Ryan Welton

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Category Archives: oklahoma city

NBA 2019-20 predictions: Can Toronto repeat? How bad is OKC??

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There was so much change in the Association this summer that watching Tuesday night’s Lakers-Clippers game was like watching a futuristic movie. The Clippers didn’t just look good. They looked bad-ass.

I’m biased. Kawhi Leonard is my favorite player in the NBA, and I think he’s the best player in the Association. He also led the Toronto Raptors to a title last year. For those of you who know me, I rooted for Toronto in association with the honeymoon my bride and I took to the city.

So, to my first question: Can Toronto repeat?

Yes, as Eastern Conference champs.

Pascal Siakam is a budding star, and the Raptors have chemistry oozing from their pores.

  • Milwaukee is still terrific
  • Philadelphia *I think* takes a step back minus Butler

Let me explain that. Yes, I think the Raptors take a step back without Kawhi. D’uh. However, Siakam is so good that the gap is closing. If you remember the Toronto-Philadelphia series last year, that was heavy on Jimmy Butler, who signed with the Miami Heat in the offseason.

I love Butler, and I love the Heat. They’re my sleeper to win the East. Tyler Herro is going to make a run at Rookie of the Year, even with Zion in the NBA. If he can stay healthy.

In the East, I like Toronto / Milwaukee / Philadelphia / Miami as a Final Four.

In the West, I think it’s Clippers vs. Denver for a spot in the Finals.

What about Houston?

As an Oklahoma City Thunder fan, I got to watch Russell Westbrook play for more than a decade. Harden, too. With Chris Paul’s departure, Houston’s defense will be even worse. Houston will go 57-25 and eventually get smothered by Kawhi and the Clippers.

To me, that’s it for the West. And, no, I don’t think the Lakers have a chance. Their roster, top to bottom, isn’t all that great. The Clippers are a wonderfully crafted team: skill guys, niche guys, old and young.

If I had to pick an NBA Finals, give me Clippers – Heat.

My dream is a Toronto – Clippers final. With the Raptors winning.

As far as the hometown Oklahoma City Thunder go, I think as long as Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari are on the team, the Thunder will have a shot to win. Give me 38-44 for a final record.

 

Korean, Mexican flavors come together at northwest OKC’s ‘Chigama’

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So, I ain’t gonna lie. I’m beat. Kristi, too. I’m lying in bed as this blog is being crafted.

We’re both super busy at work. We’re both still managing multiple trips per week to the chiropractor after a car wreck in November.

We’re both getting married in April. To each other. There’s a substantial to-do list that goes with that. We’ve got two houses we’re trying to sell, including one that belonged to Mom, and a car settlement in the works and all sorts of side projects and various kiddo-centric to-dos.

A nice dinner out isn’t a luxury. It’s therapy.

We had wanted to try Chigama, a Korean-Mexican restaurant, in northwest Oklahoma City, for quite awhile. A colleague’s recommendation this week, however, sealed the deal — and we visited tonight.

It’s at Memorial and May, just off the Kilpatrick Turnpike. It’s in a strip with other restaurants, including Wagyu and Metro Diner. The first thing you notice upon entering is the interior design.

It’s colorful, modern and brilliant. The blue and orange-themed insides matched the color scheme of the hometown Oklahoma City Thunder on the television.

Because Kristi and I were already pooped from a January that, this year, lasted 74 days, we took forever to order anything. Our waitress, Sarah, stopped by 6-7 times before we could get it together.

We weren’t lallygagging. Kristi was plotting different foods for us to try (our thing is to split food so we can try more dishes), and I was researching on my phone every cocktail in their alcoholic arsenal.

I settled on the poma jalapeño margarita. It was sweet, and it had a serious kick. I think the glass might have been lined with salt and chili powder.

The lady had sake. Cold, sweet pineapple sake. She likes it; I hate the stuff.

My cocktail was a 10 out of a 10. Terrific beginning to the evening out.

Next course was bao. I thought Kristi was saying, “bowel,” and the funny part was that I didn’t flinch. I was like, “Well, I guess this is happening.”

