Archive for City Scene

Meanwhile, a couple of miles away

Of late, Western Avenue has been known for medium to upper-crust eateries and cute little shops and brick walls.

The walls have been addressed here:

The final touches were applied late Sunday, in preparation for Taste of Western Thursday evening.

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The new water rates

They go into effect today, and there was a slip included with my water bill detailing the changes. There are only two tiers, but they’re simple: (1) 10,000 gallons or less; (2) more than 10,000 gallons. Up to now, it’s been a flat $2.65 per thousand, but no more:

  • Today: $2.73/1000 gallons up to 10,000; $3.14/1000 gallons thereafter.
  • October 2015: $2.81/1000 gallons up to 10,000; $3.32/1000 gallons thereafter.
  • October 2016: $2.89/1000 gallons up to 10,000; $3.50/1000 gallons thereafter.

There will also be small increases in sewer fees and the base customer charge. The bill I received yesterday, for 2000-gallon consumption, was $56.05; under the new rates next month, it would be $58.11. (This assumes there’s no increase in the price for trash-collection service, since none was mentioned in the announcement.)

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And they said it couldn’t be done

“Have you noticed,” the pundits point out, “that you’ll never see workaday Muslims denouncing the atrocities routinely committed in the name of Allah?”

Anti-ISIS demonstrators in Oklahoma City“Never” is a long time. And yes, yes, I know: taqiyya. But once in a while I feel like I ought to be giving someone the benefit of the doubt, so this smallish demonstration yesterday at one of the busier intersections in town — on the northeast corner of Pennsylvania at Northwest Distressway, putting it squarely on my route home — was ever so slightly heartening, especially in a town where mosques are occasionally defaced by persons unknown.

From Red Dirt Report:

[T]he majority of signs held by the pro-peace crowd at Northwest Expressway and Pennsylvania Avenue by Penn Square Mall, were to drive the point home that terrorist group ISIS is not a representation of Islam, as some held the sign saying “ISIS DOES NOT REPRESENT ME!”

The rally was largely led by CAIR-OK and their executive director Adam Soltani and Imam Imad Enchassi. Both have spoken out against Republican legislator John Bennett of Sallisaw, who recently made very bigoted and inflammatory remarks against Muslim Americans and has since refused to back down or apologize for his hurtful, hateful statements.

“Hurtful” and “hateful,” verbally anyway, are turning into this century’s Frick and Frack.

I admittedly didn’t get really good looks at most of the crowd, but I didn’t see anyone giving off an aura of “Kill!” Our old friend Jennifer James took photos for RDR, and they look similarly benign. And the planners were astute enough to bunch everyone together, unlike the usual approach for demonstrations at this intersection, which is to take over two, even three, corners; this creates a sense of unity.

Update, 23 September: A response from Charles Pergiel.

Update, 26 September: Then again, civilized people do not engage in beheadings.

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Shaken and bestirred

The little City News insert that comes with Oklahoma City’s water bill this month has a section this month that five years ago would have been inconceivable. Topic: “What you should do in a large earthquake,” and this is the suggested routine:

Drop, Cover and Hold On! It is the safest action to take during ground shaking. There are three steps:

1. DROP to the ground,

2. Take COVER by getting under a sturdy desk or table,

3. HOLD ON to it until the shaking stops.

This will probably not work (1) with something other than a desk or table (2) in a tornado.

Quakiest earthquake ever recorded in this state was 5.6, and yes, I noticed it.

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Highway to Hellman’s

This is the Centennial Fountain in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown:

Centernial Fountain in Bricktown

It is not a public bathing facility:

Officers reported finding Jorge Arturo Perez, 23, soaking wet and breathing hard in the city fountain.

Perez told the police he was taking a bath in the fountain and was washing his hair with mayonnaise.

Said the Fark submitter: “Well, they hope it was mayonnaise.”

[insert Miracle Whip joke here]

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Saturday spottings (closer to home)

Doing as little as possible this weekend sounded like a pretty good idea to me, which may explain why all of today’s Spottings took place within one mile, from NW 43rd to NW 56th along May Avenue.

Late last year, the city announced a major repaving project along May, at a price tag of just under $1 million per mile. The section closest to me is done. There was, however, some additional unscheduled repair: shortly after completion, a sinkhole, roughly 1.3 lanes wide and just under a third of a block long, opened up on the west side at 44th. It pretty much had to be the refurbed roadbed, as the curb didn’t go much of anywhere. Admittedly, it wasn’t as exciting as, say, the car-swallowing monster at the National Corvette Museum, but so far as I know, May has eaten no cars — or bars, or guitars — and the hole was patched this week.

