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Places 📍 Out of the mainstream communities

el Guapo

I grew up in military towns and on post. I even attended university in a military town.

The off post communities were often horribly situated and had little planning if any. If they did exercise planning the focus seemed to be on efficiently separating 18 to 25 year old men from their money. Imagine 25,000 young men all getting $500 spending money once a month. The results were often comical.
Thus, the town’s major commercial focus was on tattoo parlors, laundry shops, pawn shops, fast food, new and used cars and bars. Some towns did have public transportation. I know of one town where they set up shuttle buses to get the working girls from the airport to downtown on payday weekends. They would fly in from Nevada. I was told this kept various pimps from congesting the airport while waiting on their hospitality team to arrive.

Conversely, just inside of the post gate were some of the most (maybe even best) planned communities in America. Living on post was for the most part very enjoyable. One could almost equate post life with living in a socialist society – the health care, retailing, recreation facilities, and many other things were provided by the government at little or no cost.

We once lived in a community where our lawn was mowed, and our groceries were sacked by military prisoners. The housing authority provided maintenance and some self help materials to residents. There were many public spaces and parks, sidewalks were repaired, the streetlights worked, and children could play at night without fear. Not a bad life.

For the most part, the residents were very well behaved because of the nature of their profession and the tendency of military personnel to take what is given them without complaint. Unlike in the civilian world, if you committed a crime on post, you usually went to jail and your family was thrown off of the base almost immediately. While many people on post were at or below the poverty level – there was no excuse for trashing your wife house or yard. If you didn’t maintain a reasonable standard of discipline, cleanliness and upkeep you were expelled.

I guess I would characterize post living as residing in a gated community where the homeowner's association (the Army) has a strict set of covenants and its own prison system. You had better follow the rules or your family found you unemployed and themselves homeless.

I lived in these communities in the East, South, Midwest and overseas. I spent a total of six years overseas, some of it in Europe and the Middle East. This life experience has to have colored my outlook on many planning issues and some of the planning truths that are held dear by so many of my peers. So, what I’m getting at is this: Have any of you lived in a different, or otherwise out of the mainstream community, and if so, how did it change your thinking process concerning planning?


I lives outside a small Air Force base in northern Michigan, on Lake Huron. Perhaps my experience is different from yours because the base was quite small, and tourism was the main insustry, so the town did not really cater to the base. It was a really lovely coastal town that got overrun with fishing tourists in the summer (the town is Oscoda, if anybody cares to visit).

Later, I worked in a major midwestern city that was doing quite bad. It really put things in perspective. The problems that Oscoda faced seemed really silly in comparison to the overwhelming amount of poblems that the planners faced in the city. I guess because of this, I sometimes laugh when I hear about the residents or polititians in a really nice city making a huge fuss over something that seems in the larger picture to be not such a big deal.
10 years ago, I did my senior year of high school in Tres Cantos, Spain, a new urbanism city in the early stages about 30 minutes north of Madrid. The city was UGLY, but so extremely functional - 100% walkable, apartments and office over retail, the industrial sector a medium walk or short bus ride away. It took some adjustment for me considering that I had grown up in rural/ag central NY, but the kids and elderly had so much autonomy there. I had never heard of planning before I went, and it totally shaped my college major upon returning to the US.