But it was a steamed bun with goodies inside, namely soft-shell crab and pork belly.

Then came the scallion pancakes.

The sour cream sauce paired perfectly with the side dish. Loved this.

Kristi tells me this is “elote.” I responded, “you mean corn?” She squeezed the lime over it, giving the sweet corn a tangy flavor.

The theme of the night at Chigama was “flavor combos.” At no place we’ve been in Oklahoma City has had as interesting a mix of flavors as Chigama.

Our main course was a couple tacos — a beef steak taco on the left and a sweet-and-spicy shrimp taco on the right. My favorite taco was the shrimp. Kristi’s, too.

We were supposed to dip the tacos in this chili sauce but we forgot.

Oh, well. Not that the tacos needed it.

Last but not least, we ordered some churros. By then, the Thunder were up by 25 over the Heat, and the last big table had paid up for the night.

We had the place to ourselves.

I don’t rave about a restaurant unless I mean it, but Chigama was both a culinary delight and an experiential one. And it cements my love of Korean food or at least Korean-influenced foods, especially given that the late, great Chae had been my favorite Oklahoma City restaurant.

Anyway, give this place a try. High marks. Totally affordable, too. $$ on prices and I’d say 9 out of 10 on food + experience.

A Thanksgiving (car crash) to remember…

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We were heading to dinner, ready to try a new place, new for us. A place called Kwan’s Kitchen was calling, and we were ready for a chance to unwind before the holiday weekend.

As we headed down Memorial Road, past Rockwell Avenue, in Oklahoma City. I was daydreaming into the distance. Like usual. And, no, I wasn’t driving.

Kristi was, and I suddenly heard her scream.

“Bam!”

We had been hit and hit hard in the intersection of Memorial and Rockwell. Kristi somehow managed to wrest control of the vehicle and keep us from flipping. I was 90 percent sure we were headed down the embankment and maybe onto the Kilpatrick Turnpike below.

As the person in the passenger seat, I’d describe it is being on a really bumpy boat ride on the lake. The vehicle was just thrusting about, and the morning after, I was quite sore — more sore than after I finished my half marathons. By a lot. Some of that was compounded by achy hips from a golf outing earlier in the week.

Getting old sucks, folks, haha!

I got out of the vehicle instantly and urged Kristi to get out. See, I watched too many Emergency!-like shows in the 1970s, and I knew that the car always exploded in the aftermath of a wreck.

It didn’t.

Right as I was walking toward the other driver, to whom I was going to ask, “What the ****?,” a gentleman walked up to me and gave me his name and number. He and his wife had seen the whole thing. The other dude ran a red light, a light that had been red for quite a while.

We’re not sure how fast the guy was going, but I immediately got concerned for him and walked up to him, not in anger, but just to make sure he was OK. He was extraordinarily apologetic, which made me immediately conciliatory, and I stood with him as his teenage daughters got out of their Honda Odyssey. For the record, we think he was going 30-40 mph through the intersection.

What struck me is how hard the hit was. It was really hard. Two airbags went off, both on Kristi’s side of the car, and she whacked her head. The hit was so hard, it popped the gear shift out of place in the middle of the front of the vehicle. The hit was so hard that it BENT MY SUBARU FORESTER CAR KEY.

I shit you not. The key must have been against something in my left pocket, but the impact bent it. We got it fixed pretty easily with WD-40 and duct tape, which is how you do it in the South.

How much harder then is an impact at 55, 60, 70 miles per hour or beyond?

If you weren’t a believer in seat belts before, you became one.

If you weren’t a believer in staying hands-free with any device before, you were now.

Oklahoma City Police came out to help, and while they were helpful, I would also note that they’re short. No time for any extra commentary or questions. All business, and that’s understandable and standard. I add that as a word to the wise if you’re ever in an accident: minimize the number of words you speak and maximize their impact.

“Ma’am, do you want an ambulance?” the officer asked Kristi.

“Yes,” I replied, “She does, at least to get checked out.”

