If my memory serves me well, I have spent every Christmas but one since Mom passed away in October 1997 with Trani and his crew in Tulsa. That comes out somewhere in the neighborhood of two-thirds of my Christmases. How did that happen?
Trani would be my brother and the crew would be Candace, Dan, Rachel, and Maribel, a recent addition who's with Dan, or he's with her, or something. I'll just say Dan's a lucky guy and leave it at that.
Many of those visits were documented by Livin' on Tulsa time blog posts hammered out in the backroom nerve center at Tulsa Runner, the store Trani opened in May 2003 and made into a pretty cool business with the help of some pretty cool people who made up the store staff over the years. This year I am in Portland for the obvious reason, but I am livin' on Tulsa time in my heart and there is a blog to hammered out.
Among the Tulsa Runner memories is a group run one night after the store closed across the Arkansas River to take in the holiday lights in downtown Jenks. Another is the Christmas gala where Trani treats the store crew and a host of runner friends to barbecue and beer and wine. Guests bring side dishes and beer and wine. Desserts appear. There are drawings for gifts from the store, culminating with the annual drawing for the traveling tights, a truly special pair of running tights that were made for Trani back in the store's early days. To give you an idea, you would probably want to put on your dark glasses before gazing on them in their dubious magnificence. The loser gains custody of the tights for the following year with the strict proviso that they be worn in public, customarily done at a race, at least once, with documentation required. Somewhere in the files I have a photo of Trani wearing the tights. Out of respect for my brother, I will refrain from sharing it. The traveling tights were scheduled to be retired after 2020. This is fitting, what with how 2020 rolled out and over us all.
On Christmas Eve 2018 Santa came to Tulsa Runner to try on some shoes. Trani treated him with the personal care and attention shown to everyone who steps through the door.
Looks like another satisfied customer!
People come in to check the store out, maybe buy some shoes, and friendships blossom. I've met some some wonderful people and made more than a few friends myself while hanging out at the store and tagging along on group runs. Greg and Oswald were two of the first back at the store's original location. Phil and Julie, Jarrett, Chris, Jeannie, Pastor Bill. There are too many others to name them all. Each name comes with memories that bring a smile.
Trani and his Tulsa pals are passionate runners. Many are marathoners. Sprinkled among them are ultra runners and triathletes. Running has been a big part of my life and identity since I took it up almost forty years ago. I had been running a few years when I met Diane and Mike, a pair of ultra runners who had just moved to Atlanta from Pittsburgh. We began running together on Saturday mornings and pretty soon I was routinely pounding out 15-milers. I never gave any thought to running a marathon though until I started hanging out with that wild Tulsa Runner crowd at Christmas. They are always recovering from the last marathon or training for the next. Sometimes both. Something about it is infectious. My first marathon was in 2010 at the age of fifty-eight, followed by two more in 2014 and 2015. The number is modest, the satisfaction and joy immeasurable. I have Trani and my Tulsa Runner friends to thank for that.
There is of course more to Tulsa Christmas than running and the store. Breakfast at BBD (Brookside by Day) and dinner at India Palace are Christmas traditions. A burger and a beer at McNellie's may not be quite a tradition, but it's close. So too are excursions to museums and parks, the Gilcrease, the Philbrook, the Woody Guthrie Museum, John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park, the Gathering Place, Turkey Mountain. And films at Circle Cinema!
Last year Candace introduced me to the Aero BRT, a snazzy new bus route that runs along the Peoria corridor. I picked up the Aero in Brookside and went downtown for a bit, then journeyed back to the end of the line for an espresso and journal session at Nordaggio's up by Oral Roberts University. It's not far from Tulsa Runner, so easy for Trani to pick me up, along with an afternoon latte for himself, when he is out running errands at the bank or the post office. Downtown I found a park, public art of various sorts, murals, and coffee shops. I was looking forward to more wandering this Christmas. For now I'm savoring memories and looking forward to next year.
Shades of Brown in Brookside is another good spot for an espresso and journal session. Very Portlandish in feel with hip baristas and mismatched furniture coupled with a touch of elegance when a small glass of sparkling water is served with the espresso.
Tulsa Christmas memories would not be complete without visions of the feasts Candace creates on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Not to mention the multigrain pancakes Trani whips up for breakfast one morning and bran muffins another. More coffee is consumed with breakfast and on through the day than is strictly speaking advisable. Fortunately, happy hour always arrives and we can switch to beer and wine.
And not least is the veritable cornucopia under the tree. Yes, we are all more or less adults and we still exchange gifts. With gusto, I might add. It is said 'tis better to give than to receive. Both are good. To see a gift one has given enthusiastically received is about as good as it gets.
And these rambles down Memory Alley are pretty good too. They've brightened my day. Thank you for indulging me. And thank you Trani and Candace, Rachel, Dan and Maribel. You're the best.
Best wishes to all. Be safe, be joyous, be enchanted!
Photos from some of the spots mentioned here can be found in the Livin' on Tulsa Time 2019 photo album on the Gallery page.
Memo from the Editorial Desk: The photo with the gifts was swapped out because I found a better one. The last two sentences in the paragraph beginning "And these rambles" were added shortly after this piece was published. They are the heart of it. How could I have left them out?