Why We Have To Look At This *ucking Thing Every Day – May 7, 2010

Friday, May 7, 2010

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

DOWNTOWN – For months, downtown residents and visitors have been greeted by an increasing number of residential buses, the most prominent of which is, arguably, the graffiti-covered 35-foot-long yellow school bus marked with a large green-and-white sign on the back exclaiming “*UCK YEAH!”

Covered in graffiti and capped with a vulgar slogan on the back end, this residential bus has been parked in the area of Eighth and I streets for months. TMc | Eye

Why is this illegal, not necessarily beautiful mobile home a permanent part of our aesthetic lives, what do its neighbors think, who lives in it and what can be done about it?

“You can’t legally live in a vehicle in a City street,” said Police Chief Tom Chapman. Yet someone does. That’s because, like so many laws, violators have found ways to skirt them and to frustrate enforcement.

While Arcata Municipal Code section 10501 prohibits street camping, police cannot break in to a residential vehicle and cite the occupant. So if no one comes to the door when an officer knocks, they effectively elude police in place. “We have to follow a process,” Chapman said.

AMC 3501 prohibits parking for more that 72 consecutive hours, so house-bus owners just move the vehicle every few days. “It’s this cycle,” Chapman said. “We encounter this every day.”

He said persistent attempts at contact do wear down some bus campers, with Valley West having been largely cleared of its roadside residences in recent months.

Another bus-camper hotspot is Eighth and N streets near the Arcata Community Recycling Center. ACRC Director Mark Loughmiller said that area has seen fewer buses this year.

“Most are pretty harmless,” Loughmiller said. “They arrive late in the evening and are gone in the morning.”

The problem arises when some bus residents dump their trash on the roadside. “We have made them come back and clean it up, but then they just dump it in someone’s dumpster down the street,” Loughmiller said.

The *UCK YEAH! bus is usually parked next to Co-op, taking up at least two parking spaces and expelling a cloud of diesel smog as its warms the engine for a move across the street every few days. Last week, a group of schoolchildren walking to the store for a tour had to pass through the exhaust, squinting curiously through the toxic haze at the semi-profane placard on the back.

This van covered in politically and sexually profane slogans has been parked in the area of Seventh and I streets for years. KLH | Eye

General Manager David Lippman said he has “mixed feelings” abut the bus.

While he’s “not thrilled at the variety of rolling residences across the street,” neither is he a fan of encroachments on free speech and overregulation.

“There’s absolutely an aesthetic component to it,” Lippman said. “It doesn’t do our business any benefit, but it doesn’t do any great harm.” He remembers sleeping along the roadside in a VW van in his youth.

He acknowledges though, that “if I were bringing my 10-year-old in with me to shop, I might not like seeing that.”

Lippman said he wished Arcata would construct a public restroom so the bus residents wouldn’t be “overwhelming” Co-op’s facilities.

Inside *UCK YEAH!

*UCK YEA! is occupied by Bob Lewis, 59. His mobile domicile features all the accoutrements you’d expect to find in an overeducated old hippie’s groovy bus – prayer flags, books, batik hangings, guitar and a near-full milk jug of urine. The bus also includes a kitchenette, propane-tank heater, sofa and bed.

A button on Lewis’s chest reads, “ON DRUGS.” Not surprisingly, a chubby bud of cannabis rests next to a glass pipe as Lewis hammers out an essay on the effects of legalization of marijuana on the local economy.

Lewis is equipped with the basic tools to participate in today’s modern mediascape – a laptop computer, cell phone and digital camera.

“I’m not a threatening human being,” he says. He’s been in Humboldt County since last June. For income, he says he’s on disability, and also performs at area clubs such as Mosgo’s and Muddy Waters.

Bob Lewis

Lewis says he has a Master’s Degree in Biblical Hebrew from UC Santa Monica. A notebook scribbled with equations represents his research of the Leon Walrus model of market equilibrium. He also boasts degrees in engineering.

*UCK YEAH!, Lewis says, means exactly what you think it does. It’s a phrase popular among the “underground folk-punk culture” he was steeped in during his musically formative years in L.A.

Lewis says most people “love” the look of his bus. “I have had no complaints.” Told that some aren’t fond of it, he says, “You’re in the minority.”

He’s evasive, even defensive about his sanitation practices, answering questions with questions. “Where do you go to the bathroom?” he counters when asked to resolve the most obvious mystery. “The specifics of that aren’t public information,” he insists.

“Basically there are legitimate ways of disposing of waste that do not require me to illegally do so,” he explains.

Finally, Lewis says that he empties his urine jug at the area gas stations he patronizes. His garbage goes in the dumpsters “of businesses that I patronize that have no objection to it,” he says. “They’ve seen me do it.”

Between the law’s gray areas, the ease of gaming them, the secretive waste disposal and Arcatans’ deeply held live-and-let-live values, the popularity and presence of residential buses seems likely to continue.

“This has been going on as long as I’ve been here,” Chapman said.

