Archive for City Scene

It’s all there in black and white

Or is that “white and black”? Yesterday’s Zebra Race at Remington Park:

If nothing else, this demonstrates the truth of the assertion that if the creatures are sufficiently multicellular and mobile, humans will wager on their speed.


Saturday spottings (knees up)

At various times through the week, the probability of precipitation on this spring Saturday has been quoted at anywhere from 20 to 60 percent, motivating Trini, once again accompanying me on the Architecture Tour, to bring along an umbrella and an extra jacket. This worked really well to keep the rain away for the entire five-hour duration, during which we hit nine locations of interest and used less (but not much less) than a quarter-tank of gas.

1) 3209 Robin Ridge Road

Krogstad House in Quail Creek

Behind Krogstad House in Quail Creek

Bud Krogstad, one of the original developers of Quail Creek, ordered up the 1.0 version of this house in 1964 from architect Robert Reed; it’s been enlarged twice since, most recently this past year. It’s one of the niftier variations on the Mid-Century Modern theme, and it sits right on the edge of the golf course.

2) 1171 Northwest 56th Street

1169 and 1171 NW 56th St

Billed as “SideXSide,” this is actually two residences on a single lot, 1171 being the one on the west side and the one we saw. (1169 is on the east.) Its relentlessly modern footprint doesn’t seem to fit all that well with the rest of Meadowbrook Acres, a traditional prewar suburb, but this is the going thing: dragging a sleepy subdivision into the 21st century. And it’s really quite appealing on the inside, with all mod cons and not so much as a square inch of clutter in its 1544 square feet.

3) 1161 Northwest 57th Street

1161 NW 57th St

Forget what I just said about Meadowbrook Acres. This is what you find one block north, and if anything, it’s twice as much: four homes — two mirror images — on a double lot. Same architect (Geoff Parker, 405 Architecture), same lack of clutter. (And actually, this shot is of one of the homes on the back of the lot.)

4) 911 Northwest 67th Street

American Energy Partners Fitness Center

When Aubrey McClendon bade goodbye to Chesapeake Energy in 2013, he set up shop as American Energy Partners almost literally just down the street; AELP’s fitness center, an ultra-modern facility about four blocks from the Chesapeake campus, looks as little like a Chesapeake facility as possible, with no nods to 19th-century small-college design whatsoever. The place is utterly bathed in natural light; the racquetball courts look so shiny I’d be afraid to sweat on them. “You should see it at night, we were told. I believe it.

5) 616 Northwest 21st Street


Conference room at The ARC

Once upon a time, this was Sunbeam Family Services, which dates to 1964; fifty years later they moved to bigger quarters north of downtown, and new owner Marva Ellard repurposed it as a group of office suites for lease. The conference room shown is downstairs, as viewed from an upstairs corridor.

6) 322 Northeast 15th Street

322 NE 15th St

Billed as “Positively Paseo,” this baffled me for a moment, since this house, in the 1920s neighborhood Classen’s North Highland Parked, south of the Capitol, is nowhere near the Paseo. Positively Paseo, it turns out, is a nonprofit organization that buys up decrepit homes — or, in this case, a actual vacant lot — and replaces those spaces with new homes that look like they belong there. Sales are then made to folks of low-to-moderate income. This is the first PP completion in this neighborhood, with three more planned. And yes, they’ve done several homes in the Paseo area.

7) 126 Harrison Avenue

PLICO Building

Harrison Avenue is a diagonal through the east side of downtown, leaving some triangular blocks filled with flatiron-shaped buildings. This one, originally built as a hotel in 1924, was boarded up in 1988, reopened last year after Rand Elliott breathed upon it and gave it new life. It’s full of Twenties atmosphere and modern amenities that somehow manage not to clash. Owner PLICO, a healthcare-liability insurer, was recently acquired by Berkshire Hathaway’s MedPro Group, though BH says the operation will remain in the flatiron.

