If you are ever looking for an apparently-vacant downtown area to shoot your next zombie thriller in, look no further than Oklahoma’s state capital, Oklahoma City!
I report to you from this brightly-lit ghost town after a day’s worth of driving and sweating through the Midwest’s patented 95-degree weather with 95% humidity. I report to you from a shitty Days Inn next to the airport positioned conveniently behind a Hustler Adult Store. I report to you with a stomach full of frosting.
The day began late, as these massive undertakings usually do. We didn’t clear out of Kansas City until nearly 11:00am, my girlfriend’s blue Honda Fit crammed with pretty much everything we own, and a few things I’m pretty sure we don’t own. (The neighbors naively leave their doors unlocked much of the time.) Our first stop was to be Joplin, MO, which is not only a hopping-off point to Route 66, but also the place of my birth. The idea was to eat a late lunch at Mazzio’s, a pizza I have long-loved and may well have been the first pizza place I ever ate at as a small child.
So obviously, the Mazzio’s in Joplin is no longer in business. Sigh.
Undaunted, we pointed our car like an arrow toward Oklahoma, and fired ourselves across state lines. Now, other than the occasional toll road and an unusual preoccupation with telling you not to “drive through smoke,” there is very little to distinguish Oklahoma from, well, southern Missouri. Which makes sense, as states in America are not set up like zones in World of Warcraft. You do not step from the jungle into a desert, generally speaking. But this does tend to discourage a traveler, when what is ahead of him is just as unremarkable as what he left behind.
Which brings us back to Oklahoma City. It was a blistering 100 degrees when we arrived, hurled our belongings into our cheap motel, and set off for dinner in Downtown OKC. Our worries about dealing with traffic were quickly laid to rest, as there was none to speak of. In fact, as we navigated through the city grid, we became more worried about the lack of traffic. There just didn’t seem to be anyone around, which we found a mite peculiar for 7pm.
We ate some pretty good pizza at The Hideaway, which is an Oklahoma-based chain, and then wandered down Broadway further into downtown, looking for something to do. I will say this: Downtown OKC is beautiful. It’s clean, it clearly had a great deal of planning and effort put into what must have been a fairly recent revitalization, and there were still some cool old buildings left to bring some dignity to the more-modern elements. But there was just no one there. We pretty quickly took to just crossing streets without waiting for lights, yelling “It’s okay to go!” again and again and laughing at how hilarious we were because…ha ha! it was always okay to go. Always. We walked all the way from Midtown, past the [INSERT BUSINESS NAME HERE] Arena that the NBA’s Thunder call home, clear into Bricktown, and saw maybe 10 other people on foot. It was eerie. It was especially eerie when we walked past what I can only describe as the “Death Pyramid,” a monolithic beige structure across from the Arena that fairly throbbed with (evil) energy.
We eventually reached Pinkitzel’s Cupcakes & Candy, a place very high on aesthetics and quirk. I’ve never come across a bakery with such high “production” values, so I felt compelled to support the enterprise by buying two cupcakes for $3.50 each. And I mean, they were good…but I’m not sure a cupcake can ever be $3.50 Good. And we were never attacked by the undead or dragged off by morlocks. We did consider asking why what should have been the most hoppin’ part of town was virtually deserted, but the only guy we found to ask was this guy: