POSTED ON APRIL 3, 2013:
Down and Out
Stretching your entertainment dollar only makes cents
Like you, I'm flat broke. But I've got kids, and I've got friends, and I've got agoraphobic tendencies. These facts put me on the horns of a dilemma. I want to do fun stuff with my kids, I want to do fun stuff with my friends, I have no money with which to do any of that fun stuff, and if I don't force myself to get out of my house and do stuff, I could very well end up sitting at home, alone, for days on end reading Star Wars novels, playing Halo, and sleeping. Yes, I am a huge nerd. Bite it.
So it is incumbent upon me to get out and do stuff -- do stuff for me, for my kids, with my kids, with my friends. But stuff costs money, dammit. So what to do when you're down and out in Tulsa?
You go looking for free stuff is what you do. Okay, and some cheap things, too. But mainly free.
So for the purposes of this exercise, you people reading this should know I'm following these rules: I have an iPhone and the bill is paid, making it a tool for our little experiment; I have $100 for the week; I can't stay home any night; and, my days are accounted for with work and whatever, so breakfast and lunch don't figure into the equation.
Now, before I get going on my adventure, it should be noted that while this hasn't exactly been the coldest of winters I've ever lived through, there are nevertheless a great many things to do in Tulsa in the summer months that are less available (if at all) during the shorter days.
One of the very coolest is the Guthrie Green, a relatively new public space located in the Brady Arts District at E. Brady Street and N. Boston Avenue. It's a green space, and if you've driven downtown at night since last September, you've likely noticed its lights. There are great events through the summer months, and nearly every one of them is free. And on warm-month Sundays, there's the Sunday Market from 10am to 4pm weekly.
The sun is setting, it's a nice evening, I'm getting hungry. And I have my babies, so I've got to find something for us to do that will be fun, educational (a bonus), and not end up with a hospital visit (my reign as King of Getting Stitches may actually be a hereditary monarchy, so hospitals that have sewn me up for this or that have had a look or two at the next generation of Morrises, and that doesn't score me many points in the parenting department).
Also, since we Morrises have been creative types since we left our Moorish roots behind, I'd like to do something that will keep my younglings in the creative stream of Morris blood. So if there were an option to do something right-brained ...
Since I'm starting the week with kids, for dinner, I'm looking for a place where they eat cheap, but preferably for free. My first stop, then, will be kidseatfor.com or kidmealdeals.com, each of which lists places around town where, as I'm sure you've surmised by now, kids eat cheap or free.
Some places have dedicated nights (kids eat free at Senor Tequila on Tuesdays), and some don't (kids eat free at Billy Ray's BBQ on Southwest Boulevard seven days a week after 5pm).
Since it's Monday, we head to Chimi's on E. 15th Street, because it's close to our second stop of the night. But Sutton and Indigo eat Tex-Mex for free while I have a Florentine enchilada and an iced tea. We all love Tex-Mex, Chimi's is a nice little place to take a couple of adorable children, and we're out of there for $15, including the tip.
Our big activity for the night is to head over to Purple Glaze on Brookside (though for southsiders, there's also one at E. 91st Street and S. Sheridan Road). I've chosen Monday night, because there's no studio fee on Mondays, so all we're going to pay for is whatever little ceramic adorable-ness we choose to paint, but there are other discounts available through the week.
"We run some weekly specials that are good and give a discount on the studio fee portion of what you pay," said owner Jeff Stunkard. "Mondays, we waive the studio fee every week. Wednesday, we do an after-school special, and it's half off the studio fee. Friday night is a date night, and that's also half-off."
Seems to me that would be a pretty nice little date, so I'm filing that away on the off chance I ever have one of those again.
While there are amazing vases, expensive plates, and large pieces of pottery to work on at Purple Glaze, I've already spent the better part of $20, so we're looking for the small stuff.
"There are pieces as low as $6," Stunkard said. "They're like animal figurines and critters. We've got little boxes in that price range -- trinkets and things. The average project runs you about $12-$13. It's not horribly expensive, and you get to walk away with something."
Since I don't want to pay $13 per kid, we each choose a $6 figurine, grab a table, and paint our little hearts out. We get to hang out, talk, be creative, laugh, and I get to look at how perfect and beautiful my kids are. And we're out of there on $20 and change after taxes, headed for our final stop, which is one of the great bargains of the 21st century.
The Dollar Movie.
There are several dollar theaters around town. I like to use Flixter on my iPhone, which will tell me what's showing when and where. If I don't recognize a movie title or am just curious, I can watch said flick's trailer on my phone, I can visit commonsensemedia.org to make sure a title is kid-friendly, and I can even buy tickets right on my phone. However, since we're hitting the dollar theater, I see no need to charge $3 to my Visa, so I'll pay cash, thanks.