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26 Responses to “Why We Have To Look At This *ucking Thing Every Day – May 7, 2010”

  1. JK Stolpe

    The county made people like this leave the beaches. So now they turn up on our city streets. Remember why they made them leave the out skirts of town, because of the unsanitary living conditions, no place to use or dispose of their human waste etc. etc. why cant the city police run them out of town for the same reason???

  2. mac craig

    I think they can’t run ’em out of town because of some rights they have as American Citizens. You see JK, this guy, Lewis was around just after Kennedy was shot. He was working and contributing to community when Richard Nixon was in office, his tax dollars paid into the systm that brought you electricity and you donna lika his lifestyle, then bugger of! Its really none of yor business and if you and the people like you try to get in my face then I’ll treat you appropriatly. If you think the local police are for you and the like of you to manipulate to “keep the undesirables out” then you need to define undesirable. I find exercizing the liberities we have in this country as desirable.
    The *uck yea! on the *ss end of his bus is exclaiming excitment, of which you have not.
    JK Please get a grip, get a life and get lost.

    Mac Craig

  3. Dean Wormer

    “UC Santa Monica”? Either that’s a misprint or that old guys a lyin’ sack o’crap. Ain’t no such entity. Just another borderline personality hangin’ in “A-town” freeloading and smoking dope.

  4. Jessica

    @ Dean Wormer Re: U.C. Santa Monica,

    I just noticed that. That guy is a lying sack o’ crap. Hey Kevin, did you tell Mr. Lewis that there is no such thing as U.C. Santa Monica?

  5. No, I didn’t fact-check his bona fides, just presented his info as he related it. Frankly his academic prowess seemed more credible than his assertions that “most people love” that fugly-ass bus.

    Here’s what I don’t get: If you’re a business, or a resident, and want to make some change in the appearance of your property, you will probably have to go before the Design Review Commission. I support that process, by the way. I’ve even seen DRC even quibble over whether sign lettering can have serifs in it or not.

    But then ol’ Bob can roll up in this giant yellow barge, covered in graffiti tags and with a big green *UCK YEAH sign, and squat downtown, obliterating the landscape and uglying up everything DRC so carefully considered previously. Funny old world.

  6. John Lewis

    Absolutely disgusting bums. I’m glad I’m moving far away from Arcatastinkville in a week. It was a completely different Arcata 15-20 years ago, a peaceful forward moving group of people; now you have violent, rude, obnoxious, harassing people that have taken over Humboldt County. I’m outa here.

  7. Porkchop

    John Lewis: (last poster) You left out “SMELL”

  8. whatgives

    This discussion is extremely bourgeois. The whole thing is basically about how people don’t like the looks of people living in buses, cars. How it is not “aesthetically” pleasing to see a bus when you go to the store to buy something. Did we ruin your consumer experience with unsightly poor people? Excuse me dude, but if I am not mistaken, Arcata is, and has been, a Mecca for hippy culture. A big which includes alternative living, travelers, and tolerance are all a part.

    If you want sanitized streets move to Thousand Oaks, or some other of the thousands of suburban subdivisions in California.

    Why come to a counter-culture place to live if you want Mayberry?

    This article seems to be not-so-subtly aimed at garnering support for a fascistic clean-the-streets type movement, that is really a war against the poor and freaks.

  9. Terrence McNally

    Anytime somebody leads with “bourgeois,” I immediately know they’re full of shit. That, and the anonymous opining.

  10. Andrew Clarence


    It is ironic that a place like Arcata would mimic the same gentrification patterns, that say San Fransisco shows.

  11. Fake Name

    Anytime anyone makes a claim without backing it up with an argument, I know they are full of shit.

    Anybody can leave a fake name here. A name proves nothing.

  12. Terrence McNally

    I don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate, Fake Name.

  13. Mitch

    Kevin and Terrence are exactly right. The bus is an eyesore.

    So are the billboards that line 101. And it’s always amazed me that, for the cost of a vehicle registration, anyone who wants is allowed to burn gallons and gallons of gasoline right in front of people walking on the street, spewing carcinogens into the atmosphere.

    And it still surprises me that people are allowed to disrupt the lives of entire communities by flying noisy airplanes over them. And some of the airplanes, just butt-ugly. Don’t get me started!

    But thank heavens the people who drive cars around, fly in airplanes, and put up billboards all have money. It sounds like this Bob Lewis guy probably doesn’t have much. Arrest him! Burn his bus!

  14. Terrence McNally

    Oh, that was like satire.
    Well played, Mitch.

  15. Ryan

    It sounds like mediation and some soul searching is in order. What needs to be found is a compromise, and possibly some community involvement. America is loaded with people who live on the edge of ‘polite’ society. There are hundreds of thousands of people who have no permanent home. When they appear in public and act rude and crude, the sentiment is to dispose of them. Not In My Back Yard, even in Arcata.

