Dec 17, 2010

Dancing Lights

I'm a sucker for a good light display around the holidays and we've discovered an amazing one, the Downs Family Christmas lights in Norman.

Some friends introduced us to it last year, but we took Grayson this year and all he could say was, "pretty lights...dancing." Then he would sit there in silence trying to take it all in. I must say his parents were pretty mesmerized too.

The light display is at a beautiful home which sits on an acreage just off Highway 9 and 72nd Ave SE. According to their website, when dad Chuck Downs retired in early 2007, his engineering brain needed something to do, thus the spectacular light display was born.

When you pull into the drive, there is a sign telling you what station to tune your radio to so you can hear the songs that correspond to each light show. I believe there are five different songs in this year's rotation. The show is professional quality and is free to the public. They do take donations for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and last year alone collected 9,891 pounds of food and cash donations totaling $17,492.65!

I took some video with my iPhone, but YouTube is blocking the audio because of copyright issues. That said, I was able to find a video that was uploaded by the Downs family directly.

They also have a cool time lapse video of their family building one of the large tree light displays. Each one takes two hours to set up by the family. Check out the video on the bottom of their homepage here.

Dec 10, 2010

Size Records

Kraftwerk next to King Crimson... Kanye isn't working that hard when you think about it.

North Western Avenue in Oklahoma City is probably best known for it's boutique shops and upscale dining, but just a few blocks north, quite literally past the wrong side of the tracks, you'll find one of OKC's most infamous bohemian legends: Size Records.

The story of Size stretches all the way back to the mid 90's, where Size co-owner Jim Paddack ran the indie record store Music Dimensions. Catering to the fringe culture of the time, Music Dimensions was a haven for punk rockers and metal-heads back in the day when being punk was still a pretty dangerous venture. The small store consistently hosted punk, metal, and noise shows for years, helping to solidify a consistent underground music scene in OKC. The store was a popular destination for music fans of all kinds, but eventually lagging sales, location changes, and complaints from neighboring businesses who didn't appreciate loitering punk rockers led the store to close its doors by the early 2000's.

By 2001, a new independent venue called The Green Door would open up on Western filling the void left by Music Dimensions' absence. The Green Door hosted shows from local and touring acts almost nightly, and in no time was the unofficial home base for Oklahoma City's underground music scene.

Jim considered seeking normal employment around this time until a friend and local part-time show promoter, Dustin Wallace, approached him to start a new record store.

In 2002 Size Records opened adjacent to the Green Door selling records to music fans who would pop in to kill time between sets next door. Within a few years the Green Door would change locations to Bricktown, a downtown commercial district catering mostly to families and tourists (needless to say, the move didn't fare well for the Green Door).

Dustin was quick to take over the Green Door's old location, and soon a new venue under the Size team's (including Little Mafia Records owner Gianni Santillie) control would take its place as "The Conservatory".

The Conservatory will get its own post on here someday, but like Music Dimensions, and the Early days of the Green Door, The Conservatory has been an immense part of the underground scene in Oklahoma City hosting multiple shows of all genres every week.

The store itself is a record nerd's paradise. CDs used to take up a fair amount of shelf space in Size's formative days, but they've all been cast aside to a dark corner of the store to make room for the immense amount of vinyl they've collected over the years. Everything from classic rock and country to extreme noise and metal, indie rock of all types and eras, funk, soul, electronic - you name it, Size has it.

Size primarily deals in used vinyl, meaning that the store caters more to "digging" types who like to come to the store with no real shopping agenda. Rummaging through the constantly changing stock means you're sure to find plenty of oddball obscurities you never even new you wanted. This is a blessing for collectors like me who find far more pleasure in discovering overlooked LPs than going straight to the new release rack.

Disorganization is one of Size's strong points. Stacks of records, old concert posters, cassettes, promotional materials, and way more can be found piled in various corners of the store. Since Jim and Dustin are the only employees between the shop and the club, non essential tasks tend go a bit unnoticed. You'll still have an easy time navigating the racks as the records are divided by genre and are more or less alphabetized. Still having the drive to dig helps a lot when it comes to the Size experience.

