maro Lip Schtick: The Outsidersp

Friday, December 31, 2004

The Outsiders

I'm feeling particularly feisty. I don't know if the stress with the growing skyrocketing death toll in Asia, or if it's just that I'm having a bad hair day.

But as a person who grew up in south Oklahoma City, yet now resides north, I believe I can comment on recent posts by Oklarama and Dustbury. After all, the war between the southside greasers and northside socs is a long one.

A brief history, first. Growing up "southside," I first attended Oklahoma City public schools for elementary education. I had a great time in the OKC system. I got along great with the other students (except for a brief period in second grade ... but that's a story for another time), and the facilities were more than adequate. I excelled academically, and grew emotionally (as much as you can grow as a child of five through eight years of age). The only thing I would say was lacking was the intellectual level of some of the teachers.

I remember correcting my fourth grade teacher's spelling on two different occasions (and let me tell you, she was not the least bit pleased about this ... especially since I did it in front of the entire class). Needless to say, I was moved to the top of her sh*t list for the rest of the year, but who cares? It's February, not Febuary. And it's daisies, not dasies. Moving on.

Right before I started the fifth grade, we moved a little farther south, which put me in the Moore school district (yes, Dustbury, we technically lived in Oklahoma City). We remained in the the Moore system until I graduated from high school.

All of that said, I had no idea that we were seen as "southside trash" until I went to college and met kids from north OKC. And they were not at all discreet in letting me know how they felt about southsiders. I even dated a guy during college who, after introducing me to his father at a nice northside country club dinner, told me later that his dad thought I was a "great girl - for a southsider."

What? That's the equivalent of saying, "Oh, she's pretty ... for a fat girl."
Or, "He's a handsome black guy."

Another guy I went out with kept going on and on about how impressed he was when he went with me to my ten-year high school reunion. Well, what did he think? That just because I went to a southside high school that all of my classmates would be knuckle-draggers? The irony is, he told me once about how he had to use his car as his locker because he was afraid of using his actual locker inside the school (a northside, OKC public school), for fear of his fellow locker neighbors. Hmmmm ... I was never in fear for my life, and I went to a southside school. I digress.

Getting back to the original point. I am always amazed at how people talk about the "difference" between north and south Oklahoma City. Granted, there are areas south that are seedy, I get that. But there are seedy areas of north OKC as well. But somehow this seems to be overlooked.

Remarked OKPartisan:
Having grown up in East Norman, I can appreciate living on the non-snobby side of town, but lack of snobbery can only go so far. We have a serious blight problem in many areas of OKC, but Southside is in particular trouble. I felt like I was driving through an encyclopedia entry on the Modern Great Depression. So many empty strip malls! Bargain stores, check cashing centers, "cheap cigarette" stores, broken up by a few chain drug stores and clusters of chain restaurants on I-240.

Regarding the bargain stores and "cheap cigarette" stores, have you driven along NW 23rd Street lately? And I seem to recall a brand new check cashing center in the same, I believe, yes, strip mall, in which the new Pei Wei restaurant resides. And where is said strip mall located? Oh yes, it's right next to the State Fair WalMart strip mall that took over the historical Belle Isle power plant.

And as far as 1-240 is concerned ... I don't think it looks any different than Memorial Road. Strip malls, fast food and chain restaurants, car dealerships. Man, the similarities are staggering.

I agree that the growth on both sides of the track is overwhelming. And I agree with the point that OKPartisan makes about "tax incentives for restoration of the decay," and "revitalization of our city's para-center."

But there are decay problems on both sides of the Bricktown line. This is not just a southside issue.


Blogger OKPartisan said...

Happy New Year, LilRed!

I guess I touched on a nerve. I can totally understand your loyalty to the south side of OKC. I have the same loyalty to the east side of Norman, where realtors fear to tread, or at least did until Don Cies ran out of room on the west side of Norman and started building on our side of town. Thankfully Norman Public Schools added a North/South divide with the new (for me anyway) high school, and that's helping break a few of the divisions.

Anyway, I certainly did NOT mean to imply that the ugliness I saw in my drive around south OKC was confined there, or that the southside as a whole is ugly. Another good case in point: Northwest Expressway, particularly going out to the west. I challenge someone to count up the number of empty strip malls along that route. Staggering.

Let's all face it: we have a rather ugly city (though I love it dearly). I moved back here after having lived in San Diego, and I must say I was depressed for a month or two at the ugliness here. I don't mean lack of mountains, lack of ocean. I mean businesses making no effort to present a nice exterior. Grass growing up in the cracks in the curbs. Pavement everywhere with little effort to even add a bit of landscaping. Power lines wherever you look. Trash blowing all over. The open spaces being clear-cut and paved over with cookie cutter housing crammed together. And all the empty, ugly strip malls.

What I am trying to say is that everywhere other than Bricktown and the periphery are being ignored. I suspect that south OKC has suffered in particular (as east Norman has) from neglect by City Council, but I don't have anything to back that up. I don't want The Money in OKC to write off any section of our city. I don't want to see what I saw in Norman, where cheap, ugly, low-rent growth was encouraged on the east side and the nice development was encouraged on the west side. As I was growing up I also noticed the disparity in the expectations from and opportunties for students on the east vs. west side, within the same public school system. This uneven treatment of different parts of a city, either officially or by prejudice of the populace,is a big problem that will not go away unless we all, as a city, recognize it and actively fight it.

Anyway, all of OKC needs to flourish.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Lady Godiva said...

Actually I'm a bit tired of both of you. If you want to live in a perfectly manicured world move to Edmond. Personally I left after 40 years there to live in the real world. Yes, I was one of those kids that didn't realize there was anything south of Downtown until I was in college. OKC has its issues, but give it a break, you could be living in Edmond.

7:35 PM  
Blogger LilRed said...

Thanks for checking in, LG. But, I read my posts again and I don't think I ever mentioned wanting to live in a "manicured world," as you put it. If I did, I wouldn't live where I live now.

I was simply asking the pot to recognize that it too, is black (and no, people, that's not a racial slur ... it's a reference to an old saying).

And by the way, Edmond is not my idea of paradise, either.

11:19 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

i'm currently attending OSU in Stillwater....OK, I am from the southside and i understand totally about what you are saying about the contrasts between the South and the North, well for one thing, I just think that it was created that way for the fact that okc is extremely spread out and you know, people do react to thier environment so the north sider doesn't ever really make it to the southside enough to make judgements. And finally, the southside is finally getting some improvements, just like that new shopping center on 1-240 (74th). That area is so much like Memorial Rd on the north side. I think OKC public schools needs to annex U.S. grant and S.E. and possibly bring Western Heights HS to make South OKC public Schools or something cus that school district is just horrible. I actually attended S.E. as my parents didn't really know that the more suburban you live at, the better the schools are. and BTW, I actually made a group on the facebook for southside students who attend OSU :-).

1:36 PM  
Blogger LilRed said...

Thanks for checking in, Michael! I always appreciate hearing other people's points of view on the whole northside vs. southside issue.

3:02 PM  

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