The thing about B&Bs is, you never know whom you'll wind up eating breakfast with. Last November in Pennsylvania, I found myself handing over family-style plates of crisp bacon and blueberry pancakes to a couple of middle-aged geologists from Ohio: one was in a full-sized 19th-century–style corset, the other in a full officer's uniform of Ohio's 29th Infantry.
Ted and Kathy come as Civil War re-enactors to Gettysburg every year. Their conversation, I'd soon glean, rarely leaves the 19th century. In one lapse to the present, Ted said, seriously, "It's a joke how many re-enactors have big gray beards and beer bellies. We need younger people."
Then he gave me an offer I couldn't refuse.
"We have an extra uniform. Do you want to parade with us?"
You know the drill. Mid-sized city revives a long-dormant warehouse district with art galleries, a baseball park, hipster bars, food trucks, even a Spaghetti Warehouse. Locals love it, then brace for a tourism boom that doesn't really come.
But Tulsa's reviving Brady District is different. It has Woody Guthrie.
In truth, this city in the Oklahoma hills where I grew up hasn't offered much outside appeal since the oil wells dried up or Route 66 became a toll road. And for decades, the Brady, across the tracks from downtown, was the quietest, darkest place in a town better known for its TV evangelist Oral Roberts. In fact, the Brady might have been left for good if not for a couple classic music venues, including Cain's Ballroom, where Bob Wills put swing into country music in the '30s.
Now the once-abandoned red-brick townhouses are home to glass-blowing schools, violin shops, falafel stands, cafes, outdoor films and yoga classes, and even the Hanson brothers' studio 3CG. Nora Guthrie, the frizzy haired daughter of the legendary folk hero, calls this area the perfect place for the new Woody Guthrie Center. "It's like SoHo in 1969 to 1971," she says of her former New York neighborhood. "There's this budding creativity, not caring about a specific idea, just a notion to do something."