Category Archives: tulsa

Tornado Warning for Wilkes-Barre Brings Back OK Memories

Today is an odd weather day in Northeast PA. We have a tornado watch. That doesn’t happen too often. Sure, we get hail and damaging winds. But I believe the last time we had a really devastating tornado in Wilkes-Barre ish areas was in 1998 at Lake Carey. At any rate, I had one of my end of the world dreams last night. We were leaving town quickly and by the time the bus we were on got out of town, I overheard someone saying the town was gone. In my dream, I had to pee so I told someone that I was glad I didn’t stop to pee after all or else I may not have made it. (I don’t know what the end of the world came from in my dream.) So, like you may also experience, when you have to pee in your dream, sometimes you wake up and have to pee, too. So, I woke up. I grabbed my iPhone to see what time it was. It felt early. I have no windows in my bedroom, so it’s a dark dungeon and I never know what time it is. Oversleeping is a result. A welcome result. My iPhone though was as dark as my room. Died overnight. (Like all those people in my dream.) I plugged it in and ran downstairs to pee. The clock on the stove told me it was just after 11. I took a few swigs of apple juice from the jug and when I got back upstairs to return to bed, I saw my phone also got some juice. And several old texts from earlier in the morning popped up. They were from the weather channel.

Tornado Watch for Wilkes-Barre.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Luzerne County.

Shit, I thought. Is my dream coming true? I lay back down,heart still racing a bit from having a movie-like Armageddon dream (it wasn’t a nightmare – it was more like a movie) but maybe racing because fear of dying in a tornado in the waking world was setting in.

I lived in Oklahoma for three years and that’s when I first really learned about tornadoes. In my memoir, I wrote a chapter about aclimating to Tulsa. Here’s a small excerpt of that chapter. To bring you up to speed, this is almost halfway through the book – the first part is about growing up in the Poconos. Here, I was 13, it was the Spring of 1992 and I had just moved to Tulsa — this was my third school that year.

Excerpt:

One of the first things I learned in my new school is that we may have made a tiny mistake in moving to Tulsa. I am not sure if my mom knew how much she was endangering our lives by bringing us to Oklahoma.

tulsa tornado
This is an image from the most deadly tornado in Tulsa. I also lived there for that, 1993 or 1994 I think. It destroyed a huge truckstop when it came up I-44. Image credit from bogoboo.com

I knew what tornadoes were: I’d seen the Wizard of Oz many times. But, I never thought I’d have to prepare for one. Since it was spring, which everyone in Tulsa called Tornado Season, we had tornado drills to practice how we’d survive if high, spiral-shaped winds hit Nimitz Middle School. Back in Pennsylvania, we only had fire drills, so this was quite scary. When the tornado drill bell sounded, we proceeded to the interior hallways and sat Indian-style facing the lockers. Being by the interior walls was safer, we were told. There were no windows, so we’d be protected from glass shards. We put our arms behind our necks and placed our heads down in our laps. This would shield us from the debris. After the first tornado drill, when we were back in the classroom, we were issued an informational packet with all sorts of safety tips and preparation techniques from an educational program Channel 8 News put together called Travis Meyer’s Wicked Weather Guide. Travis was a local meteorologist, so I trusted his judgment and studied his guide as if it were material for an exam.

But, I wasn’t at school the first time a tornado threatened my new city.

One Thursday in mid-May, Joe, Theresa, Michelle, Dan, and I were planning on going to the movies, New Jack City I think.   It was raining and I was getting petrified. I knew that rain in the heat could cause a thunderstorm and that thunder and lightening could bring a tornado. Our television had been on all day and, on the little ticker beneath the show, there was a tornado watch for Tulsa County. A watch, according to Travis Meyer’s Wicked Weather Guide, meant there was a possibility a tornado could form. But, a little later in the day, that watch transformed into a warning, which meant there were actually tornadoes on the ground. There was no way I was going outside.

“I am not going!” I yelled to Joe, even though going to the movies was one of my favorite things to do. Not much could tear me away from the prospect of Reese’s Pieces and hot, drizzly butter, but dying in a tornado did the trick.

He just laughed at me and continued watching TV. I called my mom at work. The mall management was instructing all employees and shoppers to head to the mall’s tornado shelter but, yet, she assured me everything would be fine; it was just a precaution. I’d be safe at the movies. My aunts and Dan had gathered at our apartment for the family outing. They saw I was freaking out.

