This past weekend we took a deep breath, gave thanks for a solid work week, then actively refreshed ourselves. From Friday afternoon all the way through Sunday night, we ate great meals slowly, spent unbridled hours with friends, and explored our area a bit more than we usually do. We also cuddled under fuzzy blankets in the air conditioned house, swam in the violent sunshine, and played with Klaus like our lives depended on it. Because, gosh, they really do.
Sometime Sunday afternoon, it dawned on me that many of those leisure hours had been filled with interactions with average people who were living out their dreams. Our weekend had been enriched greatly by their passionate pursuit of joy and their chasing of unique goals. Everywhere we looked was Love made evident by people we might never see again. These people are unlikely to become rich and famous by their work, although we hope for the best for them; in fact they may never be particularly well known. They are just wildly talented Oklahomans who decided to apply their abundant imaginations and work ethics to ideas sparking inside them. Here are a few of those memories.
Friday night, we had dinner with Rex and Cathy at a local spot in Choctaw, named Charlie’s. Charlie’s is a bar and grill about nine miles away known for their build-your-own nachos and fancy weekend brunch menu, their game nights and sports and, as we discovered Friday, their excellent prime rib. It’s a stand-alone restaurant owned and operated by local folks who love and participate in the community all year long. Our waitress was as sweet as you would hope any waitress from small town Oklahoma to be. We had the best time. I love it when locally famous places live up to the hype!
After dinner we meandered across to the Choctaw Creek Park, where the weekly Friday night Farmers’ Market was just winding down. This is a rapidly growing event here, made better every month by the creativity and affection of civic leaders. The park fills up surrounding a long alley of shade trees with vendors selling fresh produce, honey, handmade crafts, blade sharpening services, fresh flowers, bat houses, you name it. It rivals every market I have ever attended in Oklahoma and many elsewhere. They have live music, dunk tanks, bouncy houses, countless seasonal events for families, and an annual pepper eating contest, which had just happened that night. This park also boasts a newly funded pollinator garden designed and tended by a friend of mine. Her passion fueled an idea which came to fruition and makes the community so much more vibrant. She and her husband also help with the market, Saturday morning classic car meet ups, and countless other community events.
Everyone involved in this stuff is doing it for free. They do it for joy. They are gifted, and they are sharing their gifts just to build community and make some memories for friends and neighbors.
Saturday midday, we joined our Meredith and Derek for a few hours of exploring vintage treasures at an antique mall in Oklahoma City. We met several vendors who had very particular passions for either old clothing or furniture, or witchy stuff, or plants and macramé, kitchenware, furniture, vintage toys and books, again, you name it. I love listening to people who clearly love what they are selling. They have collected it on purpose, you can see, and they understand why it caught your eye. That brief, personal familiarity is so delicious! I also love exploring these spots with people I care about, because I always learn something about them.
Between booths, our stomachs started growling, so the four of us walked down the sidewalk for a lunch break. In the fairly crowded burger restaurant I saw so many strangers smiling at each other, trading polite greetings, helping each other find what they needed, taking turns refilling drinks, just simmering in wonderful, loving energy. I saw my children in the young adults, my parents in the older adults, and the next generation in toddlers squirming and loving their brand new lives, reaching for the alluring ketchup bottles and endless pop-up napkins (miracles!).
Sunday morning, we did our chores then showered and struck out on Route 66, again with Rex and Cathy. These friends live down the road us and have two of the coolest dogs in the world, who are Klaus’ good buddies. The seven of us love spending time all together, which we did later that day! But the morning was just for humans.
The four of us drove two cars east and north, through tree lined farm land along the two lane state highway. We passed sweet, sleepy townships and familiar landmarks, gulping in the fresh green tunnels and gazing at the golden brown corn fields, the white-dotted cotton pastures, all the hundreds of round bales sitting like beasts in the quiet. I noticed so many modest farm houses I used to see and wish were ours, but now we have our own. Cathy told us afterwards that their drive was a trip down memory lane, as that path took them through a part of Oklahoma where she spent much of her childhood. We all gave thanks for morning weather mild enough to drive our cars topless.
The cars were topless. We were very top covered. Just to clarify.
At the apex of our drive on Route 66, we stopped in Davenport, OK, for breakfast at a place called Tammy’s. The hostess was a shy young girl no older than ten or eleven. She seated us cautiously and with only measured eye contact before an even younger looking girl circled the room precariously with a steaming coffee pot. A woman I believed to be Mom to one of the girls greeted us and took our orders. She informed us in a stage whisper that her daughter had had a sleepover the night before, so both girls were here helping out with the breakfast crowd. I accepted many reluctant coffee refills from her tiny protégé. We ate our plates of delicious country food and chatted and endured the friendly scrutiny of Sunday morning regulars who did not know us but also did not mind us being there.
