America's Best Kept Secret - 2/11/2010
I've lived in 8 states (CA, NV, OR, TX, GA, CA again, NV again, NY, FL and AZ, as well as 4 foreign countries (England, Germany, Spain and Greece) in my 64 years - and Tulsa is one of the most overall well-balanced cities, in that it literally has something positive for everyone, which I've ever lived in or visited. My husband and I came here for business after most recently living for 12 years in Southern CA (LA - Palos Verdes Peninsula area) - thinking it was only a "temporary" move. But after only four years, we’ve made a decision to remain in Tulsa permanently, and we almost surely will retire here in a few more years. Two of our seven adult children have since chosen to relocate here permanently as well (a single son, computer tech, age 31, from San Diego, and a married daughter, professor of public health, 38, and her family from Chapel Hill, NC). Both were reared as “citizens of the world”, are open-minded and seek the common goodness in people wherever they are. Both said, “This is the place!” after only a few short visits to Tulsa. Each of them is now actively encouraging their other five siblings scattered in TN, FL, NC, TX and NY to take the same leap of faith, and to come to Tulsa to put down permanent roots.
Tulsa isn't a major metropolis - it doesn't pretend to be – it’s one of the youngest cities in the entire country, founded just over 100 years ago – and, admittedly, we don't have an ocean nearby! The Tulsa MSA (wider geographic/economic area which includes all the suburbs) is projected to reach the “Magic Million” number of total citizens by 2010-2012 – a substantial, but steady, controlled, well-planned, slow, sustainable growth from its population of only 18,000 back in 1909. It is generally considered moderate-conservative in national politics, while state politics are nicely conducted in a bipartisan fashion - but I have made good friends here who cover the spectrum from the far left to the far right. Most, however, are middle-of-the-road and common-sense in their understanding that there’s plenty of room for all kinds of philosophies and attitudes and cultures in a healthy, vibrant city – which Tulsa most assuredly is.
To a one, the many people we’ve met and gotten to know well here in Tulsa are interesting, decent, human beings with obvious personal integrity, self-dignity, and respect for others' background differences, life opportunities, and personal values. We have formed lasting, intimate friendships with Oklahoma-born and reared people of virtually all colors, creeds, income levels, physical sizes, language skills and gender preferences – pretty much exactly like everywhere else we have ever lived. We are honored to know Tulsans like a tiny, young, Oriental, Catholic psychologist/nun who skillfully and wisely trains foster parents in Tulsa, a Native American Muslim couple whose great-great-grandparents all survived the brutal forced removal from Tennessee, along the infamous “Trail of Tears”, to then-Indian Territory (now Tulsa) in 1837, to an African-American Jewish couple who were both born and reared in one of the first “all-black towns in America” (a tiny place called Redbird OK, established after the Civil War, only a few miles from present-day Tulsa). They attended Harvard (on state-funded academic scholarships), and they returned “home to Tulsa” fifteen years ago to teach in our local public high schools, where they both are still employed as classroom teachers by choice. We “newbies” (our transplanted-to-Tulsa family) often comment to one another that Tulsa OK more truly epitomizes that diverse, "great melting pot", which created (and continues to mold and shape) the United States of America, than any other single city of its size anywhere else in the whole country.
Based on my experiences living in so many other places, I'd say Tulsa is an 8+ on a scale of 10 for overall quality of life. Here are some of my many reasons:
Tulsans thrive equally on both its vast wealth of outdoor resources and a deeply embedded arts ethic. Music, dance, visual, dramatic arts - you may have to invest a little time finding your particular niche, but the arts diversity is definitely here - from hot jazz clubs featuring Dianne Reeves on tour to country western two-step saloons where native Reba McIntire once performed for tips. Opportunities for outdoor and sports activities abound - Tulsa has a 70-mile long dedicated jogging trail that winds through and all around the city; almost an embarrassment in the number of clean, enticing city parks tucked into every nook and cranny; 10 excellent public golf courses, all located 17 miles or less from the city center, all with unbelievably low fees; beautiful lakes surround the city like a gentle, comforting shawl, ideal for water sports of all kinds, boating, fishing, parasailing, etc; whitewater rafting on the nearby Illinois River is just fantastically fun; and bald eagle watching/conservation is a favorite pastime of Tulsans, right from the banks of the Arkansas River, which slowly and sleepily winds on its relaxed path through the city. Oklahoma State Parks are among the best I've ever visited anywhere in the US, and there are many beautiful ones located very near Tulsa. The Tulsa Ballet is world-class (invited during two recent seasons to perform with the Paris Ballet and the Portuguese National Ballet); Tulsa Symphony and Tulsa Pops orchestras, respectively, attract both world-renown classical music stars for their indoor, formal concerts, as well as the most currently celebrated popular music performers to their always fun, laid-back, bring-your-own picnic/wine/lawn chairs, outdoor concerts at our beautiful River Parks natural amphitheater.
Tulsa’s "Vision 2025” program was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2003 for the purpose of enhancing and revitalizing Tulsa's infrastructure and tourism industry. The Vision 2025 show piece, our brand new BOK Center (named for the sound, sensible, locally-owned and -directed Bank of Oklahoma) opened for business in 2008 and has already hosted many major performing artists’ sold-out concerts, as well as significant national conventions, in addition to providing a world-class, permanent home for our minor league hockey and arena football teams. This exquisite, modern arena, designed by famed architect Cesar Pelli, is the glittering crown of Tulsa’s successful revitalization of its downtown area – and shovel-ready work continues daily on further Vision 2025 projects, in spite of the current economic downturn. Since the BOK Center opened, we have also built a state-of-the-art, open-air stadium only five blocks away, as the proud new home of Tulsans’ beloved Tulsa Drillers – our locally-owned, minor-league baseball team.
The Gilcrease Museum, an outright gift to Tulsa from one of its earliest oil barons, is home to one of the finest – if not the single finest - collections of American Western art and sculpture in the world. The Gilcrease was one of only twelve US venues selected to present the acclaimed Yale University-conceived Machu Picchu traveling exhibit in the late-1990’s. Tulsa’s Philbrook Museum of Art is the breathtaking centerpiece of the classical Italianate-villa estate which Waite Phillips (another of Tulsa’s “homegrown boys” who acquired fabulous wealth from Oklahoma oil) built in 1927 for his growing family in what is now Midtown Tulsa. Eleven years later, their children grown, Waite and Genevieve Phillips surprised Tulsans with the unbelievably generous gift of the 72-room mansion and surrounding 23 acres of grounds as an art center for the city of Tulsa, endowed in perpetuity. While The Philbrook regularly hosts major European and other important traveling exhibitions for Tulsans, its greatest strength is in its varied and fine permanent collections. Within its own 19th Century American Painting and Sculpture Collection reside nearly all the major works from Thomas Moran to Albert Bierstadt, Ad[read more...]