POSTED ON APRIL 23, 2008:
Ridin' About Town
Grab a helmet. Tulsa's favorite sculptures are going at it
I've remained tight-lipped about this long enough. I must break my silence! Oklahomans, I don't understand why many of you find it important to wear goggles on a motorcycle, but not a helmet. I do understand wanting a choice, but choosing to opt out of the very thing that could save your life seems counterintuitive to me.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Belize it was mandatory for me to wear a bicycle helmet while riding my bicycle. That's the one without a motor for those taking notes.
If I was in my own yard working on my chain and wanted to take my bicycle on a test spin from the avocado tree to my clothes line I would first have to go back inside my house and retrieve my helmet before taking a seat. Yes, my height, accent, skin color, clothes, etc. were not enough to signal to Belizeans that I was an outsider. I was made to wear a neon blue head protection device (or HPD), an item that cost more than a middle class Belizean would make in three to four working days. At least my helmet matched my bike. Things could have been worse. They both could have been pink.
I imagine I frequently had my bicycle up to 20, maybe, 25 miles per hour on the streets of Belmopan. I wrecked only once. Day one. I sustained no injuries, although I was a little embarrassed about my clumsiness.
With that said, imagine my dismay each and every time I go out in Tulsa on a nice sunny day to see motorcyclists sporting mohawks, pony-tails, combovers, and mullets instead of helmets. And on the highway no less. This is new to me.
I can't sound off like my former Belizean peers and shout, "Helmet boy!" It takes all the fun out of it for me. I was really looking forward to that. I had this vision of sitting back in my car with the windows down and mocking all those who were made to wear helmets by the state of Oklahoma, but the state throws me this curveball. Damn you, Oklahoma! Now I can only tease those that choose the security. No, that won't do. I'll have to wait until my next visit to Tennessee.
For many of you it is the perfect time of year to jump on the Harley and ride about town. That shift in vehicle choice tells me I need to get outside. I obey. I need to see the town, too.
For some time I'd heard about the praying hands at Oral Roberts University. I considered their existence doubtful, but later confirmed the fact on a long distance phone call. "Really, they're 60 feet tall?" An internet search provided me with visual proof, but I had to see it for myself.
"Wowwee. They are quite large, but they seem more mischievous than I would have thought. What do you think," I questioned my friends. "What are those ten fingers up to?" I thought about it for a while. Maybe the owner of the oversized hands had done something wrong. Yes, that's what the sculptor was trying to capture. Well done!
Maybe they had picked the pocket of Paul Bunyan's pants. If that's the case those hands are more than mischievous. They're audacious. Paul carried a pretty big ax. I wouldn't mess with that dude. If I had, I would have considered saying a quick prayer too. That's the story behind those hands. It must be.
Oddly, the rest of the ORU campus fit into the perception I had of it based on the online viewing of the 30-ton hands. I had no idea the school's theme would be "gaudy in gold," but somehow it all seemed to go together. The school's vision of the future almost 50 years ago doesn't mesh with neighboring Wal-Mart or Zio's, but that could all change in another 50 years. I hope not, but anything's possible.
As my tour of grandiose figures continued, I found myself at the feet of the giant Tulsa oilman at the Tulsa Fair Grounds. I've been told some call him Larry, but he looks more like a Trevor to me. I'll stick to calling him the Golden Driller.
I would enjoy seeing a face-off between Trevor, the giant Golden Driller, and Oral Roberts's Praying Hands. I think it would be an entertaining duel. The Driller seems more like a no non-sense type of guy who would be willing to abide by the rules of a duel. He epitomizes the strength of Tulsa. He's unwavering and in control. I'd want him to show up with his hard hat on if I were to ever have any problems or disagreements. "No, officer, I'm not the guy you're looking for. Talk to my friend here with the hard hat on. He'll vouch for me."
I think I've covered the hands enough for you to know I am somewhat skeptical about how fair they would play. If they ever have such a duel, I want a praying hands #1 foam finger.
As my journey through Tulsa moved on I saw several penguins. Praying hands and an oilman's significance are easy to understand, but given our geographical location the penguins were a little confusing. Is there some sort of history there?
My research led me to the person closest to me, my girlfriend. "I think it was a fundraiser," she replied. Six feet tall penguins scattered about town. Yes, that sounds plausible.
I continued my search later on the all-knowing Internet and learned, yes, the girlfriend was right. The penguins were part of an art fundraising effort known as "Penguins on Parade" conducted by the Tulsa Zoo for the penguin exhibit. My favorite penguin is located on Memorial between 51st and 61st. She is urine yellow and is decorated with positive and negative symbols. Math?- you ask. Chemistry perhaps? Close. The penguin is located outside a drug-testing site, just in case you need a reminder when you are asked to submit a test sample.
The addition of the penguin statues to the battle of Tulsa's best sculptures makes for an even more fascinating hypothetical situation. Strength in numbers, right? I'm taking the dozens of penguins. They're team players. Praying hands and oil man, you are going down!
Wait, I forgot about "The Five Moons," the sculptures at The Tulsa Historical Society depicting Oklahoma's five famous ballerinas. They're agile, graceful, and beautiful. This fictionalized fisticuff for Tulsa's best sculpture is too tough for me to decide.
I'll grab my helmet, wait for the smoke to clear, and let your imagination determine the outcome.
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