how could they feel comfortable making $6.00 an hour banging out espressos at these icons of Indie?

I am interested to see how the discomfort will manifest as the economy gets tighter and fewer people can will be willing or able to shell out $5.00 for a cup of coffee or payfor shiny computers to access the wi-fi at the local caffeinated watering hole.


Friday, January 11, 2008


While having dinner tonight at the Brook, I noticed how devoid the area of midtown is of racial diversity. Sure, there are a few African American guys, some Mexican immigrants, and plenty of Native Americans. There is a lack, however, of a closely-knit ethnic community (of any stripe) here. Most of the African American population in Tulsa is concentrated in North Tulsa, while the Latin community resides in East Tulsa. I know there are several Asians (Eastern and Middle Eastern) in T-town, but they are primarily interspersed with the white upper crust in South Tulsa and suburbia. When I look around, I think "what happened to color?".

Perhaps this is the result of living in college towns and a large city for several years. I have grown accustomed to bumping into people from myriad nationalities and hearing foreign languages other than Spanish when I stop to get a cup of coffee. Living in the heartland of America makes me appreciate urban environments and the diversity of big cities. Don't get me wrong, I love the ease of mobility that Tulsa offers and slower pace that Oklahomans settle into, not to mention the low cost of living. Sometimes, though, I long for a little more friction in my day-to-day interactions with random people on the street, on a bus or at a metro stop. When you drive everywhere, it's easy to separate yourself from the world around you and remain in the safe bubble. Basically, I'm going soft.

I'm coming to realize that if I want to satiate my jones for diversity and grit, I need to seek it out. When my current state of flux is over, I plan to volunteer in some of the more ethnically and economically diverse neighborhoods of Tulsa. Maybe then I'll have the opportunity to fill that spot in my life's desire while helping others achieve their own.


Friday, January 4, 2008

Midtown's Response to Winter Blast

Part of what makes Midtown so great are the beautiful old trees that line the neighborhood streets. Unfortunately, the ice storm that hit much of Oklahoma took a devastating toll on the wonderful old timber. I had the good fortune of a surprise visit from an out-of-town friend New Year's Day who, even in the darkness of night, was amazed by the fortress of downed limbs that lines the curb.

There are hundreds of homes in Midtown that lost most or all of their old trees, and even more in the greater Tulsa area. It's sad to drive around the neighborhoods and see how much damage was done and is still not cleaned up. One would think that they would see City of Tulsa work crews at least occasionally, but that's not the case.

Oklahoma weather is never predictable. For instance, yesterday's high was 41 degrees and today, it was in the mid-50s, very comfortable. So one cannot blame the City for not being prepared for all types of weather. It would be economically unfeasible and a waste of the taxpayers' dollars since there are many "mini-seasons" within each season, and the extreme weather is short-lived. The gripe, however, is the way the City _responds_ to extreme weather. The ice storm was a major inconvenience for a couple of weeks. People (mostly poor people) are still without power and utilities like cable and telephone providers are still working round the clock to restore the comfort services. The City is now taking bids for debris removal, which is a positive sign. But the fact that many people who can't afford to hire an electrician to come to their residences still go without what has become a basic need in our society is discomforting at best, and shameful at worst.

What, from my highly-narrowed and self-criticising view, is the Midtown response? For one, I have no idea what or if anything has been done to assist those less fortunate and without power beyond opening church doors and civic centers to provide warm shelter. My neighbors are all financially able and have taken the initiative to clean up their own yards or hire someone to do it for them. (I wish I could say the same for my landlord) Some may have donated to charities helping those in need. I would suspect, since I haven't seen any community action flyers at my local coffee house or on the windows of local businesses, that we forgot about our less-well-heeled Tulsans as soon as the switch turned on the light and refocused our angst upon the cable company or telephone provider.