On the other side of the street, there’s a narrow strip of parkland that marks the western edge of the Mayfair Heights neighborhood. In recent months, it’s been made narrower, thanks to the addition of an actual sidewalk, something unheard of in what used to be a deep-suburban zone. All the concrete is in place; there are still a few road cones south of 47th, but it’s essentially complete from 36th to 47th.

Finally, there was this real-estate transaction:

SDI-Enterprise Plaza LLC from 1999 Enterprise Plaza LP, 5600 N May Ave., $10,450,000.

You might suspect that this involves a parcel called Enterprise Plaza, and indeed it does. It’s a property that I hardly ever notice; it’s tucked away in a corner behind the Holiday Inn Express. (The map at the link is wrong; the property is northeast of the May/Northwest Distressway interchange.) And the price — $110/square foot for Class B, or maybe B-plus, office space — seems a little steep, but then the County Assessor values it at $9.5 million, including the four acres of land on which it sits, so maybe this is just my eyes bugging out for no good reason: I’m manifestly not used to the idea of something just up the street from me selling for $10 million. (Incidentally, the previous owners had bought it for $6.1 million from TIAA-CREF back in 1999.)

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You may have already heard this

Dan Longerbone addresses the national media:

We don’t have anything distinctive like the Empire State Building or Independence Hall. No Gateway Arch, no Sears Tower (sorry, Willis Tower), a serious lack of beach and certainly no mountains. It’s easy to understand that someone who’s never been here might be at a loss to picture the place; rust belt, corn, something something football. That’s because people who come here aren’t after photographic memories and never have been. No, a lot of people who visit end up staying here because of quite another type of memory.

Sounds like something we’d say in the OKC, doesn’t it? (Except maybe for that stuff about corn.) Actually, it’s about Columbus, Ohio, a place with maybe a smidgen more of a national image, but which is earning respect.

And stop me if you’ve heard this one:

The public-private partnership is such that the rather conservative editorial page of our daily paper backed an income tax increase on people working in the city; that half-percent increase was approved by voters during the recent economic downturn.

The three and a half stages of MAPS were sales-tax increases — the city doesn’t have an income tax — but the rather conservative editorial page of The Oklahoman has been very supportive of MAPS over the past two decades.

And there’s this:

The construction of the interstate highway signaled the arrival of rapid suburb development in central Ohio. In order to protect the city’s tax base from this suburbanization, Columbus adopted a policy of linking sewer and water hookups to annexation to the city. By the early 1990s, Columbus had grown to become Ohio’s largest city in both land area and in population.

And now, it’s the 15th largest city in the nation. (We’re 27th, though we have almost triple the space.) They must be doing something right.

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That’s all I can Stanley

From these pages eight years ago:

In the context of Oklahoma City, David Stanley Ford is an automobile dealership at 39th and May.

Elsewhere, David Stanley Ford is a playwright, who has written an American historical drama I’d love to see: The Interrogation of Nathan Hale, in which the man who regretted having but one life to lose for his country reveals the last secrets of that life.

Since then, David Stanley the Ford dealer has sold out and acquired a Chevy store across town; he has long owned the Dodge dealership in Midwest City, which now carries all four Chrysler Group brands. And, reports the Lost Ogle, he’s been in deep doo-doo of late:

David Stanley Chrysler Jeep Dodge agreed to pay a $350,000 fine in March of 2014 for allegedly violating eight state regulations designed to protect consumers from misleading advertising practices.

According to this document that is just hanging out on the server at BartlesvilleRadio.com, the violations include deceptive, inaccurate and bait-and-switch forms of advertising.

The commercials in question ran in January 2014 and offered eye rolling, too-good-to-be-true, only-Grant-Long-would-fall-for-this deals that offered to pay $18,000 in the car buyer’s credit card debt if they bought a car.

If you have $18,000 in credit-card debt, why are you even thinking of buying a new car? Not that anyone at the dealership is ever going to ask you such a question, of course.

This story got no local coverage until TLO broke it, which just goes to show you:

That’s actually some delicious irony right there. While our TV news channels send their “In Your Corners,” “I-Teams” and “Consumer Watchers” to track down the contractor who didn’t finish a flooring job and ran away with some old lady’s hard-earned $1,000, the car dealership that advertises during the commercial break is using bait-and-switch advertising gimmicks and other deceptive tactics to lure consumers into high interest, ripoff, life-ruining auto purchases and loans. I guess never forget who the for-profit media really serves.

If you’re the audience, you’re the product: the station sells you to an advertiser. Your role is to shut up and keep watching and keep buying.