I love small town restaurants, especially when they have made an effort to distinguish themselves from the glossier, less personal chains. Tammy’s has certainly done this. Their décor is plentiful and cozy, welcoming, rustic, just one rusty washtub shy of too much. Their salad bar and dessert case were already stocked at 9 a.m. And their welcome was genuinely warm and very Oklahoman. There were hydrangeas suffering bravely in the front garden, making you feel like maybe you had come to Grandma’s house for breakfast. And the collection of old signs on the porch made it clear the personality of the owner had been lovingly impressed on the place. Details everywhere.
After breakfast, we drove back toward home but made a couple of unforgettable stops.
In Chandler, there is a bowling alley that will ruin you for all bowling alleys, forever. We stopped just to take photos in the parking lot, because it is spacious and filled with a towering collection of old automotive signs that make you feel like you have driven up to a museum (in fact, you have). As the men took their photos and chatted cars, Cathy and I walked up to the dark sliding glass entrance doors to read what community announcements were posted. Peering at the glass that was only reflecting the daylight behind us, we gradually noticed a man inside, looking back at us. He waved and smiled as the door slid open. The bowling alley was about an hour away from opening, but still he welcomed us inside to look around. We walked a few steps, into the dark, and waved goodbye to our husbands (ha). They quickly caught up.
For almost an hour this friendly, humble guy led the four of us around his passion project. He showed us every stunning room, offered stories for dozens of collections and design details, and answered our many questions. The place was massive, cavernous, sparkling clean, and filled top to bottom, wall to wall with colorful, energetic memorabilia. He had Route 66 stuff, car stuff, oil industry stuff. Everything good and nostalgic about driving, he had it. He boasted expensive collections curated and displayed well. Games! A glow in the dark putt-putt room! A long stack of hand -painted bowling alleys, plus the world’s longest single alley upstairs! A well appointed arcade. A café plus a concession stand plus a bar area with a performance stage. Multiple places to sit and socialize. And still more collections everywhere we looked.
We were impressed by all of it, by the scale of the construction and by how fully realized his vision was. Then he told us he had built it all himself, slowly during pandemic, with cash instead of credit. Can you imagine the vision and the patience required for this feat? And he’s not done yet. Behind the massive bowling alley building, he had just acquired land for adding a collection of half silo shaped motel rooms. Kind of like tiny air-bnbs, themed for Route 66 and Oklahoma farmland. One prototype was sitting off to the side of a raw stretch of land, and it set my imagination into overdrive.
We left with ridiculous smiles plastered on our faces, promising him we would be back soon and often, brain storming with each other about gathering a group to visit.
Several miles past the unforgettable bowling alley, we stopped at a motorcycle museum that will be familiar to lots of Oklahomans. Seaba Station is a decades-old highway gas station preserved and converted into a living memory vault for one man’s passionate collection of motorcycles and dirt bikes. The owner has amassed dozens (hundreds?) of two-wheeled machines in the small building, all of them collecting dust and grime but still somehow gleaming with life. He has stories posted for many of them, vintage race posters and manufacturers’ memorabilia, leather riding suits and logo emblazoned helmets, and (my favorite) framed photos of people riding the bikes. His very particular passion must have been unshakeable for him to one day set out to acquire this property, maintain it enough to stay open to the public for free (donations accepted and there is a small gift shop at the front) and keep the displays fresh all the time. He rotates the motorcycles sometimes, and he raffles off a prize bike every New Year’s Day.
He has made his passionate hobby accessible to everyone. To strangers. As we left this particular place, that realization almost made me cry. It’s like he was saying, “Here, these are some things I love; maybe you will love them too!” And I will tell you, our husbands surely did. Even if I personally am illiterate with motorcycle trivia and history, seeing my guy so immersed in childhood memories and future ideas makes me very happy.
I absolutely love seeing people bring their visions to life. The more particular and offbeat, the better. The more niche, the better. The more it seems to serve some personal, almost bizarre obsession, just hoping to make a connection with someone, the better. Because we all are inherently attracted to genuine thrills and joyful aliveness, to true, bold expression of self. And the world is filled with unique selves.
I would like to see more unique selves. Less duplicates and trends.
It felt wonderful to be offline for a few days and get face to face with three dimensional people living out their unique lives in such generous, offbeat ways. It felt wonderful to get out of my own environment (although I do love it!) and immerse myself in other people’s expressions of paradise.
I wish success for all of them, from the young waitresses and small scale farmers’ market vendors to the business owners on Route 66 hoping to attract curious passersby. May they all make enough money to continue following their dreams. May they all stay true to their passions. May the public receive it all in such a way that they feel encouraged and inspired, not tempted to copy anything, nor stifled.
May the next round of dreamers see that chasing genius and working hard can be fun! Adding whimsy and dimension to the world is valuable. That kind of work is valid, too.
What a wonderful world.
What a richly textured, constantly surprising,
How can I add to it today?
Thank you to my gardening friend Jennie, who saw my shorter Facebook post about this on Sunday and sweetly urged me to write the stories. This post is incomplete, but it was fun to write and remember some of the people we met that weekend. And please tune in very soon for a more detailed story about my friend Trisha, who is applying her particular genius in unforgettable ways.