We grab a quick drink from the water fountain, and I make absolutely sure to distract my babies as we walk past the concessions area so that they don't notice the smorgasbord of overpriced candy, and we find our way to comfortable seats in the cool darkness. We wait, and then we get transported to another world for 90-ish minutes. And it puts Indigo to sleep, so she'll be easier to put to bed when we get home. Added bonus! All for a whopping $3.
I spent $38 all told, but we had a great time, and there are actual free things coming up this week. I'm not worried, I don't think.
Spent: $38. Remaining: $62.
If at all possible, I don't want to spend one red cent tonight. I mean, other than eating. And since I'm in my 40s now, I should probably start thinking about exercising, irrespective of the fact that, even though I'm a writer with an English degree, I still can't come up with the words with which to properly convey how much I hate exercise (the phrase "with the white-hot power of a hundred thousand suns" doesn't even come close, but it's a start, I suppose).
I'll need to find some source of physical activity that I can do for free, and that I don't necessarily need a partner for.
First, though, a light dinner, and one that's cheap. QuikTrip, here I come, because they have a $5 meal that includes chips of your choice, a bottle of water or a fountain drink, and one of any number of really good sandwiches that are made fresh daily. There is, in fact, the Triple Stack, which has three different meats on it and is the kind of sandwich that stands tall enough so that when you open your mouth as wide as you need to in order to eat it, your eyebrows automatically raise up. With tax, $5.47 gets you a full belly, but not so full that you wouldn't want to exercise.
So now, that's what's next. Part of what I hate about exercise is the boring repetition of a treadmill or a run through the same neighborhood streets, day after day. Lucky for me, there's hiking, trail running, mountain biking, even horseback riding at Turkey Mountain. I'm choosing Tuesday for this one because there's a run group that meets at 6:30pm.
"I used to go to that Tuesday night run group every week," said my trail-running connection and former classmate Bob Doucette. Bob is a freaking hoss who works for the Tulsa World.
"The group is kind of smaller during the winter time. They run with headlamps because it gets dark early. But when the days get longer, a lot of people start showing up," he said.
There are three beginner, intermediate, and advanced groups, and this last group is the one Bob refers to as "stallions.
"The beginner groups will go a little easier, maybe hike the hills," Doucette said. "They'll go three or four miles. You get a decent workout, but it's not like you're getting killed out there. The intermediate group is quite a bit tougher. They go four to six miles, and they keep the pace up a little higher."
The stallions -- of which my boy Bob is one -- are for people far more serious about running than I am, running about eight miles of trail in one session.
Lucky for me, there isn't any real etiquette involved here past getting out of your car and walking in their general direction.
"You just show up and run. How well you socialize is kind of up to you," Doucette said.
It's not like a specific club or group of friends. I just showed up and started running with these guys, and then we became friends and would go out afterward and down a beer and a taco."
I like beer. I like tacos. I can stomach some running for those things.
Spent: $5.47 (we'll call it $6). Remaining: $56.
This one is in the bag. This evening will be cake, because I've got a regular Wednesday night engagement: church.
Most churches have a free or low-cost Wednesday night supper for all the people who populate their grounds mid-week. After dinner, there's all manner of activity to occupy you. There are full-blown worship services, Bible studies, choir rehearsals, children's choir programs that need adult volunteers, classes, support groups, even 12-step groups.
Most churches around town have websites listing all the available activities, and if you were at church Sunday, you probably picked up a bulletin that listed the week's events, as well.
I head to Asbury United Methodist Church at 6767 S. Mingo Road, where I'm a member, and where Wednesday night dinner costs a paltry $5. The food there is always fantastic, and we're not talking about school cafeteria-grade stuff. It's a nice, full meal, and it's different every week. And it's terrific, especially for five bones.
Afterward, I go to orchestra rehearsal, where I play the string bass (and play it pretty damn well, if I say so myself), and often, a few of my church friends head out for a beer after orchestra and choir rehearsals wind up. Yes, a beer. It's not a Baptist church, so it's okay. We usually hit Chuy's or some other place close by and head in for one or two beers and some fun conversation. Chuy's is interesting in that if you bring a framed picture of your dog, you get a free appetizer. Why, I have no idea, but hey, free is free. Now I'm headed home.
If you're not a Methodist, there are, of course, seemingly more churches in Tulsa than there are Tulsans, so you're sure to find some Wednesday night activity that's to your liking at one of them. And chances are, it's free. Or at least cheap.
At the end of the night, I spent $5 on dinner, and $7 on two domestic beers and a tip for the bartender.
Spent: $12. Remaining: $44.
Thursday is Meetup night, though admittedly, I have no idea what I'm getting into here, and also, being a bit shy and something of a lone wolf, I face this with some trepidation. But hey, I will gladly suffer for my art. If there's any suspense to this account of my weeklong experiment, here's where it will be found.
