Saturday, October 30, 2004

We're back after a productive trip out of state but getting set to leave again next week. Love the research, hate staying in motels. Crime research, especially when you're visiting places like Mule Creek, Corcoran and Blythe, isn't exactly destination travel. You don't have much choice in lodging. It's either the motel next to the truck stop or the one next to the feed lot. Every time I check into one of these, I can't help but think of the story of a couple who complained about the lumpy bed in their room and discovered that the previous guest had stuffed a body between the box spring and the mattress.

Motels, or motor lodges as they were known in the days before nipple rings and suicide bombers, have long been popular hide-outs for criminals. In WHITE HEAT, Cody Jarrett hid out in several with his wife and his mother. Cody's mom rubbed his neck when he got those awful headaches. His wife smoked cigarettes and looked bored.

In HIGH SIERRA, Roy Earle and Marie Garson (and their adopted dog PARD) hopped around motels from the San Fernando Valley to Lone Pine. In the world of non-fiction, everyone from the Barrow gang to badland couple of Charley Starkweather and Caryl Fugate copped Zs and watched the parking lot for the heat in motels.

In the modern age, motels aren't just for hiding out from the cops or the spouse anymore. They've become forward deployed bases of operation. The 13 EME meetings that the FBI videotaped and used as evidence in the US vs. Aguirre RICO trial in 1995 were all conducted in the same motel in Rosemead. Unknown if the brothers got a frequent user discount. The CARL'S JUNIOR nearby was frequented by both TASK FORCE coppers and Carnals, sometimes just minutes apart.

Always versatile, the modern motel room has now become a handy chem lab for amateur and professional meth cookers. Recent advances in meth production have reduced the powerful chemo smell, but not the toxicity, so a seasoned cook can whip up a batch and be gone before the neighbors complain about that weird odor next door. OSHA should look into the toxic hazards motel cleaning crews might face after a meth chef decamps.

So the next time your travels compel you to stay at your typical NO TELL MOTEL and you feel a funny lump in the bed, a weird smell or some bizarro stain on dresser, be alert for what the previous occupant might have been doing. Of course, you could just sleep in the car.

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