Among many things I have missed from being on the open road and in unfamiliar territory, the thing I have missed the most is being able to walk outside the door to my flat or room and be greeted with instant civilization. Since I came home, I have been living in my old house out on the very edge of a suburb to a mid-size Midwestern city. Suffice to say, there isn’t much going on. I have to drive miles to be greeted with any sort of collection of businesses and walking anywhere is really not something that would happen on a regular basis.
That has all changed.
Tired of feeling cut off and secluded (not to mention being unable to afford the house payment on my own) I put the house on the market and found a new place to live. I started out looking at various apartment complexes around town (of which there are so very many) and had started to lose hope. Many of the places in my price range were in shady parts of town and a few places I visited personally were in sad shape. Most places were further in town, but still not in a place where I felt I could walk around and get a lot accomplished. I noticed a small ad for a midtown apartment, and made a point to head out and give it a look.
Midtown Tulsa is a section of town that cozies up next to the main downtown districts. The focal point for midtown happenings is 15th St, also known as Cherry Street. The street is lined with bars, pubs, coffee shops, boutiques, and the surrounding neighborhoods are full of old houses and older trees. It’s as close as Tulsa gets to the feeling I had when walking the snowy streets of Prague or the blistering pavement in Kuala Lumpur. Heck, they even have a Farmer’s Market. The little apartment I came to look at is a one-bedroom efficiency apartment built on the back of a house less than a mile from the vibrant Cherry St. establishments. It fit all of my needs, and I filled out the application on the spot. A few days later and I had a signed lease. I moved in a week ago.
My friend Brad called me on Saturday. “Hey, we’re going to breakfast at this little Route 66 diner on 11th. Wanna come?” I drove my pickup down to the diner, a little over a mile away, and sat down in a corner restaurant that carried a history of early morning gatherings and late night refuges. It still had a smoking section (smoking in restaurants is illegal in Oklahoma unless you have a section entirely cut off from the rest of the place) and, though I abhor smoking, that added to the charm of the place. Taking a leisurely walk in my neighborhood a few days ago greeted me with smiling folks, chatty neighbors, and several friendly dogs. I noticed several bus stops (gasp!) and realized for the first time that I may be able to successfully utilize public transportation in my home town. I love it.
I feel that I am in a better place to judge my hometown in comparison to some of the cities I was able to experience in my ten months abroad. One unexpected benefit to living where I do now is that the smaller space makes me more comfortable. After living for nearly a year out of a backpack, my old 1800 sq ft house was overwhelming. I didn’t need that space. This apartment barely breaks 500 sq ft and I feel right at home. It reminds me of what is important and what I can safely prune from my daily life. I don’t own a television, a garbage disposal, dishwasher, or anything to maintain a lawn. That feels pretty nice.
I was at the grocers earlier today, picking up a few things when a coworker spotted me in line. “Hey, I didn’t know you were a Midtowner!” he said. I smiled.
I am now.