Sometimes, I like to go out and just listen to the world. I tell my husband and kids I have to go Walgreens to buy some hair color because my gray roots are showing. But, then I cut through a dozen different neighborhoods, and sometimes, I never make it to the store, and my roots are gray for another week.
I take a lot of pictures when I’m out driving around. This is just what I do. On Friday, I discovered a house on South Walker Avenue with mannequin heads planted in the front yard. The sign above the door said, “No Trespassing.” I was like, no kidding, buddy. But, if it’s all the same to you, I’d like to take a picture.
On Sunday morning, I caught a glimpse of a church bus. There was snow on the streets, and the sky was unseasonably blue — just like the bus –and so I followed it and snapped a picture as it crossed the Oklahoma River.
My children worry I’m going to die taking pictures. The other day when I was out driving around my teenager sent me a text message filled only with emojis: a car, a little burning flame, a police car, an ambulance, a hospital, a church and finally, a yellow face with a sad smile and a blue tear. In one brief text message I was injured in a wreck; died at the hospital and attended my funeral. All the emoticons mourned my passing. I texted her back: “I’m still in one piece”
On Saturday, at dusk, I cut through a 4.4 square mile area of Oklahoma City recently labeled a hot spot for violent crime. I think I’m living a lie if I don’t go see it for myself. It’s located between Meridian and Council and Melrose and NW 27. The city has launched a year-long initiative to take the area back.
Funny though, it needed to be taken back 25 years ago.
In the Summer of 1987 some girlfriends and I rented an apartment in the area. It was our introduction to inner-city gunfire, sirens and flashing lights outside our window, except, we were seven miles from downtown.
After I graduated college in 1990, I got a part-time job as a substitute bus driver, and I drove routes through the same area. I don’t know whose idea it was to build 41 apartment complexes in such a compact zone and then let them fall into various states of disrepair — and then qualify them all for Section 8 housing. I guess every city has its slum lords, tenement housing and areas of weak code enforcement.
Now, all these years later, we’re going to take it back — the streets we’ve ignored — the streets I was afraid to drive a school bus down in 1990.
One day, while trying to back one of those gigantic yellow buses into a tiny parking space, I hit a mini-van and they fired me. I never drove up and down those streets again until Sunday night, when I went out to hear what I might see. And, it was the same shrill clarion call I heard back then.