For those of you that frequent here, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been on a writing hiatus for several months now. To be honest, I simply haven’t been inspired in a very long time, and over the summer, I felt like I was going to shrivel up and die of boredom. I swear this summer we hit 47 million degrees outside. I’m being completely scientifically accurate – the outside thermometer would read, “You’ve died and entered Dante’s Inferno. Welcome to eternal misery.” What? You’re outside thermometer doesn’t go high enough to reference classical purgatorial literature? Well then, you need to buy a special Oklahoma thermometer normally given to new residents who move here from habitats designed for actual humans.
Yeah, so basically, it was hot. And the a/c in our beloved 14-year old truck no longer works, so while Lukus gallantly drove the truck to work for most of the summer, mopping up his pools of sweat when he got home was getting a little tiresome, so I finally suggested he take the car. Being home every day with two kids, no car, an unhospitable backyard, and, well, two kids, had me crawling up the walls with insanity. I need beauty like I need air. I need to be out in the world exploring, observing the human race, discovering new places, drinking buckets of iced lattes in charming cafes. I am NOT a homebody.
Growing up, my little family consisting of me, my mom, and my dad, had two activities that we did together: we watched an unhealthy amount of television (which is why I remember an embarrassing amount of commercial jingles, and have gotten pretty good at making them up for daily life: “Oatmeal, bananas and bluuuueberries! Fiber and potassium and antioxidants – it’s oatmeal, bananas and bluuuueberries!” was a favorite for my daughter’s breakfast), and we drove every square inch of Southern California. My mom would get the itch to do something, and she’d say a very general, “Let’s go somewhere,” and we’d all get in the car, and my dad would just drive whichever direction my mom told him to go. Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead, Hollywood Hills and the Santa Monica pier, the La Jolla coves, pie shops in rural mountain villages, Palm Springs, random residential construction sites where we’d wander through unfinished dream homes, the Queen Mary in Long Beach, the tide pools of Newport Beach, Coronado Island, Catalina Island….this is my childhood Saturday. It wasn’t particularly fun as a kid to sit in the backseat alone for hours and hours of driving in one day, and my parents would actually get irritated that I spent so much of my time with my “head in a book instead of looking around at God’s creation,” but over time, it became part of my nature. By osmosis, I became a “wannabe gypsy”.
By 16, I was ready for my driver’s license, and after school or on weekends, my friends always wanted to be in my car. We never told our parents where we were going, or how far, but I think my mom was secretly proud that I’d inherited the explorer gene. I’d drive my friends to the Del Mar fair, or we’d drive 45 minutes up the mountains for pie. We left no gelato shop in San Diego county un-patronized, no thrift store unexplored. Whether man-made or natural, it was all ours to behold. And when Lukus and I moved to San Diego for a year, we relived the adventures together and spent every spare moment exploring.
But Oklahoma? For all the good that there is here, Oklahoma does not leave much for the gypsy soul to feast upon – even when the weather is feels like a Jane Austen movie set. I have come to appreciate the merits of Oklahoma more than I originally did upon moving here, but there has been little to nothing to inspire exploration and adventure.
Which is why nights like the one below are like Christmas for me.
It was Date Night – our Friday night ritual for 10 years running, 8 years worth being in Oklahoma City. Now, in 8 years, a couple can pretty much exhaust all there is to do in OKC, but every now and then, something comes along that’s different from the usual “dinner and a movie” routine.
While driving around town with our dear friends, Hannah and Hunter one night, we happened upon a little café/independent movie theater on old Film Row. We wandered inside and were greeted by three excited ladies who had recently opened the place up for showing old movies and serving coffee and snacks. It was surprising to find such a new gem in OKC, and when they invited us to their grand opening the following weekend, we made plans to come. So we did, and it was nice, and we left.
But on our way to find somewhere else to pass the time, the explorer in me took over and I started telling Lukus to “turn left”, or “go down that street”, or “what’s that building there?” Lukus spontaneously drove down one of our favorite obscure streets that has about five new uber-modern homes – a rare find in Oklahoma City, especially the older part. We “oohed” and “aahed” like we always do, dreaming of our modern-style home we’ll build when I make a fortune off my coffee farm, and Lukus discovers gold left in a closet in our garage. But as he ended the block, I couldn’t leave the street. I HAD to see inside one of those homes. I NEEDED to explore somewhere I hadn’t already been. With windows for walls, I couldn’t help but notice that someone was home in one of them.
So I did what any completely-normal-not-weird-at-all-person would have done, and went and knocked on the door (well, anyone but Lukus who sat in the car with the engine running pretending to be on the phone because he was ready to die of embarrassment). It was a big, glass door, with big, glass walls, and a man just on the other side of the glass watching the Olympics. It. Was. Awkward. But I tapped on the glass anyway, quickly prepared my introduction, and took a nervous breath as the man opened his door to a total nutcase. “Hi, my name is Elle, and my husband and I were driving through the neighborhood, and we just LOVE these modern homes. I was wondering if it was a collaboration effort, or if it all sprung up like this organically?” The gentleman kindly shook my hand, introduced himself right back, and explained that it happened all quite organically. He pointed out his architect’s house, and described the neighbor’s homes and when each was built, and then he said what I hoped he’d say all along, “If your husband wants to come up, I’d be happy to show you my place.” And then he said something else that immediately explained why he was taking my insanity in stride – he grew up in Los Angeles. Either he was a kindred spirit, or was simply used to nut-jobs on the street.
His home was what all bachelor’s homes should be: simple, elegant, comfortable while still being minimal – in other words, no puffy, black leather couches with beer coolers in the armrest. The stark strength of concrete walls was perfectly balanced with glass walls that let in the warmth and softness of nature. The turquoise stairs were a hint of boldness with the serene wood floors. Low, cozy furniture gave casual comfort amidst the elegant high ceilings. Glass wall met glass wall, and through the walls was the best view there is of OKC. Because of the clean lines and open floor plan, 1700 square feet could still accommodate a sizeable party without people bumping into each other. A skylight graced the work station in his bedroom; a frosted-glass window illuminated the shower for a touch of sun in the morning; a deck, accessible from both living room and bedroom, looked out upon the neighborhood and the city lights beyond. Everything was clean, simple, uncluttered, intentional, perfectly arranged, and yet inherently comfortable. Throw pillows and curtains would have been superfluous and unnatural. All essential comfort for pleasant and efficient living was provided. I wish could have taken pictures, but then I really would have been a weirdo. But if you’ve ever opened up a Dwell Magazine, you get the idea.
I felt honored as he proudly displayed his home to us. As a young person growing up in Hollywood Hills, he had looked admiringly upon the up-and-coming mid-century homes being experimented with in L.A., and he knew that someday, he would build his own. And in sharing that dream with us, he gave me something I’ve been craving for weeks, months, years since living in OKC – the chance to explore something new, discover something secret and beautiful, the opportunity to observe what makes human beings so magnificent within their environment. He gave me a feast for my gypsy nature, a reward for my chutzpah, and best of all, a great story to tell. Like water in a design desert. Heck, it was enough to pull me out of my uninspired, blogging hiatus!
I dare you to go explore today. It’s fall, the air is just starting to get crisp, and the world is inviting you to have an adventure. Just, please don’t hit up the same gentleman’s house. It was kind of a “once is great, twice is super-annoying” kind of thing. Be a fellow gypsy traveler and tell me what you discover this week, will ya?