Perhaps David Stanley Ford ought to write a play about that.

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Immovable objects

I was still puzzling over this, four hours after the fact — it happened on the way home during Friday rush hour — and finally I decided to toss it up here.

Exiting I-44 westbound at Classen puts you on the Classen Circle, which is no longer even slightly circular, and gives you a quarter-mile of This Is Not A Ramp before you discover you’ve gotten yourself into the southeastern terminus of the Northwest Distressway. The light was yellow, and I chose not to floor it; after all, there’ll be another green in a couple of minutes.

There wasn’t. The usual pattern for this light ignored westbound traffic entirely for a minimum of three cycles. Something was apparently stuck. Off in the distance, I could see a fire truck, probably from Station 17, heading east; it turned in at 50 Penn Place. That’s odd, I thought; Station 11 is probably closer. Then again, Station 11 probably couldn’t get there because of this damn stuck light.

At which moment I looked towards the rear, and stuck about three car lengths behind me in the left lane — I was in the center — was another fire truck. Station 11, I reckoned.

Now the lights along the Distressway aren’t synchronized worth a damn, but I could swear I’ve seen one or two of them temporarily disabled to make way for emergency vehicles. Is it possible that both engines pushed the magic button, a third of a mile in advance, and their signals managed to screw with each other?

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Dysbranding

So far as I can tell, this is serious:

People are going to shart when they see that.

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Hindmost being taken

Tickets for a Civic Center Music Hall presentation of a Black Mass go on sale today, and, well, the event is not going unnoticed:

A group called Dakhma of Angra Mainyu is holding a Black Mass at the Oklahoma City Civic Center on September 21. The permittee for the event is Adam Daniels, a registered sex offender. The Civic Center is owned by the city and funded by a foundation that includes a city government official and the head of a Catholic hospital on its board. The event has been condemned by the Archbishop of Oklahoma City. (I first read about this on Fr. Z’s Blog.)

The group itself seems to be sort of anti-Zoroastrian:

Dakhma of Angra Mainyu is about freedom from any religion that chooses to bind you to some type of dogma the forces you to restrain your natural animal instincts. They say desire and “sin” move you away from the ultimate consumer of souls through fire. Ahura Mazda is the slave driver that forces laws onto mankind that completely against man’s nature. Only through spiritual and chaotic destruction of this enslavement, will one become spiritually free from not only mortal/ethical enslavement, include freedom from Atar which is the Holy Fire that will consume your soul to recharge Ahura Mazda. The truest form of freedom is brought about by evil speech (blaspheme). 3 ways define the human existence: thought, speech, and action. Knowing that mankind is judge off this paradigm, does it make sense to inhibit your animal desires because some “God” said they were evil? No, the inhibition is to build internal pressure, like a teapot without a valve. Upon death this gives the Ahuras (angels) that much more energy to consume as they live off of pain and blood. Thus requiring sacrifice and becoming a mayrter.

Which I suppose is being (accidentally?) like a martyr, only with bells on.

I note here for record that I do follow the BaphometOKC Twitter account, though this is mostly for amusement purposes.

If you object to this sort of thing, Dawn Eden suggests some ways to make your objections heard. Attendance will not be high regardless, simply because the event is booked for the downstairs City Space Theatre, which is geared to Equity Waiver/Showcase Code-sized audiences: fewer than 100. Last time, apparently, they drew zero.

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Wetter up

The city hasn’t published the new water rates yet, though William Crum of the Oklahoman has been keeping tabs on them, and the new proposal as a whole sounds plausible to me:

Significant provisions include:

  • A pricing strategy that produces 5 percent more revenue each year, with an overall reduction of 4.3 percent in water use after five years.
  • A three-year plan to increase the charge to hook up a new home — known as the “impact fee” — from $100 to $1,000, in $300 increments.
  • A strategy to make sure surrounding communities pay equitable rates for water bought from Oklahoma City and that they share in system improvement costs.

Crum reported yesterday:

The average customer, who uses 7,000 gallons of water per month, will pay $19.11, up 55 cents; a customer using 15,000 gallons would pay $43.00, up $3.25.

This indicates the implementation of usage tiers: the more you use, the higher the price per thousand-gallon unit, which is consistent with the city’s ongoing water-saving program.

Most of the time, I’m billed for 3,000 gallons a month; sometimes it’s just 2,000. I figure I’m probably using 2,700 or so. I expect the new rates, which will undoubtedly include tweaking of service, sewer and refuse fees, will go into effect in October.

