In chronological order:
1969: (earliest) I was a wee one, watching the New York Mets on their way to winning the World Series.
Early 1970s: First visits to Empire State Building, Radio City Music Hall
1974/75?: A hippie teacher gave my class a choice when we arrived in Manhattan on a field trip to the Museum of Natural History – proceed to the museum or catch Chicago playing a free concert in Central Park. We naturally chose Chicago – nothing better than hearing the band play “Saturday in the Park” in the park
that inspired the song.
Mid-1970s: Visit to San Francisco and Fisherman’s Wharf.
1976: First visit to Oklahoma City. Half of downtown is being torn down, Sheraton Century Center Hotel set to open, listening to father talk to others about big plans ahead. Still an odd thing for a kid to see. Was always fascinated by the “Chock’Full’o'Nuts” coffee shop (I think it was located where Leadership Square is now). The coffee shop and building didn’t survive long enough for me to check out when my family moved out the following year.
1977: Watched the Biltmore Hotel blown to bits. Also saw the Sheraton open, construction begin on the Conncourse underground pedestrian tunnels.
1980-1982: Spent summers working as a gopher (messenger boy, errands, etc) for downtown CPA firm. Downtown was thriving. Loved making bank deposits at the Great Banking Hall. Century Center Plaza, believe it or not, was even pretty lively, and enjoyed lunch breaks playing Pac Man in the game room. Made a couple of errand runs to the Skirvin. It was dark, it was gloomy, it was boring. I was young and stupid.
1984: Spent a week in downtown Dallas at the National Republican Convention. No parents. Just me and a bunch of other high school and college students. Downtown Dallas was surprisingly lacking in things to do, and I didn’t get a chance to visit West End.
1987: My first visit to West End. If you were a college student in Oklahoma City in the late 1980s, you averaged at least a dozen trips a year to West End and always found a friend’s couch to crash on at night. West End had EVERYTHING. Live music, shops, restaurants, clubs, and what seemed like thousands of beautiful women out and about all the time.
1990: College trip to San Francisco, shortly after the earthquake. Wow is all I can say. An amazing amount of clean up and recovery had occurred in a very short time.
1992: First visit to downtown Kansas City. Didn’t like the core, but sure was impressed by the Plaza. Also went to St. Louis – also not very impressed. Spent a lot of time in New York City – the decade-long revival of the city was already underway and it was great going to Radio City, 30 Rock and all the places that make this one of the world’s greatest cities. Christmas time in New York City is truly magical, and should be a part of anyone’s “bucket list.”
1993: Visits to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Miami in Florida. First glimpse at how the more beautiful the locale is, you can expect a shambles in the urban core of each location.
1994: Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville. Not impressed at all by Knoxville. Nashville and Memphis stood out even though they both had pretty seedy looking downtowns. They still had great history and architecture. Beale Street was awesome.
1995: Little Rock, Ark. Not as dull as I expected it to be.
Late 1990s: Visits to downtown Denver, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, Waikiki, and Boston. Impressed by all. Impressed by Sundance Square in Austin, rubber-tired trolley system being used effectively in Denver, and the historic preservation in San Antonio. Got to see impact of the Big Dig in Boston, and loved visiting Italian district in Boston. Also enjoyed my last look at the New York skyline with the World Trade Center. The beauty of Hawaii is diminished by the numerous examples of horrid urban planning in downtown Waikiki.
Last visit to West End during its heyday -Marketplace was full, Hard Rock Cafe was open, light rail was coming online.
Early 2000s: First time I extensively toured downtown Tulsa. Incredible potential, wonderful Art Deco architecture – all being neglected by a city that can’t seem to get its act together. Also impressed by Old Town in Wichita, went through Topeka, but I can’t remember a single detail from that stop
2005: Yet another visit to downtown Denver.
2006: Went back to West End. It was dead. Cautionary tale for Bricktown? I’ve asked this many a time. Hopefully lessons will be taken to heart.
2007: Toured small downtowns across the state. Some of my favorites included visiting a bookstore and coffee shop in Miami that we would dream of having in downtown OKC, an incredible upscale steakhouse in downtown Poteau where the owners had a great residence upstairs, seeing downtown Stillwater come alive, seeing Main Street principles followed in Durant and Okmulgee.
2008: Albany, New York. Stunning old architecture. Not a bad looking city.
2009: Yet another visit to Dallas. Sad to see aspirations for world class city status frozen by the “Great Recession.” Skyscraper construction halted throughout downtown, Victory development looking dead.
2010: Oklahoma City.