Sunday, May 16, 2010

Life in Oklahoma

So what is life like in Oklahoma? Good question. When I moved here in 1998 from Las Vegas (don't ask what I was doing in Vegas), I had a few expectations. First that it would be pretty easy living. Oklahomans are known to be very friendly folk. I'm a nice looking white girl and I knew I would pass for acceptable. Happens in most places in the U.S. I thought perhaps that since the people spoke slow and with a sort of southern drawl, that they weren't as...oh how to say this delicately... people in other parts of the world.

When I told people where I was going, they exclaimed that Oklahoma is full of tornadoes and that I'd get blown away, or scalped by Indians (this is also Indian territory. I believe the term is "ndn" but I'm too White to use it), or that I'd have to live in a trailer with no running water and maybe get eaten by bugs and molested by banjo-playing hicks. Yeah.

When I pulled through the Western portion of Okie-land, I drove under an overpass with graffiti on it. It said "God Loves You". Underneath that it said "Jesus Loves You too". Good penmanship for a spray paint can. We stopped at a convenience store and bought sodas in the rain. The clerk was a huge line-backer of a kid. I asked him what he thought of the rain. "Well, on days like today, what with all the rain, I like (pronounced lah-k) to throw a football around with my buddies".

Our house was nice. Inexpensive and three bedrooms. Apple tree in the back yard. Nice neighborhood. Running water and everything. It's like someone set me down in the middle of the suburbs in Oklahoma. Except for the accent, everyone seemed pretty normal and comparable to the folks I knew from Washington and maybe a little less jaded than the ones I knew from Vegas. I settled in for a couple of years. Made some friends. Nobody scalped me. But I did discover that they have fry bread here, just like what my grandma made. Maybe a little better even.

We do have tornadoes and big storms. Luke's Escape was damaged in a hail storm this afternoon. My friend Brandon and his girlfriend Kendra lost the roof of their house and sustained major damage to both of their cars, smashing out the windshields and breaking off pieces of their scooter. The hail was the size of a man's palm. Last week a couple of tornadoes touched down, one about two miles from my house. What were we doing, you ask? Standing outside looking at it. Four people were killed that day across the state and there was destruction, including to the National Severe Weather Station. But I'm relatively safe. And I have a carport so some damage might be deflected from my car in case of a storm. People here help each other out. A few years ago, there was a huge ice storm and I lost power for six days. It's easy to find people to take you in and it's easy to help other people out too.

This isn't to say that Oklahoma is without issues. This is the most Republican Christian state in the union. Lots of "traditional" values. That's the disguise often used by those racist oppressors who make money and livelihood off of the pain and work of others. It's also a reason I've stayed here. Oklahoma needs me. And I need this place too. It's a place I've grown wild and become myself. After twelve years, I should hope so.

So I don't eat catfish or okra, big deal. I'm growing tomatoes this year and planted my second apple tree in the yard this spring. I'm here for awhile; I have a life here. When people ask me, "What's Oklahoma like?", I have to pause before saying "Well, it's O.K.". Same cliche joke every Okie says to anyone outside of this place.

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