I am the first to say that I am guilty of purposeful ignorance. I am learning, and adopting, the Midtown arrogance. I like to think of myself as progressive and tolerant and altruistic, but it takes real effort to actually live up to that image. My goal should be to reflect the wonderful things that so many give weight to in Midtown by crossing the line between tolerance and outreach.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Jumping Posts

In my blogging infancy, I am trying to discover how to provide only a summary of a post at first, then the rest of the lengthy information thereafter. Lets see if it worked ...

If you made it here, then it worked! If not, hmm....


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Midtown Bean Brews

One of the great aspects of the Midtown scene is the variety of coffee shops. If you are a coffee lover, or a transplant from a larger city, you will welcome the options.

Make no mistake, Starbuck's, a.k.a. the McDonald's of the coffee industry, has swarmed all of T-town and makes a more-than-fair showing in Midtown. But the more offbeat and personable joints are what coax out the burgeoning hipster scene, bygone hippies and weekend liberals.

My favorite place to sit back and let the odor of hot java waft past the nostrils is the Coffee House on Cherry Street. What you find behind the counter is what you'd expect: Oklahoma hipsters with a taste for indie music and thrift store duds serving up the usual beverages with Italianesque names and a healthy (both in variety and ingredients) assortment of nosh. When you turn away from the counter, however, is where you'll find what keeps this Midtowner coming back. There's always an unexpected face in the crowd, and yet, always, ALWAYS a predictable cast of characters. Students from TU come to study and converse; business-types come for a good strong cup of coffee that isn't laden with the "goddess and green"; old hippies come to catch up on the news and relive their days on the fringe; adolescents come to get away and yuppies like me come to be reminded of the liberal enclaves we enjoyed during grad school. In short, nobody here thinks Starbuck's is a coffee shop or thinks that W is the best representation of their values.

Other locales to get your caffeine fix include Double Shot, Shades of Brown Coffee and Art and the Gypsy. Double Shot the the Gypsy are both nearer to Downtown. They both offer the usual coffee choices and a small selection of tea. Double Shot roasts their own beans, which is a nice touch, but the atmosphere is a little harsh for my taste. Gypsy is definitely the most "hardcore" of the two with angsty servers and a "like it or leave it" attitude that fits with its rough neighborhood.

Shades is located on Brookside. The crowd here typifies "cool" in Tulsa. This is where you're likely to find people that look like they are trying to be as counter-culture as the folks on Cherry Street, but you get that "alternative is the new mainstream" feeling. The joint is owned by a former ORU student, and it's not uncommon to hear people talking about their favorite Christian bands or church events. The atmosphere is "safe" and on the acceptable edge of comfortable. The art is worth more than the coffee, in my opinion. Whoever chooses the artists to feature has impeccable taste and a keen eye for talent. I love strolling in to find the new work on the walls and the ceramics shelf.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Initial Post

This is the first post to a little blog born out of a growing fascination with an area of Tulsa, OK commonly known as Midtown.

What exactly are the boundaries of Midtown? There are no defined geographic boundaries, but it's safe to say that the area roughly bounded by Riverside Drive to the West, Harvard to the East, 11th Street to the North and 31st Street to the South would be a decent ballpark swath of "Midtown".

Aesthetically, Midtown is characterized by old neighborhoods, local restaurants and bars, art galleries and old money. The northern end of Midtown is more quaint with smaller cottages and fewer of the oil mansions that can be found near popular attractions like the Philbrook,
Woodward Park and Utica Square. Of course, it is Oklahoma, so there are several churches scattered throughout the area.

Like the rest of Tulsa, the farther south one progresses throughout Midtown, the larger the houses get. These houses, however, are not the McMansions that occupy the sprawl of South Tulsa. These mansions are relics of the roaring 1920s when Tulsa was a prominent oil town. Elements of the prosperity enjoyed by Tulsans during the Art Deco era can be found in the architecture of the most striking example of Deco Gothic, Boston Avenue Methodist Church, and subtle arches in Deco-era cottages and bungalows.

Apart from the architecture, there is also a mindset that separates Midtowners from the rest of Tulsa. Some would be tempted to call it elitism. But one should resist that temptation until they've taken a moment to investigate a bit further. That's the point of this humble blog.

Here's to success?