Friday, April 27, 2007

You, Too, Can Do Tulsa

Blogger: Natasha
(Photo credit: Sarah Nicodemus)

Wanna know what really puts me on edge? People who complain there is nothing to do in Tulsa. Rather than acquainting themselves with goings-on about town, these folks choose to whine instead, "Ugh, there is nothing fun to do here."

I used to hear this more often than I do now, thank goodness. But, I still hear it often enough to cause me to want to write a post for my fellow Tulsans on ways to get to know your town.

What follows are several steps you can take to learn about the town I love: Tulsa, OK. Some are small, some not-so-small. Pick something to do, and start today. No more complaining, folks. I've got the solution to your “boredom” right here:

  1. Swear off highways.

After I started work as a newspaper reporter, I realized how much I didn't know about my native city. I expressed as much to my main mentor at work, Raymond. His sage advice? "Just drive around."

Ray was right.

Avoiding highways is the best way to see more of your city. Just think about it: when you're traveling on the highway, you can’t see much of what you’re passing, since you're traveling at such a high rate of speed. Second, you’re probably not all that interested in what’s passing you by if you’ve chosen the highway in the first place. You’re in a hurry. And, that’s the intended purpose of highways: the rapid transport of automobiles.

But folks, a lot has been going on in Tulsa as of late. Our town is growing, and with growth comes change. Check out what’s coming to a neighborhood near you simply by driving around – you'll immediately feel like a part of the community. Feeling like you’re a part is where the fun begins.

  1. Pick some form of community service. Next, get moving.

My father impressed upon me that serving the community as a volunteer is very important if I want to continue to enjoy or grow my city. Volunteer work also connects you to vast networks of people. If you tried volunteer work for just two months in Tulsa, your first comment when you report back to me would be, “Tulsa is such a small town – everyone knows everyone!”

It’s true. And, you don't have to volunteer for a million different organizations. You don't have to sign onto a board where you're expected to contribute a quarter of your salary, either. But, you should:

It doesn’t matter. Pick something, and go. You'll be amazed at the people you'll meet and the places you'll see. It will be like meeting the city you always knew.

  1. Read your town's free publications; subscribe to (and yes, read) the newspaper; put your town's blogs on RSS feed.

"I don't really read."


Since you're reading this, I know you're not one of those people. You fine folks should tell your “friends” to pick up some lit every once in a while – it would make them easier to be around.

Argh. Anyway. Tulsa boasts several free and paid publications:

And much more. These are the ones I lug to the coffee shops, and most of them are what I would call tolerable reading.

If an actual paper isn't your thing, check this out. There you'll find the feed of 11 blogs, each written and regularly updated by Tulsans. Local blogs are great because they are free to cover local news without the advertising-dollar hang ups.

Point being, reading is the best way to gain information about your town without having to actually cover and report what happens. If you're not willing to read one of these hip, graphically-oriented and user-friendly newspapers or blogs, Chester hereby disallows you to complain about how bored you are in Tulsa.

Chester means business. Don’t make me call Party Brenda.

  1. Y.P.’s of Tulsa, join a relevant professional organization. Then, go to the meetings.

There are two Tulsa young professionals organizations, TYPros and ypTULSA. Each now holds meetings. As such – and as the kids at ypTULSA would say – “just show up.”

Our local young professionals are all fired-up. They’re well-connected, and they know the newest cool things to do in Tulsa. Know why? Because they're the ones at the helm of those cool, happening things.

If there is a professional organization in town specifically for those of your profession, pay the dues and join. Not only will your membership benefit your career, but the fun you have in this city is directly related to the size of your network of people who know the places to see and be seen. You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: size matters.

  1. Send yourself on a hunt for the best _______ in Tulsa.

For about four months, I’ve been hunting for Tulsa's ultimate chile relleno.

So far I have tried the chile relleno dishes at:

Pepper’s Grill,
Senor Tequila
La Hacienda
On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina
El Chico Cafe
Ted’s Escondido
El Maguey

Considering the number of Mexican restaurants there probably are in Tulsa, I’d say my search has just begun.

So, what are you passionate about? Old books, vintage records, clothes - cheeseburgers? Start looking for Tulsa's best whatever-that-is! Not only will your search make great date fodder, but it will also add to your life a distinct sense of place.

  1. Don't watch the evening news.

Not that I have anything against the news stations here in town. Seriously. I simply suggest you not use evening news reports as sources when you make your plans for Friday night.

