There’s an old phrase that goes something like, “Don’t wait, for you never know what tomorrow might bring.” You can tie that phrase to a lot of things: courage, unpredictability, laziness. For me, that phrase talks about the inevitability of change. Life moves pretty fast, and if you don’t make time for what you care about it’ll run right past you and out the door, leaving you wondering what happened.
As my love for photography has grown over the last few years (and as I’ve experienced some heavy personal loss) I’ve become much more aware of just how precious time is. When I’m driving along rural roads in Osage County, or Route 66, or the heart of a metropolitan district my eyes are always darting around, looking for interesting things to capture. Sometimes I’ll see something and think, “Ah, that’s great…I’ll get it next time I’m out here.” I cannot describe the gut-wrenching emotion I experience when I return somewhere and see that something has been demolished or changed in a way that no longer appeals to me. No matter how many times I’ve experienced this, it’s still easy to tell myself, “Nah, I’ll come back later.” I’ve literally argued with myself in the car out loud. I turn around more often than not these days. So, all of that to say I try to be very aware when I’m lucky enough to know something is about to change.
Such a change is about to come to downtown Oklahoma City. In mid-January, the city announced that a section of their historic downtown had been approved for razing so they could put in new parking garages. The buildings slated for demolition are the final remaining pieces of the city’s old Main Street shopping district and include the Union Bus Station. When I read the article, I was saddened but not surprised; OKC has famously torn down some great historic buildings in the name of “progress”. However, when I also read that demolition could start as soon as February, I knew I had to get moving quick. I’d been planning on going down the past few weekends, but other opportunities overshadowed the drive down I-44. Today, though, I stopped waiting and made it happen.
Samantha and I drove down to the intersection of Walker and Sheridan in the state’s capital and walked around, taking the time to appreciate some of the architectural flourishes of the area. I captured the things that interested me, knowing this would probably be my last opportunity. The Devon Tower glinted in the sunlight, standing tall to the east as a harbinger of doom. I was reminded of the movie ‘Batteries Not Included’ where an old tenant is threatened to vacate their building to make way for a new corporate development, only to be saved by the intervention of little flying robots from space. Sadly, these buildings will not be so lucky; such is the way of the world. I could choose to be angry or depressed, which wouldn’t change anything but my blood pressure, or I could take some time to appreciate what’s there while it still exists. When I allow myself to bask in the moment and appreciate what’s right in front of me, I’m a much happier person. So that’s what I did, and it was a lovely sight.
After our walk downtown, we were both pretty hungry. To continue the theme of the visit, we had lunch at a place I’d skipped several times before: Cattlemen’s Steakhouse. It has been recommended to me several times in the past, and I have to say I am now a fellow recommender. My steak was delicious and Sam was very pleased with her turkey and dressing. The restaurant has been around since 1910 in Stockyard City, a section of town that is known for meatpacking and livestock-related auctions and business. More of the restaurant’s history is here, which I enjoyed reading on their menu while eating their enormous dinner rolls. The decor inside is very classic: wood paneling, old newspaper clippings, low lighting. You can tell not much has changed in the last few decades. Old cowboys ate at the lunch counter in full regalia while the staff hurried about in good spirits. I’ll bet I could get some GREAT steak & eggs there at breakfast time!
After eating, I also made good on another previously-bypassed place: the Skydance bridge. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve driven under the bridge, marveling at the steel spikes stabbing skyward. I hadn’t made the time to stop and actually appreciate it, and it seemed appropriate to add it to my list of stops, though being barely three years old it’s under no threat of demolition. The bridge itself is inspired by our state bird, the scissor-tailed flycatcher. It’s a beautiful construct, as magnificent from below as it had been from afar. I wondered if locals thought it was frivolous or ugly, as many do when something drastic like this is built. As I was walked back to the car, I made a note to myself to come back at night soon; it’s even more beautiful when it’s all lit up.
Our final stop was Lake Overholser, a 1500 acre lake on Route 66 just west of the city. I’d been there before with Sam and her family last November, but we hadn’t actually stopped at the dam. It had some great old gear mechanisms along the top to control the old release gates and a small truss bridge in the middle. It was a beautiful day for it, too, as we were among runners, cyclists, fishermen, and families out having a picnic. The sun was warm and the breeze was cool; it was a perfect afternoon. I’ll be happy when spring is here in full force and we get a lot more of these days.