24 Hours In Tulsa

A building boom in the early 20th century gave Tulsa one of the largest concentrations of art deco architecture in the United States. The Mayo is a typical example and an ‘interesting’ hotel. The pic above is the parking lot opposite. Built in 1925, the Mayo has history, indeed the lobby still retains its art deco magnificence. The name comes from one of its designers. Once the tallest building in Oklahoma, the hotel originally had 600 rooms. Ceiling fans in each room and Tulsa’s first running ice water made the hotel a haven from summer heat. Stepping outside in early November heat I can only imagine what it must be like in the heat of Summer. There are some interesting oddities in the current rooms. Mark was particularly eager for me to capture on camera the furniture in his dwelling.

All rooms appear to be sizable self-catering suites with fully fitted kitchen areas which include a huge refrigerator, twin sink units, dishwasher (really?) refrigerated wine rack, mini bar and at least a dozen empty cupboards and drawers. All of which are completely and utterly empty. Not a teaspoon, cup, glass, plate in sight and as Mark pointed out, not even a waste paper bin. This self-catering concept probably had something to do with the fact that when we checked in last night and I called down to get some fresh milk for my tea, I was told in no uncertain terms that room service was finished. No problem, “I’ll come down and get it myself”. The gentleman on reception seemed unsure as to whether the hotel had any milk. He trotted nervously off towards the bar which was closing and came back several minutes later with a glass of milk…which he made me sign for. I usually tip these small exchanges but when I saw $3.50 on the bill, I thought better of it.

With the glass of precious milk now the sole occupant of my General Electric ‘Profile’ fridge, I answered the telephone (it rang) and spoke to John who was said he and Mike were heading for the penthouse bar which apparently stays open until 2am. The rest of the guys were already there.

Daylight reveals the true delights of downtown Tulsa. When we drove in last night the place seemed deserted and in the morning light there seems like there’s little change. This is my first time here and I always wondered about the town which is the birthplace of Leon Russell, J.J. Cale, drummer Jim Keltner and Bob Wills, bandleader of the Texas Playboys and widely heralded as the King of Western Swing. Bob Wills and his tour bus in downtown Tulsa in the late 1930’s…

In my typical foraging for information on the web, I soon learn that for most of the 20th century, the city held the nickname ‘Oil Capital of the World’ and played a major role as one of the most important hubs for the American oil industry. Tulsa, along with several other cities, claims to be the birthplace of Route 66 and is also known for its Western Swing, no doubt due to the Bob Wills connection. It’s not by co-incidence that Tulsa boasts the most inland river port in the US with access to international waterways. Being a weather junkie, I’m well aware that Tulsa is situated near the heart of Tornado Alley and is often subjected to severe weather and even tornados. Tulsa has learned from past freak weather events and has the most sophisticated flood defense system in the US.

Strictly speaking it should be named the BOO center, but the BOK Center, or Bank of Oklahoma Center, is a 20,000-seat multi-purpose arena and a primary indoor sports and event venue in Tulsa. Home to the Tulsa Shock basketball team. For concerts, the venue is configured differently so it’s nowhere near its 20,000 capacity but nonetheless, it’s still a huge place. And brand new although the local in-house internet refused to co-operate in our dressing room and after several attempts by the local staff to correct it, we gave up in the end. Most of the time we carry our own internet router which we log onto quite happily but for some reason this wasn’t possible here. With the two band dressing rooms right next to each other, we saw quite a bit of Bob’s band today which was nice. After a spot of late-lunch foraging in catering it was business as usual…great sound check, great show..LONG bus ride to Omaha!

Once Mark had played THREE songs with Bob, we were soon on our way Northbound with our two buses laden with Popeye’s Louisiana chicken parts. At this time of night and after a show, resistance is futile so we helplessly tucked into the grease-fest and stayed up as late as possible before hitting the bunks. Midway through the journey, woken by some particularly uneven roads around what my iPhone was telling me was Kansas City, I wished I hadn’t eaten.