Curb Appeal in T-Town

My son was totally perplexed, as close to anxiety as a fourteen year old boy can get.

Nervous and clearly overdue on the assignment, he barged into the kitchen and blurted out, “Mom, I’m supposed to write a paper for history class about how government and society are connected in everyday life; I don’t even know what that means. There are all these smart kids in my class, and I don’t know what to write.  Oh, and it’s due tomorrow.”

“Really, Ben?  Really?”  I took a deep breath, set down what I was doing, which meant we’d all eat late that night, and sighed.  Gathering up what mom skills I had left that late in the day, I feigned patience and moseyed over to my keys.   “Let’s go for  a drive through our own community and think a bit.  Ok?”

So we took a drive down 6th street.

Pulling out of the cracked and disjointed driveway, the car bounced out into the street, where the general theme of disrepair continued: a closed down funeral home, grass growing up through the middle of the pavement, a wheelchair-bound grandma, two children, an aunt and a mother enjoying the day together on sagging, leaning porch. We took a left turn onto the street most people avoid and encountered two or three roaming dogs, pot holes so large they threaten to crack axles, a couple of grey-haired, out of work men puttering in their yards: more families trying to make-do…and yet, piles of shoes and warm blankets left out on the curb for homeless people who often wander through our little neighborhood.

Turning right again, we merged back onto 6th, only at this point, the wheels began to glide as if rolling across silky glass: the smoothed surface of a freshly paved road. Bustling shops appeared- a trendy restaurant, coffee shops with fancy snacks, hipster craft stores, and a yoga studio boasting the Hebrew name for G-d, “I AM.”

This display of festive twinkle lights, newly painted window signs, and careful policing seems like heaven after driving through the cracked cement neighborhood roads. But what is missing? Where is the sense of community? Where are the clothes left for homeless? What of the aged veterans who used to frequent the park across the street? They have all been replaced by upper middle-class women in expensive tights, doing acro-yoga in the park for $50/hour.

As City Council continues to pay for the roads and upkeep in this area- where one of the council members owns a prominent business, the neighborhoods where children try to ride bikes and skateboards remain in disrepair. Those children are completely unaware that as “hopeful industry” makes its way east, hoping to connect itself with TU, the homes around them will be purchased, updated, and flipped for real estate profit. Their rent will rise. They will have to move, away from their community school, away from neighbors who share vegetables and loan each other tools, far from the bodega and the Mexican bakery, leaving behind the community that was.

So where is government in all this?

Ben gets it.

“It’s just like Columbus and Andrew Jackson all over again, isn’t it, Mom? The government in Tulsa is helping all those money people take over, no matter who is already there.”

“Yes, Ben. You ready to write your paper?”


6 thoughts on “Curb Appeal in T-Town

  1. Town Beautification

    For years I have said if I only had the money; if I could restore the old, run-down building to the former glory. Thankfully several people in our town have taken interest in restoring old buildings down town. It started out with just one woman and the head of the Chamber of Commerce restoring three old building downtown and renting them out to new business owners. Since then we have had four other groups restoring buildings downtown. It is amazing the change of just those other buildings being restored how much better downtown looks. The City of Pawhuska along with Chamber of Commerce has also put into effect the local city ordinances about town beautification. For instance, you can not have your lawn taller than 12 inches, no more than 2 cars (not working) parked in your lawn. We also have city free dump days to help clean up our town. They are trying to clean up our town and make it where people are proud to live in Pawhuska and others would want to come and visit. They are not asking for people to spend a lot of money but a little elbow grease to get your property cleaned up.

    • Restoration is hope. Hope is energy. Caring matters, and if restoration, hope, and compassion collide in a town, that town still has life to offer its people, its children, its future.

  2. I love that you guided your son into learning and forming an opinion for himself. You presented the information while letting him draw his own conclusion. He gets an ‘A’ from me!

    • @mckenly, Thank you. I fear that the truths my children see alarm them at times. I took them to Williamsburg, studied our nation’s history with them when they were young, read them so many books. So many. But all they have seen in their short lives- too much of politics, power plays, corruption– too close to them not to hurt– have given them new eyes. And I have to say, their skepticism is warranted. They are honest and refuse to believe fairy tales.


    Trust the system? Which one? NSA? CIA? Perhaps Social Security. Yeah, OK.

    Call me what you want. Faithless, selfish – whatever.

    Just quit trying to inspire me.

    I’ll read about Thomas Jefferson if he’s on the test, though…Did you know he had slaves, by the way?

    How about Bulletproof George Washington: He cut down a cherry tree and never told a lie? Yeah, alright.

    See, I tried. I wanted to believe your fables, but you lied to me. I tried to speak up, but you co-opted and placated and flat out ignored me. I needed books, but you held your pockets closed and voted to cut me off, instead, from all the knowledge you enjoy. I needed fewer tests; you gave me more, then fired my teachers. I needed your belief in my ability to learn, but you insulted me and moved farther out to the suburbs to get away from me.

    So save your “Rock the Vote.” Vote for what? Another world-changing president who’s not corrupt, won’t invade, and is going to fix it all? Okay.

    I’d rather update my Xbox subscription. At least THAT is not a waste of time. I can drive a tank, blow up a bridge, lead a brigade, and make personal connections on the internet.

    At least there, I matter. My voice counts. I make a difference, even if it’s only for thirty minutes. Do you know how many people tried to join my attack team last night? I’m a hero.

    In that world, I don’t have to accept the dark fate you’ve handed me. Because there, my silenced life still has hope. I get a do-over with the press of a button. That’s power.

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