A few days ago, I was on the phone with my daughter and had gone off on a tangent about some vague fragment of local history, and she listened politely for a few seconds and came back with this: "Have you noticed that you do this a lot more often now that you live in the city?"

She's right, of course. There wasn't anything billed as "Saturday spottings" for the first eight years or so of this site; what was going on around me was presumably of interest only if somehow it affected me directly.

Why is this? The short answer is "I own a piece of it now," and yes, that's true. It's a small piece — a quarter of an acre in a city of six hundred square miles — but just because I could fit more than 1.5 million lots this size into the city limits doesn't mean I take this one lightly. For one thing, it cost me around two years' salary, which, due to the wonders of compound interest, is payable over thirty years. (A few extra cents in the envelope each month, and I should be able to whittle this down to, oh, 29.5 years.) And real-estate prices have risen enough in the past year for me to be able to claim, despite a crushing mountain of debt, an actual positive net worth.

But more to the point, now that I have a stake in this city and therefore a stake in its future, its past has become somehow more interesting. Of course, Oklahoma City starts out with a few points of interest by itself. Not many cities can trace their origin to an exact hour (high noon on the 22nd of April, 1889); few cities have designed the routes of major roads to allow for the curvature of the earth.

I spent the 1960s in Charleston, South Carolina, a city far older and presumably far richer in history, and I have to assume that being immersed in a culture that has existed for over three hundred years gave me some sort of appreciation for the trappings of years gone by, even if it wasn't reflected in the grades I earned in history back then. There was a time when Charleston was one of the largest cities in the nation; now it's largely off the national radar. Oklahoma City, now the 30th largest city in the country, gets very little notice either: we got some notoriety when a couple of homegrown terrorists took out the Federal building in 1995, and promptly faded from view once the reporters went back to New York. But I have to assume that Oklahoma City, like Charleston, has many secrets yet to be revealed. Now that I'm here, I figure the least I can do is look around for some of them.

The Vent

  16 December 2004

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 Copyright © 2004 by Charles G. Hill