8) 1101 North Broadway Avenue

Buick Building

Interior of Buick Building

Original staircase from Buick Building

Only one actual dealership (Mercedes-Benz/Jaguar/Volvo) remains on Oklahoma City’s Automobile Alley, but some of the old dealer buildings have been lovingly repurposed. This Buick store, built in 1924, became a project for Brian Fitzsimmons and his crew in 2012; each of the four floors is a single office space, with a ground-floor frontage on Broadway that’s been given over to the tony Broadway 10 Bar and Chophouse. The weird curvy thing is an original spiral staircase, now hung outside near the entrance; upstairs, in the REHCO/Midtown Renaissance Group office, is a Buick straight-eight with, yes, valve in head. (The rest of the slogan: “Ahead in Value.”)

8) 36 Northeast 10th Street

Interior of Jesus Saves

There’s a sign out front that says “Jesus Saves,” hence the name. This Thirties building, once a leather bindery, was basically down to just four brick walls and tons of pigeon poop before being reclaimed and turned into a residence. Or, more precisely, two residences, a larger one upstairs, a small one on the ground floor. You’re looking at the upstairs kitchen.

Photo credits: 2) 405 Architecture; 6) Positively Paseo; 8) (rooftop shot) Brian Fitzsimmons; others by me (embiggened on Flickr should you so desire).

We’re already planning next year.

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Presumably not working for tips

A small group of anti-circumcision protesters turned up at Penn Square around midday yesterday, the same group that had hit Springfield, Missouri on Friday:

The protesters here pulled out fake blood, splattered it on their pants and posters, and stood on the corner here for the past hour.

Despite the blood, and graphic pictures, they say the point is not to scare people, but to get you to see their signs which they say point out what they say is cruelty to boys.

The group “Bloodstained Men and Their Friends” are behind the protest. They’ve been traveling across the country with the same message against infant circumcision.

The protesters call circumcision torture to babies, and wear the blood to represent that. Protesters say boys should be able to choose whether or not to get circumcised when they become an adult — instead of being forced at birth.

When it hurts even worse.

Seriously, though: I am not particularly put out about my own foreskin, which hasn’t been seen in six decades or more, but I can’t help but wonder if this particular group has a problem with Jews, though nothing on their Web site suggests so. And to be upfront about it, female genital mutilation strikes me as even worse, but the Men don’t seem especially concerned about that.

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It could only happen here

Or at least, that’s the impression we’d like to give:

A man and a horse were shot in a Thursday night drive-by shooting in northeast Oklahoma City.

About 10:20 p.m., Frederick Leon Jackson, of Spencer, and Carlos Romon Miles, of Jones, were riding their horses back from a rodeo arena, off NE 50 and Post Road, when they stopped in front of a church off NE 41 to smoke a cigarette.

Miles told police he saw a red car approach and someone in the car started shooting as the car passed by, according to a police report.

Jackson was hospitalized with a bullet wound to the calf; his horse caught a round in the upper right shoulder.

This is a pretty remote area — the Spencer post office actually delivers the mail this far out — and definitely not the sort of place you’d tend to expect a drive-by shooting. I suspect the occupants of the vehicle were, um, somewhat impaired at the time.

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Small potatoes

Notice how all these cities fit within the boundaries of Los Angeles.

Then again, you can take the entirety of the City of Angels, park Sacramento next to it, and still not fill up Oklahoma City.

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Lower forms of automotive life

There’s a 23rd Street on the south side, but it pales into relative insignificance next to its northside counterpart, which runs for many miles through neighborhoods of several ethnicities. None of it is particularly picturesque, even the stretch that runs past the Capitol, but the northeast segment has some fairly woeful motor vehicles along its length:

I spend a lot of time driving on 23rd. I can’t stand people “acting casual” to avoid attention from police by doing 5 under the already low and mostly unenforced/disregarded limit of 30. **NEWS FLASH** you’re doing 25 on a 4-6 lane avenue in a hoopty with rusted off mufflers, 3 missing hub caps, and threads of weathered duct tape holding bits of smashed car parts onto the chassis. If a cop wants to shake you down for the substance you might be carrying: he’s just going to point out that you’ve hot glued a maybelline compact in the gaping hole where side mirror used to be. OR just say you were swerving.

I admit here to having once duct-taped an exhaust manifold into place, but it wasn’t an offense to the eyeballs unless you were actually looking under the hood.

