Cue Chris Farley
SNL fans of a certain age no doubt remember Chris Farley’s character Matt Foley, who was 34 – twice divorced and lived in a van “down by the river”. It was crack-up hilarity that juxtaposed a successful motivational speaker who was a little down on his luck.
In a recent article in Circa Beta writer Fernando Hurtado chronicled people in the LA area ditching their apartments to live in vans to the tune of some 4,600 residents and these are not the typical ‘homeless’ living in cars situation, but busy professionals who see Los Angeles one-bedroom apartments at $2300 a month as a waste of money. Plus like Lake Charles, Los Angeles is experiencing a housing shortage, making the term ‘affordable housing’ an oxymoron.
Recall in 2011 the Toronto Blue Jays professional baseball team gave a $2 million contract to a promising pitcher Daniel Norris who lived in a 1978 VW ‘micro-bus’ in a Wal Mart parking lot. And not by chance, or down on his luck starving trying to make the big leagues. This was all by choice, so much so that when he relocated to the Blue Jay’s clubhouse parking lot in spring training that year, other players would come by the van in the morning because Norris’ coffee and eggs were better and fresher than the caterers in the clubhouse!
And, with the recent trends toward so-called mini-houses, tiny homes of 200-300 square feet, a nice-sized Econoline makes some sense. I graduated high school in the spring of 1975, the 70’s are when van’s really moved out of the ‘TV repair and plumbing truck’ arena into something that could be viewed as recreational use. Shag carpet covering 99% of the inside, captain’s chairs and stereo speakers all around the van, the old ‘panel truck’ really came into its own. There was even a hit song in the 70’s by Sammy John about the adventures of van travel and living and a girl with a tan.
To be sure, as an empty-nester and widower I’m not ruling out van living in my own future. My son lives in Denver with his wife and someday I can see myself getting a nice sized van and hanging a mailbox on the front grille.
But I’m almost certain that I will never, ever park it or live in it ‘down by the river’.