Sunday, September 19, 2010

Desert sojourn: day 10

Joshua Tree in Landers, Cal.

7:40 a.m. -- Up at 5:25 a.m., out walking by 5:50 when it was just getting light. I walked east, toward the sunrise, and then turned around as soon as its rays struck me, so that I was walking away from the blazing light. The sun rises about 6:30 and I walked until 7:25 -- over five miles this morning. This morning the unusual thing that happened was that I scared up a couple of hawks. I would approach the telephone pole one was sitting on, and it would fly off to about two or three poles down. Then I'd approach the other and it would do the same; the male of the pair would utter the distinctive hawk's scree. This leapfrogging happened for quite a while until they both turned back, I guess so as to stay within their accustomed range.

I also saw an animal from a distance, crossing a road. It looked the size of a coyote, but it was dark in color, so it must have been a dog. There is a German shepherd I ran into a few days ago, with its owner, so it was probably that dog. Most of the dogs here are kept behind fences, and raise a ruckus when I go by.

As with every morning, it's completely clear, and it's supposed to get hot today. I have more laundry to do, but otherwise I'm not sure what I'll do with my Sunday.

1:20 p.m. -- I decided to go to a Twentynine Palms institution this morning, The Jelly Donut. It's just a donut shop in an old filling station. But someone suggested I go there in the morning and hang around and listen in on conversations. I did so this morning on the way to church, and everyone was aflitter over the massive police presence downtown. According to the reports passing through the donut shop, someone robbed the Rio Ranch Market overnight. Judging by the reports, it was just a burglary, but there were at least ten cop cars on the scene, from the county, the Highway Patrol, and the Military Police (the Marine base is five miles away, and the Rio Ranch Market is on the main road that leads to it). Some obvious street person came in and said he'd been "interrogated" three times and searched for stolen goods, "but I didn't take nothing."

Like I say, it sounded like a mere burglary, so I'm not sure why it was treated as a major police mobilization. In big cities today a burglary might not even get you a visit from the police ever.

Update, three days later: The following story ran the following Wednesday on the website of the local radio station, which is really the only daily news source here:

A security alarm at the Twentynine Farms Market, formally the Rio Ranch, led to the arrest of a Twentynine Palms man for burglary. Sheriffs’ spokeswoman Vera Martinez said early Sunday Morning about just past 4, Sheriffs’ deputies responded to an alarm the grocery store in downtown Twentynine Palms. Arriving deputies found a rear door open, and evidence someone had fallen through the attic. Deputies searched the area for several hours, collecting evidence. The investigation led deputies to an address in the 6400 block of Yucca Avenue in Twentynine Palms, where John Pratt, 29, was arrested. John Pratt was booked into the Morongo Basin Jail for investigation of burglary and held on $25,000 bail. A review of court records show Pratt has two past convictions for burglary, a DUI conviction and misdemeanor disorderly conduct convictions.

Church done, laundry partly done. I found a laundromat much closer than the one in 29 Palms, and it's even air-conditioned. All in all a much more pleasant experience than the one in 29. Now, in the heat of the day, I'm going to work on more notes and maybe do some brainstorming. I'm sure a nap will come somewhere in there too.

4:45 p.m. -- No nap, but I did spend about two and a half solid hours copying the text of more news articles about San Bernardino County political corruption into an MS Word file. I now have 125 pages of single-spaced 11-point Times New Roman pages of articles, mostly about the Postmus scandal, but also some other things.

Now that the sun's approaching the horizon, it's time for a little drive. I'm going to take a trip to the outback, and hope I don't get stuck.

7:50 p.m. -- I'm back from my jaunt into the bush. I drove down the highway just a bit, then headed north across the desert. The road was paved for five miles, and then it turned to sand/dirt/rock (which is the default surface for roads here except for highways and streets in town -- some of the streets) and started climbing up to a mesa. I was more worried about getting stuck in drifted sand than I was about the road itself, but after another five miles of bone-shaking washboard road, I decided it might just shake my car apart, and I turned around. But the desert out there was just lovely -- lots of creosote bushes, and some joshua trees, which will only grow starting at about 2500 feet elevation.

One thing I observed is that when you see houses, they're just as likely to be beautiful design-y modern houses as they are decrepit desert shacks. One of my interviewees pointed out that land here is so cheap that poor people can afford to buy an existing house (or cabin -- which is what the shacks are called out here) and rich people can afford to build a house, but you'll see both on the same road.

I drove back to the highway and did some more exploring, winding up in a place called Landers, which is even higher elevation, about 3100 feet, with loads of joshua trees and even some cottonwoods. (See picture at top of this post.) Its only claim to fame is the 7.4 earthquake that struck in 1992. Otherwise its claims to obscurity are much more numerous. In fact, its obscurity, its off-the-beaten-path quality, its back-of-beyond character, is why people here often mention it when they talk about dark deeds -- body dumping and so on. It's also pretty much on the way to the ORV haven where that deadly crash happened last month.

Wow, the weekend went fast. At least I have no commute come tomorrow morning. All I have to do is put my work monitor and keyboard back in front of me and turn on the work laptop.

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