Art Deco Tulsa

Stained glass window on rooftop of Mayo Hotel

My biggest surprise in Tulsa was the abundance of fabulous Art Deco architecture.  It was known as the “Terra Cotta City” in the late 1920s which coincided with an oil boom.  My grandfather, Raymond, was born on the Chickasaw Nation, Purcell, Oklahoma in 1899 or 1900 and eventually ended up in San Bernardino in California (where he married Juanita), following various boom towns.  I love to imagine what life was like for both my sets of grandparents, marrying in the 20s and 30s when society was changing dramatically in terms of style and habits.  Irish Nana Kathleen married in a short and daring coffee colored chiffon dress with a matching cloche hat.  I kept it until recently when I passed it on to a younger cousin.

Elevators in Philcade Building

Window display in the lobby of the Philcade Building

Display of Chrome
Philcade Building

The Philcade building had a T shaped lobby lined with shops.  There are few shops now but you can still browse the window displays.  It was designed by architect Leon Senter for oil magnate Waite Phillips.  His brothers formed the Phillips Petroleum company.  Teddy is an oilman (geologist) and we have survived three major slumps.  We used to joke that the 66 in Phillips 66 stood for the amount of geologists they ‘lost’ in a year…it’s not quite as funny as it used to be. Heck, yes it is!

Rooftop of the Mayo Hotel at sunset

Sunset view of the Arkansas River from rooftop Tulsa

Teddy and I had some lovely sunset drinks on the rooftop bar of the Mayo Hotel built in 1925 and designed by architect George Winkler.  It has been wonderfully restored with many of the original features kept intact; from stained glass to ceramic tiles in the coffee shop.

Original tiles in the coffee shop of Mayo Hotel

 

 

 

 

Modern Tulsa

Hyatt downtown Tulsa

I love the sharp edges of this contemporary hotel building contrasted with the bright, cold sun and autumnal leaves.

The shadows are so vivid in this shot, just before sunset.

Vivid blue flowers with silver umbrellas

Building reflected in stripes

Symmetry

This final image made me laugh out loud. If you look closely at the Petroleum Club of Tulsa, you can see that there is a Thai Spa. Do you think they get happy endings?

Look closely…

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Standing on route 66, Tulsa

I have wanted to visit Tulsa for such a long time. Finally, Teddy had a short business trip so I accompanied him last fall for a one night stay. It is a small city but I saw some fabulous highlights. Oklahoma is mostly flat prairie, uninteresting to some but the sky goes on forever. Tulsa is unusual because it has hilly terrain. It has been a wealthy city for many years – it is an oil city and on route 66.

Fountain in downtown Tulsa

Downtown Tulsa

I expected people to be friendly and they were, with a little reserve. That might be because we travelled the day after the election in 2016. Everyone was frightened to say anything in case they offend their political viewpoint – we still are, for the most part. You could see that the oil slump had affected some of downtown but it was still resplendent with Art Deco architecture in another boom time and more recently with fantastic modern buildings.

Last year was a strange one for me and my health. The trip was in October and in my head I feel that I have aged hugely, in one year, but when I look at the photograph above I can see a glimmer of happiness. It is strange how the mirror rarely reflects the truth.
More lovely photographs to come from Tulsa.

Flirting in El Paso

Looking out my hotel window at dawn towards Mexico

Looking out my hotel window at dawn towards Mexico

This title is more innocuous than it sounds. I flirt with everything – cats that I meet, old ladies, young men. It must be part of my personality or I have inherited my Dad’s charisma. When I worked in community mental health, I developed a knack of getting people to trust me quickly by gently focusing on them and asking pertinent questions. You can probably imagine that if you are a guy and met me at a bar then you would think your luck was in…and it certainly would be, having the pleasure of my company (so humble, too).

Amazing bank with a bell tower, right under my window

Amazing bank with a bell tower, right under my window

I met a fellow blogger, Lisa on one evening and that was a delightful experience – see this post Kerry in the City. On two consecutive nights, I chatted to a charming Silver Fox at the bar who was in El Paso on business (the other Hispanic Silver Fox (Senor Fox de Plata) was just interested in sex….) Gringo Silver Fox told me all about his wife but clearly enjoyed the ‘flirting’ enhanced with a Scottish accent. We left at the same time and took the elevator upstairs. As we got to his floor, I bid him goodnight and he awkwardly hugged me and then ran away! Is my sexuality so potent that he was afraid I would drag him back to my lair?? He took me by surprise and I had a small concern about meeting him on the third night in case I had to gently turn him down. Actually, I am really tactless so it wouldn’t be gentle 😆

Roof top bar Hotel Indigo

Roof top bar
Hotel Indigo

On the third night, I was chatting to a fascinating guy. He was the lighting guy for Penn and Teller (Non-Americans might like to click on the red link), who were starring in the local theater. I learned a secret…Teller does actually talk, all the time! As we were laughing and talking, Silver Fox came up and said hello to me. I greeted him with a warm smile but as soon as he realized I was chatting to a much younger guy, he made an excuse to make a call and disappeared completely. Awwww – it was like being at high school💋. Lighting guy then had to leave so I just chatted to the bar staff until a very attractive woman came up and sat next to me.

