Road Trip

The Daughter Unit and I did a moderately-lengthy road trip this past week. Probably the last until she is delivered by C-section of the Grandson Unit, which momentous event is likely to be scheduled for the last week of this month or the first in June – after the neighborhood baby shower, and before the Memorial Day weekend of the Texas Book Festival in Seguin, at which I have a table. (The festival was cancelled last year, all of us who had bought a place at it were carried over to this year, when hopefully, all festival events will return to something resembling pre-Commie Crud normality.)

We drove the trusty Montero Sport to suburban Austin, to the Daiso store; Daiso might be described as the Japanese version of the Dollar Tree, Family Dollar or 99 Cent Store; all kinds of relatively inexpensive Japanese tchotchkes for hobby, household, and kitchen. We both have rather a soft spot for Japanese items of this kind, since both of us served military tours at US bases in Japan. There are no Daiso stores anywhere closer than Austin, although there are a number of them in Los Angeles. So – Austin it was, and after Daiso, to Pflugerville for the Aldi grocery store. We both rather like Aldi, home of the quarter-to-get-a-grocery-cart and pack-your-own-bags. They offer a reasonable selection of quality goods at very reasonable prices. It’s just that there is no Aldi closer to San Antonio than Pflugerville, and another in Victoria; a mite too far to go, unless we were in the area for another purpose.

Austin is usually described as a little puddle of blue in an otherwise red state. We’ve done a couple of Texas Book Festivals there, toured the Capitol and all. Sometime in the last decade or so, I did a talk at the old German Free School about the Adelsverein Trilogy, and the Daughter Unit went to the Pecan Festival. We all met up with Jonathon and other Texas Chicagoboyz a couple of years ago for a wonderful afternoon of conversation and laughter, only a little bit mauled by a massive storm event on the way back to San Antonio. On all these scattered occasions we had a nice time, although the traffic through downtown on the IH-35 is always murder, even on weekends. (I don’t know why this should be so, but it always is – the genius of the place, I reckon.) Austin used to be funky, fun, quirky, a little full of itself sometimes as being the capitol city of Texas. The sunset-pink marble Capitol Building, and the landscaped grounds were a treat, especially the inadvertent phallic image in the terrazzo floor of the second-floor stair landing. The various street festivals and the general music scene were events to be relished.

Only not anymore, this time, we skated through on the IH-35 until the turn-off for the secondary highway which led out to the west. The Daughter Unit was driving, which left me free to look at the wall-to-wall graffiti disfiguring just about everything vertical downtown. It was everywhere, smearing across walls and highway infrastructure, on the boarded-up walls of a restaurant close to the highway. Everything along that stretch looked seedy, junky … hostile to casual and innocent tourists like us, even if there were tall glass-fronted apartment towers everywhere; a sort of Eloi and Morlock world, or as the Daughter Unit commented – a more vivid distinction between the well-to-do class and the underclass than can hardly be imagined. The Daughter Unit claims that she felt something malign in the atmosphere. We went past a particularly awful intersection full of messy homeless camps on the green grass verge which looked like a bunch of trash trucks had just dumped a load there, swooped into Daiso and escaped. We had our own local problem with a homeless encampment last year – but nothing on the scale of Austin. There was another homeless camp under the IH-35, and a barefoot shirtless guy crossing the access road towards it as we drove north-east to Pflugerville. Nothing would have tempted us to stop in downtown Austin; two women by themselves, one of them pregnant and the other over 60? Not for worlds.

Pflugerville is considered a suburb of Austin … but the atmosphere there couldn’t be any more different. A pleasant, hardly topdrawer suburb, neat and surrounded by green fields and woods: new construction, a sprawling waterpark … and not a scrap of graffiti to be seen on anything, and certainly no homeless camps, or panhandlers haunting the intersections. The contrast couldn’t be more jarring. As of last weekend, voters in Austin opted to support a ban on the homeless setting up camps in public spaces, like parks and highway verges. I can hardly blame responsible residents for this, as much sympathy as I have otherwise for those genuinely out of work and resources. Permitting the insane and/or substance-addled every possible license and allowance to camp, crap and drug themselves into insensibility on the downtown streets is a sure and certain means of driving otherwise sensible, conscientious residents out of that city entirely. I just hope it’s not too late for Austin – I’d really like to go back, sometime. But not soon.

15 thoughts on “Road Trip”

  1. Sgt. Mom:
    The Daughter Unit was driving, which left me free to look at the wall-to-wall graffiti disfiguring just about everything vertical downtown. It was everywhere, smearing across walls and highway infrastructure, on the boarded-up walls of a restaurant close to the highway.