“What’s the matter with you, Gutt?” asked Dan. He’d nicknamed Theresa and I “Butt and Gutt.” He even drew stick figures to represent this duo. Mine had a bubble in the front; Theresa’s bubble was in the back. I hated it.

“Don’t you watch TV? There’s a freakin’ tornado,” I cried from the hallway, the interior hallway.

“Well, a huge movie theater is safer than this place,” he said.

I didn’t care. I did what Travis Meyers said to do when severe weather struck. I pulled my twin foam mattress into my bathroom and told my family I was climbing in what was dubbed the safest place in the house, the bathtub. A video we watched in school showed totally destroyed houses with toilets and tubs still standing admist the debris.

“Oh, Jesus Fucking Christ, Donna. Stop your happy horseshit. Let’s go,” Joe said.

“We’re gonna die. Don’t you care?” I said getting into the tub. “Oh, I forgot my radio.”

I got out of the tub and went across the hall to my bedroom to grab my AM/FM alarm clock, which had batteries inside as a back up. This way, I would be aware of all the destruction and find out when it was safe to come out of the tub.

“I can’t believe you’re gonna miss the movie,” yelled Theresa. I was leaving her alone with all adults. She liked being with the adults anyway; she always sat at the adult table on holidays while the boys and I had more fun at the kids’ table. “You’re such a wuss.”

Wuss, I thought. I had the guide, in black and white, right here. Meteorological professionals don’t call it a tornado warning for no reason. There was a serious threat. She asked me one last time if I was really going to sit in the bathtub while they went to enjoy a movie.

“Yes. I told you guys. I’m staying here. You guys are crazy.”

She left the bathroom and I heard the front door slam. I could hear thunder and rain. I read and reread Travis Meyer’s Wicked Weather Guide in the bathtub until I became bored. The weather had calmed down. I put the mattress back on my bed. I plugged back in my alarm clock. I survived my first tornado. I waited for my family to come back from the movie theater, secretly wishing Joe got caught up in the winds like the cows in Wizard of Oz. But, the tornado had passed our part of Tulsa — this time. In fact, the Tulsa World the next day called it an F0 tornado, only causing some tree branches to fall.


Memoir to Music- Songs of My Past & a Writing Exercise

We all have songs that remind us of our youth. Sometimes, I’ll admit, that when I heard songs like this, I’d sometimes create little music videos in my head of my life- imagining that if my life were made into a movie, these would be playing in the soundtrack.  (That’s normal?  Right?)

Last night I was doing some revising to my memoir, and for some reason, could not get in the mood to write– I am up to the Tulsa stuff, when I am about 13-14. Then, randomly on my itunes Boston’s “More than a Feeling” came on. This song had special meaning with one of my first “loves” and that instantly brought back not just memories, but even some feelings.  I flashed back to the songs we used to listen to as teenagers, riding around Tulsa in the van. I flashed further back to songs I used to listen to when I was kid, traveling to my parent’s music shows. I had a lot of these songs already on iTunes, but not in a specific playlist, so…

…I took a moment to close my eyes and think of music. I downloaded a few new songs and organized them with ones I already owned to a playlist I dubbed Memoir Inspiration. On this list were songs like “What Might Have Been” by Little Texas (one of my first concerts back in the day) and “Brand New Man” by Brooks and Dunn… also some Color Me Badd (my other first concert) and Steve Miller Band. I synced my iPhone to my iTunes and then listened on my iPhone to that entire playlist while laying in bed. I closed my eyes and pictured my life happening to the sound of these songs, like the little music videos I imagined growing up, I’d see what memories filled as a result of the songs. At this point in my revising process, I am trying to get more detailed and the music helped.

An Unexpected “Bonus”- Kind of Uncanny
Hearing some songs in particular really made me miss my Oklahoma friends. I texted one of them– one that I did get to visit when I went to Tulsa last August for ‘research’. (Other than that- hadn’t seen him in 14 years.) This is our text conversation. I don’t want to sound like one of those strange psychic people, but I do have a knack for being intuitive. Something made me text him. These songs brought me back and I was thinking of him.. okay- here goes (this was around midnight, 11:00pm his time)

Me: How are you? Was thinking about you just now.
Him: Doing good. I’m actually out at the bar about to sing some karaoke. Going to try a little Brooks and Dunn.
Me: If you say Brand New Man, I’ll die. Just made a playlist to help inspire the memoir and that’s on it. Revising the book, so was thinking of you!
Him: LOL. Are you serious? That’s what I am singing for my first song.
Me: Shut up! That’s so freakin’ weird.
Him: I actually saw some Little Texas and it makes me think about you every time.
Me: I bought three of their songs too. My Town, What Might Have Been and First Time for Everything. That’s so weird that we both though about each other through music tonight at the same time.
Him: Isn’t it funny how some things stay with you?

