Friday, July 23, 2010

Miss Oklahoma

It’s been quite a while since I posted, but I figured this was worth the effort!  Besides, this is probably my one and only chance to say that “I personally know Miss Oklahoma.” 

For those of you who don’t know, Emoly West is the new Miss Oklahoma.  Now, I might be just one of her 1,534 Facebook friends, but more importantly I’m one of only 25(ish) other people who spent an entire semester with her oversees in the fall of 2006.  Here is the proof!  Yes, those were the best pics I could find online.  To be honest, I don’t know her that well and really don’t think she likes me that much, but that’s beside the point!  I got to thinking the other day, what if someone called me up and was like, ""Leighton.  You’re one of Emoly’s ‘closest’ friends, what can you tell us about her?”  Here is what I would say…

I have two Emoly West stories, which are basically the sum total of our Pac Rim 2006 contacts.  The first one happened in China.  It was a Sunday and we were slated for about 23 hours of straight Chinese church.  I’m a HUGE fan of going to church in other countries and getting that experience because I think it’s very eye opening, but this was the day from Hell.  First of all (Oh yeah, this story has very little to do with Emoly West), I woke up that day with nausea, a migraine the size of Mongolia, and what doctors refer to as…Diarrhea.  Now.  You could compose a list – if you wanted to – of the top 10 places you don’t want to have the runs and Beijing China 2006 would be right up there with Sahara Desert, West Kansas, and Times Square.  The afternoon ended in a damp dark closet type room in a grocery store with me hovering over a hole in the ground praying no one opened the door and exposed me to the whole dried bird meat section.  But before I got there, I was in a one room church in the middle of a hospital trying to stay awake and fight off migraines.  A couple of other guys around me were talking about some episode of the Simpsons or maybe Family Guy where the basis of the show was how much better it was to be a guy than a girl.  I was laughing along with some jokes, but most of my concentration was elsewhere.  Enter Emoly West.  She heard the joking (we’re talking lame George Costanza type joking here) and decided to come and tell the group of us that we, and I quote, “were not real men.  Real men don’t joke like that” and something else about us not deserving women in our lives.  Needless to say, it was a running joke the rest of the trip. 

Our second run in was in New Zealand.  We were road tripping across the southern island in three old church vans with about 30 of us.  No trailer for our bags, no 7th grader that takes up 3 square inches with his 52 lbs frame.  If it was not the most beautiful country on the planet, it would have been miserable.  Anyway, we stopped at a gas station to get some drinks and snacks and fuel and Emoly bought a granola bar.  I opened it without her knowing and took a fairly large sized bite and then claimed to know absolutely nothing but my name when questioned.  At the time for various reasons I thought it was pretty humorous, but looking back I probably would have forgiven her if she had pulled me out of the van and cleaned my clock. 

Hope that answers your questions.  Congrats to Miss Oklahoma, Emoly West!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Oklahoma. Isn’t that where…

So it’s not quite Newcastle OR New York, but it’s certainly new.  I’m now in sunny/humid/hot/”Am I the only person even thinking about moving fast?” Melbourne Florida.  I’m here to work for Northrop Grumman as soon as I get my security clearance, but who really knows when that will happen?!  In the mean time, I might as well blog so I can keep up with Emily.
In the last few months I’ve been kind of stunned at what people think of Oklahoma who have never really been there.  If you’re getting ready to head out of Oklahoma, be prepared to hear a few of the following perceptions.
  1. Indians.  I can almost forgive this.  I mean, you take a few history classes in high school and you get that impression.  Some take it to the next step and start asking if you’ve slept in a tee-pee.  My recommendation at this point is to either lead them on to believe that you hunt buffalo for a living or stare at them in silence until they feel ashamed enough to just walk away. 
  2. Cowboys.  My building superintendent in NYC is convinced that I’m a cowboy.  I’ve tried telling him that my parents don’t own a horse and he is having none of it.  He’s just knows that one day he’s going to see me going out in my cowboy boots.  When he’s not asking me about horses, he’s usually lamenting the fact that he still can’t forgive Bruce Dern for shooting John Wayne in the back, and probably never will.
  3. OKC Bombing.  I’ve been shocked by how often I’ve had this exchange.  “I’m from Oklahoma.”  “Oh, that’s where they had the bombing.”  I always knew it was a big deal, I just never realized how much it resonated with the rest of the country.
  4. Sooners.  “You’re from Oklahoma?  What the heck is a Sooner?!”  “Well, during the land run….”  “Wait, so you’re team is named after cheaters?!”  “Well, yeah, but…”
  5. Hick Republican.  I’ve decided that Oklahoma is tied with Utah for #3 on the liberal hate list right behind Texas and South Carolina.  This one is probably the most annoying.  You will tell people you’re from Oklahoma and you can instantly see that “Oh….so you hate gays, women, and Mexicans” look in their eyes regardless of your actual beliefs/opinions.  Word of advice, there is no talking to people who think like that or any use in convincing them otherwise, just move on to someone more intelligent.
  6. No Trees.  This is a new one for me as of yesterday and my inspiration for the post.  Told the guy at the Hertz rental car place that I was from Oklahoma.  He smiled and said to me straight faced, “Not a lot of trees in Oklahoma.  I know some places have them, but most of it is just nothing.”
Good luck Oklahomans, there’s apparently a lot to overcome!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Homeless