She made a comment about the awkwardness of sitting at a bar – I am never awkward since my blessed tongue won’t stop even when I want it to! By the next drink we were sharing cosmetic secrets, love lives – it was a ‘bromance’ for girls!!! (Some how ‘sismance’ doesn’t do it) She was very well preserved, a couple of years older than me and dressed beautifully. Then we started telling each other how amazing we looked (for our ages). Somehow it was even more fun flirting with a heterosexual woman because you knew she wasn’t just saying it just to get your knickers off! We have since emailed.

I teetered off to bed, relieved but a little sad that I didn’t have to turn down the nice Silver Fox. I wonder if any of the bar staff said, “She could talk the hind legs off a donkey” or whatever the Spanish equivalent is.

PS. I found two Spanish phrases that might apply to me –

• En boca cerrada no entran moscas
Flies don’t enter a closed mouth
Meaning – Sometimes it’s best to keep your mouth shut

• Mucho hablar y poco decir juntos suelen ir
Talking lots and saying little usually go together
Meaning -Someone who talks too much, but actually doesn’t really say anything

Concordia Cemetery and Fort Bliss, El Paso

JW Hardin's grave

JW Hardin’s grave

Don’t you just love this photo of the cemetery of John Wesley Hardin (1853-1895), gunslinger extraordinaire, in the magnificent Concordia Cemetery, El Paso? He is still in a jail cell after death and his defense for his various killings was “I never killed anyone who didn’t need killing.” There is no response to that really; he was just a bad ‘un. The best part about the shot is that you can see a man in an orange t-shirt through the bars. He was part of a group of prisoners cleaning this famous cemetery. Some of them looked very intimidating and they were really staring at me but perhaps they ain’t seen a cougar for a while? This is a link to Concordia’s Cemetery website in red. Listen to the song that plays along with the post about JW Hardin. Somehow it summons up the old wild west of Texas as did this cemetery. It was bought and divided into various sections by city groups, Chinese here, Masons there, Catholics in a separate place from Jesuits. Any Catholics out there will know that’s a good thing – Jesuits are scarier than gunslingers…

Haphazard section of Concordia Cemetery

Haphazard section of Concordia Cemetery

I love that this shot summons up every thing good about Texas. Skies that go on forever and eclectic people in life and death.

My guide Rudy, see my previous post,‘A tour of El Paso’ certainly had my number. What better place to visit than the cemetery and then Fort Bliss, the biggest military base in Texas – cool. Look at that warhead and the old tanks!

tour-of-fort-bliss

tanks-and-warheads

I have never been on a military base and this was astonishing – a complete small city. There was a town center, shopping mall, restaurants, cinema, schools and various suburbs for want of a better word. Rudy took us past the very large house that General Patton lived in and I was just awestruck. It could have been an upmarket suburb like any in my area, except the view was better. Rudy was a veteran and it was nice to see that the guard on duty saluted him with great respect (we had to show our driving licenses for security). This a link to the Wiki page about Fort Bliss. I could see that the terrain and temperatures would really help training fighters going to places like Afghanistan.

Rudy took us to see original adobe houses from the 60s up and down mountain tracks to get good views, right up to the border so that we could see what Juarez looks like – poor. I didn’t manage to capture photos of the amazing University of Texas at El Paso The architecture of the college is based on Bhutanese Monasteries and the red link tells you a little more about it.

library-el-paso
Courtesy of City Data

It was a perfect tour of a perfect city. This is a view towards Cuidad Juarez and the writing on the mountain side reads “La Biblia es la Verdad. Leela.” or “The Bible is the Truth, Read It.”

