Sunday, August 26, 2007

Star Party

Blogger: Natasha
(Photo credit: Scare-uh Nicodemus)

Need something to do in the Tulsa area that’s fun, free, and could really impress a date? Check the Astronomy Club of Tulsa’s Web site for future star parties (hint: next one's Sept. 14, but you've gotta be a member or a guest of a member to attend). Aaron and I took our Miami, Okla. friends to the one Aug. 10, when the Perseid meteors dazzled the night sky.

After some burgers at Fuddruckers on a very busy, very light-polluted 71st St., the four of us loaded up in our gas-sipping city car and hit the turnpike toward the Mounds Observatory, about 30 minutes from South Tulsa. The climb up gravel roads past farm houses and horse farms was a nice transition from where we’d come to what we’d learn was, well, the middle of nowhere.

We arrived at the observatory at about 8, more than an hour before sunset. We expected to find one or two other stargazers there, though we knew the party was open to non-members. I have a deep appreciation for my husband’s favorite hobby, but I was pretty sure that an Astronomy Club of Tulsa event wouldn’t exactly be the party of the century. As it turned out, I, a dim-wit, know nothing about star people. By the time the sun went down, there were probably 75-100 people on the hill on which Mounds Observatory sits.

Not only was the party well-attended, but everyone there was very friendly and welcoming. The president of the ACT encouraged us to circulate, try others’ telescopes, and ask lots of questions. We did. No one laughed at my questions or scoffed at me when I didn’t know the difference between this eyepiece and that. Everyone I met was eager to inform me about the meteor shower, the summer constellations, and their telescopes. We met a lot of interesting and devoted people, and they all really knew their stuff.

Since this was our first star party, we didn’t know we’d require certain things to look as though we belonged there: you know, bug repellant, a sitting blanket, pillows, lawn chairs, snacks, and, ahem, a telescope. Aaron is an avid proponent of stargazing using binoculars. But, as strange as it seemed to us laypeople, he and his binoculars fit right in with the folks who brought scopes as tall as eight feet and worth as much as $11,000.

Once the sun set and our eyes adjusted to the dark, the sky really put on a show for us. Meteors were shooting across the sky at a rate of about one per every three minutes, and we were so far from city lights that the Milky Way was clearly discernable. The constellations disappeared for all the stars that aren’t visible from our home between Midtown and South Tulsa, and I swear that as the sky grew darker and my eyes more adjusted, I could tell the colors of the stars. Had I been lying next to my husband on dirty towels we found in the trunk, it would have been really romantic.

Here’s how we found out we really were in the middle of nowhere: when a lady tried to use the restroom in the observatory, part of the door facing fell and hit her square on the noggin. She was knocked out for awhile, so some people called 911. After about 30 minutes (good thing this woman wasn’t the victim of a star party stabbing, eh?), an ambulance showed up. Since it was past midnight and the headlights were going to ruin our hard-won dark vision, we took the opportunity to head back down the gravel road toward Tulsa. Another ambulance and two police cars passed us. We assumed a medical emergency at the observatory was a lot more interesting than another round of coffee and donuts. I wondered if the emergency workers thought the star people were weirdos, or maybe even hippies, sitting up on the hill with their gadgets and contraptions, chatting and showing each other their nebulas. I didn’t think the star people were weird at all. They can show me their nebulas any day, er, night.

This is the Ring Nebula, which I got to see through an 8-foot Dobsonian reflector telescope. It looked mostly blue and green when I saw it at the last ACT star party Aug. 10.

Though this star party occurred a few weeks ago, I figure if I put the word out now, you all will quit whining that unless you have shiny new stuff to do at the river you’ll just die of boredom and come to the next star party and rediscover the simple joy of the unadulterated night sky – and making out.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Natalie's 'The Quest' Continues

Blogger: Natalie

The Quest continues. Thanks to everyone for the recommendations. They’ve been added to the list of places to try.

Since the last time I wrote, I’ve sampled Olive Garden (pass on it), Stonehorse CafĂ© (not bad for an establishment with a menu not centered on pizza) and Umberto’s again (excellent again, and this time they used crumbled sausage instead of sliced). I’d try more, but, as I stated before, my waistline needs a bit of a break between pizza experiences. I did try pizza in Mexico, but that’s not really relevant to this particular Quest.

Anyway, this time Party Brenda, her husband Kyle and I headed over to Mario’s, 3323 E. 51st St., #U. After some confusion about which pizza place it actually was (there’s another NYC pizza place just north on 51st, which has since been added to the list), we finally got on the same page.

A trend I’ve noticed in these hole-in-the-wall pizza places is the lack of customer service, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Mario’s was no exception. No one really acknowledged our presence until we approached the counter to order.

I ordered the medium New York-style sausage, which is the smallest you can buy, and I would later find out it is huge for a medium. Three people could easily share it. Kyle ordered the Sicilian (Mario’s code for deep dish) supreme.

Mine arrived first, both because I ordered first and because the deep dish takes longer to cook. Well, I say “arrived” – they just yelled out the pizza, and you went to the counter to get it.

As I said before, the pizza was huge, but hot and fresh, so you know it’s made-to-order. The sausage was sliced here as well, and they weren’t stingy with it. Brenda and I decided we like the sliced variety better than the crumbled.

After I cut into it (with my plastic silverware, mind you, which sort of rubbed us the wrong way, as I would think they could spring for some real silverware, especially considering pizza cutting usually requires fairly sturdy flatware, but I digress), I found it to be pretty good pizza.

The pros:

  • Hot, fresh and more-than-generously sized;
  • Very cheesy, good ingredients;
  • Excellent crust, with the perfect combination of chewy and crispy;
  • Closer to home than Umberto’s.

The cons:

  • A little soggy/greasy (probably from too much sauce), and, for lack of a better word, a little bland;
  • A staff that was, at best, indifferent to our presence.

Kyle and Brenda didn’t care for the deep-dish crust, but both agreed that my thinner crust pizza was pretty good.

After filling to-go boxes with our leftovers, we debated whether we were supposed to clean our own table. We decided to err on the side of caution and clean up after ourselves, since a staff member hadn’t approached our table the entire time we were there.

So, to sum up: Mario’s makes a pretty decent pizza, but opt for the thin crust. It’s enough to put Mario’s at the number two spot in The Quest for the best pizza in Tulsa. Umberto’s still claims the top spot.

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