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Fixup Town

The secret lives of Tulsa lights

For as long as I could open my eyes, I’ve been smitten with Tulsa at night. When I was a teenager in Bartlesville, I’d drive here not to do anything in particular, but simply to get lost in the city’s universe of lights. I’d drive all over town, usually by myself, listening to my favorite tapes, observing the nightscape, the people who inhabited it, and thinking. Tulsa had so many unexplained visual treasures: abandoned factories, lonely railyards, mysterious skyscrapers, ghostly warehouses, imposing oil refineries, lost and forgotten overpasses—and they all came alive at night.

It was more than just Christmas lights that made Destiny happy when she was a child growing up in Ada, a small town about two hours southwest of Tulsa. It was all lights—the way the man-made show moved and danced in space at night, illuminating not just things, but ideas, creating new pictures in her imagination.

She called it “Fixup Town.” It was a place, and a feeling. Grown-ups didn’t understand why she called it Fixup Town, but they didn’t try too hard.

I don’t know that I gave it a name as a kid, but I saw it too—bright as moonlight. I think I just called it “Tulsa.”

Whatever name we give it, we all know Fixup Town. It’s the sense of peace and nostalgia we feel when we see a favorite neon shop sign, one that is so old, and worn by the elements in just such a way, that there could never be another like it anywhere else in the world.

We see Fixup Town when we’re outside on a restaurant patio with friends, and our eyes catch on the lights of a downtown building silhouetted against the starry sky, pulling us from the conversation to feast on the beauty of the skyline.

Fixup Town is always out there. It transcends the physical, and connects us to the quiet, contemplative world we often ignore.

So Destiny and I took a drive around Tulsa looking for it.

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