With gas prices in decline, though, there are now considerably fewer cars that can double their value just by filling the tank.

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Operation QR

The old, ordinary water bill came Saturday — two days early, which I blame on February — and with it came a preview of the new, extraordinary water bill, which shuffles the content a bit and adds one thing previously unseen: a QR code on the return page, making it theoretically possible to pay your bill by scanning it on a mobile device.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but the sample account displayed:

  • has a past-due balance, but no sign of a late charge;
  • contains in the Important Message block the phrase “These are generic topics only”;
  • belongs to a customer in Mississauga, Ontario.

The latter, at least, is sort of explainable: in the past, the city has been known to have outsourced some of its IT development to a Canadian firm, and apparently that relationship continues.

Addendum: Hmmm. The due date is two days early. I blame that, too, on February.


Another one bites the taco

I knew about May and Britton (the first one listed), but not the others:

I mean, I haven’t been there in ages, but I’m sure they weren’t waiting on me to show up.

Dave at will be devastated. Remind me not to mention this in front of him.

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Metered perplexity

I opened up the water bill, and there, for the first time ever, was a reported usage of 4,000 gallons; I’d never before used more than 3,000 in a month. The details revealed the most likely reason why: the readings, usually 30 days apart, were this time 36 days apart.

Okay, fine, no big deal. Then I look at the actual return slip, and the bill is about half what it usually is. I comb through the details again, and here are two adjacent lines:

REFUSE W/90 GA — $20.42

They’re refunding two months’ worth of trash pickup? Why? Is this some form of atonement for still not having picked up the late-November storm debris?

Very late addendum: I had tweeted this mystery earlier today, and right before hitting the Publish button, I went back to check the feed. Lo and behold:

Well, I’ll be durned.

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Smaller warnings

Used to be, you’d hear the local sirens going off, and you’d wonder, just for a moment, how far away the threat might be: Oklahoma City spills into three counties — well, four, if you count that tiny sliver of Pottawatomie County — and if there’s an actual warning anywhere in your county, you’d get the Big Blaster. No more:

The important new policy change, adopted Tuesday by the City Council, divides OKC into zones. When the National Weather Service (NWS) issues a tornado warning, only the sirens in zones covered by the warning will sound.

Residents and visitors don’t need to know what zone they’re in, only to immediately take shelter and get more information if they hear a siren.

There are nine zones in the new scheme. It has to be a really farging big storm to hit more than four or five of them.


Looking at it sideways

“So this,” muses Nicole, “is a real life street sign in Oklahoma City. Real life.”

Well, yes it is:

Corner of Page and Success in northeast Oklahoma City

Not a busy intersection, I’ll admit. (Success Street, sandwiched between NE 19th and NE 20th, runs for about four blocks west starting at Bryant Avenue, interrupted by I-35 north.) Still, you have to view this from the proper perspective. Success isn’t the dead end here; it’s the street that leads away from the dead end, unless you’re headed south on Page, and if you were, you wouldn’t be looking at that sign.

As it happens, I’ve discussed this area before.

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Where it all goes (’15)

The county was a little late getting the property-tax bills out, though of course they’re not going to be cutting taxpayers any slack in getting those bills paid. The actual amount I get to pay is a smidgen higher than last year, due to a small increase in the assessed value and a fraction of a mill added to the actual tax rate. Here’s where all those dollars go, and in brackets, where they went last year:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $124.57 [$120.39]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $476.19 [$462.53]
  • Metro Tech Center: $123.21 [$120.39]
  • Oklahoma County general: $94.03 [$90.78]
  • Countywide school levy: $33.02 [$32.26]
  • City/County Health Department: $20.66 [$20.18]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $41.47 [$40.52]
  • Total: $913.14 [$887.04]

This year’s millage is 114.50, up from last year’s 113.84. (Record millage: 117.58, 2011.) The bank presumably will cut them a check on Monday.


Let’s have leftovers

This little blurb came with the New and Improved — well, higher, anyway — city utility bill:

The Oklahoma City Council voted in September to devote an extra $8 million for street improvements, addressing OKC residents’ longtime top priority. The $8 million will be distributed equally among OKC’s eight wards. The money comes from a surplus in the General Fund’s fund balance, which has a target range of 8 to 15 percent for unbudgeted reserves.

