I am getting comfortable with Tulsa. One thing that has taken time for me to grow into is the carousel of bars, clubs, and entertainment venues Tulsa seems to burn through. Just when I familiarize myself with a particular spot, she, all too often, slams her door in my face.
For conversations of the historical sort, I quickly find myself lost among the lot of discarded club names.
"Ummm, I thought we were talking about The Marquee, guys," I'll chime in; only to learn we are still talking about The Marquee, but before it was The Marquee.
In some of the tropical and non-tropical locations I've resided, this sort of list-y behavior might be a measure of hipness.
"I've never met someone who hasn't heard of The Cat Scratch. Yeah, that used to be The Cat Scratch, but before that it was called Fred's Watch It Pub. Hard to believe that was eight years ago. Really, you've never heard of it?" the pretentious will sing.
I've never felt that referencing venues in this manner is an "in the know" competition. It's more like a conjoined effort to recall something that was short-lived and unfortunate. Like all the puppies your parents forced you to give away from your dog's litter when you were a kid. Please tell me I'm not the only one. Trauma of this sort is painful.
"First it was Mr. Yippers, right? Do you remember what happened next?"
We seldom do. We're all in this together and although it's sad, it's us. It's the hand we've been dealt.
Sometimes one makes it through and we all embrace it, but getting to that point takes time and a slew of emotions.
For this reason alone I've learned not to get overly attached to any pubs or nightspots in Green Country. I've spun it into something positive, though; a more refined sense of flexibility.
We'll just adapt, I think.
Honestly, I thought of none of this when I first entered The Collective, one of the newest bars in Tulsa.
The Collective, at 3148 E. 11th St., is a fusion of coffee house, restaurant, and club. Like many coffee shops, local art has found a home on its walls.
As I alluded to earlier, The Collective hasn't always been The Collective. Prior to chai tea and flatbread pizzas, the property was home to a bar called Ballers, and, before that, to the Hardwood Bar & Grill. The name was surely not the reason for its demise. Reviews of the former tenants range from "awesome" to the polar opposite of awesome, as outlined by friends.
Although the friends did find common ground: the musical acts that frequented the hardwood Hardwood stage were favorably remembered.
The music's what brought me out. That, and I can walk to the place. An idea lost on vast swaths of America, but appreciated globally.
The first Tulsan musicians I ever saw live were the guys from Stevedore. The faces of the performers have changed in those four short years, since my inaugural visit to Tulsa, but the entertainment value hasn't budged. It's definitely not the best music I've ever heard, but it is fun. Stevedore is a pleasant reminder that we can all take ourselves a little less seriously than we do and, in so doing, have a good time. Maybe I'm completely wrong on their performance goals, but it's what I like to think while I'm at the show.
Also performing at the grand opening were Cracker Wagon, Guardant, and GHOSTS. Guardant pulled off a cover of Daft Punk. Kudos, guys. While Cracker Wagon and GHOSTS aren't my preferred genre, they were both enjoyable.
Another perk of The Collective is they serve Tulsa's very own Marshall Beer. With Atlas India Pale Ale and Sundown Wheat on tap, not only did the bar attract my attention, but it also got my wallet. At $5 a pop, it may not be the most economical choice, but it is a tasty one. Not being the biggest IPA fan on the planet led me to order the wheat option, but the bartender denied my request for a wheat by simply serving me an IPA. Fine. I was going to try both beers anyway.
Because of my bias, I enjoyed the Sundown Wheat more, but I think the IPA is the higher quality brew between the two. Marshall is not available in all local bars, but it can be found at Soundpony and McNellie's, with smaller stops like The Collective following suit.
Grand openings can't always go smoothly. The bar is awkwardly located in the back corner of the bar portion (or room) of The Collective. Because of this, the bar feels cramped and coupled with masses of people it feels even more cramped, because it is. It's something that can easily be corrected with additional staffing. Nothing deters me from getting a drink quite like a 20-30 minute wait.
"QuikTrip's right up the road. We could get some air, see some craziness (and, we did) outside, and spend a quarter of the time," I said. I wasn't the only one on this wavelength.
The food in the adjacent room or restaurant looked savory. And, looks are 75 percent of the battle. They're serving salads, soups, and sandwiches, readers.
I can't attest to the taste. I didn't want to waste all those calories I was saving from the walk on food. Instead I invested in the Marshall.
Near the end of the night, I made my way into the men's room. The walls are covered with colorful quotes by Joyce, Emerson, and the like. I had a favorite. They got this right. A positive, thought-provoking spin to bathroom writings I can appreciate. I'm all for glamming up voiding.
When I was six years old my Labrador had a litter of eight pups. I was smitten with the largest, most grizzly of the dogs. I named him Bear. It was eight weeks of bliss. Then my father heartlessly notified me that we'd be giving away the puppies.
Giving them away, I thought. How could he just hand over this beautiful animal, my prized possession for the last two months, to a stranger?
"Can't we keep one?" my brother, sister, and I wailed.
Bear was one of the first to go. He was strong, fun, and a friend I missed. As our puppy stock dwindled from eight to four to one on that sunny day, all hope of a puppy was almost lost. Night approached and after an entire day of carefully planned and timed begging, my mother broke down and spoke with my father. After some time he agreed. He was tired. And, truth be told, he loved the puppies more than any of us, but he fought showing it.
In time, the puppy we kept, Puppy, became a beloved, vital member of the family.
From that early lesson in life, I learned to enjoy what you've got until you ain't got it any more.
If The Collective, with its short walking distance, delicious looking food, and local beer, doesn't have staying power, I'll just have to get myself a puppy.
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