Mexican Mountains

Mexican Mountains

A tour of El Paso

tiffany-dome

Tiffany Dome

El Camino Real Hotel Downtown El Paso

El Camino Real Hotel
Downtown El Paso

Who would have thunk it? An exquisite original Tiffany dome over the bar of El Camino Real Hotel. I was awestruck. Since I was not driving, I booked a well recommended tour Border Sights Tours with tour guide, Rudy, at the wheel. He picked me up first and then a young guy who had just driven his unwilling (to return to base) military friend back to Fort Bliss from the Pacific North West. That is a hell of a drive. Rudy took us all over El Paso, more in future blogs, but this bit of gossip (below) tickled me.

Original Hilton Skyscraper El Paso

Original Hilton Skyscraper
El Paso

If you look at the top of the building you can see an additional smaller section on the roof. This is the penthouse suite where Elizabeth Taylor and her first husband Nicky Hilton spent their honeymoon. How cool is that?? The view from the top must be astonishing.

balcony-kennedy
hotel-cortez

Rudy told us that President John F Kennedy gave a speech from that balcony of the Hotel Cortez. I guess El Paso was the ‘happening’ place back in the day, eh? Wouldn’t it have been fun to see JFK or Elizabeth Taylor – wow? One of my favorite parts of the tour was when we visited a genuine Mexican bakery and could choose a cake or pastry. Rudy told us that they were less sweet than traditional Texan desserts because they used unrefined sugar. My churro was yummy!

Gussie's Bakery

Gussie’s Bakery

I loved this mural outside the bakery. More tales of our tour next week, including Fort Bliss.

El Paso, Texas

View over El Paso towards the border with Mexico

View over El Paso towards the border with Mexico

After being so sick this year, I was desperate to take a little late summer trip to a quiet town. Houston and surrounds has been blisteringly hot this year, so I wanted to go somewhere cooler but not cold. I swear I have lizard DNA; bask in the heat, hibernate into a death like state in the cold. There were still enough United Airlines points to go somewhere domestically so I decided to head to El Paso.

Y’alls know how big Texas is but El Paso is so far away from Houston (675 miles) that it is in another time zone. As I approached the city, I looked out in fascination at the mountains and river valley wondering whether I was looking at Mexico, New Mexico or El Paso, Texas. It was so beautiful – bright sunshine, arid landscape and mountains. My fellow passenger and I were astonished at how quiet the roads were, even in the middle of the city. Bliss…

My friend Lisa lives in El Paso. This is her blog title with a red link ‘Life of an El Paso Woman’ . I can’t remember when we connected but she kindly asked me if I would participate in her Saturday interview after my book, ‘Letters from Cairo’ was published on Kindle. It is so strange how connected we can become with fellow bloggers, invested not just in their opinions but the lives that they choose to share with us. I am happy to share far too much and then am embarrassed when a local friend reads my personal thoughts – go figure!

I got an UBER at the airport and lickety-split, I was at my new hotel. The Hotel Indigo is in a refurbished building – link to the El Paso Times article on the hotel.  It was built in 1963 and refurbished at various times. Teddy has Intercontinental points so I was given a top floor room on the 12th floor (squeaking in delight). I was awestruck as I gazed out the floor to ceiling windows with a view of Texas and Mexico. It was a hip and groovy room; the architects did a great job. All the little touches added up to a fantastic whole.

Each room was adorned with succulent plants

Each room was adorned with succulent plants

Curiously, on my first evening, I ate at the funky 5th floor roof-top bar where I met two architects. (I know that doesn’t make sense – the building was angled and some of the rooms had a view of the 5th floor bar). It was alongside the cute little pool which was lit up in different colors as darkness fell. The bar was underneath a roof but open on two sides, letting a cool north Texas breeze in. Temperatures were comfortable for me – a dry 95 degrees by midday.

Hotel Indigo rooftop pool

Hotel Indigo rooftop pool

The wonderful Electricity sign glowed with an array of colors at night, as did the pool.  Every little detail was perfect from the pink chairs, to the copper wall detail with wood and glass.

Looking into the bar from rooftop

Looking into the bar from rooftop

Back to the architects; they had the privilege to be working on one of the many older buildings that are being refurbished. Downtown seemed to be reviving but you could see that El Paso was once a very rich city. It is directly across the Rio Grande River from Cuidad Juarez in Mexico. This was once an open, busy crossing until the cartels made Juarez one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico. There is a highly guarded fence between countries with a very high presence of border control. El Paso is home to the biggest military base in Texas, Fort Bliss, so there are many reasons to keep El Paso as safe as possible. For many years it was the safest city of its size and, in general, our Texan border towns are safer – see this article in the Texas Tribune

Highly guarded fence between El Paso and Juarez

Highly guarded fence between El Paso and Juarez

One look at El Paso and I was ready to move there. More posts to follow.