Friday, October 20, 2006

Price Tower Arts Center:Tourist stuff in the middle of nowhere

For the most part, my husband's job has involved a lot of travel for the past ten years. But usually the travel is to someplace like Waco or Wichita Falls or some other boring place in Texas. Sometimes we would get to go someplace more interesting like Houston or San Antonio or South Padre. For a couple of years we traveled the whole country, but now we're back to mostly boring places in Texas and Oklahoma.

So here were are in middle of nowhere south Kansas. Independence's main claim to fame is the Little House on the Prairie site, and the birthplace of space-traveling monkey Miss Able. We did that stuff the first day, so there's not much left to do as far as tourist stuff.

But middle of nowhere south Kansas is near middle of nowhere north Oklahoma, and we found something to do there.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed this skyscraper that ended up being built in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. While not his only skyscraper design, it was the only one that was actually built. So it's kind of a big deal, if you're into such things. And a special tour of the building started about a week ago, so we went.

Well, first of all, they only take in eight people at a time, so the tour filled up just after we got there. I don't remember that being mentioned anywhere, and if I have been one of the people who were turned away, I'd have been really mad. We took a similar tour of falling water, but it seems like the groups were of twenty or thirty people. Our group ended up being ten people, and we soon found out that was too many. First, we have to go up to the 17th floor in these really tiny, five-sided elevators. Then we go to this really small "lobby" which was even smaller than the tiny lobby downstairs. At least there was a high ceiling on the ground floor, but here the ceiling seemed less than a foot above our heads. Then we go through a really tiny hallway into one of the apartments, where we are not allowed to step on the carpet, so there is barely room for all of us to stand.

Our tour guide went on about the architectural device Wright used to make the rooms seem grand after coming from the small cramped hallway. Whatever. I don't know if it was done on purpose, but it's the same sort of thing that used in a lot of haunted houses. I've never really thought it was that wonderful.

So we went around looking at this and that in the little apartment, and isn't this wonderful and isn't that wonderful. Well, I suppose it is wonderful to look at, if you don't actually have to live in it. There's just all of this wasted space on the inside so that the outside will look interesting. And there are all of these balconies, which looks really cool from the ground, but I don't think that they're big enough for anyone to really use.

Up some stairs, and we all squeezed into the top floor office. And here the tour guide told us that the owner of building wanted a globe in his office, and Wright didn't want him to have a globe, and he was such a pain in the butt about the whole thing that he finally has a globe delivered that doesn't have Bartlesville on it. Well, I'm not surprised none of his other tall buildings were ever built, since he was such a headache to deal with. You wonder that any of his smaller buildings were finished. You tell him, do whatever you think best, but I hate orange, and then he makes everything orange and goes three times over budget in the process. Whatever.

So we went back downstairs in two groups, because only the one elevator works on the top floor. After the tour, we ate on the 15th floor at the Copper Restaurant. It was just sandwiches and salads for lunch, but I really liked mine. Like the rest of the building, the restaurant was divided up into really small seating areas, and our room only had four or five other tables in it. While we loved the food, we did think that the place could have been decorated a bit differently, and maybe had the food served on the Wright patterned dishes.

Anyway, we were glad we went. When will we ever be in this particular middle of nowhere place again?

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