Sunday, April 18, 2010
Sometimes it feels like my son and I go to the same parks day after day, week in and week out. We tend to wimp out and frequent the ones nearest our house, even though there are literally hundreds of parks in the area to explore.
So, late last week, we hit Sonic for milkshakes and then hit the trail for Owen Park, Tulsa's first and oldest.
Owen Park is situated right in the shadow of downtown Tulsa, just north of I-244, just east of the Owen Park neighborhood, at 560 N. Maybelle. The Owen Park neighborhood, by the way, is where any Tulsa young professional who is any Tulsa young professional is trying to buy a house right now. It's where the cool kids want to be.
Owen Park is also home to Tulsa's oldest house still in existence. See?
Back in its day, which was in the teens and twenties, Owen Park was to the middle and upper class what Woodward Park has been for those same socioeconomic slices of society since suburban living caught on in the midwest. It was where the moneyed went to promenade, and it was the place to see and be seen enjoying the outdoors - which to rich people meant, fountains and cultivated gardens.
While Woodward Park has definitely cornered the market on the cultivated garden front, Owen Park still has the fountain. Plus, there's more to do for kids at Owen Park than there is at Woodward.
All you'll find for the kiddos at Woodward is a swing set or two and lots of azalea plants to bludgeon with sticks (not that I know any children who would do this). At Owen, there's a big toy, a huge duck pond and a grotto that's perfect for climbing. I hear that soon there will be a splash pad at Owen Park, too.
That's great news for us. We love a good splash pad.
We love a good bridge, too.
Of course, duck ponds are fascinating, too.
Not for me, though. Personally, I'm afraid of ducks and geese. They're waddling, slightly evolved, blood-thirsty velociraptors, as far as I'm concerned. A goose tried to bite my finger off once. After that, it hissed at me.
It was an evil goose.
Look at them. Plotting. Planning. Conniving.
Look at its beady eyes. It's beady, evil eyes.
My son, on the other hand, feels goodwill toward waterfowl.
That is, if trying to feed them sticks could be considered evidence of feelings of goodwill.
Here's how my son is rewarded by these degenerate beings for his peaceable attitude:
I'm sorry you all had to see that...that depraved scene of...depravity. But you must know the truth. Plus, if I had to pretend to ignore it for 20 minutes while my son pointed and laughed and screamed with wonder and joy as the white duck took liberties with the black duck five freaking times, then the least you all could do is share my pain.
And then I come home and tell my husband what we had seen, only to enter into an education on how male ducks often take female ducks against their wills, and that "the dude ducks rape other dude ducks' wife ducks, like, all the time. It's just something they do."
And now you know why I love my husband. Because he says things like "wife ducks" when he has to explain something biological or scientific to his wife, the one who boasts an antique typewriter collection and can poach and egg real pretty-like.
Thank goodness for all of that, because I don't think I could have handled the jargon behind what we saw that the duck pond that day.
Yes, baby. We can still play by the water, but do come away from those nasty, naughty dude ducks.
Look! A romantic grotto-ish.
Oh, son. We've really got to get you into some longer pants. If you'd gain some weight around your middle, we could do that, no problem.
This kid, he takes after his dad in this way. I've certainly never had a problem filling out a pair of jeans, not even in my Osh Kosh days.
Wanna see what my son looks like when he serenades his mommy, whom he loves so very, very much that he can't help but express it with an original song?
Just kidding. He's not singing to me. He's trying to put a dead, crusty leaf in my hair.
Look what else we found at Owen Park.
Another one of my favorite Tulsa school buildings, right up there with Will Rogers High School, an art deco relic, and East Central High, a Route 66 gem. It's Roosevelt Elementary School.
Roosevelt is what I imagine when I picture what an urban school should look like. Not that I would know anything about what an urban school should look like - I graduated with about 80 other kids from a small country school (at least, it was when I went there) out in west Tulsa. But I always wanted to go to a school that had more than one floor. I had dreams about flirting with boys passing in the stairwell and staring out of a second-story window at the playground below during math class.
Maybe in the next life.
If you've been following the local news you might have heard that the City of Tulsa closed several of its community centers. Owen Park Recreation Center was one of those.
What really sucks about that is that Owen Park's community center reopened just 18 months before it was shut down again. It's calendar was chock full of family-friendly activities, ranging from pumpkin decorating parties during Halloween to run-around-like-crazy activities for the family dog during the summer.
I've heard whispers that there's an effort to convince the city that, for the health of the surrounding community, especially for the kids who live there whose families face economic difficulty, Owen Park's community center needs to reopen.
I'm really crossing my fingers on this one.
I'm convinced that the continued development of downtown depends on convincing families, especially those that live in Tulsa's moneyed far south and far north areas, that there are caboodles of ways for kids and their caregivers to have a great time there. You can build only so many bars and restaurants and clubs that cater to young professionals. Something I hear all the time is that the reason Tulsa is so great is because it's a fantastic place to raise a family. But, from what I can tell, when people say this, they're not really talking about Tulsa proper. What they mean is Broken Arrow, Bixby and Owasso - you know, those suburban towns with growth rates that have trumped Tulsa's since we were all wearing Hammer pants.
But, don't wait for someone to build it before you come. Veer off your beaten path every once in awhile and try something new. For Tulsa families, Owen Park would be an easy place to start. If Owen Park had a vibrant, busy community center with a calendar full of family-friendly activities, it'd not only attract families from other parts of the city who might eat or see a show while they're downtown, but it'd also contribute to the community just beyond the IDL a boatload of safe things for the kids that live there to do after school and on the weekends.
Because the best way to improve what Tulsa has to offer tomorrow is to use the heck out of what what's available to do here today.