This leaves said reserves at 13.5 percent, so it’s not like we’re digging deep. Or are we?

The extra $8 million will complement $47.5 million for street, traffic and drainage projects in this year’s budget and $497 million in ongoing streets projects from the 2007 General Obligation Bond.

Oh, and “top priority”? In the last Citizen Survey [pdf], 72 percent of us expressed dissatisfaction with road conditions; no other city services drew even half as many complaints. And hey, at least we’re not in the hole, budgetwise.


In tune with the universe

Yesterday, yours truly offered this post-commute grumble:

Not quite half an hour later:

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation will present a public meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 6, to provide information and solicit public input on a future project to replace the I-35 bridges over N.E. 63rd St. and to make improvements to the I-35 ramps to westbound I-44 in Oklahoma City.

ODOT will present alternative designs to the public and is requesting input as part of the environmental clearance process before construction can begin. The meeting will include presentation of detailed information and opportunities for the public to ask questions and give input. The public comment period closes Oct. 20.

Reconstruction of the bridges at N.E. 63rd St. and I-35 is scheduled in ODOT’s Eight-Year Construction Work Plan for Federal Fiscal Year 2020. The placement of the bridges is dependent on the preferred alignment of I-35 selected from the study.

Among other things, one of the schemes is to make the westbound onramp to I-44 two lanes, which presumably will reduce the number of doofi who can’t figure out what lane they’re supposed to be in when they start up that new, higher bridge.

Today’s problem, at least, was easily visible: rubberneckers just north of US 62, and some actual rubber in the roadway a few yards beyond.

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Choosy beggars

As long as we’re talking about panhandlers, and we were, not so long ago, here is the encapsulated experience of our man on the downtown streets:

He continues:

I do think our society does way too little and has a poor understanding of issues involving poverty, mental illness and substance abuse. And I will acknowledge that some panhandlers are either poor or struggling with illness or abuse — but I believe they are the minority.

I used to carry a packet of free bus ride tickets, etc. to give to panhandlers who claimed they needed money for transportation, food… The passes, etc., were turned down all but one time — and the guy who took the pass still wanted money.

I have long suspected that some variation on Gresham’s Law was taking place: the truly needy are being crowded out by the scamsters. Not that this would be entirely unpredictable, of course: there is, as I always say, no system that can’t be gamed. Still, a few hardy souls persist:

A year ago today, Calvin was sleeping outside in a tent. TODAY Calvin is sleeping in his very own apartment! Congratulations, Calvin! We are so proud of your hard work! Calvin uses the income he earns from selling Curbside to afford all of his rent and expenses. Thank you Journey Home OKC and OKC Housing Authority for helping Calvin find affordable housing and making this possible. And thank YOU for helping Calvin achieve his financial goals by supporting him through sales. Calvin has worked extremely hard to reach this goal. You can find him selling at NW Expressway and Classen on the daily.

I’ve bought from Calvin before, in fact. And I’d just as soon not see him put out of a job, however tenuous it may seem, just because some people find it easier to beg than to work.

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To be voted off the islands

There were about twice the usual number of panhandlers on, um, duty this afternoon, suggesting that they’re taking this threat from the city seriously:

Proposed restrictions on panhandling are part of a broad effort to attack “explosive” growth in activities that frighten and intimidate many residents, Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer said Friday.

Salyer said the mayor and six of the other seven council members have signed on as co-authors of her proposal to make it a misdemeanor to panhandle from the median of city streets.

If nothing else, this should be an object lesson in the Law of Unintended Consequences: the existing ordinance prohibits standing in the street to solicit.

The holdout Councilman, should you be interested, is Ed Shadid of Ward 2.

Salyer said she receives complaints “in the multiples every day” about panhandlers.

She said residents tell her their quality of life is destroyed every morning as they drive through the intersection of NW 23 and Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Why should that have to be in our community?” Salyer said. “We can do better.”

