My life has been filled with Paul Simon.
As a kid, my parents played me one of two cassettes on car trips: Raffi, and Paul Simon’s Graceland. When we lived in Nebraska and my dad preached at a tiny church an hour and a half away, more often than not our return trips would feature Graceland as their soundtrack (that or “A Prairie Home Companion”).
And while my musical tastes grew and expanded over the years, I always loved Paul – especially that magnificent, beautiful, nostalgic whirlwind of African and pop music that is Graceland. I love that album. If you don’t know its story (how Paul worked with black South African musicians despite anti-apartheid sanctions from the U.S. government), you should. The album is a living history of that era that transcends the actual music.
Every song is a masterpiece, from the lyrically wonderful road-and-God-anthem “Graceland”, to the exquisite African harmonies of the a cappella “Homeless”, to the Tex-Mex, Los Lobos collaboration “All Around The World”. And who could forget the upbeat yet lonely “You Can Call Me Al”? (Click the link to see the hilarious music video featuring Chevy Chase.) There is absolutely nothing wrong with this album (except for, maybe, the slightly annoying “I Know What I Know”…), which is why it won a Grammy. And I have my parents to thank – especially my dad – for making sure I’ve loved this album, and this songwriter, ever since I was a kid.
I realized recently that I neglected one event on my list of my Top 8 OKC Experiences: The Ghouls Gone Wild Halloween Parade.
My Halloween experiences growing up were basically just trick-or-treating in small-town Nebraska. That’s it. No crazy parties, no crazy festivals (unless you count the local church’s “haunted house”, which was always your usual cardboard, grapes-as-eyeballs NonFrightFest). I did my fair share of corn mazes and costume parties in high school and college, but nothing that was really cool. Crazy Halloween festivals happened in New York or Los Angeles – not here, I thought.
Until OKC’s Ghouls Gone Wild parade started.
OKC’s got some cool events, but nothing as subversive or crazy as Ghouls Gone Wild (I guess Opening Night on New Year’s Eve does okay, but it doesn’t really come that close). Anyone and everyone dresses up in costumes of all kinds, descends on Midtown, Downtown and Bricktown and watches the myriad of Halloween floats and ridiculous revelers. It truly is where the freaks come out to play.
A couple of weeks ago I did a post called “My Top 6 Oklahoma Experiences”, relating my favorite places I’ve been to around Oklahoma but not including the Oklahoma City metro. This fills in those gaps.
1. Oklahoma State Fair
It’s impossible to not have fun here, even though most all the attractions are hokey/lame/cringe-inducing. When you’re in that intoxicating atmosphere of neon and grease, you throw inhibitions aside. Deep-fried Oreo? Why not? Creaky version of an only somewhat legitimate ride? Let’s do it! Has-been bands performing? There is no other place I would ever dream of watching Boyz II Men, Hanson, or (this year’s main act) the Village People, and actually love it while it’s happening.
This year’s fair is going on now until September 25, and tickets are cheap. If you haven’t experienced this, um, experience, make sure to do so this year. Also, for a different take on the State Fair, check out this obscure, local social blog.
Yes, it’s true. As Oklahoma Christian University‘s Twitter guru Ann White tweeted earlier today, everyone’s favorite Europe expert, guidebook writer, NPR and PBS travel host and slightly nerdy Birkenstock-wearer Rick Steves will be speaking at my humble alma mater in the spring.
To people like me, whose number one goal in life is to travel and travel far, who still dream of being a travel writer and who have never dared to venture onto the European continent without one of his guidebooks in tow, Steves is a god. It helps that my parents are also Rick Steves fanatics and own pretty much all of his travel show DVDs. Plus, this man’s writings on subjects besides travel (like politics) are all also excellent (like “Travel as a Political Act”, which I read a couple of weeks ago and will write a review about soon).
I’ve been inspired by this article, brought to my attention by obscure, local social blog The Lost Ogle. In case you’re too lazy to click, it’s a Lonely Planet article by a native Oklahoman (Robert Reid, the U.S. Travel editor) about his favorite Oklahoma experiences.
I’ve done my fair share of intra-state traveling, mainly due to my two years as part of a college drama group that traveled every summer to church camps and youth rallies scattered all over the Midwest. Without these summer-long road trips, I never would have experienced anything in the western part of our state, and likely very little in the southeast. That said, while I’ve covered most of Oklahoma and seen everything from its plains to its deserts to its mountains, I’ve actually done very little like what’s described in the Lonely Planet article. Very few random museums, very few POIs (Points Of Interest) outside of Oklahoma City. So that article, obviously written by an Oklahoma lover, has motivated me to go do more in this state that I now call home. I plan on taking some weekends this fall to delve more fully into the Sooner State, including checking off some of the items on Reid’s list.
In the meantime, I still have a list of favorite Oklahoma experiences, and I share it with you now. Note this is just throughout the greater state and does not include Oklahoma City experiences. That’s for another post.
1. Quartz Mountain State Park
One of the camps my drama group visited frequently was near Quartz Mountain State Park, one of the most beautiful places in Oklahoma, in my opinion as a lover of mountains. There’s just something majestic about these craggly rock formations – parts of the Wichita Mountains – rising from otherwise flat plains. It’s a lot like landscapes I’ve seen in Arizona/New Mexico.
Climbing them is not hard and doesn’t take long, and the view is spectacular. Many hiking trails snake through the park, and the drive is only a couple of hours from Oklahoma City. I even plan on returning here in a couple of weeks.