So- these songs stayed with me. And, they also stayed with him. The power of music and memory is incredible.


Days 3-4 in Oklahoma

After I checked out of the hotel on Saturday morning, I didn’t have Wi-Fi until very late Sunday night when I checked back into the hotel near the airport- then, I wanted to write my final OK vacation blog from the Tulsa airport- but they charged $5.95 an hour for W-Fi. Ugh. My Cleveland layover you’ll learn about in my next blog. And Monday I traveled all day and crashed and went right to work this morning and went on a shopping extravaganza after work- so ah, the final vacation post isn’t happening until just…. about…. now.

THE FINAL DAY IN TULSA

So- Saturday, after I checked out almost an hour late, my friend DG called me- he wanted to meet up- I wanted to get to my cousin’s by 6ish, and they all live about an hour and a half from Tulsa in various towns like Krebs and Haileyville. He had to run his daughter somewhere and said he’d call when he was done. So, in between I did some more memoir research. I drove to the Yacht Club Apartment Homes, the first place I lived in Tulsa- first staying with my Grandmother and Theresa, and then getting our own place in the same complex. I actually made a video of it to help with my memoir. I recorded myself on the walks I used to take. Then, I stopped at Sonic and had a Coney and a Cherry Limeade- my first one in 14 years. (The pic to the left is of DG and I– he is also in that pic a few posts back from when I was in OK as a teenager!)

After my enjoyable lunch, I decided to do more gallavanting- wanted to walk around the Woodland Hills Mall in Tulsa– my mom worked as a manager of a store in the food court for a while and I spent a lot of time there– but the mall parking lot was an absolute zoo– so I didn’t go in. By then, DG had called and we decided to meet up for a beer at a place called The Fox & The Hound in Broken Arrow. It was great catching up with him! Like with J, he reminded me of things I forgot, I reminded him of things he forgot- we caught up about families and careers. My visit with him wasn’t as long as with J’s, but it was equally wonderful! He said something really pivotal about our teenage years selling newspapers: “Somehow we accidentally learned some morals.” My memoir centers around this job and what it meant- he and I discussed how at the time it was just something to do, to earn some money and have some fun. As adults, he and I both look back and see how this job helped us be the hardworkers we both are today. Kind of neat about reuniting with these people I haven’t seen since I was a kid and hearing how we were similarly affected and all consider the job one of the most important things in our lives.

THE COUSINS

I made one more stop at Quick Trip and hit my cousin’s address on the GPS. I met my cousin Shawn and is girlfriend Rachel at her parent’s Italian grocery (where they live in the above apartment)– it’s a 100-year-old building and just adorable. He made an kick-ass lasagna with fresh veggies and herbs from the garden and a kick-ass bruschetta– oh my good. Amazing. We all ate dinner at my cousin Eli’s groovy pad, which was walking distance from Shawn’s. My Uncle Pat; my cousin Zack and his wife and daughter, Tina and Ember; my cousin Michael, Shawn & Rachel and her son Matteo, and a few friends enjoyed the awesome dinner and some drinks. After dinner, me and Pat went to get some beer and we pretty much partied into the night at Eli’s- went to a bar to see a band- hung out again until about 3-4am. Eli has lots of friends and neighbors so throughout the night, I got to meet of ton of locals passing in and out of the house. We took lots of pics, videos and laughed the light away. It was incredible to see everyone again- we had one killer time. (Picture- Eli, Michael, Shawn, Me, Tina holding Ember, Zack and Pat in front.)
The next morning, we didn’t get up until about 11am– we all got ready and went up the mountain to hang out at Pat’s (and where all the boys grew up) and hung out, played Balderdash and chatted. We decided to head back into town– picked up some pizza and this time headed to Zack and Tina’s house for dinner. Tina made an awesome salad and pulled out some of her homemade bread and butter pickles- awesome. All of a sudden it was almost 8pm- I decided to head back to Tulsa to get a hotel by the airport so I didn’t miss my flight. (Picture- Their friend Gates, Rachel, Shawn, Friend Kyle, me, and Eli an an awesome Beatles shirt).
FINAL THOUGHTS

Taking this trip was the best idea I’ve had in a long time. Just being in Tulsa brought back a flood of memories. As I walked various spots around town, I could feel emotions– like my mind/body knew something important happened at that very place. I tried to take in everything- even smells and sounds. The hardest part about writing a memoir is the details- not just the little details about people and places from long ago, but also the feelings and how I felt that long ago. This trip really helped me. I took lots of notes. I even did some research that I didn’t think I’d do.

