Photo by Alexis RegerOne-time Weekly cover boy Phil Garlington, who exposed the inner workings of The Orange County Registernewsroom shortly after being laid off there ("True Life at the Register," Jan. 12, 2001), has resurfaced —in the middle of the desert. In a Nov. 2 San Francisco Chroniclestory, reporter Carl Noltecaught up with the 60-year-old Bay Area native at what Garlington calls Rancho Costa Nada, which is 50-some miles from the nearest traffic signal in that bustling metropolis known as Blythe. Costa Nada refers to the amount Garlington paid for his Imperial County rancho—it cost almost nothing: $325 for the land in a government auction and $300 for a hut made of sandbags and found wood. If this is paradise, paradise includes snakes, insects, howling winds, 120-degree summers and frequent military test bombing. "It's not for everybody," Garlington tells Nolte. "It's an option." He optioned this property on a lark while working on a Reggie piece about surplus-land buying. When things went south on Grand Avenue and in later job destinations ("I'm not a good employee," Garlington admits), he opted to live on next to nothing in the middle of nowhere. "If you're not broke," he says, "you're not going to do this." Read more about his new life in his new book, Rancho Costa Nada, which is only available online at www.loompanics.com.
DO YOU FEEL A DRAFT? This should concern anyone in their teens—and the people who love them: the Pentagon is filling draft-boardvacancies that have languished nationwide since the 1970s. Dave Lindorffwrites in "Oiling Up the Draft Machine?" (his Nov. 3 story on Salon.com) that the Bush administrationquietly began a public campaign to resuscitate draft boards a few weeks ago on an obscure federal website devoted to the war on terrorism. The White Housesays don't panic, but military experts and some members of Congress say if defense secretary Donald Rumsfeldis right about a "long, hard slog" in Iraq and Afghanistan, a draft must be considered to fully staff the nation's military. Just don't burn those draft cards in the Southern California mountains. IMMINENTLY QUOTABLE "We have, in recent days, referred to those attacking American forces in Iraq as 'resistance fighters.' Although this term is not inaccurate on its face, it conveys unintended meaning. To many, it romanticizes the work and goals of those killing GIs. We should avoid using it outside of quoted material." Excerpt from Nov. 3 memo by assistant managing editorMelissa McCoy to Los Angeles Times staffers.THOU SHALT NOT KILL The most different thing about "A Different Look at the Death Penalty" on Nov. 4 in Santa Ana was all the God talk. Sure, the panel discussion was sponsored by a group called California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty, Orange County chapter. And the older, mostly white crowd was gathered in a small chapel on the campus of parochial Mater Dei High School. And there were prayers, a candle-lighting ceremony and a large crucifix behind the speakers podium. The Big Guy does generally pop up in such settings. But, Jesus Christ, must every speaker unleash his or her personal journey of faith? It wasn't like any of them, near as we could tell, had ever been gassed, electrocuted or lethally injected. Toss in the cookies, weak coffee and passing of the collection basket, and we may as well have been at Tuesday-night Bible study. Fortunately, the discussion eventually turned to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (a no-show, seeing as how he's dead). Stephanie Nigh, a marriage and family therapist from San Diego, shared letters written to McVeigh while he was on death row in Colorado. The correspondence humbled her and taught her empathy, she says. But the most poignant testimony came from Bud Welch, who lost a daughter in the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma in 1995. Welch told how he learned the lesson of forgiveness after meeting McVeigh's father and discovering there was "a bigger victim of the bombing than myself." I AM DOLL PARTS The boys at Talking Presidents are at it again. After having previously unleashed political action figures of Bill Clinton, Dennis Miller, Rummyand the dummy who started it all, George W. Bush, the right-leaning, Irvine-based toy company is rolling out a talking, Barbie-sized Ann Coulterdoll. Quotes coming out of the slightly more plastic doll's mouth include "At least when right-wingers rant, there's a point" and "Why not go to war for oil? We need oil." Though the skirt is mini, the overall attire is not as slutty as what we're used to seeing on Annie's wire hanger of a frame. And the doll's dishwater-blond hair isn't stringy; it's all poofy like a United Airlinesflight attendant's. But the face is perfect—right down to the cold, clear, life-disregarding eyes. You can pick up Coulter for $30 at www.talkingpresidents.com or a couple of sloe-gin fizzes in the hotel bar after her next speaking engagement. Sarah Callender contributed to this week's report.