Size loyalists also get a kick out of the various hand written notes taped to the plastic LP sleeves. Phrases like "OVERLOOKED EARLY 90S EXTREME THRASH NOISE EXPLOSION" and "KILLER DRUG-CORE FREAKOUT ESSENTIAL CLASSIC, HARD TO FIND MUST HAVE!" are fairly typical.

Of course, sometimes its best to get musical advice directly from the source, and Jim and Dustin (especially Jim) aren't ones to shy away from a great musical discussion.


Size is a great place to look for obscure and bizarre odds and ends like zines, weird VHS, and tons of other stuff.

Talking to Jim about music is a part of the Size experience...

A digger's paradise.

Soda is Size's newest venture.

More than anything, Size stands apart as a truly DIY enterprise that functions more as a labor of love than a money making venture. Jim and Dustin will be the first to tell you that the store isn't making anyone rich, but as long as they're doing what they love they'll still be in the game.

Honestly, this little blog entry doesn't really begin to tell the whole story of the Size/Conservatory impact on the OKC music scene. There are plenty of important people, places, and bands to discuss... but I'll save most of that for a future post about the Conservatory.


Dec 8, 2010

And This Week's Snapshot Answer is...

The Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, OK. Congratulations, several of you got it right!

Here are a few more shots of the Center, which sits on more than 100 acres adjacent to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. The exhibits and campus utilize the latest technology, ancient artifacts and natural outdoor spaces to tell the Chickasaw story.

The complex beauty and spirit of this place is difficult to capture in a photograph, so I hope you will add the Chickasaw Cultural Center to your list of places to visit. If any of you have been there, please share your experience in the comments section or on our Oklahoma Dispatch Facebook page.

A traditional village which includes the council house, two summer houses, two winter houses, a corn crib, ceremonial mound and traditional stockade fence

Dec 6, 2010

Snapshot: 12.06.10

We've decided to test your Okie knowledge a bit with a new post series we call Snapshot. It's easy to play, just check out the image below and post a comment if you know where or what is in the photograph.

We'll follow up with the answer later this week, but for now can you tell me where I was when I snapped this picture?

Nov 30, 2010

Robbers Cave

Looking down at Robbers Cave State Park

Welcome back Dispatchers!

I know we haven't been as consistent on the blog lately, but things have been pretty crazy around the office and otherwise. Luckily the holidays are here which means we have a little extra time to finally get back on the road.

Speaking of Holidays, Lacey and myself just spent a few days with friends at Robbers Cave State Park getting some much needed post-Thanksgiving R & R.

Robbers Cave is a very cool place - once used as a hideout for outlaws like Jesse James and Belle Star, Robbers Cave now serves as one of Oklahoma's most popular State Parks. Nestled in the pine covered hills of south east Oklahoma, the park itself is a wonderfully peaceful place perfect for relaxing.

We spent two nights in a cabin drinking Choc Beer (brewed just a few miles away in nearby McAllester) playing board games, watching bad movies on HBO, and taking the time to get out and explore a little. Most importantly though, we got to spend some quality time together, hanging out without the distractions of our normal lives getting in the way.

At The Gates!

Hiking around the rocks in the main part of the park was a blast. The brisk late-fall air filled our lungs as we explored the beautiful, yet often bizarre, rock formations that line the trails. The fear of snapped ankles didn't stop anyone (well, except Lacey) from trying out their best Spider-Man moves on the rocks, stopping only occasionally to perch on a ledge and check out the view.

I'm not sure why, but it seems to be a pretty common human experience to feel a sense of accomplishment on the side of a cliff.

Food was, as usual, a major part of our trip. We had brought plenty of Thanksgiving leftovers with us for the purposes of constructing some amazing pot pies, but after our hike, no one was in any mood to cook. We decided to head down to the nearby town of Hartshorne to see what kind of food we could scrounge up. We stumbled upon "The Ole Corral Restaurant", a charming local diner that served up some of the best chicken fried chicken we had ever tasted. Needless to say, naps were required by most afterwords.

After a little recuperation, we ventured back out into the wilderness for a short walk before sunset. The forest looked somber in the cold dusk light, making a perfect setting for a little self reflection.

We walked to the nearby lake and played around on the swing sets that overlooked the water while geese flew overhead.