The proposed ordinance makes no exceptions for charitable contributions:

Phil Sipe, president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 157, said Oklahoma City firefighters annually collect about $300,000 to support families affected by muscle diseases.

He predicted donations could drop 75 percent to 80 percent and said it would be a “blow to families” that depend on the money given by the public each year.

Also presumably affected: street vendors of the Curbside Chronicle.

One question remains unanswered still: how do we distinguish the hucksters from the folks who really need help? Or have the hucksters basically pushed away all the competition?

I once suggested that the ultimate solution is purely financial in nature:

[I]nvoke the specter of the Internal Revenue Service. Instead of giving someone a buck, we hand over 60 cents and a 1099-MISC. “By law, we’re withholding forty cents for taxes. Be sure you report this on your return next year.” Odds are, the guy won’t even hang around to get his change, let alone give out his Social Security number.

Then again, what could be more traditionally American than trying to avoid income tax?

Update, 14 September: The Curbside Chronicle responds to the proposed ordinance.

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Irate, you rate

Lead story in the Oklahoman today begins with this anecdote:

When a passing motorist yelled “Road rage sucks” at Oklahoma City police Sgt. Matthew Downing during a January 2014 traffic stop, Downing chased the man down in a convenience store, wrestled him to the ground and arrested him.

A supervisor who soon arrived disagreed with Downing’s use of force and subsequent arrest and released the man.

Police Chief Bill Citty directed the department’s Office of Professional Standards to conduct a criminal investigation into the incident.

In February, Downing pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery and was sentenced to 90 days’ probation. That same day, he resigned from the department, where leaders say he was still under administrative investigation for the incident. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said Downing’s guilty plea and resignation were part of his plea agreement, which is typical in criminal cases involving police officers.

Not that I at all object to keeping the police on a fairly tight leash — those rogue cops obsessed with their authority (“Trigger-happy policing,” said Marvin Gaye back in the day) need to be pulled back — but I have to wonder: is it the position of the City, or of the OCPD, that road rage does not suck?


Rough going here and there

Presenting The Sixteen Worst Roads in Oklahoma City, from this morning’s Oklahoman, page 2A:

OKC street grid

How they got to be The Worst:

In 2007, Oklahoma City passed a bond issue aimed at improving or replacing parts of the city’s infrastructure, including designating almost a half billion dollars to fix some of the city’s worst streets.

Of the 49 stretches of road designated to be repaired more than seven years ago, 16 have been completed and 17 are in construction.

Work has yet to begin on 16 streets.

Note that it’s stuff around the periphery, not urban streets in the middle of town, that seems to need the most work. And there’s a single four-mile stretch that I can verify is truly terrible: sections 14/13/2/11, Kelley Avenue from Wilshire to Memorial, though when I take this route I turn off at 130th, missing the northernmost half-mile. This stretch of Kelley, long ago, was part of the Route 66 alignment through town; it’s now, if you ask me, merely the less-stressful alternative to the Broadway Distention, albeit with nearly as much patch as actual pavement.


Just a flesh wound

When I spotted him on the street this afternoon, I recognized him almost immediately: he’s the American cousin of the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Water heater wearing a traffic cone

I bet his spirit isn’t corroded.

(Full scene on Flickr.)

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Costs and benefits

Actual lunchtime conversation today:

Me: “They’re planning on spending more money on this new jail than on the new convention center.”

She: “The jail, at least, won’t be sitting empty.”

Why, yes, I do have snarky friends.

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You’ve got jail

Or at least you’re about to buy one, and you probably won’t like the financing options.

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We got your easement right here

It was almost exactly seven years ago when I contemplated the possibility of getting actual sidewalks on my postwar suburban-ish street, and I was sort of dubious about the prospects:

[D]oes it go on my side of the street, or on the other side? There’s a sidewalk around the corner which, if continued, would end up on my side. The city, I believe, would have no issues with taking out my elm tree, or the one next door, but I suspect they draw the line at having to relocate my water meter, which is even closer to the curb than the trees are. Argument for the opposite side of the street: it’s a lot flatter over there.

