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May 3, 2021

The first person I knew who lived in a van was a schoolmate trying to save money. He parked it down by the river. This was at least a decade before Chris Farley became a comedian, a half century before the current trend. Were someone today to park their van on my street while visiting neighbors, I would see no cause for complaint. Assuming they did not otherwise create a disturbance. Even if that became routine at a couple of houses on the block, I try not to be quick to kvetch.

But what if it were more than a couple? A half dozen vans parked on this block would require others to jockey for space, cause trouble for service vehicles and on trash days, and crowd parking for day guests. Home residents would wonder whether items on the ground were neighbors’ things or discarded items from itinerants since gone. I suspect it would be one too many late, open air parties that would push me to complain.

There are many areas where the effect of five doing something is more than five times the effect of one doing the same. That includes most any activity that has a capacity limited by space or water or some other resource that isn’t easily expanded with the number wanting it. Such problems include some of our thorniest political issues, from global warming to how cities respond to the homeless.

As recent example, Austin is renewing its ban on camping. The linked article fails to mention that, until recently, Austin had quite a bit of inner city public land that was not easy to reach. A decade past, I would hike frequently near homeless camps that were out of sight — and therefore out of mind — to all but a few residents. Recent public improvements have turned much of those spaces into accessible parks and byways. Which is better for taxpaying residents, and worse for those who once camped at such sites. As with living in vans, the homeless do best when they can find a spot that simultaneously is near and out of the way. When those places shrink, conflict increases. Especially if the number vagabonding increases at the same time.

DodgingBigShipsHere on the coastal bend, tanker traffic has increased noticeably since the new LNG terminals started operating near Ingleside. Though it actually is quite a broad, the ship channel near Port Aransas can seem narrow from the vantage of a small boat keeping distance from large ships passing each other. Photos don’t do that justice. The shot above comes close. It was taken by Charles Giffin during the return race in this year’s Port Aransas regatta. We had good weather both days, though coming back, the wind was dead aft. Giffin won first in fleet the race out, the day before. I suspect the pilots in that part of the channel think the deep sea fishing boats and jetty boats and sailing craft are a nuisance. Especially on regatta days, some sailboats taking one side, some the other, some gybing back and forth from one side to the other. There are plans to dredge the channel deeper, for larger ships. Fortunately, we have a ways to go before it becomes as busy as the Houston ship channel.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura permalink
    May 3, 2021 9:10 am

    I am really sad about the homeless ban being reinstated. But it is the habit of criminalizing poverty in this country. The homeless are vulnerable, overpoliced, and their arrest make it hard if not impossible for them to ever get a rental, since people don’t rent to priorly incarcerated people. This is our failure, but too many Americans have shown that they “don’t want to see it or hear it” (it=racial injustice, police brutality, homelessness, etc, etc.) Depressing.

    • rturpin permalink*
      May 4, 2021 9:58 pm

      Laura, I agree. And the lopsidedness of that vote in Austin shows how even liberals, when problems are local, start to put avoidance over other priorities. That’s a matter of degree, that varies from person to person.

      • Laura permalink
        May 5, 2021 8:58 am

        I think it is a matter of social (wealth) class and lack of imagination and empathy towards the bad situation of other humans. So being homeless is lazy but inheriting $$ is not?

        It is baked into this culture that you are free and deserving to pick yourself up by your bootstraps even when your family gifted you the straps that are otherwise not available to the poor and/or darked skinned, and even when noone is purposely pushing you down (police, banks, schools,…) because you are not poor and/or dark skinned.

        People do not understand equitable justice and the common good.

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