“Oklahoma City is actually very green,” my friend Venus told me over the phone a few days before I headed down there to visit.
Turns out that the color of the landscape would not be the only misconception I had that would be dispelled. Never having been to the Sooner State and having seen few images of it, everything I had imagined about Oklahoma and its capital was based on what I read in Grapes of Wrath, set in Great Depression times. Dusty, brown, impoverished, whatever. So cruising the streets of OKC was an eye-opening experience.
Other surprises included:
- Oklahoma City is not even close to as flat as the surface of a coffee table. I learned this the hard way while running the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon over the weekend. The terrain of the city can be best described as rolling hills.
- Affluence abounds throughout the city. The roads could have been straight out of Silicon Valley, littered with BMWs, Porsches, and Corvettes. Car models so new that I’ve only seen them in magazines were already here on the streets of Oklahoma City, including the 2010 Chevy Camaro, Nissan 370Z, and Hyundai Genesis Coupe.
- There were many neighborhoods with some of the largest, most opulent homes I’ve ever seen—think mansions and southern plantations straight out of Gone with the Wind. Some were probably built during Oklahoma’s big oil days; energy is still a lucrative industry in this region.
- Unemployment is relatively low and OKC was even declared in 2008 the “most recession-proof city in America” by Forbes Magazine. Home values have gone up in the last couple years while real estate prices in most of the rest of the country have dropped like a bowling ball.
Venus, her friend Ryan and I went to the annual Festival of the Arts downtown on Saturday, and this is where I encountered another surprise: food portions. Seemingly everything was “jumbo-sized” at the food vendors: Jumbo Turkey Legs, Jumbo French Fry Loafs, Indian Tacos the size of a dinner plate, etc.
“Well, as you can see,” Ryan explained, “the people here are jumbo-sized too.” He had a point—obesity did seem to be epidemic here in Oklahoma City. It was another way OKC diverged from the The Grapes of Wrath—food is definitely not in short supply here!