But my friends are all busy with work or other friends or girlfriends (I've almost forgotten what it's like to have one of those), and I need something for tonight. I'm going to roll the dice and see what a Meetup is all about.
Using an iPhone app dedicated to helping me find meetups that appeal to me, I can find like-minded folks doing and talking about things that interest me.
Turns out there's a meetup for pretty much any interest you can imagine. There's one based around raw foods, one for singles, moms of Coweta, interracial dating, tarot cards, LGBT groups, book clubs, survivalists/preppers, religious groups, motorcycle riders, you name it. There's even one for freaking kickball. Kickball! Note to self: I'm totally checking that one out at some point.
Sylvia Williams, organizer of the Tulsa Digital Photography Group meetup, leads an enormous group, and one that is very active.
But, "basically, anyone can start up a meetup about anything," Williams said.
I visit meetup.com, and I'd love to choose the Nerdy Girls Do Trivia! group tonight, because I like trivia and nerdy girls are super hot, but I'm not a girl and don't want to get kicked out, as that would hurt my fragile ego.
Instead, I choose Unbreakable Spines, a meetup where people submit their creative writing endeavors and the group offers constructive critique. I didn't submit anything since I was new, but there was great feedback -- not what I expected, to be honest. I really thought there would be a lot of, "Well, I wouldn't have done that," but there really wasn't. Serious writers and seriously helpful feedback. A good evening, for sure, and I found it just by starting out at meetup.com, per Williams' suggestion. And it was free. Score.
I end the night by meeting friends Danny and Mohawk at the New Age Renegade at 16th and S. Main streets. While there are great shows here, most notably Twisted Theatre, Thursdays are reserved for Backyard Karaoke, presided over by the white-trashiest queen of the trailer park, Bubbles Dewdrop.
Now, I used to think karaoke was a pox set upon us by the Japanese as vengeance for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but a girlfriend brought me around about eight years ago.
There are three great things about this Thursday night soiree. First, Bubbles Dewdrop is hysterically funny, perfectly balancing backhanded compliments, total destruction of hecklers, and good-natured teasing of pretty much anyone. And you haven't lived until you've heard her sing "Harper Valley P.T.A."
Second, this is basically a theatre actors' night. Whatever shows are in production, often the casts head down to the 'Gade post-rehearsal, and it's not unusual to find members of national touring companies heading there from the Performing Arts Center once their show is done for the night. As a result, this ain't your usual bad karaoke. Sure, there are a few singers who just suck, but for the most part, you get musical theater enthusiasts in the same room singing, and they'll compete with each other. The result is usually some kickass performances.
Third, the drinks are relatively cheap. Well, the beer is, anyway. It's a gay bar, so there are some really frilly drinks, and those can get kind of pricey, and my beloved Irish whiskey on the rocks costs a few bucks, but I can spend ten bucks on a few draft beers and tips for the bartenders and have a good time.
And did I mention that Bubbles is hysterical? She cracks me the hell up every single time I go there.
Close the joint down, head home, and I've spent a very small amount of cash for a great night of arts, culture, comedy, and music.
Spent: $10. Remaining: $34.
We're going to assume that this is the first Friday of the month, so I'm heading downtown to the First Friday Art Crawl. This is an event that many Brady District businesses have been participating in for a while. Originally started as a way to get people downtown, it's blossomed into something pretty badass. And fun. And free. Which is the best part, am I right?
Sure, you can drop some money on food and drink (I dropped $5 at a taco truck), but getting in to where all this art is costs nothing. And getting around to it doesn't, either, as the Tulsa Downtown Trolley loops around the Brady district every half-hour or so, and, from 5:30pm-1:30am on Friday and Saturday nights, it's free. Magic words. Totally.
Of course, Living Arts of Tulsa, located at 307 E. Brady St., and the Arts & Humanities Council of Tulsa's Hardesty Arts Center (AHHA, at 101 E. Archer St.) are the trailheads of the crawl, always hosting exhibitions and activities. But there are also galleries for the viewing that dot the Brady district.
Down and Out
Stretching your entertainment dollar only makes cents
By Bradley Morris
Of course, we find showings at the Brady Artists Studio at 23 E. Brady St., Corvid Gallery at 10 E. Archer St., the Tulsa Artists' Coalition Gallery at 9 E. Brady St., and the Henry Zarrow Center for Art and Education, also on E. Brady Street, among others. There are works by local artists, a national name here and there, even full exhibitions by University of Tulsa art faculty members. There's lots of great stuff to see, but there's also live music dotting the crawl in various bars.
Interestingly enough, there are also a few bars in on the arts, as well. For instance, Caz's Pub recently had a night of live graffiti art. I missed it, but that sure sounds cool. And in addition to its normal music-and-coffee fare, the Gypsy Coffehouse will often display local artists' works, as well.
