Having my own car with me on this trip also gave me a bit more latitude to explore Oklahoma City on my own. Ever since things with my ex have fallen through, the idea of moving to Oklahoma has been off my agenda and out of consideration. But now that both Debbie and my mother live there, it's conceivable that I could resume those plans someday--that is, if in her twilight years my mother needs more help than it's fair to dump entirely on Debbie.
Having been able to experience more of Oklahoma City on my own and not through the filter of my sister, I have to say I have a more favorable impression of it now. I checked out a couple of independent bookstores and a lot of new restaurants--and I mean a lot, since my mother's stuff still had yet to arrive by moving truck, meaning we lived on convenience foods for breakfast and restaurant foods for lunch and dinner. Oklahoma City has more ethnic food options than I previously realized. There are a lot of Indian and standard Middle Eastern restaurants. (By "standard" I mean those that don't claim to be from any specific region or country.) There's also Peruvian, Moroccan, Turkish, and probably a few others I'm forgetting, most of which I never ended up trying, either for lack of time or opportunity or lack of vegetarian options on their menu.
My favorite restaurant was Waffle Champion. The best way to describe it is chicken and waffles reinvented by white hipsters. All issues of cultural appropriation aside, their food is amazing. They make waffle sandwiches with a creative array of fillings. I had the Brussels sprouts hash. I think my mother had some sort of turkey chorizo. My sister, unfortunately, had to forgo a waffle sandwich and get a salad, since she has a wheat allergy and their gluten-free waffle iron was on the fritz.
Weirdly enough, I noticed that the waffle sandwich idea had also been taken up by at least one Vietnamese deli, with waffles replacing bánh mì in some of their sandwiches. There's some very unusual cultural diffusion.
The Vietnamese, I would guess, are Oklahoma City's largest Asian group. It's not surprising. It's a conservative city, so Vietnamese immigrants who were anti-communist and came here during the war years were probably some of the easiest Asians for the Bible-thumping, flag-waving, pickup-driving rednecks to accept. They could keep their racial prejudice in check just long enough to welcome them as brothers and sisters.
In a somewhat random way before my trip, the book Red Dirt: Growing Up Okie by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz ended up on my radar. I decided to look for it if I ended up at any bookstores and buy it if I found it. I ended up finding it and started to read it, though I didn't get very far into it. It's a memoir and thus a completely different category of book, but much like What's the Matter with Kansas? did for my home state, it tells of a more radical leftist past in Oklahoma's history. Dunbar-Ortiz writes about her family's Wobbly roots and her experiences growing up half Native American. (I think the title is a triple entendre, referring very obviously to the distinctive red soil of Oklahoma, but also growing up poor in a family that is part Native and interested in communism.)
Anyway, I bring this up because I think books like this challenge the simple red-versus-blue-state dichotomy and suggest that like genes that can turn on or off various characteristics, there are underpinnings to today's ideology, be it in Kansas, Oklahoma, or elsewhere, that are mutable. They've changed once. They could change again.
I almost think there's more potential for them to change in Oklahoma. I haven't looked at demographic trends over a period of years, but just glancing at the most recent population figures and whatnot, I think Oklahoma City could someday be a majority minority city. That could push politics in a different direction in 20 or 30 years.
Anyway, I should stop writing now. I don't think my thoughts have been very well organized, so I'll quit before they get too unruly.