“I’m not asking you,” the officer said.

Clap the heck back, why don’t you?! Ha!

My response emanated from the brief conversation I had with the witness, who (it turns out) is a former police officer. He said, “Have the ambulance come over and check you out, even if you don’t think you need it.”

And here’s why.

When you’re in an accident, your body automatically goes into fight-or-flight, meaning the adrenaline is at the max, and while you’d be likely to feel a broken bone, you’re less likely to feel what they call “soft-tissue injuries.” In this case, Kristi had sustained a nasty bump to the head. The paramedics checked her out and held her for a couple minutes for high blood pressure that quickly went down.

We’re both pretty sore today. I’d say that I’m much more sore than I expected to be. Achy like the flu.

The other reason you need to get checked out by the ambulance at a wreck is for insurance documentation. In fact, at every step, if you have symptoms of anything after a wreck, you need to get checked out. What makes the whole process feel very shady is that average folks like us often err on the side of not bothering people.

“I’ll be fine. Don’t bother the doctor or paramedic!”

“It’s just a bump!”

In the hard, cold, real world, that just translates to, “not really hurt,” even if that’s not true.

It’s enough to make a person pretty jaded — or get that law degree and chase a few ambulances!

However, we’re lucky. We lived. No broken bones. A big pain in the ass, figuratively and literally, but aside from some paperwork and administrative headaches the next few weeks, all good.

And the other guy and his family lived. And he has insurance, too. Thank the good Lord. I can’t tell you how little sympathy I have for anybody who’s driving without insurance. Driving is a privilege, not a right.

Later over dinner, watching the Thunder game, I told Kristi, “Hey, it was another first for us. Our first car wreck together.”

“How romantic,” she responded.

We both agreed though: we’ll never forget this Thanksgiving! It could have been oh, so much worse.

Review: RENT’s Oklahoma City production a worthwhile 20th anniversary tribute

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It was the musical that made Broadway cool again, as one reviewer put it.

RENT opened 21 years ago, and I was among the lucky who got to see it on Broadway. It was during a business trip to New York City, and I had seen the ensemble perform “Seasons of Love” on the TODAY show. This is early Internet era, so I actually watched it on TV. Musically, I was sold.

During this trip to NYC, I spent my days at the Javitz Center, but I spent a good chunk of one particular day trying to procure tickets to see the hot new show at the Nederlander Theatre on 41st. There was no Ticketmaster back then. I had to call somebody on the phone and place an order. Talk about a pain in the butt.

I showed up early to the theatre, mostly because I didn’t know what the heck else to do in Manhattan and I didn’t have a ton of funds with which to do it (the real reason). Truth is: I was the first person to show up for the show that night, and I was struck by how intimate the Nederlander Theatre is. It’s not huge at all. Hell, it’s tiny.

The first person I saw was Wilson Cruz, who was playing Angel Dumott Schunard at the time. He was walking through the theatre in half-dress looking for something. I thought to myself: Kind of cool. Breaking the fourth wall before the show even starts.

Here’s what I realize two decades later: I saw Idina Menzel in her first big Broadway role. I saw Taye Diggs, Jesse L. Martin and Anthony Rapp, too, although I missed Adam Pascal (the original Roger) by about a month. Cruz was filling in for Wilson Jermaine Heredia on this night, and I believe Fredi Walker (Joanne) had just left the cast as well.

What I got to witness was a genuine early look at pop culture history, first-hand, and the show has always been an influence on me relative to a philosophy of creation-for-the-sake-of-creation. “The opposite of war isn’t peace; it’s creation,” as Mark says toward the end of “La Vie Boheme,” which closes the first act.

If “Seasons of Love” sold me on the show musically, “La Vie Boheme” is precisely and beautifully stereotypically what Broadway should be in its choreographed chaos, catchy music and memorable lines.

“Why Dorothy and Toto went over the rainbow to blow off Auntie Em…La Vie Boheme.”