Maybe the coolest thing on the art crawl is the Tulsa Glass Blowing Studio at 19 E. Brady St.
"We do a free demonstration in glass blowing and in lamp-working, so we have two things going at once," said Janet Duvall, who serves as executive director at the studio. The demonstrations are almost always led by a guest artist.
Duvall is quick to point out that First Fridays are strictly demonstrations, but that the monthly event ends up bringing business in during the following weeks.
"If you want to try it, you'd have to make an appointment," she said. "We don't do that stuff on First Fridays, we just show people things that they can do. After that, a lot of people just want to come in and do the glass experience, which is a one-time thing where you come in and make something."
She also mentioned team-building activities that often get booked after a corporate groups wanders by the studio during a demonstration
"We get a lot of people who have watched and come back," Duvall said. "It's kind of a full circle opportunity for them and us."
And by "a lot of people," she really means it.
"We rented a set of bleachers, we had four different waves of people, and it was packed all night. It's been standing room only for a few months, so it's a big hit."
And it's freaking fascinating to watch. The fact that there's something beautiful left over after the fact is almost just gravy.
Spent: $5. Remaining: $29.
I spent the day watching Netflix and leisurely drinking Lone Star beer. God, I love my life.
But I've showered and am ready for my penultimate night out.
I've done nothing, like, nature-y except run on some trails. So I sit down with Sutton and ask him what he thinks.
"Hey, buddy. What do you want to do tonight?" I ask.
"Let's have a picnic," he replies.
What an awesome kid! I didn't even tell him he needed to pick something that didn't cost very much. God, my kids rule.
The kids and I pack a picnic and head out for a different kind of kids-eat-free affair, and we have (because it's a lovely evening) some truly fantastic parks from which to choose.
Our choices include Swan Lake, where the trumpeter swans live. My kids' mom is The Ultimate Queen of Knowledge of Science and the Animal Kingdom, so my children know the difference between a trumpeter swan and a regular swan. They're in the single digits. I'm 43. They know more than me. Humbling.
Anyway, if Swan Lake is full or the swans aren't really swanning or whatever, we might choose Woodward Park. There's what I like to call "kid hiking" there, in that when your 6-year-old son looks at some shrubs that are almost as tall as he is, it seems like an adventure to him to walk around in them, so the babies have fun "hiking," but it's not too physically taxing. There's the lovely footbridge, lots of space to run around and play, even a swing set. And when my kids are mid- to late-teenagers, hopefully people will still be playing Urban Tag around there. Super fun.
By the way, the Linnaeus Teaching Gardens are right there by Woodward, and while most all of their activities are in the morning and afternoon, it's still worth noting that it's there. There are free and low-cost events there in the warmer months.
If Woodward just isn't fun enough, there's the 41st Street Plaza at E. 41st Street and Riverside Drive. It's got water fountains and splash pads for the kids (or immature adults like me) on summery days, a playground, restrooms, and a nice view of the river, as well. There's also a picnic area and a covered pavilion. Do yourself a favor when it warms up and head over there. There's even a hill my kids enjoy rolling down. Oh, who am I kidding? I like it, too.
Spent: $0. Remaining: $29.
Holy crap, I've made it. One night to go. But not much cash.
Danny and Jeremy want to hang out, so we know where we will end the evening. But I'll get to that in a minute. First, we need to eat and get our bowl on.
D'Oro Pizza at E. 31st Street and S. Sheridan Road sells pizza by the slice for $1.99, so six bucks gets me two slices and a drink, and then I head with the boys to Sheridan Lanes, just across the street, where we partake in all-you-can-bowl for $10. And we can bowl a lot. Trying to conserve money, and also knowing where we're headed after, we skip buying beer here, and we already ate, so I'm going to get out of here for a flat ten-spot.
Finally, Danny, Jeremy and I enjoy a low-key dive bar to relax in as we close out the week. While there are many places downtown and in most neighborhoods that fit the bill, we have our favorite. We head to the Tin Dog, located at 3245 S. Harvard Ave. It's a dive, but it's not dirty. Brett the bartender pours a cheap drink, and he pours it generously. The joint is a little hard to find, but totally worth it. Darts, a couple of pool tables, a jukebox with mildly dated music, several TVs tuned to various sporting events -- it's a fun, relaxing place. It's not all that relaxing on Friday and Saturday nights when it's really full and really loud (good for the business, but not really my scene), but Sundays are decidedly chill there, and I like that.
Ten bucks gets me two Miller High Lifes, a couple of rounds of darts, and a good tip for Brett. I'm homeward bound.
Spent: $25. Remaining: $4.
I put my $4 in the vacation savings fund. Five more years of this and I might be able to take a weekend retreat to Enid. Nonetheless, I've done it. A week of being down and out in Tulsa, but I lived a pretty good life this week.
Now it's your turn. I'll hold your wallet for you.
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