Aside from the memoir research, being back with most of my cousins (there is only one I didn’t get to see of the Duffy pack- he’s in NJ) was awesome. All of them now have their own places, and in some cases, their own families. I grew up with these boys at the most important part of our lives I think- the childhood years. It’s with them that I learned how to be one of the boys, a trait I think I’ve had since I was very young. They’ve all done some incredible things in their lives– many have explored a lot of the globe- and they have such strong family values yet live simple, humble lives– I often wish we saw each other more. Love them so much!! But I’ll tell ya what- even though we don’t see each other very often, when we get together, we instantly connect like we just saw each other yesterday and we always stay up until dawn together- whether it’s partying (now that we’re older), playing games or watching the Goonies over and over again.

Day 2ish in Tulsa

Wow am I tired. I kind of like that everything is slower paced out here in Tulsa- speech, driving, etc. I woke up at 11:00am and was worried I was late for check-out- I called to let them know and they said, “You’re good- check-out is at noon.” So what did I do? Slept a little more and know I am blogging- won’t have wi-fi now for a day or so- so I am checking out about 15 minutes late.

The “Quadroplex” – this is where I lived for most of my memoir. Good and horrible memories from this place!

Yesterday was awesome- I already wrote about lunch with my cousin, but after that I met up with my old friend J and we went gallavanting aroud Tulsa- he has a great memory, so we were able to find all my old houses. We heard that our one other old friend M. worked at the Wal-Mart in Sand Springs, so we headed out there to see if she was there- about 15 minutes out of town. On the way there, we got off an exit and J directed me to DG’s old house- it was tinier than I remember– he was our first friend back then who had his own place and we partied there one night- the first night I ever got sick from drinking. See? This is what this trip is all about- the good memories. We never found M. but we did get in touch- through a Nancy-Drew-like-process with DG- he doesn’t know we went by his old house yet- he was busy last night but I may do lunch with him today.

D and his girlfriend J had a bunch of the old newspaper crew over here in West Tula one night- my first time being sick and some other memorable things.

Our other old crew buddy DT was going to meet up with us, but never made it. That made me a little sad. So, J and I hit up a bar called Crawpappy’s- the kitchen was closed. Darn. We had a few Bud Lights, a Yager and two Rattlesnakers, which I forgot existed- again- brining back memories. After the bar, we were gonna do breakfast because I was starving but I asked if Taco Bueno was open late- they were- so we went there instead. That was a top priority on my list for this weekend! Eat at Taco Bueno.

J and I inside my first Tulsa bar experience- Crawpappy’s- not a bad place. Hey– scroll down a few posts to “Knocking on Tulsa’s Door.” There is a pic of me and him from 1993 and here we are today! Haha! He still likes green stripes.


Old School. No really. My Old School. And catching up with cousins….

Had a great lazy morning! Slept in, wrote a blog, took my time getting ready. I made plans to meet up for a late lunch with my cousin G. and his wife M. before they headed to Texas for the weekend to see her brother- wow- talk about timing! If I came in a day later I would have missed them.

School is already in session in Tulsa, so I stopped by my old Middle School first, Nimitz Middle School, got a visitors badge and asked about what teachers from 1990-1992 were still teaching there- three of them that I had were there and all had their lunch breaks at noon- so they let me hang out in the teachers lounge until then. I found all three- they were a great three to run into as well. Mr. S. was the art teacher, but also the yearbook advisor and I was on the staff- it was his second year doing it, so he didn’t remember me exactly, but he remembered the yearbook- I explained to him that I remained doing yearbook and newspaper stuff through the rest of my school years– and we talked about how when I was in 8th grade we cut pictures with scissors and used rubber cement to make collages and for all the layouts, we used to do everything my hand with these big layout sheets. Wow! Mrs. B. was my English teacher and she was thrilled that I was writing a book- she literally jumped for joy. Mr. Y. was my civics teacher and I didn’t get to tell him that for a time I was active in the local young democrats. So they were three classes and teachers I enjoyed so it was neat they were still there. Our reunion was only for five minutes, but it was neat!!