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In which the government saves a pittance

Most organizations would have used up two rounds for this:

The story in semi-full:

Officials were called to the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s gun range training facility in the 4000 block of N. Air Depot Blvd. around 3:45 Monday afternoon to a report of two gunshot wounds.

According to Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokesperson Lt. Betsy Randolph, an OHP cadet and instructor were shot. Randolph said both were accidentally shot and it appears one bullet traveled through one of the officers and into the other.

Randolph said the cadet was shot in the leg and the instructor was shot in the arm.

And maybe “pittance” isn’t the word. Have you priced ammo lately?

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Advice to the thug wannabe

After Marisa’s Rude Bumper Invasion on the city’s south side, she offers the following suggestion to those who would do likewise:

If you ever want to commit a crime in Oklahoma City, do so on Airport Road. As the officer told me, there are no cameras in the area, and what happens there apparently stays there. Or rots in the median. Or gets cat-called by creepers who see it sitting there on the side of the road while waiting for an officer after a hit-and-run.

Airport Road, you will have noted if you’ve ever driven on it, conveys a small number of travelers at relatively high speed. I suspect it to be ODOT’s model for the proposed Oklahoma City Boulevard, inasmuch as the only two criteria they use are “How fast is it?” and “How cheap can we build it?”

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WinStuff

OKCTalk is reporting that WinCo Foods, a Boise-based discount chain, has signed the papers on three Oklahoma City-area locations, the nearest to me at 39th and I-44, on what used to be a hotel site.

The chain dates to 1967, when it was Waremart; the WinCo name, they say, comes from “Winning Company.”

Discussion at OKCTalk seems to boil down to “Hurray, something that isn’t Walmart!”

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Saturday spottings (I am a Tour-ist)

The Central Oklahoma Chapter of the American Institute of Architects conducts Architecture Week every year about this time, and on Saturday it culminates with the Architecture Tour, a look at what’s being done around town, and occasionally a chance to talk to who’s doing it. I’ve attended every year since 2007, and plan to continue so long as I can still climb stairs. (Why haven’t I moved into one of those spiffy downtown lofts? Now you know.)

In the order visited:

1) 430 Northwest 12th Street

North side of 430

430 — that’s the name of it — was on last year’s Tour in the larval stage; it’s now complete and completely occupied. This former nondescript office block in the nascent Midtown area was turned into 26 residential units, none of which have windows to the west, important if you’ve ever endured an August afternoon in this town. Flats are at street level; upstairs you’ll find two-story units. I rather like the interplay of the diagonals and the trees. Brian Fitzsimmons was on hand to take questions, as he always is when one of his projects is on the Tour, as one seemingly always is.

2) 1117 North Robinson Avenue

Alley view from Guardian Lofts

Once upon a time, the Guardian was a warehouse; now it’s 37 apartments with that good old industrial feel and a fair amount of individual reconfigurability, by which is meant that, for instance, you can actually move the closets — they’re on wheels. If your lifestyle demands grittiness, and it would be great if there were a burgers-and-beer joint downstairs — this is where you might want to be. Brian Fitzsimmons (yes, him again) has an overview of the project for your inspection.

3) 300 North Walnut Avenue

Sanctuary of Calvary Baptist Church

Russell Benton Bingham’s Calvary Baptist Church has been a fixture in Deep Deuce since the 1920s; Martin Luther King Jr. came knocking on the door in 1954, looking for a preaching gig. (They sent him away: too young, they thought.) As Deep Deuce declined, so did Calvary; a couple of years ago, the building was acquired by Dan Davis, an attorney familiar to local TV viewers: he’s the one who has Robert Vaughn as a celebrity spokesface. Davis, however, did not plan to gut the place and turn it into a wonderland for lawyers in love: he wanted just enough room for his offices, and to leave the sanctuary more or less intact. MODA, architects on the project, are happy to show you more.

4) 726 West Sheridan Avenue

Signage at Hart Building

Many years ago, this was Hart Industrial Supply Company, vendor of, well, industrial supplies. I actually temped there, circa early 1990. Now part of the Film Row redevelopment, Hart houses several office tenants plus the Oklahoma City studio of KOSU-FM, the radio station of Oklahoma State University. I suspect that they know where this contraption came from:

Old RCA radio gear at Hart Building

5) 6219 Riviera Drive

Northeast corner of David Walters' house

David Walters, 24th governor of Oklahoma, lives here with his wife Rhonda and his memories. The 1963 house was originally the home of Robert A. Hefner III, founder of GHK Company and inventor of deep-gas exploration as we know it, and the courtyard shown here was intended to be its focal point. A fire in 2001 led to massive renovations and, in several rooms, ceilings raised to accommodate new skylights: the interior feels particularly airy despite the size and the convoluted floor plan. (And it’s for sale for $1.275 million, one of the pricier prices in my ZIP code.)

