Friday, October 01, 2010

Desert sojourn, day 22

Sky (yesterday evening)

I've started taking pictures of the sky -- just the sky, with no landscape in it. I don't know if this is because I've had some startling revelation about the nature of geographic space in the desert and the irrelevance of the land, or if I'm just bored with the sights of the neighborhood.

But! today I talked to a guy in his mid-20s. He grew up here. And his parents, who have lived here for decades, live in two old L.A. streetcars that somehow got hauled up here. Well, at least the streetcars form the basis of their house. That's one thing in the neighborhood I haven't taken a picture of yet. In the desert, you don't go around taking pictures of people's houses the way you would in San Francisco, and the reason is that you don't know who lives there. It could be an ex-con, a meth-crazed Marine vet, a guy on Megan's List, a biker on the lam from his enemies, or any number of people who live out here precisely because the extra space allows them some privacy. So you don't want to stand in the road (or, if you're really suicidal, on their property) snapping pictures of their place unless you want to be looking down the barrel of a gun.

Nevertheless, the nice family who live in the streetcar-house won't shoot me, so I'll take a picture of their house some day. But I'll phone first.

Anyway, talking to the young guy was an eye opener. Every time I start asking people about their lives here they wind up telling me crazy stories about meth-crazed villains, even though I don't really ask for them. Today's beaut was about... well, see for yourself:

Ex-Marines sentenced to prison for killing in Twentynine Palms

Associated Press, 22 Aug 2004

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - Two former Marines were each given three-year prison sentences for the machete death of a man they lured to an off-road area in the Mojave Desert.

Alan Patterson and Justin VanMeter, both 24, were sentenced Friday in Superior Court on charges of involuntary manslaughter. Both have been in custody for two years and probably will be released within a year, prosecutors said.

They were convicted July 6 of the August 2002 killing of Daniel Smith. Prosecutors alleged that they lured the 19-year-old to the Sugar Bowl area of Twentynine Palms and took turns hacking him with a machete because they thought he was informing sheriff's deputies about their alleged drug dealing.
The other funny thing was when I told the guy where I was staying so he could come over. "Oh, the old Garrison house," he said. Thinking he was getting mixed up, I said no, the Harrison House is across the street.* "No, I know which house you mean," he said. "It used to belong to an old tweaker named Garrison. I used to babysit there." And when he walked in the door he laughed and said, "Man, this place looks much better than it used to!"

* See my entry for Sep. 20.

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