    Apparently SOME people in Austin are upset about this, including SOME of those in the city government. The City of Austin says illegal graffiti is taking over this downtown neighborhood. (Aug 2019)

    The City of Austin said they’re frustrated with the amount of graffiti they have been having to clean up in Downtown Austin near 11th and Baylor streets.
    Patricia Moreno, an engineer with the City, said the graffiti is illegal and there are hefty repercussions.
    “It’s frustrating because I don’t think people really understand what it takes to remove this,” Moreno said. “It’s a $10,000 fine and some jail time.”
    She said ever since the HOPE Outdoor Gallery closed its gates, keeping graffiti off the streets is almost impossible.

    I am reminded of the Broken Windows theory of policing, and of the City Council’s ordinance to legalize homeless camping all over- except in front of the homes of City Council Members. :) If the City of Austin is tolerant, permissive, and yes- aiding and abetting towards the homeless, why should we be surprised that graffiti has taken over?

    There is some sanity in Austin. Last week Austin voted to overturn the City Council’s ordinance on homeless camping – by a strong 58-42 margin. Interesting that the homeless camping ordinance passed by a unanimous City Council vote.

    Super-Liberal Austin voted for Slow Joe by a 45% margin(72-27), but didn’t suffer the BLM/Antifa damage that Portland (61% margin: 79 to 18), Minneapolis(75% margin: 86 to 11)), or Seattle(79% margin:87 to 8) did. Perhaps having a somewhat higher proportion of Republican voters than the above damaged cities tempered city policy. Part of the minimal damage in Austin was because the State of Texas used its police to contain the BLM/Antifa “demonstrations.”

  2. My wife and I have started doing quite a bit of our shopping in the surrounding suburbs nearest our home; Buda, Kyle, Bastrop and sometimes down to San Marcos and New Braunfels. We also take day trips up to Belton and Temple, which are breaths of fresh air. No homeless camps, no graffiti, no public defecation or urination and no mask Nazis. Everyone’s open and doing a brisk business. Austin has turned into such a cess that my wife and I now have to consult whether she should go by herself to shop, or go to a doctor. She’ll say “I’d like you with me…” or “I’ll be okay there…” We do our banking in Buda, even though there’s a branch in Austin much closer to our home, as well as much of our postal business at the PO in Buda. One of the few places she’ll go by herself is HEB. The parking lots at HEB are kept clean of homeless vagrants, with Fiesta being the same way. We’ve given up on Randall’s, as there is an enormous encampment just across the service road on the Ben White corridor, and while Randall’s security will throw you out for not wearing a mask, they don’t do anything about the homeless skulking about the parking lot.

    This is what Austin elected, not just once, but multiple times.

  3. Roadgeek, if you are doing road trips for shopping and going as far as New Braunfels – check out Granzins! Just off IH-35 on the Old McQueeny Road, in back of the main Bluebonnet Ford outlet. You absolutely will not be sorry!

  4. Lloyd Doggett was already in ’75 representing Austin in the state legislature; he’s now spent many years in the national. And the homeless were already cruising up and down when I got there in ’71 – accosting anyone walking home (as I did every day) following Guadalupe. Cars weren’t necessary, another nice thing. It was unpleasant – but there was still so much that was pleasant – the music scene, the movies on campus, half-price books seemed so wonderful at the time and so was Garner&Smith (I think – they are long gone). Clint’s closest friend from undergrad here practices law there; his wife said one of their kids was thinking about staying in Austin. She dropped her off on Red River (I think – anyway very far on the east side of campus) and she was supposed to walk through campus and wait for her mother to pick her up on Guadalupe. Her father’s passion for A&M surfaced somewhere in that walk. Our older two daughters went there, but they were really happy to leave: including threats and clearly deranged people following them home or wandering into an apartment (by then, thank God, our older daughter was married and the guy was too stoned to be dangerous, just crazy and drugged out). it isn’t just that it got worse, it’s that chaos and dirt and all that seems kind of interesting at first and finally it is just wearing. They both did the co-op route, cheaper, more manageable than the huge characterless dorms. The oldest one looked into a couple, the first one said that clothing was optional; it was important, though, not to bring any meat into the kitchen and the place most went to smoke pot was a roof-top reached by walking across a board. She gamely said, maybe she’d like to go there but it was pretty clear she didn’t want us on board. (That was 25 or so years ago – I doubt its gotten better.)

    Perhaps the most irritating thing about Austin is they want some of the worst (the whole keep Austin weird) and make sure it gets that way (they never built roads appropriate to its enlarging size, an engineer who worked with the roads people said one actually said, in the 70’s and 80’s we figured if we didn’t make it hospitable, they wouldn’t come. I’m paraphrasing, but that someone actually saw what was happening and making I35 one of the worst messes in the country and thought in any way that was good gives you a real insight into the thinking.

  5. As an example of brain-lock among Austin policy people, consider Bill Brice of Downtown Austin Alliance informing us that West Coast Cities’ policies on the homeless are working well, implying that their policies for the homeless should be used as a model for Austin.Mayor Adler visiting LA, Seattle to discuss public transit initiative, homeless.