6) 108 South Broadway, Edmond

Conference table at Small Architects

“Mr. Small,” I said to the tour guide after looking at this conference table, “is obviously a whimsical sort of guy.” Thomas Small, AIA, seated off to the side, was amused by this remark. This old (1906) storefront in downtown Edmond, originally occupied by a jeweler and a funeral director — simultaneously, in fact — is in fact small, but it doesn’t seem so during a walk-through, and much of the original structure — tin ceiling, concrete foundation/floor — is still in place. As for whimsy, well, those are Matchbox cars embedded in that table. (If you’re interested, here are some other Small projects.)

7) 2801 Northeast 120th Street

Corner view of Kliewer home

Architect George Seminoff, back in the Sixties, built an 800-square-foot cabin out in the woods for himself; once married, he set about turning it into a suitable family residence, and there they remained — for a while, anyway. New owner Brent Kliewer, circa 2010, ordered renovations, and they wound up being substantial. (This is yet another reason to call Brian Fitzsimmons.) Oh, and there’s a cedar tree. Indoors. The old atrium had to be rebuilt, they planned to build around it, but instead incorporated it into the design. Seminoff died in 2013; I’m almost certain he would have approved.

8) 1721 Northeast 63rd Street

The edge of the Mass home

Up on Persimmon Hill you’ll find the National Cowboy Museum, Coles Garden, and this five-acre plot, which used to be occupied by a small 1920s cottage, expanded a few times, and then rebuilt following the December 2007 ice storm. Somehow the place looks both traditionally rural and up-to-date suburban, which I attribute to the fact that they didn’t raze the original storm-damaged structure, preferring to incorporate it into the new one. (Reuse, I always say.) Mass Architects have this to tell you.

This is the first Tour in several years I’ve had to undertake without Trini, who was busy with family matters; I missed her presence and her navigational skills. (Interestingly enough, at a couple of places on the Tour I was asked about her; apparently they’re used to seeing us as a unit.) And I think she would have appreciated the fact that this tour, unlike last year’s, fit into less than 55 miles.

(All pictures by me. Embiggened versions, plus some I didn’t include here, can be seen in this Flickr photoset.)

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Tour preparation

This year’s model of the AIA Architecture Tour is a week from Saturday. Barring catastrophe, I will be there, as I have been every year since 2007.

Ticket acquisition is a bit different this year. In the past, I’ve just gone to their site, invoked PayPal, and a couple of days later a letter would come back with a pair of tickets enclosed. This time, they sent encoded PDF files which I’m supposed to print out and then exchange at any tour stop for proper tickets. This presents no problem, really, but I’m wondering if this is simply a way to save money on postage, which isn’t at all a bad thing, or if there’s some other motivation at work.

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Now get down there and look busy

James Lileks contemplates life from the skyway above the street:

It’s a whole new world up there on the second floor — which annoys the planners, because they want everyone to be down on the street, for the sake of Vitality. This way you get more shops on the street level, and people are strolling and looking in the shop windows, something mentioned in each-and-every story I ever read about new urbanist ideas. Ideally people should live six blocks from work, walk on the sidewalk to work, pause twice en route to work and twice on the way back to examine the goods in the window, and then return to their home on the 23rd floor.

This will not happen downtown and it will never happen downtown, because there’s the skyway culture above. It will happen in outlying neighborhoods, where there aren’t skyways, and the residential complexes form actual neighborhoods. But the priests of The Street will continue to pound away against the skyway and for the model of Paris or New York. Which are wonderful: who doesn’t like window-shopping in New York? But that’s a city with the inherited density of a century and the population of the entire state of Minnesota.

The same is true here. They want New York, but in the convenient Home Version: open the box, put this over here, put that way back there, and garnish lovingly with pedestrians. This resembles the real New York hardly at all, but that doesn’t matter: the point is to be able to show off to people from Portland or Omaha or Charlotte.

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Four lanes to nowhere

Steve Lackmeyer of The Oklahoman, drawing conclusions from the successful Open Streets gathering last weekend:

Baby Boomers, it’s time to give up your now obsolete model of city planning.

My generation, Gen X, has stood by and quietly waited for you to relinquish control.

But the Millennial generation isn’t wired like that. They’re not waiting. They’re taking over, and they’re not going to be told no.

They don’t like cars. Cars don’t define them. They are defined by access to cool urban gathering spots and public transit.

Um, it’s not my “model of city planning.”