I used to think I saw homeless people all the time in OKC.  I would say on average I saw somebody on the streets maybe once a week.  Maybe.  Of course, that was OKC and this is NYC.  Now, if there is a day when I don’t see a homeless person, it’s because I didn’t leave my apartment that day.  If a day goes by where I only see ONE homeless person, it’s because I got 100 feet outside of my apartment and decided to go back and stay inside the rest of the day. 

That being said, here are some truths I’ve learned about homeless people.

1) They have names.  This one for me is the hardest to come to grips with.  It’s easy to keep going when it’s “The guy on Penn with the sign” or “Corner guy on Broadway”.  When you find out that his name is Javier or Kevin and realize that somebody named him long before he became a homeless guy on the corner, that’s when you have to actually reevaluate life.

2) Very patient.  It makes sense, I mean, they have nothing to do?  It’s hard to imagine a patient person in this city sometimes but they find a way to do it.

3) Humble.  They don’t care if you ignore them, they don’t care if they beg their hearts out and you turn a cold shoulder, they probably wouldn’t even care if you threw your shoulder into them walking by.  Actually, the only times I’ve EVER heard “have a nice day” in the city of New York (outside of church) is from the homeless guy outside of the corner store every time someone walks by him. 

4) They do stuff other than beg.  This is a new revelation actually.  I talk to this guy probably every other day that sits on the corner and I just recently found out that he plays tackle football in the park.  “Gotta show these young kids what’s up!”  Kind of embarrassed that I don’t know his name yet, but I’m sure I will soon.

There are more things I’ve learned but I’ll stop there.  Basically, I just want to say that if you don’t know a homeless person, you’re missing out.  If you’re moving here soon, here’s the deal…you’ve got no reason to fear the homeless, trust me.  And don’t be afraid to step out a little, I promise it’ll be worth it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Survival Tips

I’ve got two survival tips for people moving to NYC.  Honestly, these might be the most useful things to know if you are planning on living here.

First, carry cash.  Yes, you can get by with carrying a card, but trust me, you won’t be happy.  One day you’ll be standing in a line about 5000 people long waiting to buy some overpriced Panini so you can get to the class you’re already late for and find out that they only do cash when you get to the front.  Actually, more often than not it’s the $10-15 limit policy and in that case you just throw in some Pop chips and a soda and be on your way, but still.  I can hear my mom in the background right now, “Leighton, you’re gonna get mugged one day and have all that cash on you!”  Here’s the deal about muggings.  They’re like sunburns.  If you take proper precautions, you’ll be fine.  Wear spf 2.5 (*Emily*) or walk the streets at AM:30 and you take your chances.

Second, if it’s past 11PM, just suck it up and take the cab.  ESPECIALLY on the weekends.  I don’t know what the actual stats are, but I would say you have about a 75% chance of your bus/subway either not running or not stopping at your stop on the weekends.  Seriously, go out on the weekends and just say a prayer early about transportation home.  With that being said, if you find yourself thinking, I’ll just wait for the bus and it happens to be post 11PM, just step out into the street and signal for the cab.  Otherwise, here’s what’s going to end up happening.  First, you’re going to stand for about 30 min in the freezing cold waiting for your bus only to find out that it’s not running.  Shocker.  So then you’re going to take a wild stab at where you think the subway line is and go try to find it.  Once you get there you’ll look at a map and kick yourself for how many stations you passed on the way to this one.  You’ll board and ride all the way downtown, which is a good 3 miles out of the way only to find that the subway you now need that takes you to your actual subway home is also not running.  Shocker.  At this point you’ll give up and actually get the cab and pay him to drive you back the three miles you just came on the subway.  So again, if it’s past 11PM just take the cab.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Coming to NYC, I was expecting a few weather differences. Probably not as hot during the summer, a little more mild and wet during the spring/fall, and colder during the winter.  So far, that’s been fairly accurate, but lately I’ve noticed one huge key difference between OKC weather and NYC weather.

