By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Images courtesy Multnomah
County Sheriff's OfficeFor anyone who's been neglecting the Huntington Beach police website (hbpd.org), we recommend the Narcotics Unit. Accessible through the Special Investigations Bureau, the site consists entirely of two items: several photographs from a "recent" meth bust (with no explanation of the seized paraphernalia) and a link to the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office in Oregon. The link takes you to "The Faces of Meth," Deputy Brett King's collection of mug shots of criminals with arrests before and after documented methamphetamine abuse. It's designed to shock people into appreciating the devastation that comes with methamphetamine abuse—and it's very helpful for playing spot-the-tweaker at large social gatherings—but a couple of the subjects don't seem to decay so much as, well, blossom.
"The Faces of Meth" uses four subjects to make its point: a middle-aged man and woman, and a younger man and woman. There's no question that the older couple both look aged and savaged by meth. The man looks utterly destroyed and perhaps freshly beaten. His face is a pockmarked firing range, and his eyes have a look of exhausted desperation; if photographs could speak, this one would say, "I have fucked up my entire life." Similarly, the older female subject undergoes an amazing devolution—from competent-looking professional gal to withered crone. Her skin looks as if it'd absorb a gallon of Lubriderm and be thirsty for more. Her bandaged face, savagely neglected hair and dejected perma-frown can't just be indignation at having her mug shot taken.
But the young subjects don't appear destroyed by meth, only deepened. The man first appears as a freckled frat boy, either bored or mildly sedated; his vacant expression says, "Dude, where's my lawyer?" But after speeding into the mental multi-car pileup that is meth addiction, he's lost a bit of weight and sporting a goatee and a look that suggests that, along with meth, he's also ingested a bit of worldly cynicism. He's supposed to be a warning, a kind of Ghost of Meth-Use Future, but his look is one aspiring metal bands cultivate with desperation and expensive haircuts.
In her first picture, the young woman's somewhat heavy face looks sullen—the glazed mask of the intelligent but understimulated youth of America. After gazing into the face of Mistress Meth, she sheds the baby fat and then some. Her makeup skills have improved, and she's learned to tease her hair—or maybe that comes from sleeping in a hedge. Granted, she doesn't look like the sort of girl Mother would like; she presents the classic symptoms of gutter-sluttery. But in Newport Beach—where acceptable evening attire runs the gamut from black tie to bikini and fathers give daughters new breasts for their birthday—she's one of the less repulsive girls you might see on Balboa Peninsula some weeknight.
The point is supposed to be that meth'll kill you. But impressionable young folk might reasonably infer that it also makes you look like a Diesel model. Middle-aged people don't want to decay, but teenagers always want to mature. Also, if you're trying to pull off that mildly self-destructive, tragically hip look, you're probably getting mistaken for a meth addict.