Nor is it this guy’s:

This weekend I had to go pick up a script from Walgreens, but not the one I usually go to on 10th. No I had to go clear over to the one that is over by Kohl’s on Cornelius Pass. Okay, it’s not really a big deal, it’s only a couple of miles over there, and there are some other stores over there as well, so we can kill a couple of birds with this one stone. But I still didn’t like it because that area, newly built up, epitomizes everything I hate about suburbia: landscape trimmed to within an inch of its life, wide sidewalks that no one walks on, gently winding streets full of people who couldn’t get out of the way if their life depended on it (all charter members of the anti-destination league I’m sure), wide expanses of new asphalt paved parking lots with lots of free parking for places I have no desire to go, and lots of stores full of useless stuff that I neither want nor need. Tell me again why we are over here? The place is like the ultimate product of soulless corporate hucksters and government officials protecting you from yourself. I hate it.

Except for the sidewalks — ours are conspicuous by their absence — this could be almost any recently-developed square mile of Oklahoma City.

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Circulation beginning

Yours truly, from about this time last year:

One of the niftier ideas of recent years is the Little Free Library, bigger than a breadbox but just barely, located in urban neighborhoods and rural areas. And we’re about to get this one in our neck of the woods.

It’s now up and awaiting further stock:

Little Free Library in Mayfair Heights neighborhood

I dropped off a couple of books yesterday; if the neighborhood follows through, and they almost always do, it should be pretty well stuffed by this time next week.

(Photo by Taryn Evans, shot Wednesday. If you’re unclear on the concept, this is how it all started.)

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Saturday spottings (cluebat needed)

There is nothing particularly remarkable about the intersection of NW 50th and May: this stretch of May is five lanes — two northbound, two southbound, one center for left turns — just like scores of other arterials through this town. I was northbound on May this afternoon, in the center lane waiting to turn left on 50th, when a chap pulled up on my left. I had no idea what he was planning to do, but I was reasonably certain it was not good.

Which it wasn’t. Seeing what he thought was an opportunity, he vectored across the intersection in front of me, perhaps thinking he could beat the driver on my right who had just ventured into the intersection. He could not. The laws of physics prevailed — specifically, the one about two objects not occupying the same space — and the bending of fenders ensued.

As I made my left turn, I made a point of not thanking the resident deities for not making me that farging stupid, having long since learned that my own capacity for cluelessness is well-nigh boundless. For the past two weeks, I’ve been carrying around winter-weather debris on my car’s lower flanks, and the promise of rain today had stayed my hand at the car wash. With the rain having thus far failed to materialize, I decided that, inasmuch as I was on my way to Homeland, I would go ahead and use their car wash, and since I’d filled up only last Saturday and still had more than half a tank left, I wouldn’t bother to get gas; I’d pay the dollar extra, or whatever it was, and be done with it.

So I got out a $5 bill for the standard $4 wash, punched the button, and only then noticed that there was no slot to insert said bill or even a credit card: all transactions apparently had to be originated with either the cashier or at the pump. Okay, fine, I said, backing out of the car-wash entrance and looking, I presume, extremely foolish. I pulled up to a pump, slid the card, punched Yes when they offered me a wash, and waited about two minutes for the machine to tell me that we’re sorry, the wash is not available at this time, your card will not be charged for it.

And some time between my entry into the full-fledged store and my departure therefrom, an interval of roughly 15 minutes, a table full of Girl Scout Cookies appeared at the exit. I need these like I need a hole in the head, I thought, and wound up buying a box of Trefoils, my fifth (I think) box of the season. If there’s a School of Trepanning nearby, consider this my application to become a test subject.

Oh, and the rain started about an hour and a half later, but not in sufficient quantity to remove two-week-old grime.

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And unto dust

I suppose this sums it up as well as it can be summed up:

“Never liked” is putting it mildly: one of Draper’s dreams was to have the structure entirely hidden by foliage, if not actual camouflage.

But Stan, who died in 1976, would likely have been equally delighted to see what actually will happen to Stage Center, now that the Downtown Design Review Committee has decided it’s not worth saving.

Then again, Cash for Gold, west of May on 39th, is flourishing.

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Forget the Motor City

Let’s imagine that this fallen metropolis might be destined for a Higher Purpose:

Why don’t we just make Detroit a permanent Olympics zone? Level the whole thing and put in permanent hotels, permanent stadiums, permanent facilities, housing for event workers, etc. But no one lives there any other time. Install a huge, secure dome over it with an artificial snow generator for the winter Olympics (hey, they do it in Dubai — surely we can do it here).