The cabins at Robber's Cave are incredibly cozy, containing all the comforts of home, but in a rustic setting. Lacey cooked up the previously mentioned pot pies while the rest of the gang roasted marshmallows in the fireplace. James ate a s'more for the first time in his life, and everything seemed right in the universe.


Nov 18, 2010

Mid-century Mecca

Roman Nose State Park lodge

Five years ago my husband and I purchased a 1956 ranch-style house and I became slightly obsessed with mid-century architecture. So when Austin and I recently had the opportunity to tour the renovated lodge at Roman Nose State Park in Watonga, I was in heaven.

The original 20-room lodge was built in 1956 and 27 new rooms were added in a south wing in 1985. Fast forward to 2007 and Tropical Storm Erin created flood damage and structural issues that required demolition of the entire south wing.

A situation that began as a flood and emergency declaration turned into an opportunity for the state park to create a modern lodge that incorporates the natural landscape of the area, the park’s history, and conveniences that today's travelers expect.

The lodge was renovated in the footprint of the original structure and includes 20 rooms plus two ADA accessible suites. The on-site restaurant, banquet room, meeting room, lobby and patio have also been completely remodeled in keeping with mid-century modern decor and finishes.

In addition to the lodge, the park itself has an interesting history. In the late 1800’s, the area now known as Roman Nose State Park was a winter campground of the Cheyenne tribe. Today it is named in honor of Chief Henry Caruthers Roman Nose, who – with his family – lived in the canyon from 1887 until his death in 1917.

Roman Nose State Park opened to the public in 1937 as one of Oklahoma’s seven original State Parks and has several structures that were built by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps and are still in use today. There is also an 18-hole golf course that was the first canyon-style course in Oklahoma, plus 10 cottages and an ADA accessible cabin that was donated by the Lucent Technology Pioneers group.

The official ribbon cutting for the lodge took place yesterday along with a ceremonial blessing of the grounds by Lawrence Roman Nose, great-grandson of Chief Henry Roman Nose.

Watonga and the state park itself are very sentimental to my family and I'm so happy to see the lodge restored in such a modern and thoughtful way. I hope you will take some time to plan a getaway or make the short drive to check out the new Roman Nose lodge. Whether you're a fan of rest and relaxation or mid-century design, it is well worth a visit.

-- Lindsay
Photos by Brandon Snider and Keli Clark.

Nov 4, 2010

Red Rock Canyon

Red Rock Canyon State Park entrance

Red Rock Canyon State Park is one of my favorite fall road trips. I grew up taking day trips with my extended family to check out the turning leaves, enjoy the crisp air and munch on a potluck picnic.

Located in Hinton off of I-40, it's a nice hour-or-so drive from Oklahoma City which is just long enough to feel like you're getting away without causing travel fatigue. While the town of Hinton has changed and expanded quite a bit in recent years, I'm happy to report that Red Rock Canyon is just as wonderful as I remember it as a child.

The entrance to the park looks pretty unassuming, but once you pass the cool retro sign and small gift shop and park office the road quickly turns steep and winding as you work your way down into the canyon.

Drive down into the canyon

Once inside the park, nature literally surrounds you and there are many breathtaking scenes to soak in. I'm not much of a rappeler or hard-core climber, but there are several bluffs designated for rappelling if that's something you enjoy. Meanwhile, I follow the non-gear-required trails to work my way up onto the canyon walls.

Here are a few more pics from my recent visit:

Small lake beside a bluff

Group camp nestled in the canyon walls

Step grooves allowing hikers to get up on top of the canyon walls sans climbing gear

Can you read the subliminal message in the grass?

A man was mowing some areas of the park the day I visited and I stumbled across this artistic expression and it made me smile. Can you see the shape of Oklahoma carved out from his riding lawnmower? He even remembered to add the small dip in the southeast corner of the state. Idabel and Broken Bow would be proud!
Cool tree and moss spotted up on top of the canyon wall

The leaves had just started turning yellow when I was there last week so you may still be able to catch the peak foliage this year. Even without the leaves changing, this canyon landscape is enough to inspire and rejuvenate you.

-- Lindsay