We learned this week, though, that they’re actually coming, along with resurfacing of all the east-west streets in the neighborhood, most of which are crumbling concrete with approximately one part per thousand of grass. (The Neighborhood Association was very high on both these prospects, and I can’t say as I blame them.) And yes, it’s going to be on my side, so I can presumably kiss that tree goodbye.

The pitch from the NA, which voted overwhelmingly for the sidewalk project:

Any homeowner whose front yard is in the path of development of the new sidewalks will lose approximately 5 square feet of their front lot. The benefit will be a greatly improved and beautified neighborhood, increased walkability, and likely improved resale values.

As Martha would say, those are Good Things. The “5 square feet” bit is bungled, of course: it’s five feet back from the curb. My lot is 60 feet wide up front, so I part with 300 square feet, less the area already covered by the driveway. As for that “flatter” bit, here come the graders: an incline of two degrees is as much as they’re going to tolerate, which means I’m also presumably getting some sort of retaining wall.

When this will happen, I do not know. The repaving ordeal begins in August and will take, they say, about a year: there are 15 blocks scheduled for repaving, so maybe three weeks per block. No timetable has been unveiled for the sidewalks. And how long does it take to move a water meter, anyway? If we’re going to be waterless for long, I need to plan an escape route.

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Word on the street

For several years now, I have been watching in dismay as some grubby offshoot of Gresham’s Law became the law of the urban street corner:

People whose hearts bleed red with simulated compassion will no doubt chide me for my lack of sensitivity. “Walk a mile in their shoes,” they’d say. Actually, most of them seem to have better shoes than I do, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t walk from the shelters, which tend to be west of downtown, all the way to Penn freaking Square.

But causing me annoyance is hardly a hanging offense. (Otherwise, there’d be a worldwide rope shortage right about now.) What’s happening here is that people who do need help, and I presume there are a few such on the streets, are going to be spurned because we can’t distinguish between who’s really begging and who’s really bogus. And locking up everyone who asks for spare change runs into serious First Amendment issues, which is not something to be encouraged.

Cover of The Curbside Chronicle Issue 4I wrote that six years ago. I was not at all expecting that it might be possible to come up with a marker to distinguish the actual homeless from the unreasonable facsimiles thereof; the city was trying to license individual panhandlers, but all else being equal, I’d prefer a private-sector solution, were one possible.

This is where The Curbside Chronicle came in. It’s a street paper, a publication by and for people who live in the streets, an idea with at least 100 years of tradition under its tattered belt. (See, for instance, Hobo News, which flourished around 1915.) The Chronicle started last year, and publishes bi-monthly.

The operation is fairly simple. Vendors are staked to 15 copies of the magazine, which sell for $2 “suggested donation.” After that, they can get more for 75 cents each. How many can they sell in a couple of months? I’m not sure, but the Chronicle says that “To date, we have helped six vendors find and sustain housing!”

Issue 11, out now, contains a startling pictorial called “How I See OKC”:

We paired local photographers with Curbside Chronicle vendors and friends experiencing homelessness. These pictures seek to open people’s eyes to what the homeless see on a daily basis, as well as share parts of their stories… Vendors titled and captioned all of their photos in their own words with what they want the community to take away from their images.

Some of those captions may well break your heart — even mine. (I came entirely too close to joining their numbers three decades ago, which helps to prevent cynicism — and which informs my irritation with those few poseurs whose panhandling conceals a perfectly ordinary suburban lifestyle.)

What can a 32-page color glossy do that years of activism and scores of governmental actions can’t? It’s perhaps too early to tell. But if the Chronicle is accomplishing anything at all, it’s way ahead of the activists and the politicians.

Incidentally, my copy of Issue 11 (two bucks) was sealed in a freezer bag, an acknowledgment of the fact that the weather by the side of the road is capricious at best.


Perk not included

This is a fairly typical house for its neighborhood (Barrington Section 3, south of Danforth/NW 192nd and west of Western):

2011 Parade of Homes house. High performance energy efficient built NAHB Green home. Granite thru out, custom wall finishes, tank less hot water, walk-in pantry, large master bath w walk-in shower and 2 closets, master sitting room, large covered patio, gas whirpool appliances, theatre room, 2nd kitchenette, mud-room off garage, office w/ built-ins, jack & jill baths, walk-in closets thruout, sprinkler system, additional heated & cooled storage above garage

Okay, one does not expect Updike-level writing from real-estate agents. I have cleaned up the spacing, but not the spelling. (A Jack and Jill bathroom has two entrances, one from each of two bedrooms. I think. I don’t hang around in these neighborhoods much.)

