It's a perfectly reasonable question: Do you love where you live?

In a word, no. I'm not unhappy with where I live — at least, I don't have a particular problem living in this particular neck of the woods — but it's a stretch to call it love.

There are, in fact, some distinct advantages to living in central Oklahoma. Chief among them is the relatively low cost of housing: the very same $320,000 which on, say, Long Island, will bring you a two-bedroom box forty years old, can get you something here that rivals the Governor's Mansion. Almost. Here's an actual classified ad from the local fishwrap:

NEW LISTING IN LAKEHURST — 4br 2½ baths, over 3000 sf, corner lot on quiet low traffic street, high demand area, won't last long — priced at $239,000

I couldn't afford that, and really, I have no desire to own 3000 square feet of home; it's that much more to clean. Still, this was the most expensive house in its particular classification, and while it's true that the wage scales here tend to be lower than the national average, it's still possible to own a home here while living on a single income, something that's simply implausible in certain coastal areas.

There are, of course, drawbacks. The worst, I think, is the climate, which is just barely on the good side of "harsh"; the difference between the average January low and the average July high is more than seventy degrees Fahrenheit. Snowfall is meager, but ice is unfortunately rather common; summers are long and hot and end abruptly some time after Labor Day with no warning. Spring and fall are the storm seasons. This is not to say that we never have nice days, but it's very rare we have more than three in a row.

Culturally, we're somewhere between famine and feast; where we fall on the scale depends on your particular preferences. Live theatre is particularly strong here, but it's rare for independent films to get any kind of screening. The local orchestra flourishes, but bands have relatively few venues. There's classical music on the radio 24/7, but the commercial stations strive for mediocrity.

My children are grown and don't live around here, so I tend to be less concerned than others about the state of education, but it's not a great deal different here from other American metropolitan areas: the suburbs tend to have better schools than the central city. The school-district lines, it should be noted, do not correspond to any other political divisions; perhaps a quarter of the children in the city proper actually live in suburban districts. Teachers are woefully underpaid here, but I tend to think that teachers are woefully underpaid almost everywhere.

In sum, it's a nice place. For some, it might even be a great place. But in my dreams, I always seem to be somewhere else. Maybe some day...but that's a tale for another time.

The Vent

23 August 2003

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