Average snowfall in Detroit is about 44 inches a year, or about half what they’ve gotten this year. There will presumably have to be a skeleton crew on hand 24/7/1461, but not necessarily a large one.

Though that’s not the problem. This is:

[N]o one has to bribe the IOC, no one country or city would stand to make millions (or billions) in graft and corruption. Yeah, that right there is the main reason why it would never happen. Not enough of the usual suspects making obscene amounts of money off of something that should be about the athletes.

On the other hand, you have to figure that Detroit knows something about graft.

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Not so much interest

Apparently there’s less interest in the mayoral race than the vast quantity of hype suggested: I showed up at 4:58 and cast ballot #358. This is not a sign of heavy turnout. (Second in line at check-in is similar.)

Of course, the polls opened at 7 am, and roads were generally impassable at that hour. (I know. I was already at work.) Maybe it will pick up when the usual morning crowd gets off work.

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For the spot in the middle

Doctor Taco, a former Oregon grinder now living out here on the Plains, has a very long and detailed analysis of the Mayor’s race — at least, of the top two candidates — and he’s come out for the incumbent:

The only additional power that a mayor has above the council is to nominate citizens to serve on various boards and committees, and even then these nominees must be voted in by the full council. Beyond this nominating power, the Mayor is not much more than an ordinary city councilor with additional powers as a figurehead or a cheerleader.

Mick Cornett’s time as Mayor is a case study in how to use the soft powers of the office to build coalitions and be a champion for Oklahoma City.

The suggestion here appears to be that Ed Shadid, more the activist type by nature, is perhaps less well suited to a more-ceremonial job. I’m not so sure.

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Very expensive dust

With developers coming in like a wrecking ball — literally, perhaps — to dispose of Stage Center, Steve Lackmeyer has seen fit to list nine other downtown landmarks, scraped off the face of the earth because demolition was Part of the Plan.

One of the saddest such removals involved the old Biltmore Hotel. What did we lose?

The Oklahoma Biltmore was without a doubt one of the finest hotels in the post-oil boom days of Oklahoma City. There were 619 rooms, each offering free radio, circulating ice water, ceiling fans with up-and-down draft, and later, air conditioning. In 1936 the Biltmore was headquarters for 104 conventions, served 284,604 meals, and had 114,171 guests! H.P. “Johnnie” Johnson, manager, always said in the advertising, “On your next visit to the Oil Capital be sure to register at the Biltmore.”

On October 16, 1977 the Hotel Biltmore was demolished by a team of demolition specialists. Hundreds of low-yield explosives were planted throughout the building so that it would collapse and fall inward into an acceptable area only slightly larger than the hotel’s foundation. The purpose was both to break the materials into smaller pieces that would be easily transported away, and to contain the blast and debris within the area, in order to minimize damage to surrounding structures. The razing was recorded by hundreds of camera buffs.

[Edwards, Jim, and Hal Ottaway. The Vanished Splendor II: Postcard Views of Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City: Abalache Book Shop Publishing Co., 1983]

And now, of course, we have to pony up zillions for a hotel more or less adjacent to the New Improved Convention Center. Your guess is as good as mine as to which of these elephants is whiter.

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There can be only one way

In retrospect, I suppose it was my fault for being on May Avenue on a Saturday in the first place, May Avenue being basically where strip malls go to die. (There’s exactly one stretch of May between 10th and 150th with no discernible commerce: east side between 43rd and 47th.)

6900 block of North MayThis strip mall at 6900 North May is largely indistinguishable from other strip malls: there are two entrances, one in front of the north building, the other in front of the south. (If you live in these parts, the north building is distinguished, if that’s the word, by the Honeybaked Ham Company; Ted’s Somewhat Mexican Restaurant Escondido Cafe is near the opposite corner.) I’m southbound on May at 4:00 or so when the lumbering SUV ahead of me pulls to a stop, just before the north entrance. There being no left-turn facilities between 69th and 65th, I figure someone a block or two ahead is making a left turn. The flow of northbound traffic ceased for a moment, and up ahead, barely, I could see someone indeed making a left turn.

We plow ahead, slowly, and then the SUV signals a left turn into the southern entrance. Now there was a window of about 30 seconds when the driver could have pulled into the northern entrance while that other character up the street was turning; but no, it’s got to be the southern entrance. This is the sign of a person who not only hasn’t developed Plan B, but who is several steps away from a workable Plan A.

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Making a fuss over the bus

The name is “EMBARK,” and it’s the name I’ve seen painted on exactly one city bus so far. (Most of them, in fact, seem to have full-length exaltations of oil, courtesy of Harold Hamm and Continental Resources.) The city sent a bookmark with this month’s water bill, detailing the following changes:

Re-aligned for optimum connectivity and efficiency, the redesigned bus routes provide a solid foundation for future transit enhancements.