Come to think of it, no one is looking to its owner, Cleveland Cavaliers (and former Celtics and Thunder) center Kendrick Perkins, for any of that florid speechifying stuff: he’s to the point and, when necessary, in your face.

What I like about it: there’s a small theater room, seating six, and there’s a kitchenette right next to it. Now that’s planning.

(Via Thunder Obsessed.)

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Non-little boxes

“Older suburbs,” reports Consumerist, “are turning over”:

Homes in the towns closest to city centers with the shortest commutes are the most valuable, but also the most vulnerable to being bulldozed and displaced by much larger homes. Three bedrooms and one and a half bathrooms (or even only one bathroom) was an acceptable suburban home back during the post-World War II expansion of the suburbs. Now those houses are kind of old, and prime targets for builders who want to replace them with larger, modern houses.

My house is indeed kind of old, but no one’s looking to replace it: our neighborhood zoning prevents McMansions from being dropped into the mid-century milieu.

Then again, there’s one anomaly, made possible by the existence of a narrow-ish (49 x 176 feet) lot that had been vacant for many years. The owner ultimately sold it for $20,000, consistent with my observation that land in this area goes for $100k an acre. The trick, of course, was putting a house on it that looked like it belonged with the late-Forties originals. The front setback is comparable to those of neighboring houses, as prescribed by city ordinance. But the house goes back 71 feet: it’s narrow but very long, roughly twice the size of the houses on either side. This presents no particular problem, though I wonder if the neighbors might be thinking of adding on to the back. On my own block, the desire for more space has generally meant forgoing the garage, but then we have wider, if shallower, lots.


The wrong side of something

KitsuneRisu is here talking about Singapore, but it’s almost a Universal Truth:

Everyone has a place like that in their town (or the entirety of your country if you live in Russia), where there’s a whole shopping strip which is pretty cool and suddenly there’s just this one area emitting a black cloud of fear from it, like vicious anger-breath from the lungs of an irate mongoose.

It’s as sketch as the result of a crying elderly woman’s attempt to recall her mugger to the local police district’s new profile artist who doesn’t have a degree in good sketching. It was kinda like the north part of the Strip in Las Vegas. The further up you go, the more uncomfortable things feel, and suddenly you realise you’re standing in Circus Circus and there’s 15 wrinkled slot-grannies staring at you over their cigars and liter-bottles of rum, and everything has this weird clown motif that doesn’t carry.

Especially true where I live: the character of a neighborhood can undergo half a dozen changes in a single mile.

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Murrah plus twenty

If you were anywhere within four or five miles of downtown Oklahoma City on this date in 1995, it’s a pretty safe bet that you heard it. Felt it. First you wondered what; then you wondered why. We’ve pretty much settled the first question.

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A photographic addendum

Trini, my perennial companion for the Architecture Tours, sent me a folder full of pictures she’d taken on her phone during the 2015 Tour. A lot of the subjects we snapped were the same, but for no good reason I can imagine, I got no shot of the courtyard at the Buddha Mind Monastery. She did, and with her permission I bring it to you here:

Courtyard at Buddha Mind Monastery

This will embiggen with a click, but it’s about 2.5 megabytes: 4320 pixels wide.

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No place to dive

PB Jams is a little sandwich shop on 38th west of MacArthur, owned by Ashley Jiron. The other day, she was a bit unnerved to discover that someone had been Dumpster-diving on the premises: “I had noticed some bags, when I had taken out the trash, were torn open and some of the food was taken out.”

Someone else might have put up a sign saying Don’t Do That. She chose to do this:

Sign posted at PB Jams

“I think we’ve all been in that position where we needed someone’s help and we just needed someone to extend that hand and if I can be that one person to extend that hand to another human being then I will definitely do it,” Ashley said.

