I’m Screwed. And Other Things I Learned Today

First Day Back in Oklahoma. You need to know I’ve been here over 28 hours and have not been to even one Taco Bueno OR Braum’s. That means I’ve officially performed a minor miracle and, therefore,  if the subject ever comes up, I could be a legitimate candidate for sainthood.

Last night was interesting — first thing discovered when I hit the hotel was that I was in the wrong hotel and was scrambling to find a new one when my buddy, Mary Arbuckle called and invited me to stay at Mini Ha Ha Ranch. I jumped at the chance. So tonight, after dinner, great conversation and good laughs, and I’m snuggled into my room. Surrounded by the love and friendship of Mary, Lina, four adorable dogs, four in-and-out kitties, and horsies outside. Even better, Lina’s parental units are here from the Philippines, and are probably the cutest little couple I’ve ever seen. It’s like a home away from home.

Meanwhile, you may know I’m back here to do research for a book I’ve been working on. Re-writing with agent’s suggestions and have a great editor (thanks, Scott Evans) who keeps me real.

And I came so prepared. This was going to be easy. I mean, I lived here about 18 years and know the area. Sure, it’s changed since Abbi and I left in ’06, but this is mainly to meet with sources and establish relationships. Right?

I brought my GPS, but basically for backup – didn’t turn it on because I know where everything is. Then, the realization hit. Couldn’t find my behind with both hands. Drove up and down Western about 4 times trying to find the new Pearl’s restaurant. It wasn’t where it was supposed to be. It took my over fifteen minutes and several diversions to find my synagogue — and it hadn’t moved. My brain, on the other hand….

For those of you who have never lived in Oklahoma, directions are not by “You take a left on Western, go two blocks, and take a right on…..” Oh, No. My directions to Pearl’s were,  “It’s a block from where the bridge used to be, and then you take a left.” Of course, which “left” wasn’t given. And I didn’t remember where the bridge used to be, though I probably should have. I remember where the Split T used to be because it was replaced by a strip mall called Strip T Mall. No, it wasn’t a strip joint. It was a great bar/restaurant with a huge “T” for a door handle. That “T” was split down the middle with half of the “T” on each of two huge doors  – hence, “Split T.” But I’ve got to admit I never got used to directions like, “You know where the old church used to be?” “Ok, take a left where the barn burned down,” and, “You go a mile past the brown cows….not the black cows….the brown cows.” Still, no Pearl’s. Tonight, I’ll look up the address. Probably should have started there.

Drove through a neighborhood where a lot of the book is set, and the camera that had fresh batteries when it left Los Angeles yesterday morning was dead. Off to buy batteries, and then to Lake Hefner. Have to make a trip back to the neighborhood another time.

And that’s where my day went to hell in a hand basket. Someone or something took Lake Hefner and replaced it with a whole different body of water. I’ve got a guy sitting on a bench with people running on the path behind him. Wrongo. The path is in front of the benches, not behind them. Easy fix, you say? Not in this case. Have to rebuild the world. And the water’s so low that larger boats can no longer be in slips. The boat I want in the water is now up on a trailer waiting to be backed down the ramp . And I found that boat owners are not allowed to live aboard their boats anymore. That bites.  One of my characters is watching the East Wharf area through binoculars. Can’t do that, either. Too far away. And press are set up directly across the lake. Can’t happen. Four hours at the lake and I’m no where close to finished. Now I see why some authors create whole new cities so no one can call them at three in the morning and say, “You didn’t do your research. There were THREE trees there, not five.”

But I got to have brisket for lunch at Earl’s Ribs and couldn’t have made a better decision. Just walking in that place, the smells make me happy. And without it, I’m pretty sure facing Lake Hefner would have been even worse.

Now, for the things I discovered. Dropped into Nearly New, a consignment shop on Western Ave. where I used to go when I needed something in a hurry and didn’t have the time or energy to go to a mall. They always came up with something designer-classy for me that was appropriate for what I needed, and saved my butt over and over again for about 18 years. The watch puppy was still there, though he’s seven years older now. 

The owner was originally from San Francisco and came back here to take care of her parents. Ended up finding a husband here, and they bought the shop just before I moved in ’06. We picked up where we left off back before I jumped ship and headed West. But she’s gotten a little “bluer” in that time, and that’s pretty sketchy in one of the “reddest” states in the union. She went on a tirade about all that’s gone on since I left, much of which revolves around their skank-ho governor, Mary Fallin (that’s not a derogatory remark and cannot be held against me because the judge in her divorce trial pretty much called her that when she ruled  that — for the first time in our nation’s history — she and her soon-to-be ex husband had to move OUT of the house and the kids stayed in it. The parents took turns moving back into the house on visitation days). I had her tuned out until she told me Fallin had just signed into law a bill that made growing hashish can get you the death-penalty. Even I couldn’t believe that one, so I Googled it. I’ll be damned. She was wrong….not All The Way Wrong, though.  If you grow hash in Oklahoma, a misdemeanor, you go to The Big House for LIFE. Yup. LIFE! Google it.

There were sad discoveries — a favorite bakery was sitting empty. An empty lot replaced my favorite Wendy’s. Yes, I had a favorite Wendy’s. Deal with it.

In the absurd category, I drove through Nichols Hills (hotsy totsy) to find that someone had purchased two gigantic houses on two large lots that were already pretty over the top, demolished them, and was building one twice as big to replace it. Because one over-sized, pretentious house just isn’t enough.

Under the strange category, a biker bar is now and oyster/seafood bar. Didn’t see that one coming.

But driving to Mini Ha Ha Ranch I discovered something I’d never seen before…which makes me wonder if I’d just missed it or if it was new. I already knew the Oklahoma City area was home to the Firefighter’s Hall of Fame, the Softball Hall of Fame, and the Gymnastics Hall of Fame, not to mention the abundantly cool and nationally known Western Heritage/Cowboy Hall of Fame (it’s worth the trip to Oklahoma) but I had no idea we’d hit the big time and acquired the American Racing Pigeon Union and Museum. With a National Convention and awards, and everything. Who knew.

Which brings Day One to an end. My head thinks it’s 11:00 p.m. It’s 9:00 p.m. Will I be able to go to sleep? Will I make it down town by my 9am appointment in the morning, not knowing how traffic will be or where to park? Only The Shadow knows…..

So I’m snuggled up in my bed with tomorrow mapped out. Hopefully, it will be more user-friendly than today was. As it stands, I’m going to need to spend at least another afternoon driving around Lake Hefner and discovering all it’s nooks and crannies. And having my heart break every time I see how far the water has receded into the lake.

I may not check in every day, but will keep you posted.

Before crashing for the night, I need to send a major league congratulations to my awesome editor, Scott Evans, who flies out April 31 to sign a three-book deal with Random House. So excited for him. 

Until next time, take care of yourself, smile at someone you don’t know — even if it’s to see how uncomfortable it makes them — and remember, someone loves you.