Pending further announcements, I assume this means “We get near the streetcar routes.”

Designed with performance in mind, buses will travel major arterial roadways to achieve 30-minute service, and create two high-performance 15-minute service corridors.

The current standard is — well, calling it a “standard” implies something is actually followed.

Driven by performance, all buses are equipped with cutting-edge technology including automatic vehicle location (AVL) devices, onboard cameras, audible stop annunciation system, and onboard public WiFi.

How to explain AVL? Let’s try this: “Where the hell is Number 108? It’s supposed to be on Route 5 at 122nd and Penn!”

Powered by innovation, customer-focused tools like text notifications, journey planning, and mobile tools (to name a few) will be available for customer convenience and accountability.

“Will be” means this summer, they say. And they probably need to combine as many of those tools as possible into a single phone app.

So far there’s not a lot of promotional material; there’s a web site, with a brief video clip and a place to sign up for spam. I’m not sure whether all this will make for a better bus experience, but it’s hard to imagine how it could be much worse than the way it’s been.

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Curve negotiation

Don Gammill has a nifty weekly column in the Oklahoman called “Traffic Talk,” much of which is devoted to answering questions from people who are tired of being stuck in it. This particular example wasn’t, but it was pertinent to me for other reasons. Sharon writes:

When … on Interstate 35 going north and turn(ing) west onto I-44, you curve off to the left and go on a large curve above I-44 and nowhere is there a sign to reduce your speed in the curve. I don’t feel the speed should be the same as on I-35 as it is in that curve. The same is true when you exit I-44 from the west to go south on I-35, again there is no reduce speed sign of any kind. As an experienced driver, I know to reduce speed, but young drivers don’t necessarily know or realize this.

You may remember this little expostulation from 2009:

The ramp from I-44 eastbound to I-35 southbound, which I use five days a week, sometimes six, is about a 75-degree curve that I routinely take at 60 mph unless it’s wet or the 6:30ish traffic doesn’t permit. (I’m going from a road where the speed limit is 60 to a road where the speed limit is, um, 60, so 60 seems like the most logical speed.) In fact, I consider this a test of car and/or tires: if there’s any squeal, it’s a fail. Hardly anyone else pulls this sort of stunt, which makes me wonder if I’m pushing too hard.

Since then, I have switched to tires with a little more cushiness and a little less stick, so I’m usually taking that ramp at 55 now. Curiously, the other ramp in this stacklet, from I-35 north to I-44 westbound, I seldom take at faster than 50. There are two reasons for this: on the return trip, there’s generally a lot more traffic, it being on the bleeding edge of rush hour, and what’s more, this ramp is very narrow and lined with Jersey barriers, which allow for a whole lot less slop.

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Saturday spottings (tales of the unexpected)

Relatively nice Saturdays are not all that common in January — the fact that we’ve had two of them so far, out of a possible two, is pretty remarkable — so I stretched out my errands a bit today. This ranks among the worse ideas I’ve had lately, since traffic almost everywhere was heavy.

How heavy was it, you ask? I figured there was no chance of getting out of the Shell station at 63rd and May alive, so after filling up (a plausible $3.229 for V-Power), I backed up a hair and threaded my way through a curb cut to what used to be French Market Mall. It was a decidedly better approach to May, but it still took about four minutes to crawl the half a block to the intersection — and there were absolutely no parking spaces to be had anywhere near Sprouts, in front of the store, at the bookstore to its north, or at the auto-parts place to its south. “Woe unto ye,” I didn’t exactly say, and headed on.

Westbound on 63rd, I spotted a Lincoln Town Car with the tag LINTON2. “Wonder what LINTON1 looked like?” I mused. About ten seconds later, LINTON1 actually pulled in front of me: one of those Lincoln MK jobs, though I couldn’t tell you which one, since they all look like Fords to me. They continued on parallel paths for a while before #1 turned off.

The last stop on the way, as usual, was Crest Foods. Routinely they print the name of the checker on the register tape; this time, the cashier wrote the name of the sacker across the top. I’m not sure why, but since I never have any issues with the sackers, I’m not going to worry about it either.

Reconstruction of May Avenue from 36th to Britton, as mentioned last fall, is apparently about to begin: both sides of the street from 36th to past 47th were lined with those taller, skinnier traffic cones, about 20 percent of which had been knocked down, perhaps by wind, perhaps by people grown impatient waiting for the bus. I think it’s safe to predict that traffic will not improve any time soon.

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