Thanks to some extensive research (I asked around, and I compared the social behaviors of evening news watchers to those of non-evening news watchers), I'm pretty sure the local evening news is tailored to shock and/or scare you out of doing anything in your town, ever. It’s not that they get their thrills from scaring you. If the local evening news couldn’t tell you anything shocking or scary about your city, how would you convince advertisers to buy into those broadcasts instead of The Simpson’s and Seinfeld re-runs?

Contrary to what the evening news has to tell you to get you to watch their stations enough to attract advertisers, downtown is not a heathen hide-away. Innocent people are not getting shot all over the place, and cops aren’t hiding out in the construction zones and neighborhoods to pull you over on camera.

Tulsa is a peaceful place. There are lots of fun things to do in safe places. Consult the Urban Tulsa. Live a little.

  1. Try something you've never done before. Keep it local.

My husband and I woke up one Saturday earlier this year and decided to take Tulsa Transit to the downtown library.

What a pleasant experience! Neither of us had utilized public transportation in Tulsa before. We were nervous about our trip, but our bus drivers helped us to find our departure and arrival times, and we made it back home alive and all in one piece. Even our fellow passengers were pleasant. As it turned out, all the social stigma MTTA suffers is for nothing. If Tulsans who insist on driving solo to downtown for work everyday would try the bus just once, I bet hundreds of them would opt for the bus every now and then. Perhaps then MTTA could flesh out its bus schedule, which would provide transit users an increased frequency on each route. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Tulsans didn’t have to have to wait 30 minutes for the next bus?

My husband doesn’t cultivate a beaten path. Trying new stuff is his thing. This approach keeps him very in-the-know and connected to goings-on in Tulsa. He tries new, interesting restaurants; he shops at obscure grocery stores; and, he always has a local adventure in the works. My husband tells me stuff I don't know about Tulsa all the time.

Take it from me: people like people who teach and tell them things they don't know. People don't generally like people who are complacent and boring.

Don't be that guy.

  1. Talk to people in line at the grocery store.

As my stepmother can attest, my dad reads Cosmopolitan magazine to people in line at the grocery store. This approach works really well for him – sometimes I could swear my dad knows everyone. I can’t go anywhere with him without bumping into someone he knows.

Dad is the other person who tells me stuff I don't know about Tulsa all the time. He's also the only other person besides the people I work with at the newspaper who can connect me to just about anybody in town. If he doesn't know someone, he knows someone who knows them. I'm pretty sure this is thanks to a) his extensive volunteer work, and b) talking freely to people in line at the grocery store.

  1. Go to church.

Good churches boast community initiatives. Get involved. You'll get to know local people and places in ways you wouldn't otherwise have had the opportunity.

I can only guess that it would be tough to be active in church and not meet someone knowledgeable about the community. Even if just that one person could get you plugged into cool stuff to do and cool people to do cool stuff with in Tulsa, imagine the increase in your quality of life.

My church plans to cancel church this Sunday. Instead, we're doing church. Our congregation will be immersed in community outreach ranging from car washes to knitting circles to donut giveaways from 10:30 a.m. to noon rather than sitting in a stuffy sanctuary singing songs to the ceiling.

See what I mean? More than any other public organization, churches are the movers and shakers of the community. They bring different types of people and their resources together and deploy them into the community for its betterment - and for the glory of God.

So, don't let sermons and hymns be all you get out of going to church. Use it also as a tool to establish presence in your community. Helping others in your community and getting to know what there is to do in your city feeds back into the God stuff. I promise.

Post a comment to keep me apprised of your new life of vigor and local adventures. I’ll buy lunch for whoever sends me the best “coming out in Tulsa” story.


MichaelBates said...

Great advice! I'm glad you're doing this, and I look forward to reading more.

Paul Tay said...

Also, swear off driving the SUV to go to the gym for your spinning class. GET OFF YER FAT ASS PEDAL.

Paul Tay said...

BTW, X-posure is free, available at QT.

Mos Jef said...

I visited the old zoo today for the first time in years.

MadOkie said...

what a great blog, There is a lot to do in Tulsa, if people would just open their eyes, the Zoo, The Spotlight Theater, Smaller venue concerts, festivals, etc... Ill be keeping an eye on this blog :D

Steven H. Roemerman Sr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven H. Roemerman Sr said...

If you have a portable GPS unit, Geocaching is a great way to get to know Tulsa, and have fun doing it.

Red Fork Hippie Chick said...

Bully for you! Glad to see somebody else with the nerve to get off the expressway and wander around town. :)

ronie said...

Great blog - makes me want to come for dinner more often. You rock - knitting diva, Tulsa savant.

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