Clarion Call

metal swings playground

KOSU Commentary

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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.

Blue Church Bus

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.

Used Tires Graffiti Orange Painted Brick Office

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.

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