From Oologah to Amarillo/Cadillac Ranch!

27 Jan

Oologah is the Real town where Real Will Rogers was Really born and raised, but he always claimed instead the town of Claremore because, he said, “Nobody but an Indian  could pronounce Oologah.” Will was a quarter Cherokee, so this statement is nicely ambiguous. But don’t ask me, Dear Reader, to parse that ambiguity.  It’s got something to do with the layers and masks of American identity. I teach a literature course on that, but am currently endeavoring to forge an identity other than American Lit Prof. I am becoming. . .uh, what new persona * is*  it that I am seeking?

Not sure.  Will Rogers penned a column titled “Slipping the Lariat Over” and I may write one called “Slipping The Tiara On.”  Candace  Bushnell plus Dorothy Parker plus Miss Piggy. The Real me. Or not.  A student once commented, “Why are you always talking about the fluidity of identity? Didn’t you grow up in the Midwest?” Yes, well so did Will, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Madonna. All fluid folks.

In the morning of Claremore, OK, I traipsed over to my go-to diner Egbert’s, where I ate, against my will, a piece of ham the size of a small land mass. I tried telling the waitress that I didn’t want any meat but she kept repeating, “Ham? Sausage? Bacon? Hash?” I did manage to eschew gravy.  My waitress cracked a joke to another girl with the punch line “Well, we left you the black guy!”  As I left Egbert’s  I noticed a plaque on the door: “OPTIMISTS CLUB MEETS  M and W NOON TO ONE.

Be Aware Of Your Surroundings. Kim’s husband’s advice came back to me.

Back on Route 40, with its sweet,  sad  shadow  66 running alongside, I marveled at the emptiness–less scary in the day than at night, but no less eerie. Miles and miles and miles and miles of flat,  yellow acres, scrubby brush. Once in a while, an actual tumbleweed (so cute! the only spherical thing anywhere) rolling across the highway.  I thought of Cary Grant.  I mean I thought of North by Northwest, that terrifying and magnificent  last scene. . .and then indeed, I had crossed into the Texas panhandle.  Which looked a lot like the Oklahoma panhandle, but I swear I could smell oil.

Black gold, Texas tea. . .Jed’s a millionaire. . .Californy is the place you oughtta be, so they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly. Me too!   Just three more days of  the still salt-coated Pruis and me communing like Wilson and Tom Hanks in the middle of nowhere.  Then we’d see the outlines of the city, the realm of  Aztlan: Hills, that is, swimmin’ pools, movie stars. 

I stopped in Amarillo with two objectives: cowboys and steak.  Oddly, I ended up alone  in an up-scale wine bar eating raw tuna.  Next morning I had to get my oil changed–it seemed the thing to to in Amarillo,  and the guys at the Jiffy Lube were concerned for me: “Darlin’ you gotta get a car wash. Where you goin?”

“Um. L.A.”

They burst out laughing. “You cannot drive into L.A. lookin’ like that.”

I hoped they meant my car, not my face, or mien.

Next stop was Cadillac Ranch. I so wished Noah were there. His taste in the surreal, graffiti, and cars planted in a barren landscape has always been exquisite.  The wind was whipping aroundcadillac ranch as if it wanted to lift  the Cadillacs, me, and my little dog, too, right into the stratosphere.  Like a smoke signal, my phone trilled with a message from Noah, who sent me a picture of the upper East Side, where he was about to enter the Metropolitan Museum. I missed my boy.

I ran across the dry, ashy land back to my salty dog of a car and pointed its nose in the direction of  Albuquerque–which means White Oak,  and the Rio Grande–which means Big River.  Almost three hundred miles of  linear landscape in shades of gray and taupe. Occasionally groups of cows appeared, crowded together like small black hills. And the sky. The sky. So much more of it than  the earth. The language of the clouds shifted every few minutes, one syntax after another, from full and round to tendons stretched tight across the blue like it hurt.

GOD IS ALIVE. A new spin on billboard theology. Alive is different than real, right? All l could think was that God WAS WATCHING ME. There was no where to hide. When I start to think about God watching me I think of the line in The Great Gatsby. Wilson (strange coincidence of names here) says, “God sees everything.” Right before he (SPOILER ALERT) kills Gatsby and (SPOILER ALERT) then himself. After that, I  start to think it is likely that I have been alone a little too long.

Maybe a cowboy was waiting for me in Albuquerque.  A cowboy named Godot. The clouds were roiling, drifting, shaping some kind of face, spelling some horizon.


6 Responses to “From Oologah to Amarillo/Cadillac Ranch!”

  1. Parveen Talpur January 27, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    What a wonderful journey. So many changing scenes…interrupted by miles and miles of emptiness…Cadillac Ranch…keep describing Kirsten.


  2. nic January 29, 2013 at 1:52 am #

    Lingering words.I don”t know how you string them together so beautifully.


  3. Mary Holland January 29, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    These just keep getting better and better. Since so many facets of our experience overlap, I found myself conjuring your next sentence as it rolled out, several times. Like, how to encounter the “God is alive” billboard and not think of the eyes of T J Eckleburg? Your cows like black hills made me think of Hemingway. I love seeing so many of your facets coming together to produce these entries, and I love seeing the journey through your eyes like this. I was also mentally adding DFW to your list of fluid Midwesterners,of course, then thought, but is there really anyone whose identity couldn’t be described as fluid? And if so, what a pity. Raw tuna in Amarillo? You brave girl! I hope you said hi to TX for me. xx


    • kwasson2012 February 3, 2013 at 1:27 am #

      Mary, I did say Hello to Texas for you. And thought of you all the way through it, well for at least 7 hours of it.


  4. maw14747 February 5, 2013 at 12:46 am #

    I especially love this post. It has so much “claremore,” which is to say “more clear” in it: light but gritty, meaningful and witty.

    Time stops for a while as I read you taking account of Time, rendering your account of it, giving us a look back and a way forward.

    So much of America rolling through this post/blog, whether spherical or as square as one of the middle states. You make me recognize myself as an American. Pace Gertrude Stein.

    Keep writing so we can be ever more aware of your surroundings….and thereby ours.


    • kwasson2012 February 5, 2013 at 2:19 am #

      Thanks, Peggy! Lovely comments! xo ________________________________________


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