Friday, October 12, 2007

Parting Prairie Photos

A view of Oklahoma City's squat little skyline
that has changed little since I was a tiny tot.

It's a nearly perfect weather on this, my last night in Oklahoma City. Noted for brutal, long summers, the only time to be outside in Oklahoma is generally November through February. The rest of the year is so obscenely hot, filled with tornadoes or allergy inducing weeds that it's not worth bothering. No wonder no one walks and obesity is at epidemic proportions. Though still a bit too hot for me today in the mid-70s, tonight is just about right, not requiring a jacket and worthy of long walks.

Having heard from so many people about how grim and pathetic my shots of the place look so far, I thought I'd share a few shots almost worthy of a chamber of commerce brochure.
Further evidence of the much maligned "new urbanism" architecture is this development in the Deep Deuce District on the near east edge of downtown. Trying to ape Baltimore row houses, thedevelopers seem intent on creating ready-made history that is potentially interesting but feels a bit dishonest.

One part of Oklahoma City that boasts some incredible residential architecture is its near north side also noted for gorgeous tree lined streets and relatively intact pre-war commercial buildings.The bell tower of St. Luke's United Methodist is an example of successful 1950s modernist church architecture. Inside is an amazing pipe organ that takes up the entire wall behind the altar, looking like the skyline of Brasilia projected in Cinerama. I didn't want to interrupt the service in progress tonight to document the organ, so you might want to check it here.
Across the street is the Aberdeen Apartments, a still relatively upscale residence that I recall having a doorman. It reminds me of the similar building that my grandmother lived in and was one of many surrounding the southern perimeter of Kansas City's Country Club Plaza.

I suppose the Overholser Mansion on a corner a couple of blocks to the west would qualify as Prairie Gothic. As far as I know it still serves as a historical museum and is a surviving example of pre-statehood residential grandeur.
Further west on the same block is the Hightower Mansion. I recall my mother's stories of going to high school with one of their daughters who was brought to school by a driver. When I was a child, there was also a Hightower Building downtown with upscale shops and a tony restaurant in its basement called The Cellar.
I forget the name of this Tudor revival number, but it reminds me of a favored style further north in the much more overdone Nichols Hills, a wealthy municipality that is like a prairie version of Beverly Hills ingesting Vegas steroids. I was afraid to take photos up there because I have heard that the police will hand cuff strangers taking photos and send them straight to Guantanamo.

See, now wasn't I a nice boy on this, the Sooner state's Centennial, weekend?

A few final Oklahoma musings:
  • I met a charming young woman running a new organic market using only locally grown produce in Norman, appropriately located on the town's historic Main Street. We were able to share recent first-person encounters with Barbara Kingslover.
  • Three people today spotted me for being 12 to 15 years younger than my actual age. I could learn to love people here, though one was from New York and one from Ecuador.
  • I had a long conversation about my upcoming Catalonia trip with an adorable coworker born in Seville but raised on the Canary Islands. It was a bit surreal to be getting tips on taking the bullet train to Madrid a few blocks from the Oklahoma River.
  • The food here has actually been reasonable but not remarkable here. It's not all icky barbecue, toxic tater tots and all-u-can-eat buffets (though all are in abundance, and I am two blocks down from something called the Sonic Drive-In the emits fumes worthy of a nuclear dump site.) I had dinner tonight at a Vietnamese restaurant in a former Village Inn. Beneath mirrored golden dragons on a scarlet background, a jazz trio played Porter, Carmichael, Ellington and Jobin. An endearing mix of African American and 60ish Caucasian couples sauntered onto the dance floor to foxtrot in between martinis and vermicelli bowls. A hella-cute Amer-Asian waiter flirted with me while taking my with a mildly French accent. At the table behind me, a pair of Canadian businessmen discussed the emergence of switch grass as a viable biofuel to cultivate in the south central prairie. My meal may have been a notch or two below anything at the Slanted Door, but having such an acceptable and cheap meal with a glass of an overpriced Sonoma chardonnay after being seated immediately upon entering the place made for a pleasant last meal on the prairie.

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At 9:14 PM, Blogger Erudite Redneck said...


At 9:27 PM, Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

ER - That smile suits you well. I was never knocking the place, mind you, just wanting to show it as I see it. Having been born here, I think I have the cred to do so and don't qualify as west-coast carpetbagger, even if I have spent more time in recent years on Telegraph in Berkeley than on Exchange in Stockyards District. And if you think I rant about OKC, you ought to see what I say about my current hometown!

At 9:34 PM, Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

Comprendo. Uh, just see my own rant in yer previous post as a ... rant! :-)

At 1:29 PM, Blogger mrpeenee said...

Welcome home sweetie. The pictures were truly charming and the sense of your being glad to have escaped is something I can identify with. Or maybe project.

At 3:38 PM, Blogger Salty Miss Jill said...

That Asian place you dined at actually sounded like a great place. Dinner, dancing and a jazz band? Cute waiters? I'd kill to have a place like that here in Ogreville...or anywhere.

And a bullet train from Barcelona to Madrid sounds far better than the 9-hour bus ride we endured...

At 7:34 PM, Blogger kimy said...

'We were able to share recent first-person encounters with Barbara Kingslover.'

I'm green! xxxxkermie

At 10:20 PM, Blogger drlobojo said...

One thing for sure is that the "Chinese" food in China Town SF is more "Chinese" than in OKC. You picked a good restraunt to eat at here however. We have almost totally a Southeast Asian Chinese population due to our taking in so many refugees from the termination of the Vietnam War. The food reflects that.

JT, you may have been wandering in Mulligan Flats, and ER, no dirt floors that I have seen.(That kind of house was in the old Community Camp area, but we bulldozed that 20 years ago to make the Candian River into the "Oklahoma River") My wife teaches those kids in her 4th grade class in the school there. The concept of trying to apply "No Child Left Behind" in that world is just short of....well there is no word to use there.


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