Let’s say you wake up in OKC and the Gary tells you, “Folks, it’s gonna be gorgeous outside today.”  Any Oklahoman will tell you that this translates into 50% chance he’s right, 20% chance tornadoes, 15% chance of rain, 10% chance you can’t risk going outside because the heat will melt you, and 5% chance of snow.  This is proven science.  Here’s what you do when you watch the weather in OK 90% of the time.  Turn it on at 6 in the morning.  Option A) Rick and/or Gary say the words tornado, severe storm, ice, and/or snow.   Make alternative plans because you aren’t going to be watching TV that night regardless of the actual weather.  Option B) They say none of those words and you just pray that your outfit matches the weather at least most of the day.

NYC, on the other hand, is completely different.  Granted, I’ve only been here for 6 months, but this is what I’ve observed.  If you wake up in the morning and you can see some hint of sunshine, it’s going to be a nice day.  Period.  Done.  No 15% chance flood, no 25% blizzard, it’s just going to be a nice day.  ALL DAY.  No 3 PM cold front, no lone cloud dropping rain on a single square mile of the city, none of that.  You see sunshine, it’s Feb. 22, add those together and you get high of 40 ish, gorgeous day.  AND BOOM, you’re right!  On the other hand if you wake up and it’s snowing out your window, it’s going to be snowing ALL DAY.  Raining in the morning?  ALL DAY!  Yesterday I went outside and it was like that nasty misty cold crap.  I was grumbling to myself, man if this was Oklahoma the sun would break this up in about 5 minutes.  Here?  ALL DAY misty crappy.  

Moral of this otherwise pointless story.  If you're coming to NYC anytime soon and you’re wondering about the weather, no need to worry.  Just  check the 5 day, and what you see is what you get.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

In a way, my travel experiences of late are a lot like this movie.  In my 23 Christmases in Oklahoma, not one time did I enjoy a white Christmas.  But of course, when I’m trying to get home from NYC there hits the Oklahoma Blizzard 2009.  1 taxi, 5 airports, 3 airliners, 1 really nice hotel with revolving restaurant, 1 SuperShuttle, and about 100 United/Continental flight delays later I made it home.  All that was missing was the side kick.

On to 2010.  Surely my travel woos are over for like another 10 years right?  Wrong…

Jan. 22 – “I” book a ticket home for Feb. 10-14.  I pick the 10th because I want to minimize the class time I’ll miss.  The whole time I’m thinking to myself, “NYC flight in Feb?  I’ll be fine…”

Feb. 5-6 – A snow storm rolls through the mid Atlantic.  Doing some quick prob and stats in my head I tell myself that there is NO WAY another storm like that is going to hit within the next 4 days?!  Haha, that just doesn’t happen! 

Feb 8 - Of course, that is pre-Global Warming logic.  Global Warming = more snow storms.  Duh Leighton!  I check the weather and it looks like NYC might get some snow on, you guessed it, the 10th!!  I get online and switch my ticket from a 7PM departure to a 5:30AM departure.  Okay, now I should be good to go.

Feb. 9 -

9:00 AM – Holy smokes this is going to be a huge storm…

10-2:00 – Wow snow for 24 hours.  It’s okay, they’ll still be flying at 5:30.

2:40-5:30 – Class

5:50 – I get back to my apartment and figure I should start some laundry since I have zero clean clothes and I need to start packing sometime.

6:10 – Laundry started, let’s check flight status…

6:11 – @#$%@$#%!!  Dialing Continental to try and reschedule!

6:30 - “Sorry sir, all airports from D.C. to Boston are either shutdown or we have no flights available.”

6:31 – Listen lady, if you have to route me through Abu Dhabi to get me home tomorrow, that’s fine I’ll do whatever.

6:32 - “We can’t get you to Oklahoma until Feb. 13 at 10PM.”

6:35 – Pray for forgiveness for swearing so much and that Emily doesn’t throw herself off a cliff when I tell her the bad news.

6:40 – Prayer works, Emily is still breathing, but only in huge gasps of air.

6:45 – 7:00 – I lose my mind and start looking up other ways to get out of NYC tonight. 

7:10 – Hey there is a one-way flight at 9PM on American that will get me to Columbus, OH tonight and home tomorrow.  Why not?

7:15 – Frantically pulling my clothes out of the washing machine…

7:30 – Packed with all the essentials, 1 shirt, 2 boxers, 4 wet socks, and a set of dress clothes all shoved in a bag.

7:33 – I’m SPRINTING down 121 towards Amsterdam to catch a cab.

8:10 – I get to the airport and wait in line to buy my ticket for the 9:00 flight.  Thanks to some Asian lady with about 1 million pounds of luggage and a 5 word English repertoire, it took about 20 minutes to get through the line.

