I learned so much about how the world works from this one incident. My father was playing golf with his boss. This was 1960; I was 11. I was drafted to be Dad’s caddy. I was supposed to, among other things, keep my eyes on the ball and lead Dad to it.
But I was told that the rules of the course prohibited the wearing of glasses. I am near-sighted. Without glasses, the ball wasn’t just a blur. Being so small and distant, it was just not there at all. My dad was as near-sighted as I was, therefore he ought to have understood why I could not lead him to his golf ball. But he didn’t, or couldn’t. If Dad could be that oblivious and still walk and talk and pull down a paycheck, that explains politicians.
I think he picked me to be his caddy because real caddies with eyesight cost money.
A lot of people have suggested I talk this week about the sweeps of homeless encampments in Woodland Park. Our editor has dropped hints here and there that more local stuff would be nice. But I’m having a problem putting these sweeps into perspective. The locality is relative.
I live downtown, in the International District. I work in Pioneer Square. There are encampment sweeps nonstop downtown. Downtown is local, relative to me. I used to live in the North End, but I moved out in 1990 and never went back.
Daily, I pass tents downtown that I know won’t be there in a week.
Recent news: Woodland Park has had homeless people tenting in it.
Gosh, where did they come from? Don’t you wonder?
It’s always like this in Seattle. Years ago the city cleared out the Jungle, a large encampment near Beacon Hill and the I-5. Almost immediately the number of tents on downtown sidewalks skyrocketed. People who were asleep when the Jungle sweeps happened were alarmed. Where did all these tenters come from? Was Louis Pasteur wrong? Is spontaneous generation real after all?
Well, no, Pasteur was right, homeless people can’t appear out of thin air just because of the proximity of hiking, running trails, and lawn bowling greens.
There are only six public toilets in the entire city, so the fact that one of them has been in Woodland Park may make it an attractive draw, but still, those people have to be drawn from somewhere.
Here’s a hot tip: The idea that homeless people keep coming here from other states? Mostly bunk. The vast majority of them come from King County, and most of those come from somewhere within the city limits. Just not necessarily your exact neighborhood. They show up in your neighborhood after having been shoved out of theirs.
I won’t name names, but I know for a fact that a number of residents of Woodland Park encampments were not living there all their lives, and in fact they previously lived in encampments well south of there (some of them are Real Change vendors. They tell me things).
The city hounded homeless people out of the Jungle. Then they began hounding those who tried to camp downtown from one end of downtown to the other and back again, repeatedly. Gee, what are the odds that some substantial number of those people might look at Woodland Park and think, “Hey, nice park. Let’s quit this runaround and homestead there.”
Really. It’s better than Denny Park. I’d rather sleep in Woodland Park than in Denny Park. There are bunnies in Woodland Park. I love bunnies. I’m only human. Bunnies are bunnies.
Occidental Park is grassless, brick-full, and bunny free. I don’t hate pigeons (sky rats), seagulls, and crows (French fry thieves, cheeseburger thieves, respectively) as much as most people. But they aren’t bunnies.
Getting back to that local relativity. I grew up on Beacon Hill. South End. It wasn’t until I started classes at the University of Washington that I learned that the North End was a kind of separate Seattle. Later I found out that according to many Seattleites, I didn’t know Seattle because I hadn’t spent enough time hanging out on Capitol Hill. I have learned that the 90+ neighborhoods of Seattle can’t agree on what Seattle is.
But can’t we agree to stop chasing homeless people from one neighborhood to another? We need a Seattle solution to homelessness, not neighborhood-by-neighborhood solutions.
Read more of the May 18-24, 2022 issue.