Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Vacationing in Place

So I had some vacation time planned last week, and I was really looking forward to the time off, although I didn't have any particular plans. I had thought about going out of town, but those plans fell through. And then I decided to just vacation in place.

I use the term "vacationing in place" rather than the trendier "staycation" because to me, staycation implies what I have usually done on my weeks off in recent years, due to a lack of money and motivation: stay at home and do all the things I normally do in my daily life--surf the internet, play games, cook at home--only without the going-to-work part. If I do happen to go out of town, it's to see my parents whose homes are as familiar to me as my own.

In other words, I don't have any new experiences or do any of those touristy things you do on a vacation. But I realized that there's a lot in Tulsa I haven't done. I never really experienced Tulsa as a tourist, because when I moved here, a combination of poverty, extremely demanding work schedule and a new fiancee kept me pretty much just working and sleeping and having sex much of the time. And by the time I got out of that pattern, I was married and affecting the bored, cynical pose of the native towards all those "tourists." Plus I'm from Oklahoma City, so it wasn't as if I thought Tulsa really had anything to show me.

But for this vacation, with some money in my pocket, I decided to treat it like an actual vacation. Don't spend all my time in the house. Go to places I've never been. Eat out as much as possible, and preferably at local places. See some touristy things. Go to some special events.

The first couple of days off, since they were my normal days off, I spent like any normal Monday and Tuesday. But on Wednesday, I started to ramp up. I ate out at the Rusty Crane downtown, where I'd never been before. I had the Sloppy John, which you would expect to be like a Sloppy Joe, except it wasn't. It was more like dry taco meat with some barbecue sauce on top. It was tasty, but not the flavor explosion I was expecting. Very friendly service, though.

Wednesday evening, I went to eat with someone (a rare experience in itself) at Gogi Gui, a Korean fusion place here in town. I had the donkatsu, which I haven't tried since one drunken expedition to a pub in Seoul in 1995(?) which culminated in me eating bugs, so my memories of the donkatsu were vague at best. Afterward, I went to the Saturn Room, a tiki lounge downtown (another place I'd never been) and tried one of their house specialty drinks, followed by karaoke at Woody's.

Thursday, I continued to press forward with the concept. Lunch was at the Genghis Grill on Cherry Street, which is a chain, but I'd never been there, so I tried it. Tasty food, but the organization, traffic flow, and service were all pretty bad, especially during the lunch rush. That afternoon, I decided to do something I've never really enjoyed, but suddenly found myself in the mood to try. I went to a bar and drank on the patio. I went to Classic Cigars downtown, sat out on the patio with a cigar and a beer and read Dracula, a book I had attempted to read as a child, but never finished (I did end up finishing it over the vacation). Both the cigar and beer were brands I'd never tried, recommended by the staff. I don't remember the cigar, but the beer was 5 a.m. Saint, a red ale. I really enjoyed myself, although it looks like I was still carrying some tension from work.

Still, to quote Castle, "I really am ruggedly handsome, aren't I?"

Afterward, I ate at the Rock 'N Rib Festival in downtown Tulsa. Rib Crib sponsored the event and were offering some special custom menu items just for the festival. I had a sampler of their htree types of smoked meat street tacos, which were all good, and also tried a sandwich from one of the barbecue contenders. Unfortunately, I tried economizing, so instead of having some authentic ribs, I had a sandwich which turned out to be a really expensive McRib. Still, a pretty good day, all in all.

Friday, I was not sure what to do to fill the day. I had events planned for the weekend that I didn't want to step on, so I started out by going to breakfast at McDonalds. Nothing says vacation like eating an oversalted biscuit with an undersalted egg on top, and I mean that sincerely. I pretty much only eat McDonalds breakfast (or any breakfast) on vacation, so that is exactly what it felt like.

Not sure what to do for lunch, I hunted around online and discovered that the Greek Festival was also happening that weekend (turns out there were at least four festivals happening that weekend - everybody trying to capitalize on the end of summer).So I headed just south of downtown to have some gyros and spanakopita and various other Greek things, including a glass of wine and a sour-cherry Greek soft drink. I hadn't been to the Greek festival in probably ten years, so this was a welcome return. I even enjoyed the bouzouki players.

Afterward, I drove around, thinking I might visit a park, but instead went back to Cherry Street, where I did some window shopping and had a chai in the Coffee House on Cherry Street (also new to me). I finished off Dracula and thought about doing some writing on my laptop, but there were at least ten other people on their laptops there, and they were ALL Macbooks, so I kept my Windows laptop safely in its bag to avoid Apple bullies.

Supper that night, after researching several possibilities that fell through, was at Fat Guy's Burgers downtown, where I go fairly often, but I had never tried their fries. Fat Guy's has a large number of custom dipping sauces that I have been wanting to try, so I got an order of fries with malt vinegar aioli. Not as tasty as I'd hoped, but a new experience nonetheless. I kind of wanted to go try another bar at that point, but since I had to get up early the next morning, I decided to go home and make it an early night.

Why did I have to get up early? Because a couple of weeks before my vacation, I found out that there would be a race that Saturday morning, the Quarter-Marathon sponsored by Fleet Feet Sports (quarter-marathon is a little over 10.5k). So at 7:30 in the morning, I headed downtown to run in the race. I didn't have my best time ever, maybe because I had spent the last few days drinking and eating fries with malt vinegar aioli, but the weather was perfect for running, overcast and cool,and I did okay.

Of course, although I tried to smile in this immediate post-race shot, I was feeling more like this.

Afterward, I stuck around and ate the free food provided (and by "free," I mean "covered by the race admission fee"). Went home and cleaned up and then took my daughter to Eufaula to see my dad, where we ate at a Mexican restaurant I had never tried (Los Arcos, apparently a regional chain, but the food was mediocre at best).

Sunday, we slept late, lunched at Braums, then came back home, where I tried another new thing. I have lived in my current house for over seven years, a couple of miles from downtown which I have just started trying to explore, and only a mile or so from the Gilcrease Museum,where I had never been. And it just so happens that they have free admission on one Sunday a month, which just happened to fall on my vacation week. Serendipity!

So I toured the museum and felt so relaxed and at peace that I even decided to explore the park out back.

I think I look a lot more relaxed in that last pic than in the previous ones. I also decided that my vacation needed a souvenir, so I bought some overpriced Mexican chocolate from the museum gift shop.

And then I faced an agonizing couple of hours trying to decide where to have dinner for the last hoorah of the vacation in place. I juggled several ideas, but eventually settled on another Cherry Street restaurant called Smoke, which sounds like a barbecue place, but is actually a steak house with a cigar lounge. On Sunday nights, they have a special price on a 12 oz. New York Strip which was quite nice. I paired it with an ale from an Oklahoma brewery that I had never tried before. A very enjoyable evening, even though I ended up passing on the cigar lounge. Afterward, I spent way too much of my remaining cash at a bar.

And now, even though I technically haven't gone back to work yet, the vacation part of the vacation-in-place is over. I think it was a great success. I didn't get away from Tulsa, except for a brief jaunt to Dad's, but that meant I was able to spend money I would have used on gas and lodging to eat at great places and have fun experiences. But I am left with two conflicting thoughts.

One is that there is still a lot of Tulsa that I haven't experienced, so I can use this concept again and again on several future vacations. The other is that, since I'm here, I don't need to wait until my vacation to do these things. But the thing about doing it as a vacation is that I could use the money budgeted for travel to go places I normally can't afford, and because my mind was in vacation mode, I allowed myself to spend the money that I otherwise wouldn't have.

It was a good week. I can't wait for December.

1 comment:

Butterfly1968 said...

You're a very nice looking guy. If you're ever in Midwest City stop by the Landing Zone bar on 15th. They have the best Ribeye steak you'll ever eat!