8:45 – Plenty of time to reflect on how crazy my life is and how hungry I am from no dinner before we board the plane.

Feb 10 -

12:45 AM – I’m sitting in the Columbus airport, almost alone with all my we clothes hanging over an empty chair to dry.

1-4:30 – I try to sleep.

4:30 - “A…B…C…D…E…F….G” “1…2….3….4….5….6”  I roll over and two three year old girls are practicing counting and their ABC’s.  A) Who gets to the airport at 4:30?  B) What 3 year old is awake enough at 4:30 to sing?  C) The two of you are lucky you are going to have a chance to see life at 4 years-old.

6:40 – On the plane to Dallas.

6:41 - “Ladies and gents, this is the captain speaking.  Due to an UNBELIEVABLY light snow storm this morning we are going to have to go through the de-ice pad.  Should just be an extra 20 minutes.”

6:51 - “Ladies and gents, my mom told me not to lie and I’m not going to start now.  We’re having some problems with the plane pusher backer.  The pin is frozen and we are getting a guy with a blow torch over here so we can get moving.”  Great.  And there are blow torches at the airport?  I can’t have 4 oz. of toothpaste but there are guys walking around on the ground with BLOW TORCHES?!

7:20 – It’s FINALLY our turn to get “de-iced” which amounts to a guy in a lift attached to a truck driving around the plane at .0001 mph to spray us with some stuff. 

7:40 – Liftoff

8:50 – Landing/boarding has begun for my flight to OKC

9:10 – SPRINTING through terminals A and D like a maniac trying to get to my flight.  I think I can see my plane pulling out from the air tran…

9:15 - “Sorry sir, your plane just backed out.  We’ll get you on the 12:25.”

9:30 – I’m in an Irish pub.  Before you rush to judgment, remember that it was 10:30 in NYC…

And from there, pretty much everything went as planned.  All of that for a few days will all the people I love the most.  Well worth it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

They said it best…

So if you don’t know, I love folk/bluegrass.  Love it.  I know that that is like the most hick, country thing in the world to love, but I just can’t help it.  If you want some good music, listen to The Avett Brothers.  Anyway, when I was back in Oklahoma I would tune my dad’s satellite radio to bluegrass and listen to it non-stop (unless of course it was between the hours of 11 to 2 or 4 to 6 when I was listening to two of my other favorite AM/FM radio shows…).  One day I happened to stumble upon a song by the group Balsam  Range called Caney Fork River.  Most of you would probably hate it and even more of you would make fun of me for how hick of a song it is, but I think the first verse does a fairly nice job of summing up my current situation.  Enjoy.

It’s a long long way
from the hills of Carolina
to the arms of my darlin’
in Jackson, Tennessee. 
And it’s a hard hard way
to try and make a living,
but it’s the quickest way to get ahead,
both of us agree.
It’s been 27 weeks,
but it seems more like forever,
still the pay was good
and worth the sacrifice. 
The work is finally over
and I’m getting close to Jackson,
I can’t wait to see her
and I know she’ll be surprised. 

How many times must I cross
that ol’ Caney Fork River
travellin’ through the state of Tennessee. 
How many times must I cross
that ol’ Caney Fork River
'till I know that I am home free.


Side Note: In typically country fashion, the second verse is about the guy finding his wife/girlfriend/whatever cheating on him and taking them both out with a shotgun.  Oh well. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Vacation…over.  So the first thing everyone asked me when I was home was, “So, how do you like it up there?”  I mean, it was practically a given.  My answer?  “I like it, it’s different.”  This, of course, is a crappy answer, which just leads to more questions.  And really, all people want to know is “Which city do you like better?”  Be honest, you’re dying to know.  So without actually answering the question, I present to you 10 reasons to LOVE each city.  I thought about doing a hate list, but I’m in a good mood…

#1 $5.50 movies, $7.00 24-packs.
#2 The sun.  You can see it…
#3 The stars.  You can see them…
#4 Non-public transportation.
#5 Grocery stores with HUMONGEOUS aisles.
#6 Al, Jim, and the Animals.
#7 Sonics, Braum’s, and ice cream on every corner.
#8 Emily Elliott.  If you don’t know her, you’re missing out.
#9 Air conditioning.
#10 Ability to wear sweats out in public and still fit in.

#1 $1.00 Nuts-4-Nuts, $5.00 gallon of fresh honey.
#2 Central Park.
#3 Broadway shows.
#4 Public transportation.
#5 Farmer’s Markets with hot apple cider.
#6 Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
#7 Zabars, Carnegie, and deli’s on every corner.
#8 Scarlett Johansson on Broadway.
#9 Snow.  The enjoyable kind.
#10 You can pretty much wear anything you want.