The sign, she says, will stay until the diver returns and takes advantage of her offer.

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Saturday spottings (dude descending a staircase)

The one spring event I do not miss in this town is the Architecture Tour, put on by the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and from 2007 through 2013 I had the singular delight of getting to take the tour with Trini. She begged off last year — family matters come first, after all — but she was by my side once more this time around, arranging the tour schedule and doing the navigation. (Which latter I should have heeded more often: the answer to the question “Which of these otherwise indistinguishable downtown streets is the one that goes one-way westbound?” is, um, the other one.) The eight tour stops resulted in a 92-mile jaunt, about half of which involved going to and returning from item number three. Without further ado:

1) 3341 Quail Creek Road

Bill Howard home in Quail Creek

A trigonometry test come to life, the Bill Howard home off Quail Creek Country Club is a dazzling array of irregular polygons, reflecting both Howard’s desire to blend into the nearby woodlands and his study under Frank Lloyd Wright. The house was built in 1970, but much of its interior pays homage to mid-century modern, which hadn’t been entirely forgotten by then.

2) 12713 St. Andrews Terrace

House of Good Taste by Edward Durrell Stone

What do you do if the demand for housing on a single block exceeds the space you’d expect to give to a top-rank residence? If you’re Edward Durrell Stone, you create a design that is oriented “inward,” that doesn’t sprawl across the lot. Stone introduced this idea at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, and sold plans for it nationwide under the name “House of Good Taste.” Restored last year, it’s simple but elegant.

3) 5800 South Anderson Road

Exterior of the Buddha Mind Monastery

Altar inside the Buddha Mind Monastery

The campus of the Buddha Mind Monastery, on a 20-acre site on the far southeast side, is oriented “inward” in a different way, in the hopes that the visitor will turn toward inner tranquility. The Abbess and her staff have made use of traditional Zen Buddhist themes, and regular classes are offered to novice and long-time follower alike.

4) 1315 North Broadway Place

Mayfair Apartments

The Mayfair Apartments, located north of Automobile Alley, are a working definition of splitting the difference: the exterior is pure 1930s, the flats — we visited a fourth-floor walkup, and I never want to hear the words “fourth-floor walkup” ever again — utterly contemporary, and the common areas Somewhere In Between. Several visitors seemed ready to sign a lease for one of the 16 units right then and there, though none of us could imagine how we’d get furniture up and down the narrow stairs.

5) 309 Northwest 13th Street

309 Monterey

This postwar Chrysler-Plymouth dealership, now the home of the Oklahoma Public Schools Resource Center, retains the exterior garage doors, but individual offices inside are created out of thirteen repurposed shipping containers. Architect Brian Fitzsimmons, a regular on all the Tours, is happy to show his work.

6) 828 Northwest 8th Street

828 NW 8th St

You can’t have an Architecture Tour without something in SoSA, the South of Saint Anthony district, and here’s the first of two residences therein. This one, from Ken Fitzsimmons’ Task Design, sits on the corner of 8th and Francis, close to the center of gravity of new development in this area, and is designed to fit in both with the new contemporary houses (think “vertical”) and the original pre-1930 housing stock (think “weather-minimizing features”).

7) 925 Northwest 8th Street

925 NW 8th St

Just one block away, and literally right on the corner at Classen, is this Not Really A Shed house; the slope of the roof serves as counterpoint to the slope of the street. The floorplan is Z-shaped, arranged for maximum bedroom light in the morning and as little heat from the setting summer sun as possible, and is about two and half times deeper than it is wide.

8) 30 Northeast 2nd Street

30 NE 2nd St

This is the one non-permanent structure on the tour: once again, stacked shipping containers, occupying a space just across from the Aloft Hotel, which is scheduled to contain office space with above-average amenities and, downstairs facing Oklahoma Avenue, a “gourmet corn-dog” eatery, and what’s a downtown without gourmet corn dogs? Ten years from now, they say, this will be dismantled and rebuilt somewhere else.

Photo credits: 1) Doug Howard; 4) Sam Day; 5) Joseph Mills; others by me (which can be seen in larger size on Flickr).

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