So, RENT is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and it’s making a stop in Oklahoma City at the Civic Center Music Hall. If you’re looking for in-depth negative criticism, you won’t find it here. I’ll tell you about what I like, but I have no interest in tearing anybody down, and I can’t pretend to be too knowledgeable about Broadway. No, not everybody in this cast lived up to what I remember — but a couple folks damned sure did.

Collins. The review in The Oklahoman from opening night didn’t have great things to say about Aaron Harrington. In fact, his performance was largely panned by the paper. I *think* it may have been Devinre Adams to play Tom Collins on my evening, although I’m not sure. In my opinion, whoever played him had the best voice in the entire company and largely sounded just like the cast recording.

The Oklahoman’s primary criticism of Harrington’s performance was that he didn’t pull off the anarchist part of Collins’ character. I’m not sure what they were looking for: he was terrific.

Maureen. When she first appeared late in the first act, she did so much more majestically than I remember Menzel’s Maureen. And when Lyndie Moe performed “Over the Moon,” she did so with a ton more physicality than I remembered from Menzel. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but it kind of made me think of how Chris Farley would have done “Over the Moon.” What’s even more amazing is that Moe is only a freshman in college, studying at Rider University in New Jersey.

I didn’t like her Maureen…until I did. Moe was terrific, and I realized this about midway through the second act, after her “Take Me Or Leave Me” performance with Joanne, played aptly by Jasmine Easler. I don’t mind sounding like a fool here, but Moe was better to me than what Menzel was in New York City, not that I remember everything about that performance. Sitting in the cramped Nederlander some 20 years ago, I don’t remember thinking to myself, “Holy crap, I’m watching Idina Menzel!” For what it’s worth, the Broadway performance of RENT back in 1997 was highlighted by Cruz’s portrayal of Angel, who by most accounts is the character the entire story revolves around.

Aaron Alcaraz was solid as Angel here in Oklahoma City. If you were to ask me what it takes to pull off a production of RENT, I would tell you that your No. 1 task is to make sure you’ve got a strong Angel. Alcaraz studied at Ithaca College in New York and has credits in “Alladin” and “A Chorus Line.”

For those of you who don’t know the story behind RENT and its creator, it’s highly bittersweet. I’m guessing 99 percent of anybody who reads this blog post knows that Jonathan Larson died of an aortic aneurysm the night before the show’s big premiere. Reminds me of Eva Cassidy a bit, an artist who achieved fame only after death.

The only bad part about the experience at the Civic Center Music Hall is one that happens at venues across the country. Their employees obsess over scolding people who take photos before or during the show. On this particular night, the Civic Center Music Hall was only 50-60 percent full. It was so empty that ushers started guiding people to the front of the auditorium.

Before the show, about 10 minutes before, I snapped a photo of the stage from about 200 feet away. An usher named Maurice, wearing big red glasses, came by and said that photography was not allowed and that I needed to delete the photo I just took.

That wasn’t going to happen.

Here’s the deal, and this is for everybody in music, theatre and any kind of performance: Phones are here forever-more, and people spend money not for performances but for experiences, which encompasses the time before the production as well. Furthermore, in an economy where discretionary dollars are tough to come by, touring companies and concert promoters should beg customers to take photos and even record video to share on social media.

Beg them.

That is not an excuse for people to be obnoxious. I would argue that every event has its own norm, its own rules: Sometimes everybody is like, “Nope. No phones.” At others, people are like, “We goin’ Facebook Live up in here!” The behavior of the masses dictates what’s acceptable digitally.

There’s really nothing production companies can do about it — nor should they. I’ll go on a longer rant about this sometime, but they’re collective fools for not embracing technology. It does nothing to degrade the experience, especially when done before the show or at the end of it.

If you get a chance to see RENT while it’s in Oklahoma City, do so (they did a good job) — and take a photo right in front of Maurice. Do it for me.

And check out my version (a too slow version) of “Seasons of Love” that I posted to my YouTube channel this past week. I’d love it if you’d subscribe!! Or at least watch the video. It will only take three of your 525,600 minutes today.

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