    But take a good look at where this all stems from. 2 million people in prisons in America. Thousands of people becoming homeless every day. ‘Not my problem’ is the sad refrain. Then a big ugly bus gets up in your face. Well, it is your problem now. Maybe the owner of the bus could find a different location to follow his life style, or change that style, but the fact will remain that these lifestyles do exist, and very often the people who live them are victims of a heartless soulless system and could use a hand, or at least some cooperative effort.

    We only got one planet and we need to work these things out while bearing in mind we are all brothers and sisters.

  16. MossMan

    Wow, life in Mayberry must be pretty sweet if this makes the news!
    Nice bus. Harmless enough sounding guy. He seems to have more manners than some of the people on this forum.

  17. jay p

    when i was parking my bus on the streets of arcata (while living in a house, believe it or not, lol, on 10th street directly behind the recycling center, next to the autoshop there), the APD told me there was a weight limit to what could be parked on the city street. so, i was ticketed (even though i moved my bus regularly) and just parked it in my yard. they were to impound it if i did not move it.

    secondly, i was ticketed in the state of CA (near santa barbara in a los padres? nat’l forest campground) for having a yellow school bus.

    this bus may indeed be painted enough (not sure), but the weight is probably not much different than mine (also ~35 ft long). i wonder why the city has not gotten more legal with this fellow, as they did with me in 1992/1993, who actually had a residence.

    lastly, i thought human waste was hazardous waste that could not be thrown in the “trash.” mr lewis suggested that he might be throwing his waste into trash containers. perhaps i am incorrect about the legality of this.

    while i disagree with the law about living in a vehicle (which i see as a way to protect real estate values), this law exists. we, as a community, would do better to find a solution less reactionary and more proactive than the illegal vehicle camping law.

  18. dominic

    this person is a drain on society, and a blight, no matter what your opinion is. this is fact. those buisnesses pay for their dumpsters and the bodily waste needs no comment. Interestingly enough, I have long hair and actually lived in Arcata, some of that time on Clam Beach, my point being I am not some “bourgeouis” commentator, but someone who takes sustainability and alternative living seriously.

  19. dominic

    not to mention the disability thing! Ryan, i want to address your post in particular, if i may. you speak as if the subject in question were the Rom of Eastern Europe, some destitute Vietnam vet on the streets of a major urban center, or a brown teenage gang member…in other words, people who are routinely and systematically disenfranchised, oppressed, and ostracized by the dominant culture. We DO only have one planet, and this “drainbow” of the yellow bus is helping *uck it up, not to mention giving sane, non-drug using advocates, such as myself, of the legalization of medical cannibus and other drugs a terrible name.

  20. Jennifer Thelander

    Couldn’t he just paint over *UCK YEAH! with something clever, funny or uplifting? I’d love to see a bus parked someplace with “Love each other” or “Spay and neuter your pets” or “I love Arcata, thanks for letting me park here and throw my shit away in your dumpster.”
    Despite what income an individual receives or what their disability is, they can still show pride in their community whether they live in a bus or in a tent or in a house. I know artists who would come paint that bus in a second. It could boast a mural that tourists and children could enjoy.
    However, this bus pales in comparison to the camper that says “Eat pussy not cow.” I cringe each time I drive or walk by.

  21. Keyser Söze

    “I love Arcata, thanks for letting me park here and throw my shit away in your dumpster.”


  22. Ryan

    Well folks, I would suggest a little perspective. Come on out to the north suburbs of Jakarta, to any suburb of Bangladesh, maybe Klong Tooey in Bangkok, or any of thousands of other suburbian locations around the world. That bus can quickly become music for the eyes.

    Please try to keep in mind there is no civil right that defines what a person has to look at, unless you want to start defining what is aesthetically appealing and passing laws against anything that might offend. Holy objectivity! That is one that could sustain the sleazier politicians right into the 23rd century!

  23. I wonder how they’d like a statue of President McKinley in Klong Tooey.

  24. Ryan

    Re: “I wonder how they’d like a statue of President McKinley in Klong Tooey”
    I wonder if anyone would notice it. Honestly, reaction to visually unappealing objects out in the third world is most often one of bemusement. Heck of a lot better than looking at what is floating in those canals!

  25. Sommer Halligan

    I don’t care much at all about parking the bus here is town, but I must say that I find the “*uck yeah” on the back to be pretty offensive. I shop at Co-Op several times a week, usually with my two kids it tow. I feel bummed out every time I see the bus, and I was sad when I had to discuss this issue with my eleven year old daughter. I may be in the minority, as the guy in the bus says, but it bothers me enough to write this note. I’d like Arcata to be a sweet and gentle place for us all.

  26. monte merrick

    this was a mean article. the good ship *uck yeah was a lot less offensive than the mercantile esprit de corps that doesnt allow an easily accessed public washroom in the municipality. so you forced him to tell you where he dumps his urine. now that’s investigative journalism. never really read the “eye” due to its relative irrelevance, but now i’m decidedly anti_eye


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