    AUSTIN, Texas — Austin Mayor Steve Adler is on the West Coast this week to discuss Austin’s ProjectConnect, a public transit measure – but while he’s there, he’s also getting insight into how Los Angeles and Seattle have dealt with their homelessness challenges.
    Mayor Adler said these cities are dealing with more significant challenges, from a scale perspective, than Austin is and this trip serves as an opportunity to see what measures L.A. and Seattle have tried that have and have not worked.
    “It’s a chance for us to see what we might implement and make part of what we do long-term and what we do in August when we’re coming back with our first real move in this direction,” Mayor Adler said.
    Bill Brice, with the Downtown Austin Alliance, said he’s excited Mayor Adler decided to take the trip out west.
    “Even though the problem is worse there than it is here, we know that Seattle and LA and other West Coast cities are doing a lot of things that are working really well to address homelessness,” Brice said. “We would hope that the mayor would come back with ideas to help inform the work of the City and the city manager moving forward to respond to recommendations.”

    Bill Brice has apparently never considered the possibility that a reason for the greater amount of homelessness in West Coast cities compared to Austin would be the homeless policies those cities have implemented.

  6. My son and his daughter did a couple of road trips last year to look at colleges. They did not like Waco and thought Austin is a “dump.” He was interested in Texas and they are still looking for a place to retire when he can, about 4 years. They have friends near Fayetteville ARK and liked that. They also have friends in North Carolina and are thinking seriously about a lake in South Carolina, just across the border. His daughter has decided on U of Alabama and her boyfriend is probably getting a scholarship as a football player as well as an academic one.

    It’s a long way from California but they want to be near water and Arizona does lack that. They have rented a beach house near Pensacola FL in July for a week. We’ll see how they like humidity.

  7. I haven’t been to Austin since the 90s. It was a typical college town, with its characters and some dingy areas but nothing like the post-apocalyptic hellscape that so many such places are now. So depressing what’s going on. We know the issue–drugs. Period. Mental illness, of course, but drugs predominantly.

  8. Brian: “We know the issue–drugs. Period.”

    Yes and no. We have to look for root causes, as they say. The root cause is our Betters tolerance for anti-social behavior. Maybe that tolerance (for what people other than themselves have to put up with) is wokesplaining, maybe it is sincere — but either way, it is dumb and leads to disaster.

    Saw a news item a while ago about a judge ruling that a library was not allowed to eject a “homeless” person because he stunk and behaved badly. The junkie’s right to be a nuisance apparently trumped other people’s right to use a library for which they were paying. Saw another news item about those evil Chinese Communist Party leaders dealing with a drug dealer — took him down to the soccer pitch & shot him in public.

    Maintaining civilization requires effort and a certain amount of tough love. On the other hand, defining deviancy down is easy.

  9. }}} Moreno said. “It’s a $10,000 fine and some jail time.”

    They should specifically mandate the jail time to be on work crews cleaning up the graffiti

    One potential solution is suggested by Gainesville, FL (Home to the University of FL).

    They have a specific, very obvious wall which is open to be graffitied, and that leads most to do it there and leave other walls alone.

    Seems as though and outlet is a good idea.

  10. Yeah, the fact that a faction of the left that in the 60s wanted to destroy the system from the outside is now doing so from the inside is indeed the immediate problem–i.e., the SF DA causing destruction that his parents only dreamed of. No idea how we fix that, short of pitchforks and nooses.

  11. “…The junkie’s right to be a nuisance apparently trumped other people’s right to use a library for which they were paying.”
    That’s it, exactly – the civic powers that be in places like Austin, LA, Shit Francisco have decided that the rights of the substance-addled, incontinent, trash-strewing and unwashed homeless are elevated over the right of well-behaved and law-abiding taxpayers to go about our business without being pestered by panhandlers, threatened bodily by the deranged, or stepping in human waste on our doorsteps.
    This can only go on for so long, until there is no one in the downtown areas save the substance-addled, trash-strewing and unwashed homeless. I really wonder if the civic powers that be are working out some sort of Curley effect, to cement themselves in office forever, or at least long enough to collect a fat retirement.

  12. Sgt. Mom
    This can only go on for so long, until there is no one in the downtown areas save the substance-addled, trash-strewing and unwashed homeless.

    According to Travis CAD, Mayor Stephen Adler owns a $4 million 26th floor condo in the downtown area.

  13. “…going as far as New Braunfels – check out Granzins! …”

    Sgt. Mom, we go as far south as New Braunfels BECAUSE of Granzin’s. A carnivores paradise. My wife and I were talking recently about taking joy in the small things in life, and she said Granzin’s was one of her joys. She loves to cook, and having such an excellent selection of meat at reasonable prices makes her face light up. And I love the dry sausage. Oh, what a wonderful snack. And great for road trips. Eat something healthy while your driving.

    Yes, Granzin’s.

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