Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Day 1 – Oklahoma City

Author’s Note: For the interest of anyone out in the vast blogosphere, I will attempt to report various “interesting” (as subjective a word as can exist in the English language) aspects of this almost 20-day road trip (for me at least).
The first obvious thing one notices when driving from Dallas to Oklahoma City is the cleanliness … on the Oklahoma side. There are clean lines of sight, without the Texas distraction of porn houses, mobile home lots, trash and other unsightly monstrosities that litter Interstate-35 North.
One can only wonder this: If Oklahoma can maintain its interstate highways in a pleasing manner, why can’t its big neighbor to the south?
Even Oklahoma City’s well-traveled center city highways appear FAR more neat and crisp than anything around Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth, Austin or San Antonio. I didn’t see anyone tossing out cigarette butts (which would be quite dangerous given the extreme heat and dryness of the surrounding grasslands). No Oklahoma pickup was seen with loose trash flying out of the back beds onto the roads.
I’ve written this before and will continue to do so until the situation is remedied. I-35 and I-45 are two of the WORST drives for any motorist (going from DFW to Houston, Austin or San Antonio) in America! I would be hard pressed for anyone to trump them for the vast collection of sheer scenic ugliness AND optic trashiness. In those two areas, we ARE number 1!
You also notice one more thing, beginning at the state lines between Oklahoma and Texas – the signs and symbols of economic development that Texas refuses to engage. There are perhaps a dozen casinos just on that 135-mile portion of I-35 to Oklahoma City and each one seems to be a potential job creator and business magnet for many small communities – not just the capital area.
They look clean, well-tended (unlike some of the roadside joints I remember seeing in rural Louisiana a few years ago) and even on a sweltering Tuesday morning/noon, there were cars at each ONE of them. I’d bet the Thackerville casino, better known as WinStar, had scores of Texas license plates in those lots.
WinStar, for the record, has also become a fairly big entertainment center with weekend concerts drawing fairly big name stars (true, some of them might be a tad past their prime but the Gipsy Kings went from the Meyerson Symphony Center one night to WinStar the next).
Many of the casinos (operated by Native American tribes) looked like ultra-modern shopping centers or movie theaters while WinStar has unveiled a sectional appearance where a different country/culture is represented (English, French, Italian, etc.). Hell, Vegas has entire hotels doing the exact same thing and they consume most of the Strip.
Each casino, as said, represents revenue for the tribes AND for the state of Oklahoma. This isn’t a new tax, a new fee, a new charge, a new add-on and no one is forcing ANYONE to be there. They get their revenue and provide a little amusement, enjoyment and fun in the process.
They also create jobs – not just for the Native Americans (Lord knows they need them) but for everyone. In turn, there are satellite business surrounding these places (hotels, restaurants, shops, gas stations, etc.), which help expand the local economies.
The ridiculous, and now unnatural, resistance, in Texas is beyond comprehension; it is bordering on madness. In a time when our state budget, and local school and municipal budgets, are being squeezed dry, like lemons for a Route 44 drink at Sonic, to simply sweep this viable revenue source off the table, for some mythical “morality” argument is just plain old Stone Age thinking. Our legislators in Austin would rather open their arms and hearts to massive polluters and unscrupulous businesses before considering admission into the 21st century and allowing Texas to approve casino gambling.
If such approval were to happen, you’d see one of the biggest and explosive expansions of construction and job manufacturing ANYWHERE in the U.S. and, perhaps, not seen since the late 1970s oil boom when Texas was labeled a SuperState.
All it takes is a little guts and a dash of courage – neither of which can be found in Austin (especially with that coward governor, “Helmethair” Perry, possessing the veto pen).
All it takes is for the voters to make it perfectly clear that incumbents are being tossed out of their offices because of their opposition ot THIS issue. Then things WILL change.
The shortest drive of the entire trip has been completed and, hopefully, tomorrow, the longest stretch of highway 540 miles of I-40 in around 8-9 hours (resembling nothing of the fabled old Route 66), will be tolerable in the 100-plus degree heat that has engulfed Texas and Oklahoma.
The Escape feels a tad claustrophobic with luggage and boxes everywhere within eyesight.
Tomorrow’s highlight will be seeing the Albuquerque Isotopes play Nashville with the latest steroid abuser, Manny Ramirez, in the ABQ lineup as part of his “rehab” assignment. Tuesday’s game was sold out in advance and this game might be as well … but my ticket is bought and paid at the advanced will call window.
I AM the world’s biggest proponent of planning ahead for spontaneity.
Until then … with hopefully a better Wi-Fi connection … Shalom!

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