Then, I went to Memorial High School. Got a visitor pass and said I was going to the office, but I walked the whole school. I knew a guy I went to school with that was teaching math there– I walked by a classroom and heard a very loud teacher- it was R.P!! I peeked in the window and he was in-depth in the middle of a lesson, so I didn’t knock- but I kind of wish I did. I was at the school at a bad time- the bell had just rang, so it would have been hard to get to see anyone and time was ticking- I had to meet G and M for lunch.
We chose El Chico, a Mexican place with a few locations in Tulsa, but we chose the one in the mall. We had a really nice time catching up- mainly talking about our schooling, major changing, etc. They are both super smart and sharp and I wish them all the luck in the world! The great thing about my family is that we take chances and never settle– I can see that in G and his wife too. When they graduate college, they are likely to leave Tulsa and head to the Northwest– just like that. It’s awesome.

Just thought I’d check in with a blog so I can keep these memories fresh, too. Tonight- gonna drive by the old places I’ve lived and walk around, try for some pics (one of the apartments became a gated community so not sure how to get in there now- but I have been known to be very resourceful) and then later try and catch up with some old friends from the newspaper crew. I asked G where some hot nightspots were so if I can’t meet up with people I know, I may just go hang out on Cherry Street, where there is supposedly some great live music on weekends. Loving my trip so far.

Day 1.5 in Tulsa

Hello everyone. I cannot believe I am here. Seriously. It’s one thing to grow up somewhere and go back and visit every now and then- it still seems recent that way. But man- it’s been 14 years since I have been here. It was hard to see Tulsa last night becauseI arrived around 10:15 Central Time and was dark. I actually had a great flight from Wilkes-Barre to Cleveland- sat next to a man I checked in behind and then subsequently saw him again in the airport bar beforehand- I had a few Lagers before the flight. It’s kind of strange- every time I fly I play a game with myself in the terminal called, “Who Do I Think I Will Sit Next To.” So, I won. I thought it’d be nice to sit next to him because he seemed nice, and I was the last one on the place and looked at my seat, and lo and behold, it was next to his.
We struck up a conversation and it was amazing- he’s a newspaper guy. Publishes a Midwest alternative weekly like the one I used to freelance for– and he used to work for the Village Voice- the god of all alt. weeklies. He’s getting ready to launch his new website and I work in the Internet industry so we had a great conversation the whole way about the net, targeted marketing, the future of advertising, books, skydiving– the whole nine yards. We didn’t exchange information or anything, but I may try to look him up and tell him how he made my flight!

My flight from Cleveland to Tulsa was pretty bumpy. We rode on clouds the whole time. I did play the, “Who Do I Think I Will Set Next To Game.” I was kinda hoping Drew Carey would be on my flight since he is from Cleveland. As I was enjoying a Peanut Butter Chocolate Banana Smoothie (which cost me $6.00), I scanned D8 terminal and picked out a nice lady I thought I’d hit it off with. Turns out, the way this plane is set up, I sat next to no one. The left aisle only had one seat, so I scored gold and got a window and an aisle, the wing seat. It was so cloudy, I couldn’t see a thing the whole way, but the sky cleared when we were over Tulsa- pretty cool and hopefully telling of my trip.

The landing was bumpy- the wheels were squeaky, but I landed so I wasn’t going to complain. I got my purple luggage and headed to Hertz. I was given a free upgrade to a small SUV- a Mazda Tribute- also with a free GPS. I punched in the address of my hotel and let the computerized lady tell me where to go. So, I didn’t have to worry about remembering my way around. I still made a wrong turn and ended up passing my old apartment– my heart was racing- I could tell I was getting excited for my adventure. I turned around and found my hotel, checked in, called one of my friends here in Tulsa and crashed.

I just got out of the shower and am waiting for my cousin G. to call me back about breakfast. If he doesn’t call soon, I am headed to my old middle school and high school. I heard that some of my old HS friends teach at the high school, which is cool. Have to get some batteries first for by DV(oice)R.

So, since I am in OK, I will say, see y’all lated.